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How to Effectively Prepare and Pack Meals?

Meal preparation and diet control are one of the most basic keys to achieving any fitness goal. In addition, packing meals will help you save time, money, and stress. So, read about what the beauty of thorough meal preparation lies in.

What the planned meal preparation or food packing is

Meal preparation is a simple English term for preparing meals. It is a concept of selecting and preparing meals in advance in order to save time and control portions or balance of meals. It is the key to helping many people achieve their health and fitness goals.

This principle is especially popular among athletes and busy people who simply do not have time to cook and stand behind the stove. [1] [2] [6]

How to Effectively Prepare and Pack Meals?

Types of meal preparation

There are several ways to plan your meals that are guaranteed to help you save some time. The most popular include:

  • Batch cooking – preparation of one meal for several days in advance. Over the weekend, you can prepare food to put in the fridge or freezer and consume it for the next few days.
  • Individual portions of meals – in one day you will prepare several types of meals, store them in food containers and consume them for the next few days.
  • Preparing ingredients for cooking – this type of meal preparation saves you time by preparing the ingredients you need for cooking in advance. You can cut vegetables, meat or potatoes into the bowl, so later cooking will take you much less time and effort. [1] [7]

Benefits of meal preparation

There are really many benefits associated with meal preparation. They can affect your health, weight, but also your wallet. Take a look at what benefits meal preparation brings.

Hunger will never catch you unprepared

People who are not used to having a regular diet usually have trouble controlling their weight. Because if you are not taught to eat at about the same time each day, your brain cannot send information that it is time to eat. Therefore, hunger can really catch you at any time, and if you do not have food prepared in advance, you resort to bad eating habits. These include, for example, caloric or unhealthy food deliveries or eating everything you see. However, meal preparation will ensure that hunger will never catch you unprepared. You can have food ready for the whole day, and therefore breakfast, snack, lunch, afternoon snack and dinner. If you then feel hungry, you simply reach for a healthy alternative that you have prepared the day before. [3] [5]

What the planned meal preparation or food packing is

You gain control over your diet

Control over a diet is the basis for the health of your body and the achievement of fitness goals. If you don’t know how much to eat, how do you know your body has had enough? Thanks to meal preparation, you will know exactly how many calories and what macronutrients your diet contains. You will know all the ingredients you have used in cooking to ensure that you get only the highest quality food and ingredients into your body. The beauty of meal preparation lies in balance. [3] [4] [5] [6]

To achieve this balance, you should focus on the following 2 main points when preparing meals:

  • Track your daily caloric intake – various apps or calorie charts and calculators will help you with that.
  • Keep a balance of macronutrients – your daily diet should consist of a balanced percentage of macronutrients, in the ratio: [8]
    • 45–65% calories from carbohydrates
    • 20–35% calories from fats
    • 10–35% calories from protein.
Benefits of meal preparation

It will help you save some time and money

Whatever type of meal preparation you choose, you will always save time as a result. However, it may take you a little longer to prepare meals until you find the right system. But take an example of when you decide to prepare a week-long meal on Sunday afternoon. It might take you a while, but you will have great meals at hand all week and you won’t have to spend more time in the kitchen. Thus, you will have more time for exercise or other leisure activities. Think about how much time you waste standing in front of the fridge while trying to figure out what to cook. Once your food is ready in advance, all you have to do is take it out from the refrigerator and heat it. [4] [5]

By preparing meals, you also gain more control over your food expenses. In addition to eliminating the amount of food ordered through delivery service, which will definitely ease your costs, you will know exactly what ingredients you need to buy, so you do not have to go to the supermarket several times a week. Our article 12 Tips for Budget Friendly Meal Purchase and Preparation.

Eliminates waste

This point goes hand in hand with saving money. Once you have established routine meal preparation, you will know exactly how much of each ingredient you need. This will help you avoid wasting food, throwing it away due to its expiration, and reducing the amount of waste generated. [5] In the US, an average person throws away 108 kilograms of food a year, which is 21% of the food they buy. On average, they throw away $ 1,800 a year in the trash. [10] In the EU, about 88 million tons of food are thrown away each year, which is 173 kilograms per person. [9] These foods and their packaging destroy the environment and contribute negatively to climate change.

Eliminates waste

Helps reduce stress

Many people resort to various diets when trying to lose weight, which significantly contributes to stress. However, you don’t just have to reduce the number of calories and lose weight by starving, it is definitely a better solution to control your diet wisely. We explained the importance of balance for proper nutrition above, but we did not say what other benefit it has. It helps to actively reduce stress. Decisions you make in advance will help you feel more comfortable, you will not feel time pressure or remorse for bad eating decisions. Simply put, you will be ready for everything that awaits you. [5]

You will have control over the portion size

Too large portions of food can contribute to overeating and subsequent weight gain. Portions that are too small are also a threat, because if you do not eat to satiety, you will automatically reach for another meal. However, preparing meals in organizers will help you control the portion size. You know best how much food you need to satisfy your hunger. In addition, portion control has many other advantages such as: [5] [11]

  • ensuring better digestion
  • maintaining a balanced blood sugar level
  • satisfying physical hunger

It will bring variety to your diet

If you had to think every day about what to prepare for lunch or dinner today, you would probably choose a food that is easy to prepare due to time constraints. In case you succumb to meal preparation too, you would have a lot of time to think about what you will prepare for the following days. Suddenly, a wide range of options will open up for you, what ingredients to use, and all the ways you can prepare it in. You will not be limited to familiar foods you do not want to eat the same all week. In addition, you will also improve your culinary skills and you will be encouraged to look for new and increasingly demanding recipes. [5]

It will bring variety to your diet

How to prepare meals?

