So you’ve decided to embark on the journey of preparing your meals in advance to save time, eat healthier, have a whole weeks worth of meals ready to be cooked, warmed up or microwaved. The options are endless and the reasons are unbounded as to why one would want to meal prep now and into the future.
What follows is what we believe to be the definitive beginner’s guide to meal prepping and by the time your done reading you’ll have a much clearer answer on if meal prepping is in your future and more importantly if it is you’ll leave with solid guidelines to prepare you on your new journey.
Table of Contents
- Meal Prep 101: The Basics
- Health Benefits of Meal Prep
- Helpful Tools and Accessories For Meal Prep
- How to Begin Prepping Meals Beforehand
- Seasonal Produce What is in Season and When
- Healthy Breakfasts to Make Ahead of Time
- Tips for Planning Healthy Kids Lunches
- How to Have Healthy Snacks Ready to Go
- Healthy Meal Prep Combinations to Try Out
- How to Meal Prep and Plan For Weight Loss
- Meal Prepping For Instant Pot Recipes
- Tips For Meal Prepping With Your Slow Cooker
- How Long Do Leftovers Stay Fresh
- Meal Prepping Ingredients That Are Freezer-Friendly
- Easy Freezer Meals For Your Family
Meal Prep 101: The Basics
Every home workout, nutrition guru, and dieting channel on social media seems to revolve around one basic concept: meal prepping. The reason this appears to be the common denominator is that meal planning is critical to the success of a diet routine. If you’re new to meal prepping, here are a few things you should know before incorporating it into your routine for yourself or you and your family.
Start With a Master Food List
The first step in meal prep is to create a master food list. You can find these online and print them by season, or you can make your own list. Ideally, you’re narrowing down the foods you like, foods you don’t like, foods you’re allergic to, and foods you’ve never tried. This master list will assist you in narrowing down your recipes and selecting foods for your meal prepping that are suitable for you. You can also record how many calories each item contains and how they can be used.
Consider Your Goal
When prepping your meals, keep your goals in mind. For example, you might be looking for a way to relieve stress during the week. Meal prepping may provide you with more downtime and time to spend with your family. On the other hand, you might want to lose a few pounds. If this is the case, you should keep a close eye on your caloric intake. Bodybuilding goals require even more considerations in order to be met. Before you begin meal planning, think about your long-term, short-term, and overall goals.
Consider Your Containers
Many people overlook the importance of the containers they will use when meal prepping. This can have a significant impact on how you plan your meals. Most people use containers with multiple compartments for protein, vegetables, fruits, and sauces. These are ideal if you will primarily be doing full meals. You could also use bento boxes, soup containers, or other containers. Consider what kinds of meals you want to eat, and then make sure you have the appropriate containers.
Meal prep fundamentals include taking into account your timeframe. You must ensure that you plan for a specific number of days. Most people plan their meals weekly, but larger families may plan their meals for the entire month. The timetable, as well as the food lists and objectives, can have a significant impact on your budget, so it is critical to consider a timeframe.
These basic meal prepping principles can help you get started. Remember that there is no one-size-fits-all method for meal prepping. The idea is to work with the diet of your choice, plan the meals, and ensure that they work for you and your lifestyle. It may take some time to get things going, but once they do, you will find meal planning to be a much easier route on many levels.
Health Benefits of Meal Prepping
Meal prepping is something you may be familiar with and may even be doing on a rudimentary level. The problem with meal prep is that you may not be aware of how it benefits you outside of your regular workout or exercise routine. Here are a few of the long-term and overall health benefits of simple meal planning for a week to a month at a time.
Easy Caloric Monitoring
The ability to monitor your caloric intake is one of the most significant health benefits of meal prepping. Watching this can be beneficial in a variety of ways. For example, if you’re trying to lose a lot of weight, you’ll want to make sure your calories are lower than what you need for your current weight. For example, if you weigh 200 pounds, your daily caloric intake may be around 2,000 calories. If you want to stay at that weight, you can eat whatever you want. If you want to lose weight, you should limit your caloric intake to 1,500 calories or less. Meal prepping will help you easily stay on track with this.
Reduced Stress Levels
You can reduce your stress by managing your meal prepping and sticking to it. You no longer have to be concerned about missing a meal, not having meals ready, or forgetting to put meals out to thaw. Though this may not appear to be a major source of stress, it can have a domino effect. If you’re having a bad day, you don’t add the time constraints and pressure of meal planning to it. This minor stress reduction can benefit your overall stress levels and provide you with more downtime in the evenings after a long day.
