How to plan healthy meal prep for the week
Whether you’re trying to eat better, or you’re just sick of a disappointing grab and go lunch, meal prepping can really help you to eat healthier and save time each week.
If you find yourself ordering a few too many last minute takeaways, grabbing a pre-made sandwich at lunchtime or simply tired of cooking the same meals over and over again - meal prep can help.
Here's 4 tips from personal chef and owner of London meal delivery service By Chef Jen, to help you get to grips with meal prep.
Meal prep only saves you time if you're organised. Set yourself a few hours aside each week which you'll dedicate to batch cooking, and make sure you've got everything you need in advance.
Before you start, set up your kitchen with a few essentials (see below) and make a full list of what you're planning to cook.
- Meal containers – make sure you’ve got plenty of reusable storage containers to store your prepped food in. Plastic is convenient, but glass pyrex dishes that you can reuse are a worthwhile investment. Foil/baking parchment – Great space-savers if you want to cook different foods on one tray, and a big help when it comes to doing the dishes later.
- Large pans – big pans are your best friend when it comes to batch-cooking.
- Scales – if you’re looking to track your calories or follow more complex recipes, a set of scales will be vital. Each of our chefs has their own set of scales in our kitchen to ensure consistency every time.
- Labels - make sure to label your container with what's inside, and the date that you prepared the meals.
2. Planning your menu
Depending on time will depend on how much variety you're able to realistically cook in one session. For our professional chefs, cooking 8-10 different dishes per day is a walk in the park and that's why we're able to offer lots of variety on our menus each week.
For the typical home cook I'd recommend 2-3 main dishes to begin with.
You want to find recipes that you know you will like and don't take too long to make. Have a browse through our recipe book for some ideas to start with.
When we plan our menus for our A La Carte menus, we focus on variety when it comes to proteins, starches and vegetables - so that our customers can enjoy a diverse selection of recipes.
With limited space at home, it is a good idea to keep things simple and stick to a couple of variations. You could choose main meals that all go with rice, or potatoes so then your focus is just on the main element. If you love carrots and broccoli - cook enough of those to go with every meal.
Once you've decided on what you're going to make, you can plan your meal prep session.
3. Planning your session
Start by organising your ingredients - vegetables, proteins, dairy, starches etc. This helps clear some space in your kitchen so that you can start prepping.
Next, make a quick list of everything you need to cook. I like to break things down in groups either by ingredient type of cooking method.
Here's an example:
Pans: Basmati rice, beef chilli, lentils, chicken curry, boiled broccoli.
Oven: Roasted cauliflower, roasted potato wedges.
Cold Prep: chopped coriander, lime wedges, tomato salsa, feta.
Sauces/Blender: raita, chimichurri dressing.
This gives you an overview of everything that needs doing, so that you can make a schedule for what to cook when based on what equipment and space you have available. Starting with the things that take the longest to cook is always a good idea, and then you can do the cold prep / sauces whilst you're waiting for them to finish cooking and cooling.
4. Safe storage
One of those most overlooked areas of meal prep is how to store your food safely.
Let your meals cool down properly before you pop the lids on, to avoid food spoilage, and ensure everything is refrigerated ideally within one hour of cooking.
You can cool batches quickly by decanting them into separate smaller containers. In professional kitchens we use blast chillers, which forcibly chill ingredients to 3C rapidly to ensure things are cooled as quickly and safely as possible.
Most foods can be stored for approximately three days in the fridge, so anything you’re going to eat after that should be frozen. Remember to take meals out of the freezer to defrost in the fridge the night before you want to eat them.
Hopefully this has been helpful, and if you have any questions about meal prep leave me a comment and I'll be happy to give you more tips and tricks.
If meal prep is too time consuming for you, and you live in Central London, you can give our A La Carte meals a try. Each meal is made to order and cooked, cooled and delivered on the same day to be as fresh as possible.
We create a new menu each week so you can enjoy a wide variety of meals, without worrying about shopping lists and following new recipes.
Stay healthy, Chef Jen