Have the benefits of meal preparation convinced you to try this method? Here are some guaranteed tips on how to do it!

Create menu for the whole week

Meal preparation works best if you strictly adhere to a pre-prepared plan. This should include accurate information such as:

  • what recipes you are going to prepare
  • what ingredients you need to buy
  • the day you prepare the meal
  • for how many days the meal will be prepared
  • what are the nutritional values of that meal

The plan is in your hands only and should correspond to the weekly schedule. Determining the exact days and times will simplify the decision-making process, and free your mental and time space for other things. [1] [2] [6] [7]

Tip from us: To save time, choose recipes that require different methods of preparation. Too many recipes that require the same cooking equipment, such as an oven, will limit the number of meals you can prepare at one time.

How to prepare meals?

Prepare a shopping list

Shopping without preparation can be a real waste of time, but also a waste of money. If you go to the store without a shopping list, you buy not only what you really need, but also a bunch of other, sometimes really useless things. Limit food purchases to just one day a week and use a food delivery service, which will help you save a lot of time. [1] [2] [6] [7]

Prepare a shopping list

Create a workflow

A thoughtful workflow will help you save time spent in the kitchen. If you have chosen several different recipes, start with the one that takes the most cooking time, such as soup. When you prepare the ingredients and place the soup on the stove, it usually only needs to be seasoned or stirred occasionally. While the soup is cooking, you can start preparing another meal. The same goes for dishes baked in the oven, which you do not need to constantly supervise. To save even more time, take a good look at all the selected recipes. You may find that some need the same ingredients that you can prepare at once. [5] [7]

Choose the right food container

Many people condemn meal prep precisely because they fear the rapid expiration of food. However, if you use the right food container to store it, there is nothing to worry about. What are the most common types of containers to choose from? [1]

  • Airtight ingredient containers – these are easy-to-wash silicone bags or containers in which you can store ingredients. These pockets keep them fresh and crunchy for a really long time.
  • BPA-free microwave cans – BPA is a chemical substance used in the production of PVC plastics and at high temperatures can have negative effects on our body. Therefore, choose plastic packaging and cans without BPA.
  • Containers suitable for the freezer – not all cans can be stored in the freezer, as they can burst at very low temperatures. However, there are special frost-resistant containers that are ideal for storing food in the cold.
  • Food organizers – handy plastic or glass organizers in which you can put all your food at once. Thanks to them, you can separate the side dish or sauce from the main dish in one bowl.

More guaranteed tips for successful meal prep

  • start with easy-to-prepare recipes first, and if you’re good at it, you can reach for more challenging ones
  • cook the dishes you like
  • invests in quality food bags
  • choose healthy ingredients
  • observe the expiration dates on the product packaging
  • eat foods that tend to go wrong sooner [2]

How to store food in the cold?

Are you worried about which foods you can store in the refrigerator and which should go in the freezer? Take a closer look at which foods will last you the longest in the cold: [3]

Cooling at 4°C or lower

1 – 2 days: boiled minced poultry or minced beef

3 – 4 days: whole cooked meat, fish, poultry, soups, and stews

5 days: boiled beans, hummus

1 week: boiled eggs, chopped vegetables, if stored in an airtight container

2 weeks: soft cheese

5 – 6 weeks: hard cheese

Freezing at -17°C or below

2 – 3 months: soups, stews, boiled beans

3 – 6 months: cooked or minced meat, poultry

6 – 8 months: berries and sliced fruits (banana, apples, pears, plums, mangoes) stored in a freezer bag

8 – 12 months: vegetables, if blanched first for 3 – 5 minutes

Preparing meals in advance is a great tool for people who want to spend less time in the kitchen and have control over their diet. In addition, it also promotes the consumption of nutrient-rich foods and discourages from the consumption of less nutritious foods such as fast food.

Have you also succumbed to the meal preparation trend? Share with us your experience in the comments below. If you liked the article and would like to recommend these tips to a friend, don’t hesitate to share it.

Sources:

[1] Alina Petre, MS, RD (NL) – How to Meal Prep — A Beginner’s Guide – https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/how-to-meal-prep

[2] Olivia tarantino – 25 Tips to Cook Once, Eat for a Week – https://www.eatthis.com/meal-prep-sunday/

[3] Meal Prep: A Helpful Healthy Eating Strategy – https://www.hsph.harvard.edu/nutritionsource/2017/03/20/meal-prep-planning/

[4] Naomi Rotstein – 5 Benefits of Prepping Your Food – https://www.active.com/nutrition/articles/5-benefits-of-prepping-your-food

[5] Jill Schildhouse – Everything You Need to Know About Meal Prepping – https://www.oxygenmag.com/nutrition/7-major-benefits-of-meal-prep

[6] Laura Williams, MS – Why To Meal Prep, And Where To Start – https://www.bodybuilding.com/content/why-to-meal-prep-and-where-to-start.html

[7] Caroline Picard – A Beginner’s Guide on How to Meal Prep Like a Pro – https://www.goodhousekeeping.com/food-recipes/a28377603/how-to-meal-prep/

[8] MyNutrition –  https://mynutrition.wsu.edu/nutrition-basics

[9] Europian Parliament – https://www.europarl.europa.eu/news/en/headlines/society/20170505STO73528/food-waste-the-problem-in-the-eu-in-numbers-infographic

[10] The Problem of Food Waste – https://foodprint.org/issues/the-problem-of-food-waste/

[11] B J Rolls – What is the role of portion control in weight management? – https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4105579/