If you’re like most people, food consumes a lot of your time, money, and energy. There are at least three different meal times during the day, and it’s not always easy to know what to eat, when to eat, where to eat, or even how to eat properly. Believe it or not, meal prepping could be the answer to all of your troubles.
Exploring the Benefits of Meal Prepping
You’ve heard the term used before – perhaps in a negative or unrealistic connotation – but there isn’t anything too complex or sophisticated about meal planning. In the most basic sense, it’s the act of planning, preparing, and packaging meals ahead of time. Typically, meal prepping stretches out over multiple days – and often an entire week. It’s all about efficiency and maximizing opportunity.
Some people meal prep for all three meals of the day and snacks, while others only do lunch or dinner. Some make all of their meals from scratch, while others will buy freshly made meals and combine them with various sides and ingredients. There’s ample room for freedom and creativity.
Though each person approaches meal prepping in a slightly different way, the benefits are pretty universal. Let’s explore a few of them to provide you with an idea of what you stand to gain:
1. Significant Time Savings
“On average, Americans who cook at home spend 7 hours plus on food prep and cleanup each week – equivalent to more than 2 solid weeks of the year (15.8 days) just in the kitchen! Seasoned meal preppers, on the other hand, can batch cook a week’s worth of meals in one speedy 1-4 hour block,” Luke Jones writes for Fresh n’ Lean.
What could you do with 3-6 extra hours per week? That’s enough time to exercise, read a book, enjoy a hobby, or spend some quality time with your kids.
2. Less Money
It’s far more cost-effective to buy items in bulk and prepare meals at the same time than to buy individual ingredients as they’re needed. In many cases, the price-per-unit of bulk items is just a fraction of the cost of the individual item. This goes for produce, packaged food, canned items, and virtually anything else you’ll find in the supermarket.
3. Less Waste
A typical meal produces a considerable amount of waste. From unused ingredients to leftover food that gets tossed in the trash, inefficiency is common. With meal prepping, you can maximize ingredients and store leftovers for future use.
“Label all prepped items with a date so that you can track when to use them by,” Harvard.edu advises. “Rotate stored items so that the oldest foods/meals are kept up front. Store highly perishable items like greens, herbs, and chopped fruits front-and-center at eye-level so you remember to use them.”
When it comes to freezing, pay attention to which foods freeze well and which ones don’t. Cooked meals in airtight containers tend to do well, while those with high moisture content – like salads, watermelon, and tomatoes – don’t do as well.
4. Greater Productivity
Cooking one meal at a time can be very time-consuming. You have to find a recipe, pull out all of the ingredients, prepare the meal, and clean up. You can easily spend a couple of hours cooking one meal. Meal prepping, on the other hand, is far more productive. While you still have to pull out ingredients and clean up, you only have to do it once every few days.
5. More Variety
Done well, meal prepping allows you to enjoy more variety in your diet. By preparing a few different types of meals and freezing them, you can then pick and choose what you want to eat and when. This allows you to mix up your diet and avoid getting stuck on one type of food.
Get Started Today
If you’ve never tried meal prepping, the mere notion of preparing a bunch of meals in bulk may seem a bit intimidating – but it doesn’t have to be. Learn some of the different strategies and techniques experienced meal preppers use, but don’t be afraid to take your own approach. Discover a method that works for your schedule, tastes, and needs. You’re far more likely to stick with meal prepping if it works for you.