Meal prep tips to begin!
- When starting out with meal prep, make sure you use airtight and leak-proof glass or BPA-free plastic containers. Find a reasonable size that accommodates your typical meal, but don’t be tempted to fill the box to the brim to prevent overeating. Start with about five containers, and after a few meals, you’ll be able to tell if the size, shape and lid situation works for you before getting more.
Don’t worry if pre-planning meals is not your forte. Before the start of each week, prepare a big batch of grains and choose a dressing to pair with it. Then whip up some pumpkin, chicken, beans and assorted greens and store them in individual containers in the fridge. This way you can mix-and-match them to enjoy a new meal every day.
- Instead of imported vegetables, use cheaper and more commonly available alternatives for your weekly meal prep. Pocket-friendly swaps include substituting cherry tomatoes with regular-sized ones and baby spinach with regional spinach. We also love subbing rocket with cabbage because they have the same slightly bitter and spicy profile, as well as kale for kailan. Fun fact: kailan is actually chinese kale. They’re in the same family!
With bell peppers, you’ll be eating a rainbow. The green, yellow, orange and red ones are indistinguishable in terms of taste since they are simply at different stages of ripeness. The red ones are sweeter, but the green ones are often more economical.
If you’re not keen on rabbit food, homemade vinaigrettes are an excellent cheat for enhancing the flavour of vegetables. Not only do they cost less than store-bought ones, it lends a fresher taste every time and allows you to adjust its saltiness and sweetness as you see fit.
Skip anything pre-washed and chopped. You never know how they were washed or how long they’ve been on the shelf. Plus, they cost a lot for saving you just a few minutes of effort.
Meal prepping with wraps or sandwiches? Consider subbing the bread or wraps with large lettuce and cabbage leaves if you are watching your carb intake.
Don’t overlook frozen vegetables! These are nutritional powerhouses that can be bought at a decent price. Comb the supermarket’s freezer section for french beans, broccoli, carrots, corn and peas – these are the greens that freeze well. Leafy greens like spinach tend to turn into mush when defrosted, but they’ll still be worth their salt when incorporated into stews and curries.
Stock your pantry with dried staples like shiitake, seaweed and beans. The mushroom and beans do well with absorbing flavours while adding bulk to your meal prep. Seaweed rehydrates in a minute (just soak in hot water) and serves as an excellent garnish for soups and salads.
Dairy and Dairy Alternatives
- Don’t assume the low-fat versions of dairy are more beneficial – manufacturers often sneak more sugar into them to compensate for their lack of taste.
Instead of premium nut milks, opt for soy or oat milk.
Sour cream is more expensive and isn’t readily available in your local grocer. If you want to stretch your dollar, go for the probiotic-packed Greek yogurt instead.
Also, if you think yogurt is going to feature heavily in your weekly meal prep, buying family-sized tubs instead of single-serve ones will give you more bang for buck. You can always portion them out into containers yourself.
On that note, dairy products in general can seriously inflate your meal prep budget (and waistline) if you’re not careful! Consider switching them out for plant-based foods when you can. For example, spruce up your wraps with salsa instead of melted cheese, or spread pesto on toast in lieu of butter.
- If you’re not strictly carnivorous, consider meal prepping with non-meat proteins like eggs, mushrooms, beancurd, lentils, beans or nuts (We think portobello steaks are the perfect vegan answer to meat substitutes, but we’ll let you decide.) It’s better for your health, the planet and your wallet. Win-win-win!
Can’t give up your favourite grilled and roasted cuts? White meat is always leaner and more economical than reds. Also: Use bone-in meat instead of deboned filets as they are usually a juicier (and lower-cost!) alternative.
Spend some time in the freezer section of your grocer: Most meats and fish freeze well. There are also plenty of canned fish that pair well with pasta, salads and grain bowls.
Most forms of poultry are fair game, but when it comes to the catch of the day, go for common and heart-healthy options. Tuna is the chicken of the sea, and sardines have one of the densest concentrations of omega-3 as far as seafood goes. If cost is a consideration, meal prep with Spanish or pacific mackerel – they’re and are just as big on flavour.
- No meal prep is complete without a base. If a lettuce base isn’t going to cut it for you, go for brown rice, barley or oats instead of trendier grains like flax, quinoa and buckweed.