If you’re living alone it’s a lot easier, but when you’re planning for multiple people it can get tricky. I organized my fridge so snacks are single and ready to grab. Same thing with my pantry, everything is labeled and is in an open container. In the morning when making lunches or afternoon snack it’s easier to grab 3 of everything and throw it out like in a time management game. Another helpful tip is to have Tupperware with matching lids. You can fit more leftovers in the fridge using plastic covers instead of tinfoil and it’s more pleasing on the eyes so it creates less stress when looking in the fridge.
When I go grocery shopping I keep these kind of snacks together when I bag my groceries. When I am taking the groceries in, if I do not have time to organize my snacks right away I just put those bags to the side and work on it when I have time. When I have time I empty out old food and replace it with new food. I put everything in one serving size containers. That helps when kids are running by or making lunches. This also helps when watching you're weight and you won't be tempted to eat the whole bag if you only have one container.
Here are some tips to help:
Cook once a week.
Pick one day a week and do the bulk — if not all — of your shopping and cooking. It might sound like a big time commitment, but doing everything at once means you only have to preheat the oven once, chop your meats and veggies once and clean your kitchen once, says Karate Kitchen's Casey Moulton. For instance, chopping all the ingredients for one meal takes about 10 minutes. However, chopping all your ingredients for 15 meals at once takes about 40 minutes, Moulton says. That’s a huge time saver Most cooked meals tend to stay fresh in your fridge for about a week.
Keep it simple.
“Try recipes that are practical, easy to follow and have
familiar ingredients,” says Chef Candice Kumai, author of “Cook Yourself Sexy.”
After all, you’re trying to simplify your life, not master the fine art of
sushi rolling. “Make sure that you stay within your range of comfort," she
says. "Start with recipes that only have a few steps and a few ingredients
that you love.” Once you start to feel more confident in your abilities, try
rotating in a slightly more complicated dish from time to time. It'll help you
expand your skill set and enjoy new recipes without adding a ton of stress.
Consider each food’s timeline.
Some foods are a bit more sensitive to the passing of time
than are others. Berries and greens like spinach and arugula, for instance:
They get mushy fast. So, it’s typically best to eat them earlier in the week,
says nutritionist Jaime Mass. Also, if you're prepping salads, they'll stay
crisp longer if you store any dressings and oils in a separate container, says
chef Candice Kumai. She also notes that kale holds up better than thinner salad
greens. When you’re ready to dig in, just drizzle and eat. Also, while you might
like avocado in your salad or sliced apples for a snack, you should hold off
slicing and dicing them until you’re ready to eat them.
Fill your freezer.
Even with meal prep as plan A, life happens. From time to
time, you’ll run out of prepped food in your fridge. That’s when it’s handy to
have a half-dozen prepped meals stored in your freezer, says nutritionist Jaime
Mass. “Most meats that are already cooked can last in the freezer from two to
six months. Soups also store well in the freezer, and you can split them into
single servings to store for up to three months,” Mass says. So grab a
permanent marker and write eat-by dates on them. If you don’t want to write
directly on your Tupperware, you can put the containers in freezer bags and
then write the dates on them.
Use the slow cooker.
Whether you have a crazy schedule, don’t have much faith in your cooking abilities or just love juicy, flavor-packed dishes, slow cookers are amazing, says nutritionist Jaime Mass. Don’t have one? It’s time to invest. All you have to do is plug in the cooker, throw in some chopped veggies, meat, spices and liquid and walk away. Most recipes call for slow-cooking the ingredients between four and eight hours — meaning you can cook your meals while you’re out running errands, at work or even asleep.
Don’t dismiss frozen produce.
Bags of frozen broccoli and blueberries aren’t just
convenient, they’re surprisingly nutritious. For instance, frozen carrots are
found to have about three times the lutein and twice the beta-carotene, as well
as greater levels of vitamin C and polyphenols, compared with their fresh
counterparts. “They are picked at their peak of freshness and flash frozen so
they don’t lose nutrition during transport from farm to store,” says nutritionist
Go ahead, repeat meals.
