There is an old saying – ‘Fail to plan, plan to fail’. This is very true of meal planning and preparation.
Meal prepping has many upsides:
- If you’re on a diet or health regime, you won’t end up snacking or eating a bowl of cereal for dinner, as your meals will be ready and waiting for you after a long day at work. You’ll also have exactly the right amount of food you need and will be less likely to overeat.
- Australians throw out about 20% of the food they purchase, which equates to a staggering $8 billion worth of food every year, according to FoodWise Australia. You’ll be doing your bit for the environment and saving money by reducing the amount of food you waste.
- When you get home from work, your evening is yours to enjoy. Instead of spending time preparing and cooking a meal, you can go to the gym, have a quick after-work drink with friends, or simply chill out on the sofa.
BEST WAYS TO PREP YOUR MEALS
1. Give your freezer a good clear out
Is your freezer full of unidentifiable food items encrusted in ice? If so, clear it out so you have a well-organised space for your weekly meals.
2. Draw up your meal plan for 2 weeks
Most recipes are designed for four servings. Having a 2-week plan means you can cook meals and portion out two servings for week 1 and the other two for week 2.
3. Get your food containers
You can buy a stack of plastic take-away food containers from the supermarket. Buy labels and an indelible pen so you can label what each meal is and when you prepared it. This is important as it’s so much harder to identify what your meal is when it’s frozen and iced over.
Check through your stored meals now and then and get rid of anything that has been left in the freezer for too long. As a general rule, a frozen meal will keep for around three months.
4. Get cooking!
Draw up your shopping list, get the items you need and set aside a couple of hours to cook everything.
You will need to let food cool down before you add to the containers and put it in the freezer.
5. Don’t forget to defrost
Before you head out every morning be sure to take your evening’s meal out of the freezer and leave in the fridge to defrost during the day. You can then put it in a saucepan to reheat in the evening or place in a microwave dish. Avoid using the plastic container to reheat as you can leach nasty plastic chemicals into your food as it heats.
Make sure your food is piping hot right the way through before eating.
3 Easy Meals to Prepare in Advance
1. Beef or Chicken Casseroles
Fry up onion, garlic, and diced meat in olive oil, throw in your chosen vegetables, chunks of potato or sweet potato. Add some liquid stock, herbs, and a dash of wine if you prefer. Bring to the boil and then simmer until meat and vegetables are soft and tender.
2. Beef, Chicken or Tofu Curries
Fry up meat or sliced tofu in coconut oil with onion and garlic, add a curry sauce from the supermarket. Steam vegetables at the same time e.g green beans, cauliflower or eggplant, and throw into the curry. Boil some rice at the same time.
3. Cottage Pie
Fry mince in oil with garlic, onions, diced carrots and celery. Add tomato paste, a little water and stock powder. Meanwhile, cook and mash potatoes. Place mince mixture in a pan top with potato and bake.
Food Prep for The Less Organised
If you can’t face lots of cooking on a Sunday afternoon, or if you just don’t like the idea of too much planning, there are easy ways to make meal prep easier during the week.
Having certain items of food to hand in your fridge, freezer or store cupboard will make your life much easier.
Here are some useful foods to have ready:
- Tins of tuna or salmon – easy to add to a salad or stir into some pasta with some mayonnaise and frozen veg.
- Tins of beans – add to salads or quickly heat with a jar of tomato pasta sauce. Eat with flatbread or sliced baguette.
- Baked beans – nutritious, filling and quick to prepare, served on toast.
- Tofu – slice up and fry with a little soy sauce, five-spice mix or teriyaki sauce. Serve with quick-cook noodles and steamed veg.