Meal Prep -- What is it? and Why do it?
When I first changed to a plant-based diet, I thought mealtime would be much easier. It wasn't -- probably partly because I gave up processed food at the same time. I often found myself standing in front of the refrigerator at a loss for what to eat. Nothing looked easy. Without processed foods, I had no boxes nor bags of this or that (crackers, chips, cheese, pretzels, etc.) to fill me up when I was too tired or lazy to cook. The drawers and shelves were filled with whole foods, but it all looked too daunting to start from scratch.
Meal prep is a great answer to this dilemma.
Meal prep - what is it?
Wikipedia defines meal prep as "...the process of planning and preparing meals." That's easy enough. They go on to say that. "...most people will do meal preparation on Sunday, but there is an increasing trend of mid-week meal preparation, where meals are prepared once on Sunday, for Mon-Wed, then again on Wednesday for the rest of the week. If one is meal prepping with highly perishable items such as leafy greens, one may want to consider a mid-week meal prep routine."
I'll leave the schedule up to you. Essentially meal prep can be anything you want it to be. For some, it means cleaning, chopping, and storing ingredients (fruits, vegetables, legumes, etc.) in containers or plastic bags for ready-use on subsequent days. On any given day, you pull the ingredients you want from individual containers, combine them, and eat your meal. With this method, you can use the ingredients in many different combinations to make anything from snacks to meals. Others use meal prep to make complete meals on meal-prep day to store in containers to be heated later. Whatever way you decide to do it, here are some of the reasons that meal prep might be good for you.
Why do it?
Fast food and processed products revolutionized ease of preparing a meal. Unfortunately, they are not all that good for you and many are downright unhealthy. Meal prep is a great answer to your desire to eat a healthy diet in these busy times when it's much easier to open a box.
Here are a couple of the reasons to jump into meal prep:
- Meal prep saves daily preparation time and frees you up to enjoy home-cooked meals during the week with minimal preparation and cleanup time.
- Meal prep will improve your nutrition as it usually includes whole fresh foods and does require planning rather than just grabbing whatever happens to be in the frig or resorting to fast food.
- Meal prep is more economical. By planning to use the same vegetables, fruits, legumes, etc., in different ways, you'll lessen waste and save money.
- You'll have food ready to take for lunch to work rather than eating out or grabbing fast food on the fly.
- You'll be able to pack more delicious and healthy lunches for your children, and it'll be quicker, too.
- By saving the scraps and peels during meal prep you'll have plenty of veggie flavors ready to make vegetable stock.
- Once you get into the habit of meal prep, you'll stop feeling as if you're spending all of your time in the kitchen.
So, this series is devoted to filling you in on the ins and outs of meal prep. Stop back, next time we'll talk about containers.