Reduced Chance of Dropping Your Goals
When you don’t have any meals planned, you can just grab whatever is available. For example, if you’ve had a long day and don’t feel like cooking, you could order pizza or something quick. If you eat a salad, you might think you’re doing well. The truth is that a fast-food salad can have many calories that you aren’t aware of. This can derail you from your goals, increase your calorie intake, and appear to be an easier option over time, causing you to completely abandon your diet. Meal prep eliminates all of this.
One health benefit you may not have considered is the reduction in preservatives your body would be exposed to. Many store-bought prepared meals, for example, contain high levels of sodium or sugar. When you prepare the food at home, you can significantly reduce this amount, making your meal plan a healthier alternative to store-bought convenience foods.
Other health benefits exist, but these are the ones you are most likely to notice in your life. Remember, if you want additional or different health benefits, you should consider changing your meal prepping to accommodate those health benefit goals in your daily life and long-term health goals.
Helpful Tools and Accessories For Meal Prepping
There are a few tools you’ll need before you start meal prepping. Some of these are simply for prepping ingredients to store in your pantry or refrigerator, whereas others are for when your meal prepping transitions into actually cooking and preparing meals, then freezing them. Here are some different meal prepping tools and accessories to consider purchasing.
Meal prepping does not always necessitate the use of a food scale, but it is strongly advised when preparing meals and ingredients for health reasons. This makes it easier to measure out your food and tracking macronutrients like calories, fat, carbs, and protein. For example, you may think you know what 3 ounces of steak looks like, but it can be quite surprising until you weigh it. Food scales are inexpensive and come in digital formats, eliminating the need for guesswork.
During healthy meal prepping, you will undoubtedly require a large number of containers for the ingredients, prepped, and cooked meals. Begin with a sufficient number of leftover containers when you don’t finish a meal and want to save it in your refrigerator. You should also have freezer containers and bags for both prepped ingredients and complete meals that you prepare ahead of time. Keep some containers in the pantry or on the counter, such as mason jars and different containers for rice, pasta, and other ingredients.
You should also have a sufficient number of utensils in your kitchen for meal preparation and planning. A lot of cutting will be done at once with vegetables, fruits, and sometimes meats, so you’ll need good, high-quality knives. Check to see if they are sharp and in good condition. You’re not just chopping a carrot for soup one night but doing a lot of chopping at once. This is why, if at all possible, go for the highest quality. You’ll also need good spatulas for cooking, preferably silicon-coated tools that won’t stick to pans or melt when heated. Also, have extra measuring spoons and cups on hand for everything.
This is huge right now because so many people are attempting to not only be healthier but also to reduce their carbohydrate intake. When you use vegetables as pasta such as zucchini, you can maintain a low-carb diet while still enjoying your favorite pasta dishes. It is also useful for people who are vegan or gluten-free and cannot consume pasta.
How to Begin Prepping Meals Beforehand
Meal preparation and planning entails more than simply cooking and storing meals in a container. Before you start cooking, there are a few things you should do to get started with meal preparation. These fundamentals will help you stick to a meal plan and budget before you go shopping. Here are a few of the fundamentals to remember.
Set Aside a Day
Setting aside a day for meal prep and cooking is the key to making meal prepping work before you even begin. You may believe that prepping should not take long and that you can prepare the next day’s food the night before. The truth is that it can become very stressful over time, causing you to forget something or simply not want to do it. Also, keep in mind that life can get in the way at times. Choosing one day, or afternoon, a week will help you get through the week of prep and avoid missing anything or becoming overly stressed.
Cook Like Temperatures Together
Cooking foods of similar temperatures together is one way to expedite the process and ensure that everything is properly cooked. For instance, if you bake the chicken for twenty minutes at 375 degrees, you can also bake potatoes for an hour and a half at the same temperature. The key is to set a timer to ensure that you remove the foods at the appropriate time. Because you’ll be running the oven for less time while cooking the same amount of food, you’ll save money on energy.
Have Containers on Standby
Check to see if your containers are ready to go. You’ll want to prepare all of your meals at once and have everything ready to go in the fridge. You should also ensure that the containers are prepared for all of the meals you are preparing. This ensures that you have everything you need for breakfast, lunch, and dinner preparation and that you are not halfway through when you realize you have forgotten something. You should also label each container with the food type, special instructions, and the serving time, such as breakfast or dinner.
