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Meal Prep with Melanie McGrise

 

 Melanie McGrice6 Tips To Prep Like A Pro- A Beginner’s Guide To Saving Time And Money In The Kitchen


Melanie McGrice

Once the domain of macro-counting fitness junkies, more and more families are seeing the benefits of meal preparation, the art of putting together a week or a month’s worth of meals in one afternoon. Not only are home-cooked meals generally healthier but they can help you stick to a budget.

There’s no right or wrong way to prepare your meals in advance but it does take practice to get it down to a fine art. Do what works for you, customising to your tastes and taking into account your weekly schedule, but here are a few tips to minimise common mistakes and save you time.


Identify Weaknesses
Have the household keep a food diary for a week to look at where overconsumption and discretionary (junk) foods occur most. If you can see where healthy eating is taking a backseat, it will help you to see which meals should be prepared in advance.


Plan, Plan, Plan
This is the big one. Don’t jump into meal prepping without a plan. It can be so easy to get overwhelmed when doing a big cook-up and those who fail to plan really do plan to fail. If you want to do it right, think about whether prepping twice-weekly, weekly or fortnightly fits your schedule. Check your cupboards for items that have been sitting there a while and add them into your meal plan. Make a list of the meals you want to prepare and take a detailed shopping list with you to the supermarket.

 

Invest in portion-sized reusable containers and insulated lunch bags for everyone in the household. This will make prepping simple and easy to follow.

Most importantly, know your limits. If you only have a tiny freezer, don’t plan a month’s worth of meals. If you don’t have access to a microwave at work or school, prep salads and sandwich ingredients.


Start slowly
Start with recipes you know. Cook your favourite meals in double batches, portion out and store in the fridge or freezer for an easy lunch or dinner option. It can be really handy to have a list on the fridge with use-by dates and a general daily meal plan to keep everyone in the loop.

Mason jar salads are another easy lunch option to start with. Place dressings at the bottom of the jar with tomatoes and build your salad ingredients in layers. Your ingredients are only limited by your imagination! Ensure any lettuce or spinach is kept at the top of the jar to avoid it being crushed. These last a few days in the fridge and serving is as easy as pouring into a bowl.

Whether you plan to roast or steam, pre-chopping your veggies and keeping them in the freezer can cut dinner prep-time in half and ensures there is always a mix of veggies on everyone’s plate.

Think about balance in your meals. Does each meal contain around ¼ protein, ¼ carbs, ½ veggies, and a small amount of a healthy fat like EVOO or avocado? Have you made an allowance for two serves of fruit each day? Are you having around 3 serves of dairy? What can you do to tweak your meals to make them more balanced next time?


Pay attention to food safety
Placing half a dozen hot containers in the fridge can raise the temperature of your fridge and cause things like milk to spoil. Conversely, leaving food out too long to cool can result in bacteria growth. To play it safe, leave hot containers on the bench to cool for no longer than one hour before placing in the fridge.


Keep your meals exciting
Prepping the same thing for 5 lunches in a row can take the excitement out of food. Experiment with different spice, sauce and dressing flavours. For example, cooking five days worth of plain chicken breast can be boring so try mixing it up with two different spice blends.


What about snacks?
Fruit and oat muffins, mixed nuts and banana bread are just a few of the multitude of healthy snacks that can be frozen.

Small pots of hummus, guacamole, or tzatziki with veggie sticks are another easy to prep option for the 3pm slump. They can be stored in the fridge for a few days and will keep you away from the vending machine.


There are a multitude of websites dedicated to helping you to meal prep with shopping guides and step by step instructions. Once you’re practiced at multi-tasking, why not try preparing a month’s worth of dinners? Good luck with it and, most importantly, I hope you enjoy the extra free time that meal prepping brings!

 

For more health hacks see www.melaniemcgrice.com.au