If you only eat small portions and don’t like spending time in the kitchen if you can avoid it, you can turn this to your advantage. Simply pick a time to cook a larger amount and store individual portions in the fridge or freezer. This works particularly well with soups, sauces and dishes like ratatouille, for example. Once a common practice known as pre-cooking, it now carries the trendier name “meal prep”. This new old trend offers a host of advantages, allowing you to use produce while it’s still fresh from the market and store it until you want to eat it.
Shopping consciously and choosing seasonal produce means you can cook with fresh produce. It also means avoiding processed ready meals. One advantage of meal prep is the certainty of knowing you have delicious, home-made meals waiting for you for the next few days, or even the entire week. But that’s not all: home-made food can often be healthier and tastier, too. Cooking for yourself means you are in control of all the ingredients, that end up on your plate, or in your resealable containers and lunch boxes.
Cook once and enjoy it for several days. Meal prepping is an ideal solution, especially when you arrive home exhausted after a day at work and would otherwise mindlessly choose pasta with ready-made sauce or a frozen pizza. This is one way meal prepping can help to eat more healthy. After all, if you’re more aware of your food and portion size, you’ll notice sooner when you’re full.
So, meal prep helps you to save time and eat more healthily. More than that, though, it allows you to do your bit to fight food waste. If you cook two or three portions in advance, there usually won’t be any half-used ingredients left over. Instead, you might even be able to freeze a little stockpile for those hectic, stressful days.
Meal prep is also more cost-effective. If you buy lunch from a café or get it delivered, you’ll end up paying much more. And, if you order a takeaway or opt for convenience food, you’ll also have to contend with far more packaging. The example of meal prep shows that, by taking even small steps, you can live more sustainably and prevent waste from leftover food and packaging.
Stuffed peppers, pepper salad and a stir-fry – the more the ingredients on your weekly meal plan overlap, the better. You can enjoy more variety on your plate as a result. We’ve put together 8 simple steps to help you become a meal prepper.
Space is an important factor when it comes to meal prepping. If you’re sharing a small fridge and a tiny freezer compartment with your flatmate and only have a tiny food shelf, you might face some difficulties. Cooking ahead for the entire week? Out of the question! Consider how and where you can store your prepped meals before you make them. For example, a cellar could be a good solution.
Good preparation includes having a good stock of food in tins, resealable containers or glass jars. We recommend keeping a stock of rice, pasta, millet, porridge oats, cous cous, bulgur, onions, garlic, nuts, quality oils, a range of spices, mustard and soy sauce.
Something else worth mentioning when it comes to preparation: consider what you want to eat that week before you storm the supermarket. Flick through your cookbooks or browse the internet; check out the Braun recipe library to find some inspiration. Ideally, you should plan your week so that you can make full use of any leftovers. For example, you might plan two rice-based dishes so you only have to cook rice once. Checking your calendar might help, too. Have you agreed to go out for dinner at all this week?
Another upside to meal prep is, that if you take the time to focus on planning, shopping and meal prepping, you’ll automatically give your food the attention it deserves. Instead of just picking up the first thing you see, you can focus more on carefully selecting food that’s fresh, organic and local. This way, you’ll only buy what you really need and end up reducing or even eliminating food waste. Plus, shopping like this is far more pleasant than rushing through the aisles at the end of the day.
So, how long does it take to cook meals for several days? Don’t worry, it shouldn’t take more than 2-3 hours per week. It’s best to give your meal prep session a fixed slot in your weekly schedule. This makes it easier to get into a routine that you might even enjoy or find relaxing. Only having to wash up once will save you a heap of time, too. Ideally, you should cook dishes with shared preparation steps. For example, if you need potatoes for different meals, you could cook them all together in a big pot. This will also save energy. If you want to use tomatoes in several dishes, simply distribute them across your various lunch boxes or containers.
Vegetables in season. Ideal options include: carrots (e.g. as crudités), pumpkins (cooked with oil and spices), courgette (roasted), tomatoes (cherry tomatoes to snack on), aubergines (roasted), broccoli (steamed), peppers (raw or roasted) and avocados.
Carbohydrates provide energy. Tasty sources include: potatoes, sweet potatoes, rice, pasta (ideally wholegrain), millet, quinoa, cous cous and bulgur.
Protein is an important part of any meal and helps to keep you full. Find it in meat, fish, tofu, pulses, quark, yoghurt and cooked eggs.
Dips/sauces to give your meal prep ingredients that extra hit of flavour. We recommend tomato sauce or ketchup, sour cream with herbs, pesto, hummus and guacamole.
After cooking, you need to portion the individual dishes up into different resealable containers, boxes and glass jars. If at all possible, use microwave-safe containers so you don’t need to decant the food for reheating. If you can stack the containers and store them conveniently in your fridge and freezer drawers, you’ll be onto a winner. There are also plenty of ways to transport your food safely, from old glass jars to ultra-practical lunchboxes with individual sections to Thermos flasks to keep your soup warm.
Ideally, you should keep salad dressings in a separate container or a little jar. This stops the dressing drenching the salad leaves by lunchtime. Dips and other sauces also taste best when added to the rest of the dish just before serving. Alternatively, you could put dressings and sauces at the bottom of the container so that they don’t leach through everything and make it squishy. Fresh fruit, salad leaves and vegetables belong at the top.
It’s easy to cook large amounts of soups and casseroles. They freeze brilliantly, which means you don’t have to eat the same meal all week. Plus, by adding various ingredients and toppings such as croutons, seeds or crème fraîche, you can whip up a few different versions of soups or salads in next to no time. You’ll see the benefit when you come home the following evening and already have a healthy, home-made meal ready and waiting for you. The same goes for your lunch breaks at work.
Are you looking for tasty meal prep recipes? Check out these three handy ideas from our recipe database.
Isn’t meal prep just a fancy name for an old idea? After all, our parents and grandparents planned meals in advance and cooked ahead. The new aspect of this food trend, which originated in the USA, is the holistic approach to nutrition and sustainability in relation to food. However, meal prepping originated on the fitness scene. It was created as a means of keeping tracking of exactly what a person was eating and in what quantities.
Want to become a meal prepper? Maybe you’re already experienced with meal prep but are looking for the right recipes? Well, how about a red lentil soup? You can find many more recipes in our recipe database. And, to help make meal prep even more fun and get all the peeling, stirring and mixing done in no time at all, check out the MQ series from Braun. Find out more.