You can make the entire meal planning and prepping process easier if you keep these how-to tips and methods in mind. You can also ensure that you have everything you need, aside from food, to get you on the right track with meal prep and planning.
Seasonal Produce What is in Season and When
Most meal prepping guides will advise you to stick to seasonal fruits and vegetables. There are several reasons for this, including sticking to a budget and consuming fruits and vegetables at their peak nutritional value. The key for most people is knowing what fruits and vegetables are in season and where to find the best locally grown produce. Here are a few tips about what is in season and when.
Winter is the season for hearty and robust produce to thrive. Remember that it must travel through snow, ice, and other dangerously cold weather. Potatoes, carrots, cabbage, apples, and other root vegetables fit this description. This is the season to experiment with leeks, parsnips, and various types of squash. Leafy greens like spinach and vegetables like Brussel sprouts are also excellent choices for in-season produce.
Spring is a great time to experiment with new foods, such as cooking greens. If you’ve never tried collards or turnips, now is the time to do so. Mushrooms and garlic are also at their peak in the spring. High-power salads and superfood salads are also excellent choices for meal planning and food preparation. During the spring, radishes, strawberries, and even apricots are in season.
Summer is the best season for watermelon, melons in general, tropical fruits, and bananas. This is the time of year to add berries to your foods, smoothies, juices, and meal prep. During the summer, the majority of your fruit-based superfoods are in season. If you have trouble finding these berries and fruits throughout the year, consider getting them during the summer season and canning or preserving them in some way. If you make your own wine, now is the time to gather berries for your recipes.
The season for vegetables, and a wide variety of them, is in the fall. This is the time of year to experiment with yams, various pumpkins, onions, cranberries, and ginger. Pumpkin is at its peak for the year, so if you have a lot of pumpkin-based recipes, now is the time to use them. Remember that you can puree and freeze a lot of the vegetables and use them in soups or sauces all year.
There are a few produce options that are available all year and do not have a specific season. Apples and certain types of oranges are among the fruits available. Avocados, cabbage, and beets are also available. This seasonal breakdown includes the majority of the more popular produce items. If you’re looking for something specific or thinking about growing something, try to match it to something similar. Pineapple, for example, would pair well with other tropical fruits, whereas squash is typically associated with the fall season.
Healthy Breakfasts to Make Ahead of Time
Breakfast meal preparation and planning may not occur to you. In fact, the vast majority of people do not. They believe that eggs or a smoothie will suffice. The truth is that you should consume more calories and nutrients during breakfast, which necessitates more meal prepping. Here are a few healthy breakfast recipes you can prepare ahead of time to ensure you get enough nutrients.
Overnight Oats, Nuts, and Berries
Overnight oats with nuts and berries are a simple and quick breakfast to prepare ahead of time. This breakfast also packs a punch in terms of health benefits. Let’s start with the oatmeal. With the fiber-rich grains, the oats provide smoother digestion and aid in the movement of things through your system. The nuts are high in protein and superfood properties. Berries are also superfoods, providing additional vitamins and energy boosts. Remember that if you use greek yogurt or soy milk as the soaking agent, you’ll get even more protein to get you started in the morning.
Mini frittatas are a good option if you want something a little more filling in the morning. These can be made ahead of time and kept in the refrigerator for up to three or four days. The frittatas are high in protein from the eggs, but they can easily be replaced with a vegan option. You can include spinach for iron, as well as peppers or any other vegetable that provides vitamins or minerals. You can also add a variety of meats to add more depth and protein.
The breakfast sandwich is one of the most popular breakfast items at fast-food restaurants. You can make these ahead of time, freeze them, and eat them whenever you want. The sandwiches are extremely simple, consisting of only English muffins, cheese, a poached egg, and your choice of breakfast meat. Make them ahead of time, wrap them in plastic wrap, and freeze. Thaw them overnight in the refrigerator for a quick microwave breakfast on the go.
Bean Breakfast Burritos
You might not think of beans as a breakfast food, but they are high in protein and minerals. Refried beans, pinto beans, or even black beans can be used. When you combine them with a variety of spices, brown rice, and cheese, you’ve got yourself a great burrito breakfast that gives you what you need when a sweet breakfast just won’t do.
