Do you have a stressful work or everyday life? Then you know how hard it can be to cook regularly and in a balanced way. So get ready to plan ahead with some meal prep!
Meal Prep – What Is It?
“Meal Prep” simply means “precooking”- or preparing meals in advance. This method is especially great for people who have a lot of stress and little time. The advantage is that you can choose when you want to cook as well as the quantity of food.
Meal prep is very easy if you have a kitchen with a stove or microwave to warm up food accordingly. If not, you can create a variety ready-to-go meals like salads and sandwiches, for example. You can also prepare vegan dishes, snacks for children during breaks, or lunch between two meetings. With meal prep, you don’t need extra snack bars since you have balanced and healthy meals all ready to go!
Cooking Larger Quantities and Preparing Dishes
The idea of meal prep is to cook for several days in advance when you are already cooking. This doesn’t mean that you have to eat the same prepared food for a whole week. Meal prep also saves a lot of time, as you only have to shop once a week or chop up vegetables once for the whole week. If you initially find it too much effort to precook for a whole week, try preparing your meals for 3 or 4 days first.
For example, if you are cooking pasta anyway, you can simply cook a big batch and use it for a pasta salad or pasta gratin for the next few days. Then, put your cooked food into mason jars or air-tight containers and the precooking is completed in one afternoon! This gives you more time for the rest of the afternoon to relax in your well-earned evening or to spend time with your family.
Meal prep is particularly great for pregnant women and young parents because the time of pregnancy and the phase after it means a change in everyday life. The child needs a lot of attention. But parents and children also need a balanced diet in order to keep up their strength and maintain all-important nutrients.
Here’s a recipe for burrito bowls that’s versatile and yummy! You can prepare it in advance with variations each day!
Chicken Burrito Bowls
- 1 1/2 lb boneless, skinless chicken breast
- 1/4 cup olive oil
- 1/3 cup lime juice
- 1 tsp honey
- 1 tsp salt
- 1/4 tsp cumin
- 2 cloves garlic minced
- 1/4 cup water
- 1 tsp onion powder
- 2 tsp chili powder
Cilantro Lime Rice
- 3 cups cooked rice
- 1/3 cup cilantro chopped
- lime juice from one lime
- salt and pepper to taste
- 1 15 oz can black beans drained and rinsed
- 1 cup canned corn drained and rinsed
- 1 cup fresh salsa
- Pour the lime juice, olive oil and water into a large resealable bag. Add the garlic, honey, salt, cumin, smoked paprika, onion powder and chili powder.
- Seal bag and shake to combine. Add the chicken to the marinade in bag, seal and place in refrigerator. Marinate at least 30 minutes or up to 8 hours.
- Preheat a grill, grill pan or skillet on medium high heat. Add the chicken and cook for 5-6 minutes on each side or until cooked all the way through.
- Cut the cooked chicken into the desired size.
- Place the rice or quinoa in a large bowl; add the cilantro, lime juice and salt and pepper to taste; toss to coat the rice entirely.
- Divide the rice between 4 meal prep containers. Arrange the chicken, beans, corn and salsa on top. Cover and store in the refrigerator until ready to heat and serve.
Cautions for Reheating Your Food
Don’t leave your prepared food unchilled for a longer period of time. Bacteria could multiply so strongly after about two hours that your food can become inedible. That’s why you should put it in the fridge as quickly as possible after you make it. To cool your food more quickly, pour it into flat containers and stir occasionally.
It is recommended to reach a temperature of 150 °F when warming up your food to safely kill bacteria. However, frequent warming up leads to a loss of nutrients, as some vitamins are sensitive to heat.
Try not to re-heat your food in plastic containers. When plastic is heated, chemicals may leach out of the container and into the food. Preferably, use one made of glass or ceramic – never plastic – and with a lid.
Preserving Food – Helpful Reminders
You should eat dishes with fresh, raw foods promptly. Dishes with cooked and fried food can also be kept in the fridge for three to four days. If you want to precook for longer than four days, you should deep-freeze the precooked food.
If you want to store food for a longer period of time, you should freeze and store it at 0°F. However, food cannot be stored indefinitely. There are no specific guidelines about shelf life, but generally, if you notice visual changes or an intense smell, don’t eat it!
More Ideas for Your Meal Prep
Meal prep is a perfect way to take bring food to work or pack into a lunchbox for your kids. As a rule of thumb, a great way to prep your meals is to plan for a grain (rice, quinoa, whole-grain pasta, potatoes), a protein (chicken, beef, pork, fish), and a veggie (broccoli, carrots, spinach, zucchini, squash). Here are some other easy and yummy meal prep ideas:
- Salads in jars
- Overnight oats for breakfast
- Chicken, fish, beef, or sausage with vegetables
- Cucumber and chickpea salad
- Pork carnitas
- Teriyaki chicken and broccoli
- Zucchini noodle bolognese
- Spicy chicken and sweet potato
Are You Ready to Start Meal Prepping?
Meal prep not only saves time but also ensures a balanced meal. It’s great if you’re on-the-go or trying to ensure you’re getting the right amount of calories, portion sizes, and nutrients. Do you precook your food for the week before? If yes, what are your favorite meal prep recipes? Let your people know on FamilyApp