Most of us want to eat healthy and save money, but with all the hustle and bustle of a typical week, preparing homemade meals can be difficult, even when we’re home more than ever. That’s where meal prep comes in.
If you’re not familiar with the concept of meal prep, the idea is to dedicate one or two days of the week (we suggest Sunday as one of the days to help get your week off to a great start) to preparing meals in bulk. By having premade, homemade meals that you can conveniently heat up and serve, you’ll be less likely to opt for takeout, which is more expensive in the long-run.
We asked one of our Flippers and meal prep expert, Dave Chen, for his tips on getting organized. When we were all in the office, we would never see Dave eating out, he would always bring his lunch and snacks, making him the envy of those around him who just couldn’t commit to the process.
Plan before you shop
The first step to getting organized is deciding what meals you’re going to make. Make a plan for your main meals (don’t forget to plan your snacks too) and shop for the ingredients you’ll need. If saving money is a priority, Dave recommends planning your meals around the local weekly sales. For example, if pumpkins are on sale, you can add recipes like roasted pumpkin soup or pumpkin mac and cheese to your meal prep. The grocery category on the Flipp app will really come in handy when looking for those sales.
Plan around your protein
Proteins can often be the most expensive items on your grocery list, especially if meat is part of your diet. Dave recommends choosing two or three proteins with the best deals and building your meal plan around the different ways you can prepare them. For example, if you scored a deal on chicken breast, use a different sauce or seasoning each time you prepare it to keep your taste buds from getting bored.
Pick your days
Find two days of the week where you can block off 2–3 hours to cook and organize your meals. This might sound like a long time, but you’ll thank your future self for not having to scramble last-minute on an empty stomach. Instead of prepping for an entire week at once, start with three or four days at a time, and experiment with how many different meals you can get out of the ingredients you’ve chosen.
Stock up on containers
Whether you plan to portion out each meal in advance or just store big batches of prepared food in the fridge, containers will be your best friend. Make sure you have enough containers of different sizes for salad dressings, sauces, salads, etc. to store your meals in the fridge without taking up too much space. You can find dozens of plastic and glass container value packs on Flipp.
Focus on efficiency
Stick to simple cooking methods that let you do multiple things at once. A couple of sheet pans in the oven with meat, potatoes, and vegetables, plus some veggies steaming on the stove, and a big pot of rice or quinoa bubbling away can all happen at the same time while you just monitor them. Which brings us to our next tip...
Experiment with a slow cooker or a pressure cooker
This will be a meal prep game-changer! Appliances like the slow cooker and pressure cooker, let you set it and forget it, while you focus on more labor-intensive items. You can roast a chicken, slow cook a chili or stew, or throw together a big batch of your favorite one-pot meals while you use the oven and the stove for other foods. One major plus to using a slow cooker is that it won’t dry out your meat, so you can get away with cheaper cuts without sacrificing flavor. Pressure cookers like the Instant Pot are also great options for preparing batch meals in a fraction of the time.
Stock up on “carrier” foods
In order to save money while eating a wide variety of meals, our meal prep expert suggests stocking up on “carrier” foods, or foods that can be prepared in different ways. Tortilla wraps, for example, can be used for breakfast burritos, lunch wrap sandwiches, or sweet treats like wrapped banana slices with peanut butter. Quick oats can be used to bake energy bars, eaten with fruit, or in a smoothie. Pile whatever your heart desires on some rice cakes for a meal or a snack...you get the idea.
Prepare backup meals
If you happen to have a bit of extra time, preparing a freezer meal for a rainy day might be a good idea. Freezer meals are fully or partially cooked meals that you can store in the freezer and quickly cook or heat up when you’re in a pinch. Pot pies, casseroles, and stews are all great options that will last in the freezer for months. Didn't get to meal prep for the week? Pop one of your backup meals in the oven and serve dinner in minutes. For meals on-the-go, a batch of hard boiled eggs will keep in the fridge for a few days and will come in handy for quick salads or sliced on some toast. For other types of food that freeze well, check out our post about defrosting food here.
Ready to become a meal prep master? Check the Flipp app to see what’s on sale this week.