You can always modify your breakfast meal prep to include more of what you require, such as more superfoods or nutrients. Just make sure you plan ahead of time, so you know what you’ll need for each meal and have it on hand at all times.
Meal Prep Tips for Healthy Kids Lunches
You might be able to schedule your lunches fairly easily. You can and will eat a wide variety of foods, and you may be willing to try new things. When it comes to packing your child’s lunch, the trick is to plan ahead of time. It becomes especially difficult if your child has food allergies, is picky, or requires a diet that differs from yours. If this describes your situation and you are about to give up on creating a menu plan for your children, consider the following suggestions.
You don’t want to complicate your children’s lunches. You don’t want to go gourmet on them either. Try to stick to something simple for their lunch that can be easily repeated with minor changes throughout the week. Begin with flavored greek yogurt and fruit, for example. This not only provides them with something sweet, but it also introduces fruit into their diet. It also provides active cultures and probiotics from yogurt to aid digestion. Add a protein to the mix, and you’ve got something filling that will keep them going until lunch.
Make Minor Changes
You may be wondering how you will get the necessary nutrients into your child’s lunch without including foods that he or she will not eat. Consider making small changes that you will notice but your child will not. For example, if you like peanut butter, try nutrient-enriched or fortified nut butter. Instead of regular yogurt, choose greek yogurt to increase their protein and B-vitamin intake. Instead of regular juice, which can be high in sugar, try an organic fruit smoothie. If milk is your drink of choice, try nut-based organic milk instead.
Record Likes and Dislikes
The most important thing to remember when planning healthy lunches for your children is to keep track of what works and what doesn’t. Writing down lunches and keeping each lunch plan on file in an app or index cards is a great way to do this. If your children enjoy it, keep it. If they don’t like something, make a note of it and change it. If they don’t like the meal, toss the card and don’t serve it again. In the future you can plan food and stick to what your kids enjoy. It will help you reduce allergies and determine what your children can eat if healthy changes and adjustments are required.
By incorporating these suggestions, you can improve your chances of developing a solid rotating meal plan that will work for your children’s lunches. Once you’ve determined which meals work for you, you can work on future meal plans to help reduce your food bills and stress.
How to Have Healthy Snacks Ready to Go
When it comes to meal prepping, you most likely have your meals for the week or for lunches figured out. The issue arises when you want a snack, but there is nothing nearby. This can cause you to eat the wrong foods, reach for the wrong snacks, and derail your entire diet plan. Before you go down that road, consider these strategies for having healthy snacks on hand when you or your family need them.
Plan out Equal Snacks
One of the most important steps toward having healthy snacks on hand is to plan them ahead of time. The key is to plan out an equal amount of healthy salty and sweet snacks. You may have days when either would be ideal, so having equal amounts on hand will ensure that you do not run out of either. This means that if you are prepping for a month, you will require a month’s worth of snacks. This may seem obvious, but once you begin the planning process, it is easy to forget. Remember that some snacks, such as granola or trail mix, can be eaten both ways.
Make To-Go Snack Options
When you plan your snacks, you probably assume you’ll be eating them at home. For example, you could make your popcorn for the week ahead of time with your favorite flavorings. However, you may keep it in a container that is not suitable for travel. Instead, consider making single-serving bags of the snack. You can pick it up, throw it in your bag, and go. That way, if you want it, you can grab it, but if you don’t, you can toss it back into the snack drawer with the other snacks.
Snack Drawer Set-Up
Consider putting all of your single-serve pre-made snacks in a snack drawer or bin. This allows you to grab what you want, or a variety of snacks, and go. It also gives you a place to keep a variety of snacks for when you’re in a snack mood. By preparing them ahead of time, you can ensure that you always have something healthy on hand.
Consider Your Lifestyle
When you plan on having snacks on hand and ready to go, you may be thinking about how easy it will be to sit and eat the snack. Sometimes this is simply not possible. If you’re going to be driving or on the go, make sure your snacks are appropriate. This entails being mindful of how you package them. Also, keep in mind that there are some packages that can be reused to reduce waste. These should also be considered.
These suggestions can assist you in having healthy sweet, salty, or mixed snacks on hand. Whatever your cravings are, you’ll be able to find something to snack on or take with you.
