The Do's and Don'ts of Meal Prep for Stress-Free Cooking
Here are our top tips, straight from people who meal prep every week.
When it comes to meal prepping, it may seem pretty straightforward: Plan your meals, make them, package them, and enjoy throughout the week. But there are actually tons of mistakes that can be made from grocery shopping to the final clean up.
Here are the most important do's and don'ts of meal prepping, from people who have actually been there.
Do Keep Trash Near By
Nobody wants to get stuck carrying a pile of vegetable scraps across their kitchen or using a dirty hand to open the drawer hiding the trash bin. Keep an open trash bag next to you as you cook for easy clean up and a more sanitary prep area. You can peel vegetables directly into the bag and not worry about making a mess all over your floor.
Don't Prep Foods That Don't Reheat Well
Not every meal is meant to be enjoyed over and over again. When was the last time you heard someone say "wow that leftover shrimp tasted great after the microwave"? Probably never. Dishes like seafood, skin-on chicken, and roasted veggies never taste as good as they did the day before. It's just not worth it.
But if you still plan to reheat or reuse these ingredients, it's best to mask the rubbery dryness that usually occurs with fresh ingredients: re-purpose leftover seafood into tacos; remove the skin on chicken and shred the meat into enchiladas; or tuck leftover roasted veggies into a frittata.
Do Make Easily Adaptable Mains
Grilled or baked meats without any skin are fairly easy to reheat and pair with new sauces, grains, and veggies. You can also make cold chicken salad, tuna salad, and egg salad to put into sandwiches, over lettuce for a salad, and with added spices (like curry powder) for an entirely new flavor.
Hard boiled eggs can be tossed into a lunchbox with a salad or used to top off avocado toast in the morning. If you still need a little inspiration, try these 4 Tips to Get Over the Mid-Week Meal Prep Slump.
Don't Prep Before Checking Your Kitchen
Always check your pantry, fridge, and freezer before even thinking about what you're going to make. Take note of any leftover meals you can finish up, anything you froze previously, and incorporate ingredients that may go bad into this week's menu. You can then decide what you will make, and purchase new ingredients accordingly.
Do Clean Before and After
There's really nothing worse than using tons of kitchen equipment, only to find your dishwasher and sink are full of more dirty utensils. Clean everything up before you start preparing this week's meals for a faster clean up at the end. You'll thank us later.
Don't Start Until Everything Is Ready
It may seem obvious, but we really mean everything should be ready to go. Set up your music, podcast, Netflix show, or whatever entertainment you need. Tie your hair back, put on comfy sneakers (you can buy some here) and an apron, let the dog out, and call whoever you need to let them know you're in the zone. This is your time, so enjoy it distraction-free.
Do Plan Ahead
You're going to want an idea of what you're cooking, but be sure you have all the ingredients on hand and you've read the instructions properly. There's no turning back if you truly mess up a recipe. Chop and cook as much as you can in advance for easy meals all week long.
Also, be sure to actually plan enough food. If you do a superb job preparing weekday meals, you'll get suck on the weekends without anything to eat. Keep a few staple ingredients always ready to go, and pop a couple meals in the freezer for last-minute microwave dinners.
Don't Cook without Appropriate Containers
You've prepped your meals, but now it's time to store everything. Be sure you have enough meal prep containers so you don't get stuck tossing ingredients in large zip top bags or covering mixing bowls with plastic wrap.