MEAL PREP VS FOOD PREPWhich is best for you?
Meal prep is taking time to prepare full meals in advance, and have everything in one tupperware/container per meal. This approach is great if you follow a meal plan, and if you can refrigerate or freeze the entire meal.
Food prepping is making all the components of meals – The protein, the carbs, the vegetables – And storing these all separately, and making meals from these as and when you want. This approach is better for flexible dieting, and if you want to store each component of the meal optimally e.g. refrigerating vegetable and freezing meats. Personally, I use food prepping, but still tend to refer to it as meal prep.
A good place to start if you are completely unfamiliar with the process of meal-prepping is the Meal Prep Sunday Sub-Reddit. This has a huge collection of user-submitted meal prep ideas – It’s perfect for inspiration!
Obviously you can do your meal prep any day of the week, or even split it up over a few days, but I find it so enjoyable taking a few, slow hours on a Sunday morning to prepare all my food while catching up on whatever series has taken my fancy. Currently I’m working my way through Hannibal – Despite my absolute obsession with Anthony Hopkin’s Lecter, I have to admit Mads Mikkelsen does subtle, skin crawling creepiness so well. I do, however, find it a bit perverse when I’m filleting chicken and Mads is mirroring me on screen, but with chunks of human…
Whichever method you find suits you best, I’ve compiled a list of the best wee shortcuts and snippets of wisdom I’ve gained from my meal prepping experience below – Enjoy!
TIPS AND HACKS
- Plan Your Meals Beforehand
Take some time before your meal prep to write down a plan of what your meals will be for the week, and what ingredients you’ll need. This is also a great time to assess your macros if this is something you do. For example, if you’re trying to gain weight and strength, did you feel you were eating enough to accomplish this?
2. Match Your Meals to Your Lifestyle and Needs
Everyone has different needs in terms of meal frequency, and different access to cooking equipment throughout the day. For example, I am constantly hungry, so I plan to have about 6 meals spread throughout the day, so I can eat regularly. I also plan to have higher carbs pre- and post-workout to help fuel up for, and recover from, my workouts. What are your lifestyle needs? Will you have access to a microwave throughout the day? If not, consider prepping foods that don’t need reheating, like overnight oats for breakfasts, and wraps or salads for lunches. If you don’t have access to a fridge at work, no big deal – Get a big cooler bag and chill block, and you’ll be sorted!
Also, I know mason jars are so in right now. But be honest with yourself – Can you carry around a glass jar all day? Can you be bothered trying to scrape food out of a big, clumsy cylinder? Tupperware might not be the sexiest food storage, but they’re durable, reusable, easy to wash and, most importantly, easy to eat from.
3. Different Storage for Different Foodstuffs
Does anyone else hate that weird, ultra-off taste that chicken develops after a few days in the fridge? I definitely do. The best solution I’ve found for this is to portion and freeze my chicken straight away, using cheap, little tupperware for storing individual portions. These can hold up to about 200g cooked chicken. This also works great for turkey and white fish portions. I do exactly the same with a big batch of rice – portion, freeze and reheat when needed. The Kitchn has a good guide to storing cooked grains here. As for veg – I find steamed, boiled and roasted veg will last around 4-5 days kept in the fridge. I definitely prefer not to freeze my cooked veg – It’s just never the same when reheated! would, however, say the main exception here is any kind of puree or mash – Mashed broccoli freezes well and is such an easy way to add a quick portion of greens to a meal.
When assembling meals for the next day, I’ll just take out my individual portions of my prepped foods, and add these into another tupperware:
4. Have Frozen Veg on Stand-by
I prep about 4 full packs of fresh green beans on Sunday, and will always run out by mid-week . Sometimes, after a full day at work and training, I just cannot drag myself into the supermarket to buy a top up. So I always have a few bags of green beans, broccoli florets and edamame beans in the freezer so I can whack these in the microwave for a quick boost of greens.
If you’re prepping stuff like rice, potatoes or grains like quinoa, stick these onto boil first thing. Also, consider using a slow cooker for meats like beef and turkey – You can simply put these in with a little water, some seasoning and leave them on medium for a few hours. Then get on with other prep like chopping vegetables and pan-frying meats.
Marinades are fantastic if you have the same meat several times a day or week in your plan. During prep for my last bodybuilding competition, I was eating chicken portions up to three times a day. You can imagine that gets a tiny bit repetitive. In order to save my sanity, I tend to put my chicken into 2-3 different marinades before cooking to add a bit of variety and flavour into my meals.