Healthy Meal Prep Combinations to Try Out
If you have been meal prepping for a while, you may have already hit a point where your meal preps are not appealing. You may be tired of certain meals or certain foods. You may also find they are not giving you as much energy or fulfillment as they once did. In those cases, there are some changes you could consider. Here are some healthy meal plan combinations to try out and see how they work for you.
Peppers and Eggs
One healthy meal combination, especially for light breakfast eaters, is peppers and eggs. The reason this plan combination works well is due to several benefits offered by both foods. Eggs are known to boost metabolism. This helps the food digest and move through your system at a faster rate while still giving you the various nutrients, like protein, that you need. The peppers offer a solid source of Vitamin C, which helps your immune system fight back infection and illness.
Greek Yogurt and Cinnamon
If you need an energy-boosting lunch that gives you multiple health benefits but is also quick and easy, try the combination of greek yogurt and cinnamon. Greek yogurt offers you a protein boost that traditional yogurt may not have. It also offers probiotics that can help boost your digestive system and help foods digest easily. Cinnamon is known to balance your blood sugar which can help when making dietary changes and if you have issues with diabetes.
Tuna and Ginger Combinations
If you have been known to have digestive issues in the past, one way to counteract that would be with tuna and ginger combinations. The easiest way, of course, is through sushi. The reason this is a good healthy meal plan combination is due to ginger accelerating the gastric system and allowing it to work quickly and effectively. The tuna helps your system by giving you a shot of omega-3 oils that can help with memory.
Corn and Beans
When you think of soups, you may think of beef stews or chicken noodles. Though these are great combinations, another one to consider would be corn and bean-based soups. This gives you several health benefits, including the protein and vitamins found in beans and the glucose found in corn. The combination can be made into a Mexican dish or Italian dish easily as well.
Remember, the biggest change you can make is to add superfoods to your meal plans. By adding these superfoods, you can boost the meal intake potential. You can also boost your overall nutrients, often without increasing your calories.
How to Meal Prep and Plan For Weight Loss
There are various reasons for meal planning and meal prep, but one of the most common is weight loss. Before you jump into meal prepping, thinking you are making the right choices and doing the right prep, there are a few things you need to consider. These considerations will ensure you are making the right meal preps that fit with your diet, your exercise, and above all, your short and long-term weight loss goals.
Consider the Calories You Need
The first thing to do with meal planning for weight loss is to determine the number of calories you will need in a day. There is a misconception about doing this that deals directly with your current weight and what you want to weigh. For example, if you weigh 250 pounds, you may find a chart that says you need 2,000 or more calories a day. You should keep in mind that the number given is to maintain the current weight and not to gain or drop weight. If you want to drop weight, you will need to lower your caloric intake daily to achieve those goals. Once you reach your goal, then you would maintain the same calories to maintain the weight according to health charts or your doctor.
Consider the Workout Amount
Another aspect of creating a good meal prep and meal planning routine for weight loss is to consider your workout amount. This is important and goes hand in hand with caloric intake. For example, you want to reduce the caloric intake and combine that with exercise that will work through the calories to give you the calories you need to function and to achieve your workout-specific goals. For example, if you want to burn 300 or more calories a day, you may want to go with running or something that fits that plan. If you do this, you will need to adjust your meal plan to accommodate that type of workout which means carbs and protein.
Consider What Meals You Are Planning
Now that you know how many calories you will be taking in and the type of workouts you will be doing to burn additional calories, it is time to consider the meals. Your meals should be complementary to your lifestyle and weight loss goals. They should also fit your routine. For example, if you are on the go a lot, then you may want more smoothies and quick fix protein food packs over three full meals a day.
Find a Day to Prep
The most important step to take for meal prep and weight loss is finding a day to prep. If you are doing meal prep and planning for a month at a time, you may want to take a full day to prep your meals or a day of the week that works for that week. The idea is to cut down your stress, get meals together that will last for the week, and make sure you are meeting your dietary goals.
By making sure you have the basics down for meal prep as it relates to your weight loss goals, you can ensure you are making the right choices. Keep in mind; you may need to change some things here and there to accommodate any special medical history or issues you have or to meet goal changes that may come up.
Meal Prepping For Instant Pot Recipes
An instant pot is a type of cooking appliance that uses pressure cooking to cook meals and ingredients quickly. It is becoming increasingly popular among people who want to cook foods in record time, and it is especially useful when cooking a large number of meals on prep day. Here are some things to consider when using an instant pot for healthy meal planning and preparation.
