How To Be A Human
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How To Be A Human

Personal Tips On How To Start Meal Prepping

When I have a tight schedule to adhere to, I craft out a meal plan with dishes I look forward to eating. I plan the sh$t out of the next week, run to the store with a grocery list safely stored on Wunderlist, throw everything I need to nourish myself into a shopping cart, and look forward to spending my Sunday in the kitchen to prepare all meals for the upcoming week. It’ll be out of the way and I won’t have to think about it anymore.

If you’re also always busy working out what to eat and it stresses you out, meal prepping might be something worth considering!

A short while ago I discovered the wondrous worlds of Bringmeister and Rewe Lieferservice. If I know my shopping will hit the 40 euro mark or surpass it, I will always choose ordering over going to the supermarket myself and order for the next one or two weeks. Otherwise I am ‘forced’ to run to the stores. The thing is, if I’m already busting my behind to prepare all meals and snacks for the next week and sacrificing part of my Sunday for this, then ordering groceries to me is an easy choice regarding areas where it’s possible to save some effort, and time.

My meal prepping is not optimal yet, but after having done it on and off, I am getting quite the hang of it. Continuing to find out what works best for me by trial and error is what I’m doing. These are the most important (and somewhat generalised) tips I can share so far.

1. Start by making a meal plan.

There is no way to organise your meals if you don’t know what you’re going to cook. Going to the store and randomly picking out things you like or gathering ingredients for one or several meals could easily result in you overbuying, unnecessarily spending more than you want and buying more than you’ll be able to consume; which would be a waste. Above all, it’s not efficient when you’re out shopping, ánd all these ingredients might not work together nicely.

First make a meal plan, then write down all ingredients you need, and with this list, do your grocery shopping (irrelevant whether online or in a physical store). Of course, if you have a lot of food still lying in the fridge and it needs to get eaten soon, it makes much more sense to take these as a starting point and craft your meals from and around them. Then you’d only have to buy whatever is missing!

Example of an old school hardcopy meal plan.

Think about what you’d like to eat. If taking care of all meals feels like too much, start with only taking care of one type of bigger meal (whichever one that’d be for you). During working days I cannot survive on just two slices of bread. I’ll need a proper lunch meal. If I were starting out, I’d start with this one. As soon as you feel capable of handling the preparations involved with this one meal (such as lunch), add up another one (such as breakfast), until you have the entire week covered. You could use a simple Google Sheet for all of this, or write it down in your notebook.

2. Make sure you have enough containers.

Prevent the frustration of not knowing where to store all this food you just cooked when you run out of boxes. I started out with crappy, low-quality plastic containers I kept from when I was still studying, but soon found out I had to upgrade. There’s nothing worse than finding out the food you were looking for to eating has leaked through your bag or hasn’t been stored airtight so that it goes bad faster.

I personally recommend Emsa boxes, these are air tight and of excellent quality. They are leak proof! Even if you toss them around in your bag or shake them, the contents stay inside the container and do not expand to the inside of your bag. I admit, I try to be organised, so I put the boxes in my bag with the lid facing upwards. Wouldn’t want to tempt fate. So far, my experience using products from this brand has been nothing but positive though.

Stacking ‘m up.

If you like the glass hipster look, it might be an idea to not buy the cheapest vegetables in cans from now on, but instead, the ones in glasses, and save these up. After you ate your veggies, you can give the jars a wash and soak off the label (or just ignore the label if you don’t mind). You can then use the jar endlessly thereafter to stock up on nuts, to make oatmeal breakfast jars, to build cute-looking salads by layering ingredients inside, or whatever floats your boat!

3. Prepare food you like and look forward to eating.

You’re making all this effort, so you might as well cook things you will enjoy eating. In my opinion it reduces any aversion you might feel towards getting the work done, and help you to enjoy the process of cooking and getting better at it just a bit more.

Some tasty looking snacks I prepared.

4. Buy and cook in bulk.

It’s your party! You can prepare whatever you want. I love eating meals I prepared by myself, because who knows better than me what I prefer to eat! A different meal every day would however up the total costs of the variety of my groceries. It would also mean much more of a hassle with preparing and cooking if I’d go for a different thing every single day.

Eating the same meal every day for a full week in a row on the other hand will not taste as good after several days, so I try to cook no more than enough for around three days max.

Then how can you tell us to cook in bulk, lady?!”

There’s a hack for that.

Pick two main dinners or lunches or snack box contents. If you have enough food for three days per ‘dish’ or meal, fill up your Tupper- or whateverware to the notch. Instead of eating the same thing three days in a row, switch the two up. Have one meal today, the other one tomorrow, the same again on day 3, and so on. If you ensure that your meals are tasty, you will survive throughout the week on ‘only’ two main courses. You could also keep the basis the same, such as rice with fish, but with different vegetables each day.

An example of a selection of my weekly groceries.

5. Keep it simple.

I try to refrain from 20-ingredient meals. I don’t add sauces to most of my food. If possible, I cook my entire meal in one big pan only. Common dishes are rice or pasta with some vegetables, onions and chicken or fish. I’m a huge fan of oven dishes, such as quiches and lasagne. You chuck it all onto one surface, into the oven it goes and without you having to pay attention (okay, barely), it will get ready. Stick to just a few ways of cooking instead of picking meals where all ingredients have to be prepared in one million different ways (such as steaming, cooking, grilling, baking, boiling…). The whole point is to save time after all.

6. Pick a fixed day (or two) to meal prep.

Meal plan first. Then (any extra) grocery shopping. I’ll make sure to be equipped with a stocked-up fridge for at least the whole week.

If cooking everything for the whole week at once is too much, split it over multiple days, such as e.g. the Sunday and an additional Tuesday or Wednesday.

You should already have all the food at home. All that’s left to be done, is to prepare it. If you pick fixed days, it will be a given that at those times you’re going to be in the kitchen. Therefore, if it’s planned, you don’t have to worry about it. You’ll just have to do. It’s great!

EDIT: 7. Invest in a fridge with a freezer compartment

Since I’m a one-person household, I can get by fine with a table model fridge. My old one included a freezer compartment. One issue here: the freezer compartment was broken. The flap was missing, so the air of the fridge and temperature would mix, resulting in it not being cold enough to actually freeze food inside the freezer compartment. Apart from that, frost would surround the cables more and more near the top. I decided to get rid of this danger hazard and invest in a new fridge with freezer compartment. I now look forward to doing even more meal prepping and taking full advantage of my new household appliance!

EDIT: 8. Freeze your meals!

After you cooked in bulk, choose what you will eat this week, or how many days in a row you can bear to eat the same meal. Then: put the remaining portions in your freezer! Take them out whenever you have no time for, or don’t feel like cooking.

This is just about how I roll. I hope it’s been helpful for at least a bit. Happy meal prepping!

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