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A beginner’s guide to meal prep

beginners meal prep beginners meal prep

If you are trying to streamline your meals with the aim of making them healthier but are struggling with time, then meal prep is a great way to go. Meal prepping means dedicating a slot of time (most people do this on a Sunday) to prepare all of your meals for the week. As well as saving time throughout your week, it is also a great way to save money as you can bulk buy ingredients.

In this article, we explore why meal prep is a great way to keep a healthy diet in place but also to save time so you can spend it on yourself – like with a Champneys Spa Break.

Why meal prep?

We’ve already gone through a few of the reasons why meal prepping is so good, but to really understand how efficient this way of living is we wanted to take another look.

Meal prepping can save you time

One of the main reasons people have adopted meal prepping so widely is because it can save plenty of time, especially during the week. Most people will spend a few hours on a Sunday preparing meals and will then have taken all of the work out of their weeknight meals.

Sara, a lifestyle advisor and blogger at Gathering Dreams, is a keen meal prepper. Visit her blog to see her top 25 healthy meal prep ideas to simplify your life. She told us how it helped change her life: “I've always been looking for ways to have a balanced diet and eat healthy food. But like everyone else with a full-time job, I struggled to find the time to shop and cook every day. When I discovered meal prep, my life changed. It sounds a bit dramatic, but with meal prep, I finally found a way to organize my weekly grocery shopping and my meals. Having a plan not only saves me time but also helps me to focus on selecting the best ingredients for a healthy diet. 

“After a few weeks of trial and error, I now have a set of trusted recipes that I cook every week. I prefer simple recipes that have only a few whole ingredients and are easy to make, like a rich and creamy chickpea curry.

“It now takes me roughly an hour on Sunday to organize and cook my meals for the week. Once you get the hang of it, you’ll be amazed at how easy meal prep is, and you’ll just ask yourself why you didn’t do it sooner!”

Meal prepping can save you money

There are two ways meal prepping can help save you money. Firstly, it can often mean that you buy and cook ingredients in bulk which can tend to be cheaper. Not only do these larger packs tend to cost less, by cooking large batches at the same time you can save on bills throughout the week too.

Another way in which meal prepping can help you save money is by stopping you from going out. It can be tempting when there is no planned meal for you at home to decide to grab a quick muffin for breakfast or opt for a meal deal at lunchtime. However, when you have breakfast already made, lunch in the fridge and dinner prepared at home it can be easier to stop yourself making these quick purchases and save money in the long run.

Meal prepping can help you keep healthy

Simple meal prep recipes Simple meal prep recipes

We’ve all been there, it’s a mid-week evening after a long day at work, the rain is falling and the last thing we want to do is stand over the stovetop and cook a nutritious meal. The tempting lights of drive-thrus call to us, but meal prep can fix this problem forever.

If you’ve already got a meal cooked and ready for you, only in need of a quick and effortless reheat there really is no excuse to fold. As well as that, the meals you prepare can fit your nutritional requirements, meaning they can be as healthy as you want. By having full control over what you eat every day, and having it all prepared, you know you will be eating only what you want to eat.

Talia is the mastermind being Work Week Lunch, a site that shares a range of meal prep recipes and programmes. She told us what first drew her to meal prep: “I started meal prepping after I graduated college to save money and eat healthier foods than what was provided at my office. The takeout options weren't ideal either and meal prep seemed like the most cost-effective, healthiest and fastest way to cook food to take to work and to eat after work! After a few months of doing it on and off, I was completely hooked.”

We then asked Talia what she feels the main benefit of meal prep is: “There are many, but I think the biggest benefit of meal prepping in terms of overall wellbeing is making healthy food easily accessible during the week when we're more inclined to quickly grab food on the go. With meal prep, you literally open the fridge and the food is just there, waiting! This also takes the stress out of making healthy decisions in the moment or figuring out what to eat when you're hungry and tired after work. Of course, you have to cook it all and do the work upfront, but it's worth it.”

Leigh Merotto is a Registered Dietitian with a private practice in Toronto. She spoke to us about why she suggests meal prep to her clients: “Our days continue to become busier and busier, and this makes it even more essential to prep and plan out our meals. I always say to my clients, fail to prepare = prepare to fail. By planning our meals and having options ready ahead of time, it makes it so much easier to stick to our goals for a healthy diet and to help limit buying meals and snacks away from home (which are often less quality and more expensive than what we can make ourselves).”

Leigh then explained how she adapts meal prepping to fit her needs: “I don't follow a traditional style of meal prep, but I love to have batch-cooked vegetables, starches and proteins ready to go to mix and match during the week. For example, right now I have some roasted tofu cubes, quinoa and chopped vegetables I've been throwing together for lunch bowls for the last couple of days. I add some different condiments (such as hummus, yoghurt, hot sauce) and seasonings (chilli spice, fresh herbs) to add variety so I don't get bored! For my main tips, check out my article on meal prep and planning.

Mark from Prep Kitchen, a company that offers pre-prepared meal prep solutions, also found meal prepping useful whilst on a mission to improve his diet. He explained: “I first became interested in meal prep during my own personal weight loss journey. Cooking a calorie-controlled high protein meal, that is full of vegetables and good for you a couple of times a day is definitely doable, but it's difficult and time-consuming. However, when you're too tired or busy to cook finding an off-the-shelf solution that fits your goals in a restaurant or takeaway is almost impossible.

