“Meal prepping” has become a popular lifestyle phenomenon almost overnight. In many cosmopolitan cities, cupboards are filled with to the brim with Tupperware containers for the 9-5 lot to take their lunch into work with them, cutting costs and staying healthy. Fitness gurus and trainers encourage the practice to help ensure a healthy diet.
So what is meal prepping, and is it right for your fitness plan? Let’s have a look.
What is Meal Prepping?
Meal prepping (short for “preparation”) is a term frequently used to describe the act of preparing meals ahead of time. For people who work full-time, preparing their meals for the Monday to Friday ahead can save a lot of time in the week.
Meal prepping is a great cost cutter. Much cheaper than buying lunch near work every day, it also guarantees that you know what you’ll be eating (no more pre-packed sandwiches!). By putting some time aside at the weekend or beginning of the week to plan, purchase and prepare your lunches, you’ll save a lot of money (buying in bulk is always cheapest!).
Most importantly, meal prepping is a great way to stay on top of your fitness goals. While fitness is a combination of both diet and exercise, the “diet” part can often be the hardest to stay on top of. It can seem much easier to pop to the sandwich shop at lunch, but by creating these habits, you could be missing out on a lot of healthy-eating opportunities.
When you prepare your own lunch, you know the ingredients are of a good quality, that the food is fresh, and that it’s delicious! You don’t have to be a chef to meal prep: a lot of meals are simpler than they appear, and you make it work for you. Also, there is a wide selection of videos, fitness personalities and social media guides to make cooking easier than ever before!
That sounds great, but… I don’t want to spend one whole day preparing meals!
Thankfully, meal prepping is also a massive time-saver. All you need is to put aside two to three hours a week to do a shop and whip up some batch meals. You can also split the prepping, for example, by preparing Monday to Wednesday meals on Sunday and the rest of the week’s meals on Wednesday evening!
Essentially, meal prepping is a convenient, quick and cost-cutting way to keep in shape!
Okay! How do I get started?
First of all: Tupperware! If you’re going to be bringing meals into work every day, you need to make sure you have containers to keep the food in. While these come in a wide range (in both price and quality), the main elements are for them to be BPA-free, and leak and microwave proof.
However, if you plan on using them often, it may be better to invest in good quality containers.
No one wants to open their bag at 9am and see a Bolognese all over their work…!
Big question: what should I be meal-prepping?
If you’re unsure of what to be making, no need to worry! The internet and social media are awash with excellent sources of inspiration. BBC Good Food is a great go-to for recipes. They’ve got a wide selection of categories, including for batch cooking and for cooking with dietary restrictions.
Also, personal trainers and nutrition experts, such as Joe Wicks, are a fantastic source of inspiration for quick and healthy meals which will compliment your exercise regime.
Let’s have a look at a sample week of meal-prepping to get the creative juices flowing.
Meal Prepping Time!
Idea 1: Cashew curry
1 small onion, chopped
3-4 garlic cloves
thumb-sized piece ginger, peeled and roughly chopped
3 green chillies, deseeded
small pack coriander, leaves picked and stalk roughly chopped
100g unsalted cashews
2 tbsp. coconut oil
1 ½ tbsp. garam masala
400g can chopped tomatoes
450ml chicken stock
3 large chicken breasts (about 475g), any visible fat removed, chopped into chunks
155g fat-free Greek yogurt
10ml single cream (optional)
165g boiled or steamed greens (choose from spinach, kale, runner beans, asparagus or broccoli)
Put the onion, garlic, ginger, chillies and coriander stalks in a small food processor and blitz to a paste.
Heat a large, non-stick frying pan over a medium heat. Add the cashews and toast for 1-2 mins until light golden. Set aside and return the pan to the heat. Add the oil and stir-fry the paste for 5 mins to soften. Then, add the garam masala and cook for a further 2 mins.
Now add the tomatoes and stock to the pan. Mix well, then tip into a blender with the cashews and blitz until smooth. Return to the pan, season and bring to the boil, then lower to a simmer.
Cook for 30 mins until the sauce has thickened then add the chicken, cover with a lid and simmer for another 15 mins, until the chicken is cooked through. Add the yogurt and cream (if using), and stir well to make a creamy sauce.
Scatter with the coriander leaves and serve with the greens.
Idea 2: Steak & broccoli protein pots
250g pack wholegrain rice mix with seaweed
2 tbsp. chopped sushi ginger
4 spring onions, the green part finely chopped, the white halved lengthways and cut into lengths
160g broccoli florets, cut into bite-sized pieces
225g lean fat-trimmed fillet steak
Tip the rice mix into a bowl and stir in the ginger, chopped onion greens and 4 tbsp. water. Add the broccoli and the spring onion whites, but keep the onions together, on top, as you will need them in the next step. Cover with cling film, pierce with the tip of a knife and microwave for 5 mins.
Meanwhile heat a non-stick frying pan and sear the steak for 2 mins each side, then set aside. Take the onion whites from the bowl and add to the pan so they char a little in the meat juices while the steak rests.
Tip the rice mixture into 2 large packed lunch pots. Slice the steak, pile the charred onions on top and seal until you’re ready to eat (see tip below).
Let Us Know Your Favourite Meal-Prepping Recipes!
We would love to hear from you on this topic! Let us know your favourite recipes, and how you managed the transition to meal-prepping. Anything that saves money and contributes to a healthy lifestyle is good in our books!