Do you want to cut down on the time you spend in the kitchen every day? Would you like to save money (or calories) by bringing your lunch instead of buying it? Dedicating some time to meal prep could be the answer to your troubles. We asked Flipp’s in-house meal prep expert Dave Chen for his tips on getting organized and batch cooking for the week ahead.
Stock up on containers
Whether you plan to portion out each meal in advance or just store big batches of prepared food in the fridge, you probably need to buy some new containers. Don’t forget something leak-proof to bring your salad dressing to go, or try making an upside-down salad in a mason jar with the dressing on the bottom to avoid soggy greens. You’ll often find value packs with containers of different shapes and sizes at your local department store or kitchen supply shop so check Flipp to find the best deals in your area. Opt for glass storage dishes if you plan to put them in the microwave.
Pick your day
Find one day (Sunday is a good day to start the week on the right food) where you can block off 2-3 hours to cook and organize your meals. Instead of doing an entire week at once, start with three or four days; you'll get an idea of whether or not you’ve got enough containers, test your fridge capacity and try some new recipes to see how many meals you can get out of them.
Plan around your protein
Proteins can often be some of the most expensive items on your grocery shopping list, especially if meat is part of your diet. Before you plan your meals for the week, use Flipp to find out which proteins are on sale where you shop. Choose two or three proteins with the best deals and build your meal plan around the different ways you can prepare them. If you’ve got a value pack of chicken breasts, use a different sauce or seasoning on each one to keep your taste buds from getting bored.
Focus on efficiency
Meal prep isn’t the time to make a stirfry that requires constant attention — save that for your next clean-out-the-fridge meal. Don’t try a fancy new recipe for the first time, either. Instead, stick to simple cooking methods that let you do multiple things at once. A couple of sheet pans in the oven with meat, potatoes, and vegetables, plus some veggies steaming on the stove, and a big pot of rice or quinoa bubbling away can all happen at the same time while you just monitor them. Which brings us to our next tip...
Make friends with the slow cooker or electric pressure cooker
This will be a meal prep game-changer! You can roast a chicken, slow cook a chili or stew, or throw together a big batch of your favorite one-pot meal while you use the oven for other foods. As we’ve already mentioned, efficiency is key with meal prep. These convenient appliances let you set it and forget it, while you focus on more labor-intensive items, or washing the dishes. One major plus to using a slow cooker is that it won’t dry out your meat, so you can get away with cheaper cuts without sacrificing flavor.
Keep a variety of “carrier foods” on hand
What’s a carrier food? They’re food items that you can stock up on and use the ingredients you’ve prepared in different ways. Think tortillas for breakfast burritos, lunch wrap sandwiches, or sweet treats like wrapped banana slices with Nutella. Celery is good with hummus, guacamole, or peanut butter. Pile whatever your heart desires on some rice cakes for a meal or a snack. You’ll be more likely to stick with meal prep if you can use the same ingredients in different combinations so you don’t feel like it’s the same thing every day.
Have a backup plan
Maybe you run out of meals before you can prep again, or someone swipes one of your precious lunches. If you keep some frozen bagged vegetables, chili, soup, or a one-dish meal like lasagna in the freezer, you’ll be able to heat something up in a pinch. Freeze extras whenever you think they might go back before you can eat them and save a meal for a rainy day. A batch of hardboiled eggs in the fridge will keep for a few days and come in handy for a filling breakfast on the go or when hunger strikes and you just can’t make it to the next meal.
Are you a meal-prep master? Share your favorite batch cooking recipes with us and you could be featured in a future post!
Hungry for more meal-prep tips? Food and nutrition expert Abby Langer has five time-saving tips for you.