Meal prep has become a necessity over the years with the price of groceries these days. As a long time meal prepper, I would love to share with you how I meal prep and the tips and tricks I've learned to make it easier.
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Why meal prep?
My meal prep journey thus far...
The Call to Meal Prep:
Growing up I didn’t like cooking because my mom was so good at it. Upon entering college and eating dorm food, I was sick all of the time. I got an allergy test because that's not normal and I got 3 pages worth of food allergies. There went my meal plan and I had to get creative cooking what I could in a dorm room. I had to say goodbye to most college food and I didn't have that one Tik Tok creator who cooks all kinds of yummy food in their dorm room for inspiration.
Instead, I had a microwaveable omelette cooker and microwaveable collapsible bowls with lids. If you get creative you can make a bunch of other food than just their intended use. You have very limited space in a dorm so the more multipurpose an item, the better.
Later in life, I got a Hot Logic Portable Oven and part of me wishes I had this to cook in the dorm as well. They have lots of colors and they have one that will cook in your car. So you could plug it in your car in the morning, go to class, and have lunch ready by the time you get back.
I lived off of eggs, chia pudding, microwaveable popcorn, and whatever I could heat up after cooking.
Then I moved into a house. In this era, my cooking knowledge was minimal, I knew how to make a couple of things, like bacon in the oven. This is kind of embarrassing but I would throw some meat, veggies, and broth in my crockpot put it on a time, and hope for the best for my week’s worth of food. Especially when you consider this is my mom.
Honestly though, crockpots are bomb, they are a set it and forget it kind of tool so I could set up my food for the week, go do homework, laundry , and chores, come back, and my food would be ready for me to package. The one I have is dishwasher safe so minimal dishes and they're supposed to last you a long time. They aren't super hard to use, there's only a few settings, and chances are, if you mess up, you'll still get something delicious.
Instant Pot Era:
Eventually, I got an Instant Pot and my mom / Pinterest taught me how to make a couple of things in it and that turned out better. My allergies were also significantly less at this point–just gluten and dairy. Cooking my own food probably helped with that. This was the era of drunken noodles, egg salad (you can make hard boiled eggs in an instant pot in 7 minutes with this tool and water), and ratatouille. But I found that I was making the same foods all the time which is boring.
Instant Pots are another one of those set it and forget it tools that cooks things way faster than the crockpot. It can also slow cook so it's like having a crockpot on hand. I liked having both because then I could have 2 meals going at the same time.
Monthly Meal Prep Era:
Instead of prepping for a week’s worth of food, I thought I would save myself time if I meal prepped for a month’s worth of food and had freezer meals to pull out and microwave at my leisure. This helped my roommates who don’t meal prep much have more fridge space. So meal prepping took me about 8 total hours. About 1 hour to plan what I’m making and make my grocery list, 1 hour to do all the shopping, and 6 hours to do all the cooking and dishes. I did shopping and cooking on the same day.
To meal prep for a month, I took a very mathematical approach to it. A month’s worth of recipes is 4 breakfast recipes (one for each week) + 4 lunch recipes + 4 dinner recipes which allows for more variety in what you take out every day. Especially when lunch and diner recipes are often interchangeable if you use a thermos for your lunch.
Cooking for a month:
6 hours to make 12 recipes sounds hard but it’s just a lot of multi-tasking. I strategically chose recipes that have a variety of ways to make them. That way I can have something in my crockpot, something in the instant pot, something in the oven, and something on the stove all at the same time. Crockpots take the longest so you start that one first, then either instant pot or oven, then stove. You find a rhythm and it gets easier. As you finish one recipe, you clean and package up the food while you wait for something else to finish.
This era came to an end when I met my now-husband and he requested for fresher recipes with more crunch.
This era is defined as chicken salads meal prepped for lunch, meal prepped breakfasts, and DIY veggie trays. I still plan my meals in advanced but cooking dinner is done the day of. It's busy but less concentrated than cooking for a month. Honestly, still working out the kinks with this era. I highly recommend giving dish duty to someone else if you cook dinner, it helps a lot.
Storage + Tools:
The most essential piece for any meal prepper is your boxes. I like these ones because they stack, are microwave safe, and are BPA free.
I would recommend if you’re going to start doing freezer meals, to have a way to mark what boxes contain what. Washi tape + sharpie works well.
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If you're looking for healthy gluten free, paleo, and keto recipes, my mom at Goodness Gracious Gluten Free is a great resource for you. She has cooking classes too if you want a more personalized step by step approach.
Supercook is a tool where you input all of the ingredients you have in your pantry, fridge, and freezer and it will give you recipes to make based on what you have. They have an app as well!
Samsung Food (formally Whisk) is a tool where you can input recipes you get from across the internet, assign them to weekly meal plan, and add them to a list. You can adjust recipes by serving and it has saved me so much time in making my weekly grocery list. They also have communities you can join for recipe ideas.
Grocery Pickup Order / Delivery is a staple at my house. It saves me time because I'm not walking up and down the grocery aisle. It saves me money because I'm only getting what's on my list and not random stuff.
Meal prepping is a learned skill, you don’t have to be good at it right away. You can start as big or small as you’d like. Thank you for reading my take on meal prepping, I appreciate it. Comment below your favorite food or what you like to meal prep. If you like my content, consider subscribing to my mailing list and sharing with my friends. I'll see you in the next post!