As food costs rise and the professional demands of fast-paced urban life become more pronounced, the challenges of taking the time to cook three nutritious and cost-effective meals every single day can feel a bit overwhelming. It’s always easy to get take-out, order in, or buy prepared meals, but that’s bound to add up, put a huge dent in your budget and cause a whole other set of headaches.
Indeed, it can sometimes be a real tall order trying to balance work, social lives, personal time, and weekly chores while still affording the time to eat healthy and be conscious of finances.
However, for many busy young professionals, weekly meal prepping has offered a very manageable solution to accommodate their lifestyle.
So, what exactly is meal prepping?
Meal prepping essentially consists of setting just a few hours of your week aside to make some, or all, of your meals for the work week.
For example, maybe you’re the type who needs to be out the door early in the mornings and taking the time sit down and eat breakfast just isn’t doable. Or maybe trying to figure out a lunch to put together and take to work everyday gets frustrating. Or maybe you work late and coming home to cook is the very last thing you want to deal with.
Having those meals ready to go ahead of time can really help take the pressure off and means you won’t have to resort to meals from the freezer aisle or spending all your hard-earned money buying meals on the go.
You may be thinking ‘sure that’s all well and good, but I’ll still need to take the time out of my week to make all those meals’. While that’s true, it’s easy to plan it all out ahead of time and write down meal ideas and ingredients you’ll need as they come to you while going about your day. There’s also plenty of different meals or individual ingredients that you can prep that make huge amounts and take hardly any time at all!
Some great meal ideas that can get you started!
Overnight oats: Highly nutritious and super versatile, you can put just about anything you like in overnight oats. Also very handy to mix things up and make sure you don’t get bored of having the same thing. All it takes is a small container with a lid filled with a portion of steel-cut oats, any milk of your choosing, then ingredients for flavour like fruit, seeds, nuts, cinnamon, and maybe something to sweeten it like maple syrup or honey!
Breakfast burritos: Very easy and delicious. Scrambled eggs, tofu, bacon, potatoes, peppers, onions, and cheese, among many other ingredients, all make for a healthy and satisfying burrito. These are also great because they can last weeks in the freezer if need be.
Lunches and Dinners
Soups, stews, or chilli: These are amazing for meal prepping because they can be made in a single big pot, meaning fewer dishes and very little cleaning up afterwards. They also reheat very easily, and they can yield huge amounts, very useful if you’re prepping for more than just yourself too. Better yet, if you have access to a slow cooker, you can just assemble the ingredients in it and then the meal practically makes itself, leaving you free to do other things. Also, serving stew over mashed potatoes or chilli over something like rice is a filling and cost-effective way to stretch your portions even further.
Stir fry: Another highly versatile dish, stir fries are a delicious way to get a bunch of veggies into your day. Combine those with a protein of your choice and a tasty sauce and you’re done! Stir fries are also great served over some rice or noodles too, meaning plenty of servings.
Individual Batches: While having a full prepared meal makes things easy, it’s certainly not the only way to go. Another great option is making a batch of sides or a protein at the beginning of your week that can be an easy part of any meal. For example, you can roast a big tray of assorted vegetables that will easily keep such as potatoes, carrots, brussels sprouts, and broccoli, or a protein like chicken thighs that can you’ll be able to have on hand throughout the week at a moment’s notice when you’re short on time.
Keep in mind these are just some simple and effective starting suggestions, there are tons of different meal prepping ideas and unique ingredients that you can discover. Always feel free to get creative and explore the options that best suit your exact tastes and needs. Just like anything else, the more you do it, the easier it gets and the more of a pro you’ll become!
All the benefits to consider
As we’ve discussed, meal prepping is a great way to save you time and money. Limiting the amount of time you need to spend cooking each day and allowing yourself to save on your day-to-day food budget needs means you can treat yourself and indulge when you really want to. Maybe that means saving up for something you’ve really been wanting or going out for an extravagant dinner with friends once in a while, guilt-free!
Perhaps even more importantly though, meal prepping can be a great way to nurture your health. You can be sure to use lots of nutritious ingredients, better allocate portions to minimize over-eating, and avoid frozen and pre-made meals that can have detrimental health effects over time.
Finally, another huge benefit to consider is the reduction of environmental impacts. Utilizing reusable containers to store and transport your prepped meals rather than frequently getting take-out or ready-to-eat meals at the grocery store results in you generating far less waste from single-use plastic or other single-use materials that are often used to package them.