You say: I don’t have time to plan a menu. You say: I’ll figure dinner out later. We say: Without a game plan, you won’t stick to your low-carb diet. Too many temptations arise—namely the drive-thru—when you don’t have a healthy meal and healthy ingredients waiting in the fridge. What you need is some easy meal prep hacks!
We’re not suggesting you have to spend your entire Sunday prepping and cooking meals in advance (unless that would work best for you!). What we’re suggesting is that you decide what you’re having for breakfast, lunch and dinner, then find recipes that use similar ingredients. This will simplify and streamline your grocery store trip, making it much more focused. When you get home, you can try some of these easy, time-saving tips that fit perfectly into your busy schedule.
Here are six meal prep hacks for easy eating:
1. Start Chopping
The first tip on our list of meal prep hacks may not seem the most fun. However, it’s one of the most essential! Prepping your non-starchy vegetables is key to success. Wash and prep veggies right away. Dice up two onions. Clean, trim and halve those Brussels sprouts. Rough chop the lettuce for tomorrow’s salad. Diced onions and peppers can last for days in plastic bags in the fridge.
Hate chopping? Simply hit up the frozen veggie aisle at the supermarket. These ingredients are picked at the peak of freshness, already diced, last much longer than fresh and can save a ton of time.
2. Pack It Up
Try pre-packing your lunches for the week. Measure out and place half-cup servings of cottage cheese in individual leftover containers. Grill chicken or shrimp and use your kitchen scale to measure out three-ounce servings. Divvy out 23 almonds, 28 peanuts and measure three tablespoons of sunflower seeds into snack bags. Whatever you do, don’t take the whole bag of nuts (or an entire bag of cheese sticks) to the office where you might be tempted to eat mindlessly.
3. Tool Time
Every great chef—as well as your average home cook—needs handy kitchen helpers to save time and effort.
- A supercharged blender or food processor can make tasty, homemade soups, sauces, pesto, frozen yogurt, nut butters and nut milks in seconds.
- A spiralizer can turn carrots, zucchini and squash into noodles you can serve under your meals.
- Use an egg slicer to slice mushrooms, zucchini and other soft veggies or fruit.
- An Instant Pot does virtually everything: it slow cooks, pressure cooks, steams, sautés, bakes and even makes yogurt. Even better, it does all of these tasks faster than conventional methods because the small unit traps precious steam that then infuses into food, cooking it from the inside out. Try these Instant Pot Baby Back Ribs! >
4. Marvelous Mason Jars
Soup. Salad. Dressings. Chia pudding. Yogurt. Leftovers. Mason jars are cheap, seal beautifully, can be microwaved, cleaned in the dishwasher and can help you stay on track, portion wise. Plus they look great all lined up in the fridge! It’s wise to always weigh food to know what a proper portion size looks like. But the more you meal prep and fill up mason jars for the week, the better you’ll get at knowing what a serving looks like in the container.
5. Ice, Ice Baby
What do you do with leftover pesto, pasta sauce, homemade nut butter, fresh-squeezed lemon or lime juice or fresh herbs? Divvy it out into an ice cube tray and freeze. Each “cube” serves as a perfect single-size portion for that day’s meal or recipe. You can also use lidded ice cube trays to hold three-tablespoon portions of seeds or nuts so you don’t have to pre-count them later.
6. The Meat of It
You can save a lot of money buying family-size packs of chicken, steak or lean ground beef and turkey. Get your food scale out and divvy the meat up into three-ounce servings before refrigerating or freezing. If freezing, use parchment paper to wrap up each serving into a small square or log and then fill up a freezer-safe bag. Remove as much air as possible from the bag before sealing to prevent freezer burn. NEVER put styrofoam-and-cling wrap packages you buy at the store directly in the freezer, says Bon Appetit. The air trapped inside will give meat a funky flavor.