“That's where meal prep comes in. If you buy or prep your own meals ahead of time you only have to make the right choice once a week, then you can't help but eat the right food. And eating the right food is 80% of the battle in achieving your goals – whether that’s feeling healthier, being fitter, losing a bit of weight, or all three.

“With the time saved you can make sure you make it to the gym, and get more time to yourself after work in the evenings. I believe meal prep and the service we offer at Prep Kitchen is a game-changer and a no-brainer for busy people who want to achieve.”

The best ingredients for meal prep

Popular meal prep ingredients Popular meal prep ingredients

Breakfast meal prep ingredients

Oats: Oats are a fantastic component of breakfast meal prep as they can be used to make overnight oats quickly and easily. Just add them to a jar with a few other ingredients and you’ve got a delicious breakfast ready to go.

Fruit: Fruits are great for making smoothies, and if you have no time for chopping in the morning, preparing so-called ‘smoothie packs’ – a bag of fruits stored in the freezer- ahead of time you are able to start your morning’s off quickly.

Eggs: Eggs are a great source of protein and are easy to prepare. Although many people may not think to do it, it’s really easy to hard boil a batch of eggs and then eat them throughout the week. Add these to a breakfast sandwich or wrap and you’ll be on to a quick and easy winner.

Lunch and dinner meal prep ingredients

Chickpeas: Easy to cook, versatile and filling, chickpeas are a great addition to any meal prep routine, especially for those who try to focus on a more plant-based diet. After only a little prep work they’ll store well and their unobtrusive flavour means they can go with most dishes.

Seasonal vegetables: By keeping it seasonal, not only are you only eating the best, but you are always going to be switching your meals up. Also, vegetables are great for being cooked ahead of time and eaten chilled/reheated.

Noodles: Whether you use traditional noodles or zoodles (made from courgette), these can be a great base for any meal and will work with a mixture of other sauces and ingredients. They are easy to cook and work both cold and reheated.

Meal prep recipes for beginners

Vegan mocha overnight oats

Vegan mocha overnight oats Vegan mocha overnight oats

Image Credit: Bites of Wellness

For a sweet start to the day, these overnight oats by Bites of Wellness are very simple to put together and are a real treat for any prepper. For those who love a little bit of cocoa, you really can’t go wrong!

Ingredients:

1/4 cup rolled oats

1 tbsp chia seeds

3/4 cup brewed coffee or cold brew

1/2 cup dairy-free milk or almond milk

1 tbsp cacao powder

1/4 cup dairy-free milk (optional)

Recipe:

In a large mouth mason jar, combine all the ingredients.

Let this mixture sit in the fridge for at least 4 hours but can be left for up to 5 days.

The morning of consumption, stir well.

If the mixture needs more liquid, add up to 1/4 cup of dairy-free milk until you get your desired consistency.

Chickpea curry

Chickpea curry Chickpea curry

Image Credit: Gathering Dreams

This quick and easy chickpea curry comes from Sara at gathering dreams and as well as being delicious and nutritious, it is naturally vegan and only takes 10 minutes to prepare. It’s also an easy recipe to adapt to your personal preferences, whether that’s with a bit more spice or extra vegetables. Check out the recipe on her site to find out more about why the cooking method used is fantastic for flavour.

Ingredients:

2 cans chickpeas, rinsed and drained

1 can coconut milk

2 teaspoons garam masala

2 teaspoons turmeric

1 teaspoon ginger powder

1/2 teaspoon chilli flakes

1 medium-size onion, chopped

2 cloves of garlic, minced

4 tablespoons olive oil

Recipe:

Heat the oil in a large pan. When the oil is smoking hot lower the heat and add the spices.

After a few seconds add the chopped onions and the minced garlic.

Once the onion and garlic are golden brown (around a minute) add the chickpeas and the coconut milk. Add salt to taste.

Cook for 5 minutes then add the washed fresh spinach, stir well and cover.

Let the spinach wilt for a couple of minutes. And it's ready to serve.

Garlic butter steak bites with courgette noodles

Garlic butter steak bites with courgette noodles Garlic butter steak bites with courgette noodles

Image credit: Kirbie Cravings

For meat lovers, this quick and simple recipe from Kirbie Cravings offers a lot of flavour with a few simple ingredients. This is a great meal to prepare for lunches or dinners and offers a nice, carb-free dish filled with flavour.

Ingredients:

3 tbsp butter

6 cloves garlic minced

1 tbsp low-sodium soy sauce

1/2 tsp garlic powder

1 tbsp canola oil or olive oil

1 lb sirloin steak cut into bite-size pieces

Salt to taste

1 tbsp parsley chopped

4 large courgette spiralized

Recipe:

In a small saucepan add butter and garlic. Cook over a low/medium heat until the butter is melted, and garlic starts to brown. Stir in the garlic powder and soy sauce. Taste and adjust as needed. Set aside.

Add the canola oil to a large cast-iron skillet and bring to a high heat. When the oil is hot, add in the steak.

Cook the steak for about 1-2 minutes on each side, letting it develop a golden sear before flipping. Lightly season steak with salt as needed.

When steak is almost finished cooking, pour two-thirds of the garlic butter sauce over the steak. Stir steak until it is cooked and evenly coated in sauce. Garnish with parsley. Remove from pan and divide into containers.

Using the same pan (and keeping in any remaining sauces from the steak and sauce), add in the noodles and remaining garlic butter sauce. Stir noodles until they are fully cooked. Season with salt as needed. Drain water and then add to containers.

With all of the spare time you’ll have from meal prepping, you can take more time for yourself and enjoy some luxury spa days here at Champneys.

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