Meal prepping is thought of as something that only health gurus and gym buffs do each week. As our lives get busier, more people are turning to meal prep and batch cooking. Working meal prep into your schedule can save you time and money later.
Batch Cooking Makes Meal Prep a Reality
One of the best things you can do for meal prepping is to do it all at one time on the same day every week. Meal prep doesn’t have to be bland and boring. Get excited about what you’re going to be eating. Let it be a source of creativity and self-care for you.
One reason that people don’t meal prep is that they think they don’t have time. Mark it in your schedule and make your meal plan. Another is that they believe that they’ll get tired of the same old steamed green bean and dry piece of salmon every day. Each week after you’ve done your meal prep shopping and planning lay everything out, put on your apron and get to work.
Lay everything out and preheat your stove to prepare for the cooking you’re about to do. It’ll be an all-day event, but the rewards are worth it. Your bank account and waistline will thank you for not eating out every day all week. You can control what goes into your body and find a sense of pride in knowing that you made all of this yourself. Here are six meal prep ideas you’ll love.
Wing It with Wonton Wrappers
Wonton wrappers are incredibly versatile and affordable. You can take any filling and make it portable with a wonton wrapper. Convert your favorite dishes into smaller, portion-friendly versions of themselves by prepping them into wontons. An example of a classic is chicken pot pie.
Preheat your oven to 425 degrees. Drain your cans of chicken and vegetables. Combine chicken and veg with cream of chicken soup. Add salt and pepper if desired. You can jazz it up with some garlic and onion powder, too. Place wonton wrappers in a muffin tin and spoon your mixture into the wrappers. Put the stuffed wrappers in the oven and bake until they’re brown about ten minutes.
Wonton wrappers brown quickly so take special care in tending to your little creations. Once you’ve gotten your tiny pies prepped, store them away for a quick snack through the week. Wontons are flexible and aren’t just reserved for Asian-inspired dishes. Creating alternative versions of your favorites make wontons an imaginative addition to your weekly meal prep.
Aluminum Foil Is Your New Best Friend
Cut down on your dish duty by placing some of your favorite ingredients in aluminum foil packets. You could do your entire meal prep in solo portions with just foil packets. That is an especially good idea if you don’t want tire of the same old thing, day in and day out.
Place your components of choice in the packet with your preferred seasonings. Add olive oil or a nut-based oil if your protein is lean, like poultry or fish. Don’t forget salt and pepper. Bake the foil packets in the oven until the most long-cooking food is cooked through (like potatoes) and fork-tender. A normal rule of thumb is a protein, starch, and green vegetable in the packet.
This meal prep method is so versatile that the possibilities are endless. No recipe is needed for a foil packet. It’s budget friendly because you can use whatever veggies you have on hand. Foil packets are also perfect for vegetarian diets or the implementation of a “Meatless Monday.” Work foil-friendly dishes into your next session of brainstorming meal prep ideas.
Sheet Pan Dishes for Quick Clean Up
Nobody likes doing dishes which is part of why meal prepping is desirable for busy people. Work out your weekly mise en place by cutting down on pots and pans with just a solo sheet pan. Sheet pan meals go along the same vein of aluminum foil meals. You want to go with a protein, starch, and green veg.
A seemingly random yet delicious combination is chicken sausage, sweet potatoes, and zucchini. Coat the chicken and vegetables in your favorite olive oil. Season with savory seasonings. Skip the cinnamon and sugar on those potatoes this time. Salt and pepper the ingredients and place it in the oven until the sweet potatoes have become tender.
If you’re concerned about your chicken sausage drying out or your zucchini overcooking, that’s an easy fix. Cover your pan in foil and roast until the potatoes are done. Once your sweet potatoes are cooked through, remove the foil and return the pan to the oven. The potatoes should be slightly browned, and the chicken sausage cooked through. Split the recipe into portions for the week and store in the fridge.
Casserole with It
A casserole doesn’t have to be the abandoned dish that nobody wants to eat at Thanksgiving. A healthy casserole is another simple way to put more veggies into your meal prep. Plus, it’s a great excuse to eat more cheese. Be cautious with it, though. Too much cheese can cause inflammation.
With casseroles, aside from the cheese, you can introduce a creamy element to your weekly menu. It will help break up all the purely roasted vegetables some of the other previously mentioned methods use. A protein-rich supplement for cream bases is Greek yogurt. A little cheese, broccoli, pasta shells, your favorite spices, and some Greek yogurt make for an excellent casserole. Bake it and take it.
Skillet Dishes are Great for Pasta Lovers
If you’re not afraid of carbs, working in a pasta-based skillet meal is an excellent way to break up the textures in your meal prep. Carbs are okay in moderation, by the way, especially if they’re made from fiber-rich whole grains. Spaghetti squash and zucchini-based noodles are a good substitute, as well.
A classic cast iron skillet is the way to go, but any sizeable skillet will do. Prepare your noodles according to their package directions and then move on to your sauce. A good example is turkey spaghetti with zucchini noodles. Brown your turkey and season it. Crack open a can of sauce and combine with your meat. Simmer the zucchini noodles in the meat sauce until they’re the desired texture.
You could do a cream-based sauce dish so long as you take advantage of your skillet. Chicken Alfredo keeps well and has a flavor profile that only gets better with time. For a poultry-based dish, freeze anything that’s going to be eaten at a date more than three days from now. Poultry and fish can be tricky and don’t keep well longer than that according to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention.
Bonus Tip: Wrap It To-Go
Skip the fast food line for tacos with these meal prep ideas. If you’re trying to avoid anything resembling pasta or potato, sautéed meat is the way to go. Heat olive oil in your skillet, rough chop your favorite pork or beef cuts, and sauté until cooked through.
If you’re cool with carbs but don’t want bulky pieces of bread weighing you down, wraps are the way to go. Chicken or beef cooked with taco seasoning and a little cheese mixed in before grilling on a griddle makes excellent quesadillas. Add a serving of Greek yogurt, as mentioned earlier, and you have a triple serving of protein. If Mexican isn’t your thing, classic ham roll-ups are a good alternative.
Wraps can help you skip the soggy bread sandwich of yesteryear. These aren’t your mother’s brown bag PB&J. There are many variations of wraps and flatbreads in your local grocery store. Your favorite type of tortilla makes Taco Tuesdays or Tacos Every Day a real possibility. They pack up quickly and are perfect for meal prep.
Be Prepared to Eat Well
After you’ve consumed all of these meal prep ideas, it’s time to pack it up. There are a lot of resources for quality meal prep containers. You want to make sure that your food keeps throughout the week. You will need proper containers with an air-tight seal.
If one of your dishes is “time-sensitive,” like a fish based dish would be, make sure you freeze it. To avoid freezer burn, you can wrap it tightly in whatever container or foil you’ve chosen. Double it up in a plastic Ziploc bag. These steps are crucial to make sure the time you’ve invested (and the money) in your dishes don’t go to waste.
Don’t forget to take your meal prep with you. Separate each dish into what meals you’re going to eat and on what day. Maybe Monday through Wednesday are your chicken and fish days so that you can maintain that three-day food safety rule. Then, on Thursday and Friday, you can take your beef and pork. Whatever foods you decide to make and which meal prep ideas you use, keep it fresh and fun.
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