Let’s be honest; how many times have we all started the day with the purest of intentions, only for life to happen and for that cheap ready-meal or take away to look so much more appealing? Fortunately for us, even on the longest of days, we can still eat well and help save the planet with a little bit of pre-planning. Not only does it make us feel that bit better about ourselves for avoiding those unhealthy calories (and saving that hard earned cash!) but it also means we’re much more likely to avoid all of that unnecessary plastic that is synonymous with ready meals.
While meal prepping may be the holy grail of a plastic-free lunch, it doesn’t have to mean an entire day lost to the kitchen! With a bit of practice, you’ll be saving money, time, the planet AND your waistline in no time.
Here are our top tips:
- Get into a routine and stick with it as best you can. If you work 9-5 and want to do all of your prepping on a Sunday to take the pressure off during those busy weekdays, plan your shopping list in advance. Don’t wait until you get to your local shop/supermarket and try to plan in the moment – you *will* impulse buy and you *will* forget something.
- Find recipes you love and actually want to eat. Meals that are nourishing, filling, and most importantly, delicious are the ones you’re going to be wanting after that long day at the office, so make sure you have some of those lying around if you want to avoid that impulse drive-through on the way home! Meals that include lots of veggies are a great, easy way to make sure you still get those 5 a day even on days when you really don’t feel like cooking.
- Stick to your shopping list! If you just buy the things you need and have planned for (instead of all those appealing-looking junk foods), you’ll save money and you won’t even need your willpower not to eat them. When faced with the dilemma of having to actually leave the house to go and buy that packet of crisps you’re fancying, you’re much more likely to just eat the healthier snacks you’d planned instead!
- Keep things simple. The logistics of meal prepping can be daunting at first, so don’t head into your kitchen thinking you need to be a Michelin star chef for the next few hours! You can always experiment with more fancy recipes later when you know what works for you.
- You don’t have to prepare everything in advance. Some things like pasta don’t taste quite so good reheated, but only take minutes to cook. Instead, freeze your favourite pasta sauce and cook the pasta fresh – it still saves time, and means you don’t have to compromise on the flavour/texture of the dish.
- Mix it up! Don’t get stuck eating the same meals five days in a row. Batch cook a few recipes and freeze the leftovers in individual portions – this way you’re not limiting yourself to one meal every night for the next week (which gets boring real quick, trust me) and can still eat the foods you’re craving.
- Aim for versatility – in your meals *and* ingredients. Chilli can be eaten alone, on sweet potato, or in a burrito for example – an easy way to keep things interesting! Similarly try to go for recipes that use similar ingredients. That Singapore noodle soup recipe you saw may look nice, but noodles tend to go mushy when reheated and the numerous obscure ingredients you’ll probably never use again will just take up extra space in your cupboard.
- Get into smoothies. These are a healthy, easy, and quick breakfast if prepared in advance, and set you on the right track for the day. If you’re anything like me in the morning, the prospect of chopping various fruits, washing greens and getting the blender out just feels like far too much effort – even thinking about all that healthiness when I’m still half asleep is just too much. However, if you get the blender out the night before, chop those bananas and pack the right quantities into individual pots the night before, you can whip up a smoothie in no time.
- Use all of the space in your oven. Not only does this cut down on bills and cooking time, it’s also better for the environment! Veggies on one shelf, potatoes on the other, you get the idea. Just don’t forget to set a few timers…
- Invest in some decent tupperware. Ikea do some great glass ones with bamboo lids – the bases are oven, microwave and freezer proof, and they’re very reasonably priced compared to many other glass alternatives. If you think these aren’t for you, BPA-free is the way to go – we agree reusable plastic is better than single use, but you still don’t want any nasties seeping into your food!
We know it takes time to get into the swing of things at first (and it will probably feel like you’re spending longer on planning your meals than it would probably have done to just cook them in the first place) but you’ll find it quickly becomes second nature. And, if you’re pretty lazy like me, just write up your week’s ‘menu’ and shopping list and keep it in a binder in the kitchen for future use – you’ll have your own personalised recipe book in no time.
For a great place to start, check out our last blog post for Jess’ chilli recipe!