This post was inspired by my previous housemate, a 30 year old Irishman, who despite being some kind of genius physicist who helps cure cancer, is unable to fend for himself when it comes to food and ends up living off chicken curry made from a jar full of preservatives, or boiled eggs drizzled liberally in hot sauce (don’t ask, I have no idea!). Now, in his defence, said housemate works long hours, sometimes 10 hour days, so he doesn’t really feel like cooking when he gets home from work. But I want to show him, and you for that matter, that by being organised and sticking to a plan, you really can eat healthily, and even stick to a budget in doing so.
Here are my top tips on how to be a pro at meal prep…
Have a plan
Ok this is kind of obvious, but like most things in life, if you want to succeed at it, you must set aside a few minutes and plan what you are going to do and how you’re going to do it, otherwise the whole thing is going to fall on its backside pretty quickly. I usually sit down and plan out what I am going to eat for the week ahead before I write my weekly shopping list. This has two benefits; firstly you know what you’re going to be prepping later on that day, and secondly, you know what to buy when you go to the shops, and – yes, you guessed it – you’ll be much more likely to stick to your budget.
I like to do my planning at night time while I’m watching TV. For the men amongst us who struggle with multitasking – do it in the ad break! It also helps if you have a meal plan template to work off and keep things structured – this can be as basic or as elaborate as you like. Once you've written it down, 1. Write your shopping list and 2. Stick a copy on the fridge where you can see it.
Online shopping is obviously amazing. But online grocery shopping, well it’s just next level if you ask me. Large supermarket chains like Coles and Woolworths now offer an online shopping option that allows you to collect your order in a time slot convenient to you, and guess what, you get to park in a special allocated parking zone, and if you're lucky they even load it into your car for you!
This is especially great for mums who don’t want the drama of dragging screaming children through the aisles of a supermarket while arguing about why they can’t have a chuppa chup. I would easily save a minimum of 1 hour a week just by shopping for my groceries online. The other benefit of shopping online is that it is much easier to avoid overspending or going off the plan. You work your way through your shopping list, and search for the items you actually need, instead of trawling the aisles after work buying everything you see because you are hangry and vulnerable. You can also view all the items that are on special that week at the click of a button, and to top it all off, next time you log in you can go back and see what you bought last time – this makes it EVEN FASTER! ‘Nuff said.
Gear up for action
Invest in some good quality re-useable containers that will stack neatly in your freezer. Something around the size of a Chinese takeaway container is suitable. Buy some zip lock bags and smaller containers and jars that hold a max of 200ml to put your snacks in. I've started saving small jars and re-using them so I'm being sustainable at the same time as saving money on containers! While you’re at it, clean out your fridge and freezer, throwing anything out that looks petrified, and give the whole thing a wipe down. Now you’re all set to fill it with yummy goodies! You might also like to invest in a slow cooker, as this will allow you to cook stuff while you do other important things, like ironing your work shirts – how awesome!
Do your meal prep on Sunday afternoon
(or another day close to the start of your week)
Ok this is at the crux of what we are talking about today. Yes I know it’s annoying to get up off the couch and do meal prep on a Sunday when you’d much rather be watching Netflix. But you’re going to save yourself so much time, money and anguish if you just suck it up and get stuck in now. Go on, put your big girl/boy pants on and just do it.
Here is an example list of meals you might prep for your week ahead:
Don't forget your pre-prepared arsenal of snacks
- Prep snacks such as nuts into portions in zip lock bags / small containers and have them ready to go in the fridge/pantry.
- Make yourself a healthy little treat to beat 3 O'Clockitus: add half a cup of low fat yoghurt to the bottom of a small container or jar. Chuck a small handful of blueberries, raspberries or strawberries (or a combo of some or all) on top, and then sprinkle with a little cinnamon.
- Measure out a serve of your protein powder into a zip lock bag or re-usable container and chuck inside your shaker ready to go.
- Add a bag of carrots or mung beans to your grocery list - ta da! Instant snack, all you have to do is wash it before you eat it!
- Buy some tins of tuna and rice cakes and keep these in your draw at work for emergencies.
THE HARD SELL
Here's some further reasons why this menu is useful...
- Notice how the sweet potato and broccoli are common to a few of the recipes? This little detail will save you time and money in the long run.
- The kangaroo can be cooked in your new slow cooker, or you can also cook it on a low temperature in the oven over several hours.
- The hardest thing about the soup is roughly chopping up the veggies, which isn't very hard at all since they don't have to look pretty or be completely uniform in size. Then it basically cooks itself for the next hour or so, and then you just have to cool it and blend it before portioning out and freezing.
- You could make one of the dishes such as the turkey shepherd's pie as your dinner for that evening and then portion out the rest and freeze it, that way you don't have to cook another meal that day.
Plus, a bonus hot tip!
Another thing I do to make things easier when I just can't be bothered, is prepare the protein component (eg pulled kangaroo) and then I buy a big bag of mixed frozen vegetables (eg carrots, broccoli and beans) and once I have portioned the protein part out into the containers and allowed to cool slightly, I put a portion of frozen veggies in the container and then place it straight into the freezer. The veggies stay frozen and only get defrosted the one time when you reheat the meal for 4-5 minutes (from frozen), so they don't go soggy at all. Perfect!
And there you have it! If you have any tips you'd like to share or recipes you rely on each week for meal prep, I'd love to hear about it! Please leave a comment below, as I love to hear about how other people find smart ways to save time and money on eating well!
some suggested books for meal prep recipes
- Thug Kitchen: Eat Like You Give A F*ck
- Donna Hay: Fast, Fresh, Simple
- Jamie's 30-Minute Meals
- Michelle Bridges: Crunch Time Cookbook
Disclaimer: Please note that some of the links on this page are affiliate links, and I will earn a small commission if you make a purchase using them. I personally own and have read all of the books listed and recommended them because I think they are suitable to help you with meal prep! Thank you for supporting my blog, and please let me know if you have any questions about anything I’ve included!