What Meals Can You Meal Prep: A Step-By-Step Guide for Beginners

If you’re wondering what meals can you meal prep, you’ve come to the right place. In this comprehensive guide, we’ll go through each step, ensuring even beginners can confidently dive into meal prepping.

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Types of Meals You Can Meal Prep

When it comes to answering the question, “What meals can you meal prep?”, it’s essential to explore different types of meals that are not only tasty but also hold up well when made in advance. Here we dive deeper into four types of meals perfect for meal prepping:

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Salads

Salads are a great meal prep option due to their versatility and ease of preparation. The key to a great prepped salad is to keep the components separate until you’re ready to eat. Here’s how:

  • Greens: Start with a sturdy base like kale or spinach that won’t wilt easily.
  • Proteins: Add proteins like grilled chicken, boiled eggs, or tofu. Store these separately.
  • Dressings: Make your dressing ahead of time and store it in a separate small container.
  • Extras: Nuts, seeds, or croutons can add crunch but should also be stored separately to avoid sogginess.

Casseroles

Casseroles are ideal for meal prep because they are easily reheatable and stay good for days when stored correctly.

  • Ingredients: Choose ingredients that have similar cooking times, like pasta, cheese, and vegetables.
  • Cooking: Bake your casserole and allow it to cool completely before storing.
  • Reheating: Casseroles can typically be reheated in the oven or microwave, covered with foil.
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Stir-fries

Stir-fries make for quick and delicious meals. The key is to prep your ingredients in advance so that cooking takes just a few minutes.

  • Proteins: Have proteins like chicken, shrimp, or tofu sliced and marinated.
  • Veggies: Cut vegetables like bell peppers, carrots, and broccoli into bite-sized pieces.
  • Sauce: Prepare a stir-fry sauce ahead of time and store separately.

Soups

Soups are perfect for meal prep because they can be made in large batches and frozen for later use.

  • Base: Start with a good-quality broth or stock for the best flavor.
  • Ingredients: Choose vegetables and proteins that freeze well, such as potatoes, carrots, and chicken.
  • Storing: Allow the soup to cool completely before portioning it into airtight containers for freezing.

Oils and Fats

Fats and oils are crucial for cooking and flavor. The choice of oil can impact the health benefits and shelf-life of your meals.

  • Storage-Stable Oils: Olive oil and avocado oil are good options because they can be stored at room temperature and have health benefits.
  • Flavorful Fats: Coconut oil or ghee can add distinct flavors to your meals but should be used sparingly due to their saturated fat content.
  • Temperature: Consider the smoke point of oils if you are cooking at high temperatures. Oils like grapeseed or canola are better suited for high-heat cooking.

Sauces and Condiments

Sauces and condiments can elevate the taste of your meal-prepped items, but choosing the right ones can also help extend their shelf life.

  • Store-bought: Many store-bought sauces and dressings have preservatives that increase shelf life but check for added sugar and sodium.
  • Homemade: Making sauces at home allows control over ingredients but consider their storage life. Tomato-based sauces tend to last longer than dairy-based ones.
  • Storage: Keep sauces and dressings in separate containers to avoid making your meal soggy before you eat it.
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Snacks and Sides

Completing your meal prep often involves more than just main courses; snacks and sides are equally important.

  • Fruits: Opt for fruits that have a longer shelf life like apples and oranges as opposed to softer fruits like berries that can spoil easily.
  • Nuts and Seeds: These are perfect for adding crunch and protein to your snacks. Store in a cool, dry place.
  • Chips and Crackers: If you’re opting for processed snacks, look for whole-grain options and check the sodium content.

Choosing the Right Ingredients

When pondering the question, “What meals can you meal prep?”, one of the crucial steps is selecting the right ingredients. These will not only influence the taste but also the longevity and nutritional value of your prepped meals. Here’s a comprehensive guide on how to pick the right ingredients:

Proteins

Proteins are the building blocks of your meals and can range from animal-based to plant-based options.

  • Animal Proteins: Consider versatile options like chicken breasts, ground turkey, or fish. These can be baked, grilled, or sautéed and used in multiple meals.
  • Plant Proteins: Tofu, tempeh, and various legumes like lentils and chickpeas are great plant-based proteins. They are easy to cook and store well.
  • Preparation: For convenience, you might choose pre-cooked options like rotisserie chicken or canned tuna, but make sure to check sodium levels and other additives.

Vegetables

Vegetables add color, fiber, and essential nutrients to your meal prep.

  • Sturdy Vegetables: Options like carrots, bell peppers, and broccoli withstand the test of time better than softer vegetables like tomatoes and zucchini.
  • Frozen Vegetables: These are pre-cut and sometimes pre-cooked, making them a time-saving option. Plus, they are often frozen at peak freshness.
  • Preparation: Consider roasting, steaming, or stir-frying your vegetables. Some methods, like roasting, can enhance the flavor and longevity.
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Grains and Carbs

Grains and carbs serve as the energy source in your meal prep, but choosing the right ones can make a significant difference.

  • Whole Grains: Options like quinoa, brown rice, and whole-wheat pasta are not only nutritious but also have a longer shelf life when cooked.
  • Preparation: Cook these in bulk but remember that grains like rice should be cooled quickly to reduce the risk of bacterial growth.

Dairy and Alternatives

For those who consume dairy, it’s crucial to choose types that will last through the week.

  • Hard Cheeses: These have a longer shelf life compared to soft cheeses and can be grated or sliced ahead of time.
  • Plant-Based Alternatives: Almond milk, oat milk, and coconut yogurt are good plant-based options and often have a longer shelf life than their dairy counterparts.

Herbs and Spices

Herbs and spices add flavor without added calories or sodium. Go for fresh herbs that can last the week like rosemary and thyme, or go for dried herbs and spices which have a longer shelf life.

Step-by-Step Guide to Meal Prepping

Now that you have an idea about what meals can you meal prep, let’s look at the step-by-step process:

  1. Plan Your Meals: Decide the meals you want to prep for the week.
  2. Make a Shopping List: List down all the ingredients you’ll need.
  3. Shop: Purchase the ingredients from your list.
  4. Prepare Ingredients: Wash, cut, and portion out your ingredients.
  5. Cook: Follow your meal recipes to cook the dishes.
  6. Store: Portion meals into containers and store appropriately.

Storage Tips

Proper storage is essential when you’re deciding what meals can you meal prep. Use airtight containers and label them with dates. Refrigerate meals that will be eaten within 3-4 days and freeze the rest.

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