How to Prepare Meals in Advance to Save Time and Eat Healthier

Nov 30, 2021 | Nutrition

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If you don’t already prepare meals in advance, I have a public announcement.

This THE ultimate solution for people who have a busy schedule or who don’t like to spend hours in the kitchen.

Because let’s be honest. Shopping, cooking, doing the dishes, putting them away… it takes a lot of time and it’s not always the funniest thing to do.

The good news is, what we call “batch cooking” or “meal prepping” is accessible to everyone and will most likely change your life 🙂

What are batch cooking and meal prepping?

Batch cooking consists of preparing several meals in one cooking session. Most of the time, the preparation is done on the weekend for the following week.

This avoids having to cook several times a day, with every else that comes with it (dishes, storage).

It’s like when you crave a cookie. You don’t want to take all the ingredients, make the cookie dough, and bake one cookie at a time. You make 12 of them at the same time because it saves you hours for the next time you want a cookie (even if it’s 4 minutes later hehe).

Common sense, isn’t it?

Well, this is what meal prepping is all about. And it can basically benefit anyone: professionals who are at work all day, moms, or students.

There are two main ways to prepare your meals in advance, it’s up to you to choose the one that best fits your schedule.

Meal prepping

Cook several recipes in large batches, then separate them into portions for storage. Then, reheat them.

Batch cooking

Instead of cooking full recipes, batch cooking is all about preparing different ingredients separately. This allows you to create different meal combinations along the week.

My recommendation: If you are on the go and have very little time to prepare your meals, opt for meal prepping. But if you have time in the morning or are at home during meal times, opt for batch cooking since it will provide you with more variety.

Advantages of preparing meals in advance

Honestly? There are a bunch. I haven’t decided which one is the best yet.

It saves you time

If you have a busy schedule, to prepare meals in advance is a must.

Although it requires several hours of cooking at once, it’s SO worth it when you realize how much time you spend each day :

  • Deciding what you should eat
  • Looking for a recipe
  • Cooking
  • Washing the dishes and putting them back in their place

When you realize how many hours and effort you save by making all your meals in one sitting, you’ll wonder why you didn’t do this before. Trust me.

It saves you money

Not only because it will save you from ordering food online because “it’s too late to start cooking now”. Also because you will only buy what you need.

When you know exactly what you’re going to eat during the week, you know what food you need to buy and you won’t have to throw away the broccoli that’s been sitting in your fridge for 2 weeks.

Which is obviously a big plus for the environment too.

It helps you eat better

Because we’ve all to eaten bread and a can of tuna before with the only reason that we were too lazy to cook for ourselves.

Planned meals are often healthier and more balanced choices than last minute meals. Your body thanks you in advance🙂

Step 1 – Get organized

The key to a successful meal prep is organization.

Starting with selecting the recipes you’re going to make. Choose recipes that are simple; few steps, ingredients and utensils.

Also remember to choose recipes with different cooking times so you don’t have to manage 4 pans all at once.

If you need inspiration, feel free to visit the food section of my blog; you’ll find super simple (but also super delicious and healthy) recipes.

Once you’ve chosen your recipes, make a list of all the ingredients you’ll need. Don’t forget to adjust the quantities according to your needs 🙂

All you have to do now is go grocery shopping and plan one to two half days to cook your meals. Personally, I’ve always liked to prepare my meals on Sundays to be able to relax during the week, but it’s up to you to choose what works best for your schedule!

Step 2 – Cooking

You know what to make, how much to make and you have everything you need in your fridge. All that’s left to do is get cooking.

The golden rule is to always start with the recipes that take the longest to cook to maximize your time in the kitchen.

What I personally like to do before I start cooking is to prepare all the ingredients in advance:

  • Rinse
  • Chop
  • Weigh
  • Put in containers
  • Throw away waste
  • Put away leftovers

This is what will keep you organized and prevent you from having too many things on your kitchen counter (and believe me, this can happen very fast when you’re cooking several meals at once).

Then all you have to do is follow the recipes to the letter!

Step 3 – Keeping your meals safe

To ensure that your meals keep well and stay as fresh as possible, there are a few rules to follow.

Storage time

Meals generally last in the refrigerator for 3 to 5 days.