Freeze Ingredients Ahead of Time
One of the reasons the Instant Pot is ideal for meal planning and prepping is that it can cook frozen foods. This is fantastic news because many other cooking methods and appliances do not evenly cook frozen food. It can be inconvenient to have to defrost everything before you can start cooking. However, with an Instant Pot, you simply place your frozen chicken or vegetables in the pot and allow it a little extra time to cook the foods through. It will use pressure cooking rather than direct heat, which is why it is safe to cook when something is frozen.
Start With Simple Recipes
Start with simpler recipes until you’re comfortable with the Instant Pot and how it works. Vegetable side dishes, beans, and eggs are examples of easy-to-prepare foods that can also provide you with nutritious meals. These are very simple foods that can be prepared into delicious and healthy meals without requiring a lot of prep work ahead of time. You should start with the simpler things because the Instant Pot has a variety of settings and cooking variations that you will need to become acquainted with.
Learn the Basics of Using an Instant Pot
This type of pressure cooker is not the same as a slow cooker, so you must understand the distinction. First, you turn on the appliance, then adjust the temperature to your liking and wait for it to count down. Just because it’s turned on doesn’t mean it’s ready for you to add the ingredients and start the cooking process. It, like an oven, must first be preheated to the desired temperature. You should also make sure there is some liquid in the pot every time you cook something, as opposed to a slow cooker, which does not always require it. Before you start experimenting with your own recipes, look up recipes and prepare them first.
Tips For Meal Prepping With Your Slow Cooker
Meal planning usually brings to mind ideas like boneless skinless chicken breasts and steamed vegetables. Though this can be a good meal, there are other meals open to you. In fact, if you have a slow cooker, you have an entire world of meals open to you that take little prep and time. Before you get stuck in a boiled and baked rut, consider these slow cooker options.
Plan Larger Meals
When planning your slow cooker meals, try planning for much larger meals that will completely fill your slow cooker. This will easily provide you with two to three dinners as well as a lunch or two. You don’t even have to eat on it for a week. You can serve the meal for the evening, then take the leftovers and freeze them for later use. This can save you time in the kitchen later in the month and provide you with more meals than you expected for your money. Chili, chicken stew and biscuits, and crockpot lasagna are some ideas for this.
Cook Meats First
Consider making all of the meat first if you have several crockpot meals that call for shredded chicken or pork. Fill a crockpot halfway with chicken or pork, add a cup of water, and cook on low for six to eight hours. This will allow you to cook the meat base for multiple meals at the same time. You can even divide the shredded meat into separate bags with a little broth and no seasoning. When you’re ready to make your meal, take out the meat and season it to taste or add it to your dish. This way, instead of having a lot of taco meat or seasoned meat ready for a specific meal, you’ll have meat ready for any meal.
Plan Longer Meals for Overnight
If you have slow cooker meals that require eight hours of cooking time, consider starting them before you go to bed. Most people sleep six to eight hours per night, which allows you to sleep while the food cooks. You don’t have to worry about it catching fire, and if something goes wrong, you’re still at home. This also means that your meal for the day is prepared and ready to go.
Keep in mind that slow cookers can produce a large amount of food. So, when you make a meal, think about freezing the leftovers or eating them again later in the week. It will save you time and money while also assisting you in sticking to your meal and diet plans.
How Long Do Leftovers Stay Fresh
When it comes to healthy meal planning, you’ll probably want to store some of the prepared ingredients and dishes in the fridge and freezer. It’s also a good idea to save some leftovers for future meals, especially if you don’t want to do any more cooking. In both cases, you’ll need to know how long leftovers last so you can keep your family safe while eating these prepared dishes.
Tips For Storing Foods
Before you begin, it is critical that you understand some of the rules for storing foods and prepared meals. To begin, you should store meat in containers or freezer bags rather than the original package it came in. This ensures that they are airtight and prevents freezer burn. Also, keep in mind that any food you prepare must be cooled before it can be stored. Never try to store or freeze leftovers or a warm meal. Also, label everything with the date it was put in and the used date, so you know when it needs to be thrown away.
Leftovers in the Fridge
Food that has already been prepared and stored in the refrigerator as leftovers must be consumed before the four-day period expires. This is when it is kept in a lidded container or an airtight freezer bag. Never store leftovers that do not have a lid, such as food that is simply sitting on a plate without being covered. It will not keep fresh and may even make someone ill due to contamination.