So what if meal prepping means you eat four Greek yogurt
parfaits in a week? “It isn’t a bad thing to repeat meals, especially if it
helps keep you on track and you enjoy the food you’re eating,” says
nutritionist Jaime Mass. After all, making a big batch of a dish and dividing
it up to eat throughout the week is a simple time-saver. However, to keep
yourself from getting bored, you might want to mix up what meals you repeat
each week, Mass says. For instance, one week you may want to make a huge batch
of quinoa salad and another week an enormous pot of turkey chili.
Don’t forget snacks!
Just because it’s called “meal” prep doesn’t mean you should only prep full-blown entrees, says nutritionist Jaime Mass. It can help to plan out snacks too. After all, some of the worst dietary decisions happen at work while stressed and hungry. By stocking your desk drawer with a week’s worth of snacks in single-serving containers, you can help fight the temptation, Mass says.
Crackers, almonds and dried fruit are all great,
nonperishable options. But resist the temptation to buy single-serving snack
packs. Bite per bite, they cost more than regular-size boxes, and just because
they come in 100-calorie packs doesn’t mean they're healthy, says chef Candice
Kumai. If you have an office fridge — and trust your co-workers not to steal
your food — you can also bring in perishable snacks like yogurt, cheese, baby
carrots and bell pepper slices.
Use ingredients in multiple recipes.
For cooking newbies, shopping for exact recipes can prove
helpful. But for those who are prepared to take some creative license with
their food, looking for ingredients you can use in a variety of dishes can save
you time and money, says Kitchen Karate's Casey Moulton. For example, if you
buy a whole bunch of tomatoes, cook them and divide them up to use in pastas,
wraps and salads. You can save on cooking time and keep from throwing away your
money. “Go into the store knowing how many servings of proteins, grains and
vegetables you need,” he says. When you get home, get creative to use up
everything you’ve purchased.
Form an assembly line.
Rather than prepping and cooking each meal individually,
focus on cooking everything all at once — just do it in stages. After all,
pretty much every ingredient will require some combination of washing,
chopping, seasoning and cooking. So as soon as you get home from the grocery
store, rinse every ingredient that needs it, and then get slicing, dicing and
chopping, says Kitchen Karate's Casey Moulton. Next, fire up all four of your
stove’s burners and use both of your oven racks to cook up to six ingredients
at once. If you have more than six ingredients to cook, just rotate them in
once the other ones are done. Then, all you have to do is mix and match to make
Spice it up!
When you’re eating chicken three days in a row, spices are vital to beating taste-bud boredom, says Kitchen Karate's Casey Moulton, who uses one or more of the following in each of his meals: salt, pepper, onion, garlic and olive oil. They’re among the world’s most versatile flavoring agents and create a tasty palate for adding more herbs and spices.
A sprinkle of basil in one dish and a dash of curry in
another can make two seemingly similar chicken-and-onion dishes taste wildly
different, Moulton says. Bonus: Herbs and spices are full of health-boosting
antioxidants and are great for adding flavor to meals without increasing your
sodium intake, says nutritionist Jaime Mass. Take a stroll down the spice aisle
and stock up.
Upgrade your kitchen tools.
Seasoned meal preppers can benefit from investing in the right tools, says Kitchen Karate's Casey Moulton. For instance, think about your pots and pans: Can you fit them all on your stove at the same time? If so, you can cook more food in less time.
Moulton also recommends storing your pantry’s oils and
vinegars in labeled spray and squeeze bottles for easy and lightning-fast
handling. (Plus, you’re less likely to overuse calorie-dense oils if you’re
spraying them rather than pouring them out of a bottle.) Resealable plastic
containers can also come in handy when storing grains like rice, quinoa and
couscous. On each lid, write any pertinent cooking instructions. It’s so much
easier than dealing with boxes, bags and clothespins.
Organize your fridge.
Pack your fridge with completed meals to eat throughout
week, says Kitchen Karate's Casey Moulton. To make it even easier, he
recommends dedicating each shelf in your fridge for a different meal:
breakfast, lunch and dinner. If you want to take some thought out of the whole
“What lunch should I bring to work today?” conundrum, consider labeling each
meal with the date you plan to eat it. That way you can eat from the front of
your fridge to the back. Plus, if you plan when you’ll eat each meal, you can
make sure that each day’s proteins, grains, fruits and veggies are varied.