If you have a hectic schedule full of juggling your busy career with homeschooling your children, you might read meal-prepping articles with a skeptical eye. The benefits sound terrific, but who can find the time? When done right, this practice can save precious moments and improve your health. Try these five realistic meal prep ideas for busy people.
1. Stock Up on Sauces
What’s the difference between orange chicken and a boring order of nuggets from the fast-food drive-thru? The secret is in the sauce.
When you make marinades, bottle those spice combinations to use in other dishes. A touch of tabasco and Worcestershire sauce transform ketchup into something gourmet. A blend of olive oil, balsamic vinegar, greek yogurt and fresh herbs from your countertop garden makes a tastier salad dressing than the bottled stuff lining store shelves.
2. Embrace Substitutions
You might be one of the many frustrated with meal prep suggestions that always seem to include the one ingredient you don’t keep in your pantry. You don’t have to run back to the store or waste time when you embrace substitutions.
Is it taco Tuesday, but you’re all out of shells? Try reducing your carb and calorie count by substituting lettuce leaves for tortillas. Did you eat all the pasta but have leftover sauce? Spiralize some carrots or zucchini for a crunchy noodle replacement.
3. Chop and Store Cut Veggies
When you’re famished, would you rather open a bag of chips or painstakingly chop broccoli and carrots for a stir-fry? If you said the former, you are in good company.
Probably the most painless way to elevate your diet with more of the healthy stuff is to take an hour a week to chop and store your veggies so that they are cut and ready for the wok or salad bowl. Unfortunately, sliced vegetables go bad more quickly, so you need the right food storage solution. Look for drawer liners that whisk away moisture and containers designed to minimize bacterial growth.
4. Portion Individual Snacks
Are you guilty of sitting down on the couch with a bag of chips, promising you’ll stick to the recommended serving size — and then looking surprised when you find yourself scraping crumbs? Counting calories is much simpler when you portion snacks in advance.
This trick comes in handy for getting your kids to eat healthier, too. Arrange some fruit on skewers or portion out individual servings of cut veggies and hummus dip in adorable containers. Yes, presentation matters for the little ones — if you make their snack look cute, they’ll grab it even if it contains nutritious stuff.
5. Work Your Freezer Department
Why do grocery stores devote an entire aisle to frozen prepared meals? They know the trials of busy folks everywhere. However, the stuff you find on shelves usually contains added sugar, salt and artificial nastiness.
Instead, take one day a week to whip up some freezer-ready meals from scratch. You’ll reduce your intake of salt and sugar and enjoy better flavor than anything from a box.
Busy? Try These Realistic Meal Prep Ideas to Streamline Dinnertime
Meal prepping might seem like one of those ideas that sound good in theory but is complicated in reality. Not so! The five realistic ideas above will help you streamline your dinnertime.