4 Steps To Meal Prep Mastery
If you’re reading this article, chances are you’re already well-versed on the benefits of Meal Prep. But on the off-chance that you’re new to this Meal Prep malarky, let’s run through the pros, shall we?
- Time. Spending a couple of hours in the kitchen at the weekend could leave you with enough meals to last you for days, if not the whole week. Compare that to spending an hour every evening cooking individual portions… you do the maths.
- Money. Convenience food doesn’t come cheap, particularly the healthy variety. Even if you can get your mitts on healthy grub that fits your macros and tastes great, you’re probably going to pay a pretty penny for it. It’s far cheaper to buy the ingredients in bulk and invest a little time preparing meals yourself.
- Macros. By preparing your own food, you are effectively taking control of your own intake. You can create meals that fit your macros exactly. You can put as much or as little of each macronutrient as you please into any given meal, and structure your days in advance so that you know you are hitting your numbers.
Okay, that’s all great.
But HOW do you do that?! How do you prepare a boat load of food in one go? What do you prep? How do you store it? How long is it good for? Can you reheat it?
No worries. We got you.
This 4 step guide will walk you through how to become a Meal Prep Master. Like us.
Lets, dive in, shall we?
Step 1: Planning and Buying
Does anybody enjoy throwing food away? We think not. It’s wasteful, expensive, and unnecessary.
But, we’ve all been there. Overshot it, and thrown away perfectly good food (ahem, MONEY) because it’s been lamenting, forgotten, at the back of the fridge for a week. One way to easily avoid this is to plan.
Plan what meals you’re going to eat that week. Breakfast, Lunch and Dinner. Write it down if you need! You’ll then want to work out a list of the ingredients and quantities you’ll require. You don’t need to be writing a Michelin starred menu here, just pick some meals you like so you know what to shop for.
Here, we’ll give you a hand with some of our favourites…
Not enough? We also wrote a whole Cookbook packed with recipes specifically designed with Meal Prep in mind. You can pick up your copy here:
Once you have the meals laid out, you’ll know EXACTLY what to buy and how much. Not only does this mean you’ll save on food waste but it also means you can buy in bulk. Protein sources in particular can be very expensive but buying in bulk can definitely help soften the blow.
Step 2: Preparing your meals
Setting aside a few hours to batch-prepare your meals will save you a TONNE of time. It may seem like an arduous task to cook for 2-3 hours at the weekend but what if that saves you 5-6 hours during the week? More binge watching Netflix, that’s what.
Or training. We mean training.
There are various tools/cooking methods you can use:
Slow Cooker – Set and forget. That’s the goal with a slow cooker. This is a great option for stews, chillis and even cheaper cuts of meat as the slow cooker makes them super tender. You can literally throw a whole meal into a slow cooker: protein, carbs, fats and veggies. If you’re tight on time or just really hate cooking, a slow cooker is a priceless investment.
Oven – Great for roasting meats, vegetables and potatoes. Not quite as simple as a slow cooker but much faster. If you’re feeling really fancy then you can even bake some treats elevenses (an threeses?) like homemade protein bars or flapjacks.
Hob – Our pro tip is to invest in a good set of non stick pans. You’ll be able to cook without fat if you need to but they’re also a hell of a lot easier to wash up! Good for pan frying meat, stir frys and cooking rice and oats. Definitely the most labour intensive cooking method, but also the fastest.
We often find we are using several at once to speed up the cooking process. For example, we’ll have chilli in the slow cooker, sweet potatoes, veggies and chicken in the oven and a stir fry on the hob. 3 completely different meals, all cooking at the same time.
Here is an example of what a days’ worth of meal might look like:
Breakfast: Overnight Oats
Staring at the microwave or standing over the hob at silly o’clock isn’t our idea of fun. It’s time consuming and takes away more precious sleepy time. In the words of the famous internet meme: ain’t nobody got time for dat.
The dilemma is that protein oats are not only a great source of protein, fibre and slow digesting carbohydrates but they can also be pretty damn tasty. The solution? Overnight Oats.
They’re kind of like the slow cooker version of oats. Bung all the ingredients in a container, mix it all up and wait.
It’s pretty much all the same ingredients as you’d use in your standard protein oats but without the cooking. The oats will absorb the yogurt and milk and puff out to give you thick, creamy oats with a side of patience.
