Before getting into this post, I would like to point out that I am not necessarily against eating at restaurants. I love the feeling of being pampered at a restaurant and I definitely love it when comeone else does the cooking.ramble
Even fast food has its time and place. Where I see it as a problem is when people make a habit of it, just about the same way people make a habit of having unhealthy meals for lunch at work.
As the demands of the workplace take a toll on our lives, it becomes very easy to fall prey to the sweet dangers that lurk at our workplaces.
I am saddened to see the office vending machine becoming a daily habit and taking the place of more nutritious foods. From my own experience in the corporate world and that of my friends and family, the consensus seems to be that time seems to be the culprit here.
We know how important fruits and vegetables are and their vital role in a healthy body. We probably know what makes up healthy, balanced meals; some of us can even whip up a mean 5-course meal if we really put our minds to it, but how many of us really have the time to cook a healthy meal?
Nutritionists and dietitian will cringe at the things some of us consume while at work in the name of lunch.
The solution? Meal prepping.
Why All the Hype About Meal Prepping?
One word: convenience.
Think about it for a second – instead of cooking different meals every day, all you have to do is pick out one day to do all your grocery shopping for the week.
The following day, you prep all the ingredients you will need for your weekly meals. If you’re up for it, doing both the shopping and prepping in one day might even buy you extra time.
Now, we’ve established that it can save you as a significant amount of time, but here’s another benefit – you get to save money too.
When planning meals for the week, it’s easier, cheaper and more convenient to buy things in bulk. That alone can save you some money. You finally get to take advantage of all those 3 for the price of 2 promos and other crazy deals you may see.
Although I could go on and on about the benefits of meal prepping, I will keep it short here and hit the highlights:
Meal prepping helps you:
a) Eat healthy
b) Save time
c) Save money
Getting started with meal prepping is actually easier than you may think, all it takes is some planning. I’ve got a few tips to share with you on that.
Meal planning will also help you eat healthier by ensuring you stick with the entire process as opposed to munching on some unhealthy snack that just happens to be in the fridge.
So when planning your meals, here are a few tips to keep in mind:
1. Remember that the whole idea is to eat healthier meals so try as much as possible to avoid processed and pre-packaged meals.
2. Account for all your meals and snacks- don’t forget that you will be eating 7 breakfasts, 7 lunches, and 7 dinners; so plan accordingly.
3. Include options for healthy snacks as well.
4. Never underestimate the power of technology – Get an app to help you quickly save any cool recipes you come across.
Creating delicious recipes can be a serious endeavor. It’s also true that there are thousands of free recipes on the internet but do you really have the time to sort through them all looking for healthy ones? And what’s the guarantee that they will taste good when it’s all said and done?
Then there is the other matter of choosing recipes that are on par with your cooking proficiency. You see what I mean? If meal planning makes you feel like you’ve been asked to write a business proposal for $1 million grant, don’t panic yet, there are some cool companies online that can help you out.
Companies like The Six O’Clock Scramble have been saving families time and money for years; one thing I really love about their service is how easy it is to cook delicious and healthy meals.
Each week you get your plan with all of the recipes. The recipes can be customized to fit your schedule and needs. They even have options for vegetarian, gluten free and diabetic menus.
They provide you with the grocery list making things extremely simple. How much do you love technology right now?
There are other ways you can save time through meal prepping and before you ask, no, they don’t all call for the use of technology but that doesn’t make them any less effective.
1. Visiting the farmers’ market is a great place to buy fresh and cheap groceries in bulk – It’s possible to not only save money when shopping at your local farmers’ market you’ll also find some of the freshest, most flavorful ingredients, boost your local economy, save time and you’ve also got an amazing resource right in front of you: the farmer who produced the food!
So go ahead and ask all the questions you have ever had about a chayote or find out if they use organic practices on the farm. This is one of those incredibly rare win-win-win-win situations.
Sometimes they even let you try the produce before you buy to ensure it is top quality. Although they tend to be seasonal, you really do get value for your money and your time.
2. CSAs for Produce Delivery – Joining a CSA program may be one of the best decisions you may ever make for your health. You get the freshest foods delivered directly to you weekly.
Consider it a mobile farmer’s market because the produce leaves the farm and heads straight for your home.
It’s a great way to support the local agricultural community, protect the environment and discover interesting ways to integrate new ingredients while saving you time and money.
The boxes are delivered to you on a weekly basis when you join a local CSA and you get to customize them any way you want.
3. Sign up for Amazon’s Prime Pantry Delivery Service – With this service Amazon allows you shop for a wide range of pantry items for a flat shipping fee of $5.99.
With this grocery delivery service, Amazon will save you the stress of driving to the store to get groceries. All you have to do is fill up your box with the products that qualify for prime pantry, pay for your order and have it shipped to your home address.
You can order as much as 20kg per pantry box. You also have the option of scheduling a delivery time that is convenient for you.
Between Prime Pantry and your CSA box, you never need to leave the house again! Although, the point of all this is to make it easier to get out and do other things, things not related to grocery shopping.