Food You Shouldn’t Freeze
Salad can be frozen, but it does not freeze well. It is easily freezer burnt, and when removed, it does not taste very good. This is especially true for salad greens and prepared salads. Only keep these in the refrigerator for up to three days. Other salads, such as macaroni, potato, and tuna salad, do not freeze well either. They can be stored in the refrigerator for up to 5 days if the temperature is 40 degrees Fahrenheit or lower.
Fridge and Freezer Times
Now, let’s look at the times for various other foods in the fridge or freezer. In general, refrigerator leftovers, including prepared dishes, should not be eaten after four days. Cooked meat in the freezer, on the other hand, can last between 3 and 6 months if stored properly. The freezing time for fresh meat and seafood varies depending on the type. Bacon and sausage can be frozen for up to two months, while poultry can be kept fresh for up to a year. Luncheon meat should not be stored in the freezer for more than 1-2 months.
Meal Prepping Ingredients That Are Freezer-Friendly
Not all of your meals will be prepared and frozen ahead of time. In some cases, you will simply freeze certain ingredients, which will then be used as prepped parts of a meal, but assembled at a later date. Here are some healthy meal ingredients that can be stored in the freezer.
Your vegetables are the first type of ingredient that works well in the freezer. You’ll appreciate having frozen vegetables on hand, whether it’s greens to tear apart and store in a container for salads or chopped celery, carrots, and corn for soup and stew. Vegetables can be purchased in bulk from health food stores or farmer’s markets and then stored in freezer containers for later use. You don’t even have to defrost them before adding them to some meals if you don’t want to. This prevents your vegetables from spoiling.
Fruit is another item that can be frozen ahead of time. Fruit, like vegetables, can be frozen for a long time and then added to many recipes without thawing. The great thing about frozen fruit is that it thaws quickly, so you don’t have to be concerned about it. Take out a small bag of frozen strawberries, set it on the counter for a few minutes, and it will be ready to add to yogurt in no time. Frozen fruit, such as berries and bananas, is also ideal for morning smoothies.
Chili and Soup Ingredients
Another option is to gather all of the ingredients for a dish, such as chili or soup, and place them in a freezer bag. These can lay flat in your freezer to save space, and it saves you from measuring and prepping when it comes time to cook the meals. Simply remove the bag, place it in a pot or slow cooker, and you’re done.
Easy Freezer Meals For Your Family
When meal prepping and planning healthy meals, you may want to freeze some of the meals ahead of time. This allows you to cook the meals ahead of time, freeze them, and then simply reheat them when it’s time to eat. It not only saves you time and energy during the week, but it also keeps you from opting for unhealthy, convenient options.
Stop driving through the golden arches if you like breakfast sandwiches in the morning! You can make a healthier version at home and even freeze it so that all you have to do is grab and go. To begin, crack an egg into each of the muffin pan’s slots. The muffin pan will then be placed in the oven to cook the eggs. After they’ve been cooked and cooled, stuff them into an English muffin with whatever meat or veggies you want on your sandwich, as well as a slice of cheese. Wrap them individually in plastic wrap and place them in the freezer until ready to eat.
Baked Macaroni and Cheese
Many people enjoy macaroni and cheese as comfort food, but they don’t always have time to make it from scratch. If you’re trying to eat healthier, make it from scratch rather than using a box with processed powdered cheese. Whole wheat noodles, Cheddar and low-fat cottage cheese, cream, and vegetables such as spinach or broccoli are used in a healthier version. Bake it ahead of time, let it cool, and then freeze the entire container.
Veggie Lasagna Rolls
Lasagna rolls are similar to a lasagna dish, except that each lasagna noodle is rolled up with the ingredients inside. You can make it even healthier by replacing the cheese and meat sauce with all vegetables. The more vegetables you use, the less cheese you will use. Zucchini can also be used as the actual lasagna noodles, making it even healthier. If you prefer a meat sauce, substitute ground turkey for beef and add some spinach inside for extra nutrition.
Whew! you made it to the end of the guide that shows you the basics of meal prepping, health benefits, tools, seasons, breakfast, lunches for the kids, meal prep snacks, awesome combinations, and even what to do with the leftovers you can’t finish at once.
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