Up to 3 days for salad, fish and meat, and up to 5 days for cooked vegetables and legumes.

If you are preparing meals for more than 5 days in advance, it is safer to freeze them or to plan two cooking sessions per week.

Choosing the right containers

Where you keep your food also plays a role in how well your meals will keep.

You have several choices.

  • BPA free plastic containers

Using plastic containers is the cheapest choice, but not necessarily the safest.

Even though BPA is removed from the food containers, other substances in plastic could be harmful for your health.

If that’s your only option, make sure to avoid heating your meals in plastic containers – that’s when the toxic substances can transfer to the food.

  • Steel containers

Another option that is 100% healthy is steel containers. This is a good choice if you don’t plan on reheating your meals in the microwave since it’s not recommended to leave steel in war temperatures.

If you fall for these beautiful lunch boxes, consider reserving them for salads or raw vegetables.

  • Glass containers

Probably the best choice when it comes to choosing containers for your meals. Even though they are heavier than plastic or steel containers, you can put glass containers in the oven or microwave without any problem.

Not to mention that they come in all sizes and for all tastes (including these gorgeous Mason Jars).

Isn’t a fridge of ready-to-eat food so satisfying? Featuring the Duralex containers – not the best to transport, but so convinient to store, cook and freeze food in them!

  • Stasher bags

A recent discovery for storing food and meals is the silicone bags from the brand Stasher.

They are made of platinum silicone, guaranteed free of toxicity.

The best part is that you can not only keep them in the fridge, but also freeze and cook in them!

Even if they’re pricey, it’s so worth it because of the amount of possible uses.

They come in a standard size of 450ml or a small version (290ml), which is perfect for snacks.

The brand only ships to the US and Canada for now, but if you’re in Europe or anywhere else in the world, you can get yours at iHerb.com.

Plus, you get a 5% discount when you use my code CBY2374 at checkout!

Step 4 – Reheat and Eat

Finally, the most interesting part. A few good practices should also be followed if you want to make sure that your meals keep their most and their flavors through reheating.

If your meal is frozen, make sure to take it out the night before so that it can defrost in the fridge overnight.

To reheat your meals, you have several options to choose from.

Microwave: By removing the lid of your container and placing parchment paper over the dish – make sure to leave a small corner uncovered or make a few holes in the paper with a fork.

For meals that have little or no liquid, you can sprinkle a little bit of water on your dish. The second option is to cover the container with a damp paper towel.

Pan-frying: Another method that works quite well is to place your meal in a pan, with a little water, and cover it with a lid. On low heat, it will create steam and cook your food in a few minutes.

Oven: Reheating meals in the oven can also be a good alternative, especially if the meal was originally cooked in the oven – for example, roasted meat, fish, and vegetables.

In most cases, there is no need to add water or oil. Simply cover your meal with aluminum foil to retain moisture.

Is meal prep really for everyone?

In my opinion, yes – as long as you adapt it to your daily life and your needs🙂

Because the good news is that you can adapt the method as you want.

I used it flawlessly for 4 years while I was a working student… and I continue to use it today while I work from home.

During my 4 years of school/work/training, my schedule was super busy and all my meals for the week were planned. Today it’s a little different.

Now, I prefer to prepare several ingredients separately and create bowls for myself with roasted veggies, salad, raw vegetables and whatever else I fancy in the moment.

So, I know. I’m lucky to be able to give myself this flexibility. But preparing your meals in advance for the week is not that complicated if you are well organized.

Here’s a little recap of the steps to follow :

  1. Plan one to two half-days in your agenda to devote to cooking
  2. Choose your recipes and adapt the quantities if necessary
  3. Make a shopping list and go grocery shopping for all the ingredients you need
  4. Prepare all your ingredients step by step – wash, cut, weigh
  5. Follow the recipes, starting with the ones that take the longest to cook
  6. Store your meals in appropriate containers
  7. Reheat, enjoy, and save lots of time for your projects and loved ones!

I hope this article will help you organize your meals for the week and that it will save you as much time as it saves me on a daily basis!

Let me know in the comments if you’ll be trying meal prepping or batch cooking for yourself!

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I’m Virginia

Coming from a place of hating my body, binge eating & lacking self-confidence, I managed to take back my power and make my body my best ally – now, I’m here to help women do the same! 

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