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Chopping veggies, washing produce, and shredding cheese — it saves so much time to do it all at once, but it can also seem like a daunting task to meal prep for the week. If meal prep seems overwhelming, not to worry because we've gathered the top tips to make it easier, save you time, and save you money with a the help of a few of our favourite kitchen gadgets.
Most of us know that meal prep consists of preparing meals or key ingredients for your week ahead. It’s a great way to save time and avoid cutting nutritional corners. But where to start?
Prep hearty veggies and common ingredients
Avid meal planners suggest that starting with one meal that gives you the most trouble (like breakfast or lunch) in order to save the most time and effort down the road. If you don’t want to create a full meal, you can also try prepping hearty veggies that tend to last longer like broccoli, carrots, and bell peppers, which will still save you time.
Another tip is to focus on common ingredients that most recipes require. Think things like lemons, onions and garlic, and find recipes that use the same ingredients so you are chopping and slicing one time throughout the week. A good workspace is key to speeding up your meal prep process, so investing in a cutting board with a built-in storage system can definitely come in handy.
Get your bases covered
Once you have some of the basics of meal prep covered, it's time to consider your base foods: think rice, quinoa or potatoes. These are great staples to batch cook and prepare ahead of time, so you don’t end up eating the exact same meal every night.
Cooking methods matter
Like everything else, the way you prepare your food is also important. For example, boiling sweet potatoes lowered their glycemic index compared to baking or roasting. In essence, that means it gives you less of a blood sugar spike compared to alternative cooking methods.
According to naturopathic doctor Tanya Lee, boiling or steaming starches, and then cooling them can lower the sugar content,. It also helps form resistant starch, which is a type of starch that can fuel the good bacteria in your gut.
If you are using rice as a base, you'll also want to make sure that you reheat it to 165 degrees fahrenheit to kill any bacteria and eat it within 3 days. To double check the temperature, a food thermometer comes in handy. It also takes the guesswork out of cooking meat as an added bonus.
If it’s easier for you to incorporate some frozen staples, do it! According to Harvard Medical School, unless you are sourcing your food locally (and it’s not spending time in transit and on the grocery shelves) the nutritional difference is negligible. Frozen produce may actually contain more vitamins and phytonutrients than older not as fresh produce but cooking and storing methods can close the gap on this anyway.
Keep things organized
If you want to ensure that you're never left guessing at the status of any of your pre-prepped meals, labelling and dating each container is a great way to stay organized.
A roll of painter's tape and a Sharpie is a old chef's trick to keep things neat, or you can also take things to the next organizational level with a label maker. Just remember, if you're prepping full meals, use the classic culinary school method of FIFO: First in, first out.
Get creative with herbs
Herbs can be a tricky ingredient to use before they go bad, since they tend to wilt or dry out quickly without the proper storage. To avoid sending them straight into the garbage bin, a simple hack is to chop them and freeze them in oil so that you have little frozen cubes at the ready to pop in your recipes when needed.
Cut back on food waste
According to the USDA food waste in the U.S. alone is estimated between 30-40 percent of the nation's food supply. Instead of throwing away food scraps, there are some helpful that you might be able to reuse some of them instead.
Making the most out of your produce is key. Some scraps you can use in a stock, like potato skins, carrot peels and celery tops. If you're not ready to make a stock and meal prep at the same time, you can always throw them into the freezer using a reusable bag to save them for another time.
For scraps you can’t eat, like banana peels, you can throw them in water and after a couple days it makes nutritious compost tea for your garden or house plants. If you use a lot of green-onions or or scallions in your meals, you can also save the ents with the roots still intact, submerge them in a cup of water, and place them in a sunny spot to regrow their tops. And as a fun snack, you can use potato skins and turn them into potato peel chips using an air fryer.