You may think that meal prep – or planning, cooking, and portioning meals in advance -- is just for bodybuilders and diehard dieters. However, Seniors Helping Seniors® care receivers can realize some serious benefits from it as well. In fact, it’s an excellent way to maintain a healthy diet, control food portions, save time and money, and prevent waste!
But the process can be intimidating for first-time preppers. While there is certainly plenty to learn about meal prepping, there are also lots of ways to ease into this lifestyle and start reaping the rewards that accompany it.
We’ve compiled a few tips for those new to the food prep scene. Read on to discover how to incorporate this strategy successfully into your weekly routine.
Keep Meal Prep Simple
One of the most important rules in meal prep is to start simple. Some people cook and portion out breakfast, lunch, dinner, and snacks every week. If you are new to meal prepping, trying to do all this will undoubtedly leave you feeling overwhelmed and defeated.
Begin by planning out one meal for a 3-day span. This allows you to get the process down before taking on too much. Once you have the hang of it, you can start preparing multiple meals, recipes, and snacks.
Prepare To Prep
Before beginning, take stock of your Tupperware cabinet. You’ll be portioning meals into food-safe containers that you can grab for breakfast, lunch, dinner, or snacks, so you’ll need quite a few in a variety of shapes and sizes.
If you can use containers you already own, great! If not, start by purchasing one pack of reusable Tupperware that contains a variety of different shapes and sizes. Over time, you can gradually add to your stock or upgrade to better quality vessels. For convenience, make sure they’re microwave, dishwasher, and freezer safe and try to use dishes that stack nicely to save space in the refrigerator.
It’s also helpful to dedicate one day of the week for planning meals and one day for preparing them. Otherwise, it’s easy to put these tasks off until tomorrow, or the next day, or the day after that. Choose two days that are typically convenient and stick to it…every week!
Our caregivers love to help those we serve accomplish their goals, so get them involved in the process too. Whether you need help gathering storage containers, finding recipes, or with a lift to the local market, they’re happy to assist!
Three Steps To Manageable Meal Prep
Now, the fun part – it’s time to dig in! There are three main steps in the meal prep process: planning, shopping, and prepping.
Before creating a meal plan, think about your main goal. Do you want to save money? Lose weight? Ensure you’re eating a balanced diet? Help control a health condition, like diabetes or high cholesterol? You may even want to consult your doctor to discuss any specific dietary requirements. When choosing recipes, keep this goal in mind and make sure the meals you pick help accomplish it.
On your dedicated planning day, decide on the recipe(s) you’ll make for the week. Remember, one or two is plenty if you’re just getting your feet wet. If you’re preparing more than one recipe, choose dishes that have common ingredients to keep your list manageable. Write down all the ingredients needed for each recipe. Then, survey your pantry, refrigerator, and freezer, crossing off items you already have. These measures will help you save money and reduce food waste.
Pro Tip: There’s an app for that! There are lots of meal planning apps for your phone that help keep track of meals and recipes. Some will even sort your ingredient list according to what department items can be found in the grocery store!
Now that you’ve done your pre-prep planning, grab your Seniors Helping Seniors® companion and head to the grocery store! Here are a few suggestions while you’re there:
- Bring a list and stick to it! You’ll save money on impulse buys and avoid the temptation to grab items that don’t fit your ultimate goal.
- If chopping and slicing is difficult, opt for pre-cut, canned, or frozen fruits and vegetables. They’ll save tons of time during prep!
- On a budget? Check weekly ads for your local store and use coupons whenever possible.
- Be sure to swing by the local produce section or the farmer’s market on the way home as well. Summer is a great time to find locally grown apples and tomatoes!
When you get home from shopping, wash all your produce so you’re ready to jump right in when it’s time for the next phase.
3. Meal Prep
Now, it’s your designated prep day and you’re ready to start slicing and dicing! Depending on what’s on the menu for the week, you may need to portion out dry snacks, like nuts or cereals, or chop up fruits, vegetables, and meat. This part of the process can be time consuming, so recruit a family member or Seniors Helping Seniors® caregiver to help.
Cook your meals in batches and portion them out into individual servings using Tupperware containers. Small jars and zip-lock bags make it easy to keep dressings, dips, and toppings that might get soggy separate.
Once everything is packaged and put away, sit back and relax – you’re done!
At Seniors Helping Seniors® in-home care services, we’re always searching for ways to help our care receivers live more independently and enjoy a better quality of life. Meal prep can be a great tool in accomplishing these goals. Getting started can be tough, but we’re here to provide support, encouragement, and a helpful hand!