4. Meal Kit Services – These are quickly gaining momentum as they revolutionize the world of meal delivery as we know it.
Services such as BlueApron and HelloFresh are subscription based ingredient and recipe delivery services that partner with farms all over the US to deliver only the best of sustainably grown farm produce.
Some of the ingredients even come prepped leaving you the task of simply following the recipe cards that accompany the package to create healthy, great tasting meals.
Of course, you have the option of picking out a meal plan that works for you – they’ve got everything from paleo to vegan.
You can further customize your plan by indicating how many people you’ll be cooking for (or with- get them in the kitchen!). It’s a great way to discover new ingredients, try out new recipes and of course, save time on meal prepping.
The packages are usually delivered weekly and you don’t even need to be home to sign off on the delivery.
Cooking – Hands-off Methods
Ok, let’s say my powers of persuasion have you going with one of those lovely time-saving grocery shopping options listed above, the next step is preparing the meal itself. And once again, it’s technology to the rescue with a plethora of time-saving ways you can achieve your desired results. This section is all about the use of specialized cookware and cooking methods.
Crock pots – we’re going old-school here. But stay with me, crock pots are super handy to have on hand as they produce great tasting meals.
Because the meal is cooked at a low temperature for an extended period of time, it allows the natural juices and flavors to blend seamlessly with one another.
If you’re short on prep time but would like to eat a healthy homemade meal at the end of the day, there are some delicious crockpot recipes that don’t require you to stick around. All you have to do is throw in all your ingredients together, set on low and come back 8 hours later to a piping-hot dish.
Check out our Crock Pot board on Pinterest for some tasty recipes!
Pressure Cookers – Pressure cookers, on the other hand, cut your cooking time by at least 50%, and are perfect for all those times you don’t want to spend so much time laboring over a hot stove (is there ever a time you DO want to hang out over a hot stove?).
Although they have been around for a very long time, many people still have not yet warmed up to the idea of actually purchasing one. Especially since for many the idea of a pressure cooker brings back memories of the old school pressure cookers their grandmas had (well, at least mine did) that, although quite effective, emitted a loud shrill as pressure was built up during the cooking process.
That’s a thing of the past now as modern day pressure cookers do not have such noisy problems.
In fact, you can now find programmable pressure cookers, allowing you customize the settings to suit your recipe.
Rice Cookers – Here’s another great hands-off kitchen appliance you really should consider buying. Although it’s called a rice cooker, it works on basically the same principle as the slow cooker and can be used for other purposes as well.
The general idea is that it uses moist heat to cook the food for an extended period of time. You can use the steaming tray to steam your vegetables, you can also use your rice cooker to make pasta dishes and even hot cereals like oatmeal.
Good bakeware – I can’t count the number of times these things have come to the rescue! I use them for just about everything and they are quite durable too.
If you’re careful with them they will serve you for years. A good stoneware set that can withstand high temperatures will help your meals cook evenly.
Cooking in Batches – When I discovered the world of freezer cooking, it literally changed my life; I could plan my meals around when I actually had time to cook them and then store the rest in the freezer for future meal times.
It’s an awesome time-saving strategy that helps you stick to your healthy meal plans. With this strategy, I’m able to save on meal prep time and clean up time.
There’s even a service called MyFreezeEasy that offers a monthly membership program with access to 5 different freezer cooking meal plans each month.
You get instructions and recipes for 10 meals that you can cook and freeze in under 1 hour! It’s an amazing time-saving strategy for meal prepping.
10 Cooking Tips/Hacks for Meal Prepping
1. Cover the pot when boiling water (or anything really) as doing that really does make it boil faster.
2. While dinner is cooking you can save time by putting together the ingredients for the next day’s meals. Instead of retreating to the living room, you can spend an extra 10-15 minutes on the next day’s dinner.
3. Cut up fruit and other ingredients for smoothies and store them in reusable containers in the freezer, that way you save time when you want to make a healthy smoothie in a hurry.
4. Prep your vegetables and what fruits you can for the week, that way they are ready when you need them. You can choose to chop or spiralize them depending on what the recipe calls for.
5. If you need to roast a variety of vegetables, pair veggies with the same cooking time together as opposed to roasting them individually.
6. Save your jars for healthy meals – you never really know when you might need to snack on something healthy.
7. Instead of peeling individual garlic cloves one at a time, place three or more cloves on a cutting board, use your hands to press the flat side of a knife against them. Make sure to apply enough force so the skin easily falls off when you pick them up.
8. If you don’t have the time to let your butter soften on its own while the microwave is currently occupied, get a grater and shred the butter. That reduces the amount of time it takes to soften.
9. To peel potatoes quickly, make a skin deep cut around the potato lengthwise, the idea is to try as much as possible to not slice the actual potato. Put the potato in a pan of boiling water until it’s soft inside. Remove the potato and place it in ice water for ten seconds. The skin of the potato will begin to shrink; a little rub with your fingers and the skin will fall right off.
10. Cut up your proteins and place your meats on skewers to save on cooking time and also help with portion controls.