The other benefit is that you can adjust the quantities depending on your macros. If you need more carbs you can throw more oats or fruit in. Need more protein then add more protein powder or yogurt.
Pro Tip: Chia seeds expand and absorb a lot of liquid. So not only are they a great source of Omega 3 but they’ll also help fill you up!
Lunch: Layered Salad Jar
Have you ever prepared an epic salad, taken it to work only to be greeted but a limp, soggy mess come lunch time? That’s because your layering was off.
The quickest way to combat this is to:
a) Store the salad in an air-tight container. This will maintain the layering and stop dressing getting everywhere.
b) Turn your salad upside down. Placing the more watery ingredients and protein at the bottom of the container means you won’t get soggy lettuce. The higher the water content, the lower the ingredient should be in the container.
Dinner: Chilli Con Carne with Cauliflower Rice and Green Beans
Whilst we recommend preparing as much food as possible, not every food needs to be cooked in advance. In fact, some just taste better when cooked fresh. Often these are fresh veg which take no time at all. Probably as much time as needed to reheat your Meal Prep, so no time wasted.
Can’t cook, won’t cook?
Per 1/2 pack: 392 kcals / 40g Protein / 29.1g Carbohydrates / 12.7g Fat
Now, if you don’t have time to prep a whole week’s worth of food, there’s no reason you can’t get a helping hand. If we’re having a particularly busy week, we use ready-prepped food and meals to supplement our Meal Prep.
Doesn’t that just make you wanna rip it open with your teeth?!
As many regular readers will know, we’ve teamed up with Iceland who have just introduced their World Famous range, which just so happens to be a decent alternative if you’re scared of the kitchen. They share our ethos on food waste, so you can buy these meats frozen and they’ll keep in the fridge for an entire week. You can then simply throw them in the oven, and prep some quick sides whilst they’re cooking.
Out the packet, straight in the oven. No faff.
Our favourite is the Mississippi Smoked Pulled Pork. It sounds indulgent but is actually pretty macro friendly for something that is typically very high fat. A much tastier way to get 40g of protein than a dry, old chicken breast.
We’ve said it before, but we’ve been pleasantly surprised that a budget-friendly option offers such high-quality. We don’t do mystery meat, so decent protein is a must for us. The fact that it comes already prepped and delicious is a bonus.
Step 3: Track & Portion
Now the cooking is done and meals are prepped, we need to track it. This means opening up the trusty MyFitnessPal app and entering in the ingredients for the meals you made. Fortunately MyFitnessPal has made this really easy by including a recipe calculator.
Just enter in all the ingredients, choose how many servings your recipe made a voila, it will tell you exactly how many calories as well as how much protein, carbs and fats is in each serving. It will even save the recipe in your very own recipe database ready to use for next time.
Here’s how to do it…
A question we often get from our online coaching clients is should you weigh and track the food raw or cooked?
Weighing your food raw, before cooking, is typically going to give you the most accurate results. That’s because the way you cook anything can dramatically alter the water content despite not altering the amount of food.
So we recommend weighing and tracking the food BEFORE cooking to get the most consistent results then portioning out accordingly after.
In the example above, if you were to split the chicken into 2 servings, that would be 150g cooked chicken per serving BUT you would track it as 180g raw chicken, as that was the weight raw, before cooking.
When it comes to meal prep, you’re going to be cooking a lot of food and recipes in bulk. This means you’ll need to portion them after cooking.
For this, you have 2 options:
a) Eyeball it and try to evenly divide the recipe into the amount of portions you need.
b) Weigh the final amount and work out how much each portion should weigh.
In the above example, the chilli recipe weighed 1321g in total. If it was to be split into 4 portions, you would need to divide the total by 4.
1321g / 4 = 330g per portion
Step 4: Storing and re-heating
We’ve all had that moment come Thursday. When you’re eating a pre-prepared meal that you’re not 100% sure is still good…
To avoid you chowing down on some questionable grub, we’e outlined some guidelines for safely storing cooked food (with a little help from our friends over at the Food Standards Agency)
That’s a wrap! Hopefully this article has inspired you to get your hiney in gear and hop aboard the Meal Prep Wagon. Drop us a comment below and share with a friend who could use a helping hand with their Meal Preppery.