Meal prepping is a concept that many of us have the best intentions of beginning but may never get around to actually doing it. We get it! It can feel overwhelming to start, but once you get the hang of it, your life will much easier, and your food is likely to be more nutritious and something you look forward to. Making your meals ahead of time or merely planning what you will eat in the days to come puts yourself on a steady path. You may likely realize the benefits of doing these tasks but feel lost on where to start. Here are a few tips to meal prepping more easily and finally get started without stress!
Create a dinner plan.
Make this fun for yourself! You don’t have to plan out every meal but perhaps begin planning dinner. Set aside time each week to organize by placing a reminder on your calendar and blocking off time to hold yourself accountable. Once you get good at selecting your meals and knowing where to look for meal inspiration, you can likely get down to spending only 10-15 minutes a week on this. Here is how to start:
- Create your meal “bank”.
Start a list of all the meals your family likes. Keep the list in the notes section of your smartphone, on a spreadsheet, whiteboard, or in a binder (pro tip: a photo album or 3-ring binder with clear plastic inserts works great to organize a recipe collection). Keeping a “bank” of these meals will help with ideas when you’re in a food rut and make planning faster. Keep adding to this list when you find new inspiration. Kroger also has a Pinterest page to make pinning healthy recipes easy and convenient.
- Think of a theme to get inspired.
Themes are often organized by:
- Style: Sheet pan meals, casseroles, hearty salads, stir-fry, slow-cooker, etc.
- Culture: Asian, Mexican, Indian, Middle Eastern, Mediterranean, etc.
- Protein: chicken, fish, beef, beans, tofu, etc.
- Grain: pasta, rice, potato, couscous, etc.
- Plan your week with a different theme each day, for example:
- Monday is for pasta. Make enough plain pasta to have one night with marinara sauce and lunch the next day with pesto or tossed with olive oil, herbs, and Parmesan.
- Tuesday is Mexican. Make tacos one night and use the same filings for lunch in burrito bowls/rice bowls, or even a stir-fry.
- Wednesday is a Sheet Pan Meal. Make a sheet pan of plain roasted chicken and vegetables used one night, then tossed with pasta and Italian sauce and another night tossed with rice and an Asian-style sauce.
- Thursday is Vegetarian. Serve baked potatoes one night then repurpose them into stuffed potatoes for another meal, even breakfast!
- Friday is for Fish. Get a good source of heart-healthy omega-3 fatty acids by using the Easy for You Seafood option at Kroger. These spice coated and foil-wrapped seafood dinners can easily be placed in the oven for an easy, delicious, and stress-free meal.
- Saturday is for Leftovers. Get creative with what you got left!
- Sunday is for Take-Out. You’re done! Time to plan for the following week.
Still too overwhelming? We find people tend to do best when they start slow. Only plan 1-2 meals for a week and see if it takes off from there once the habit is formed. Personally, we find that we can get through a week by planning just 3-4 meals since we like to utilize leftovers and certainly plan in a take-out meal as well. Kroger.com also offers a weekly meal plan that changes every week, so the work is done for you!
Freezing is the Way to Go
If you’re already making a batch of brown rice or quinoa, make a whole bunch and freeze the extra. You can even cook up extra meat, slice, and freeze. Remember to freeze in usable portions or a single layer on a sheet pan (transfer to a bag later), so you don’t have a frozen “soccer ball” of rice that is impossible to chisel off the amount you need!
Remember, you don’t have to plan and prep all your food ahead of time. Leave some flexibility. Choose a small step that feels manageable to you. Meal planning and prepping shouldn’t be extra burdensome; rather, think of it as lightening the load so that you have more time to enjoy other things. You can book a Telenutrition appointment with any of our talented Kroger Health Dietitians who are well seasoned in juggling life and cooking challenges for more meal inspiration.
Disclaimer: This information is educational only and not providing healthcare recommendations. Please see a healthcare provider.