4 simple meal prep strategies for a busy, active lifestyle

Written by Sue Mah, Registered Dietitian 

You know that eating well and being active are important for a healthy lifestyle. But what if you’re too tired or too busy to cook? Meal prep to the rescue!

What’s meal prep?

Meal prep is basically any type of food preparation that you do in advance. You’ll save time and money with meal prepping, plus you’ll have nutritious foods on hand to fuel your movement and activities.

How to meal prep

To meal prep, start by planning out your menu for the next few days or week:

  • Look at the ingredients you have in your pantry, fridge and freezer.
  • See what’s on sale in grocery flyers.
  • Consider what foods are in season.
  • Check out magazines, cookbooks and social media for recipe ideas.

Once you have all of your groceries and ingredients, schedule a time to meal prep. Then try one or more of the meal prep strategies below:

1. No-cook ingredient meal prep

This type of meal prep requires no cooking whatsoever. All you need to do is slice, dice, cut, chop or prep some ingredients that you’ll be using later in the week. It’s like giving yourself a head-start on cooking. For example, cut broccoli, slice meat or marinate tofu to get them ready for your meals. You can portion these out, too, depending on the quantities needed for each recipe. I often dice carrots and onions ahead of time when I make my Chicken Lettuce Wraps.

2. Single-ingredient batch meal prep

Cook it once and use it twice! As you create your menu plan, think about how you can multi-task an ingredient, especially if it takes a little longer to cook. Roast a whole chicken on the weekend and use it for sandwiches and salads. Or make a big pot of rice – use it once for a side dish tonight and then again to make Shrimp Fried Rice tomorrow.

3. Buffet-style meal prep

Hummus, broccoli, chickpeas, salsa, grilled chicken, green beans and rice in containers on a table. Cook one to two grains plus one to two proteins plus one to two veggies all in advance. Pack them individually. How about quinoa or pasta? Maybe make some meatballs or bake a few pieces of fish. Try roasting a tray of cauliflower or sautéing mushrooms. Then, mix and match these ingredients to quickly assemble a different meal. You can make a quinoa bowl with cauliflower, mushrooms and fish tonight. The next night, put together a pasta dish with meatballs and mushrooms. Add in different sauces, dressings and flavourings so you don’t get bored eating the same thing day after day. It’s totally OK to use pre-packaged items, too, such as tortilla bread, canned beans and frozen veggies.

4. Full meal prep

Make a recipe completely from start to finish so that it’s ready to eat or reheat. If you’re short on time in the morning, try my yummy Apple Pie Overnight Oats for breakfast. You could even make a double batch of your favourite recipes. Freeze extras in individual portions to eat another time. Soups, casseroles, chili and lasagna all freeze well. Simply thaw them in the fridge for a couple of days and reheat. Remember to put a label with the date on each food. I also keep an inventory so that the food doesn’t get lost at the bottom of my freezer.

Most of all, have fun with your meal prep. Think of it as a part of your weekly self-care routine rather than a chore. Turn up the tunes or listen to a podcast and get in the kitchen! You’ll thank yourself!

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