Today’s guest post comes from Abby Langer, registered dietitian and owner of Abby Langer Nutrition . Her philosophy is that it’s best to eat real food, not diet junk, and it’s the quality of your food that matters, not the calories. No wonder we jumped at the chance to have her share her thoughts on food prep!
We all know that meal prep is one of the most convenient ways to make healthy eating a habit throughout the week. After all, it’s much easier to ignore your favorite restaurant down the road or the temptation to dive into the office doughnuts when you have a whole meal ready for you.
Another huge plus of meal prep is the money it saves — one dish split several ways is much cheaper than takeout.
But how often do you find yourself meal prepping … only to throw away frightening looking leftovers two weeks later? Or meaning to meal prep … only to find the tomatoes you bought a week ago aren’t looking so hot? As a busy mom, I know the struggle firsthand and wanted to share some tips about meal prepping that help me cut down on wasted food.
Don’t meal prep for an army.
If you’re meal prepping for one, the best advice I can give is not to get overzealous. If you know that you can’t handle eating the same quinoa dish for a week straight, then don’t make enough to feed half the block. I know this sounds like painfully simple advice, but I see countless individuals get overenthusiastic on Sunday nights … only to end up ordering takeout on Friday nights with most of the dish still intact in the fridge.
If you’re someone who needs variety in their meals, I would recommend meal prepping enough for four meals throughout the week. This still allows you to save time and money but also accounts for some variety in your diet. I recommend searching for recipes with smaller serving sizes — think three to four servings max. And if you’re just starting on your meal prep journey, it can be even easier to think of preparing just one meal the night before. A simple overnight oats recipe with fruit and almond milk can help jumpstart your mornings in a healthy way and won’t take much time.
Mix up the types of ingredients you use.
We’ve all dealt with our share of molds growing on produce we’ve forgotten about — but this doesn’t have to be life when meal prepping! Since meal prepping sometimes happens a little later than I expect it, I love to buy frozen fruits and veggies, as well as shelf-stable items like almonds and almond milk. These items don’t spoil quickly and allow me to meal prep whenever I have the time, instead of panicking because it’s Sunday at 9 p.m. and my squash is about to go bad.
Prep one base ingredient and add to it with simple toppings.
Another way to add variety to ensure you don’t get bored and waste food is to prep one base ingredient and mix it up with various toppings. One of my favorite base ingredients is rice. I love to make a batch of it that I can then use in various ways — as a rice pilaf with almonds or as a bed for pre-cooked chicken that I throw in a pan for a few minutes. By providing yourself with variety, you ensure that you’ll actually eat the food sitting in your fridge.
Don’t forget the freezer.
So, you’ve meal prepped a sensible amount and are prepared for a nice week of healthy eating. But suddenly, you’re called into a last-minute client dinner or the kid’s soccer game goes late and you have four whining kids in the back demanding fast food. This is where the freezer comes in handy. I like to save the freezer as more of a last resort when meal prepping because it’s all too easy to end up with a freezer filled with leftovers caked in freezer burn that you know you’ll never touch. Whenever you put a large amount of food in the freezer, I recommend writing a quick list of what all is in there and sticking it on the fridge. That way you actually remember what you froze three weeks ago and can grab it when you don’t have time to cook.
Are any of these tips gamechangers for you? Got anything you’d add to my list? —Abby Langer