Meal Prep for Beginners
While restaurant food is delicious, it’s definitely not always the most affordable--or the healthiest--option. For some, cooking at home can feel daunting because we don’t know what to make, don’t love being in the kitchen, or feel like we just don’t have the time. Below are a few tips to turn even a kitchen novice into a savvy meal-prepper:
Batch cooking: If you are going to bother cooking, make more of what you already intend to eat, and make use of your freezer! Almost everything freezes well, as long as you know how to package and defrost it. For example, making 4 servings of veggie or meat chili is just as simple as making 8 or 12 servings! Just double or triple the recipe, and throw portioned-out tupperwares of it into the freezer to get you through several weeks of lunches or dinners.
Get the right stuff: Speaking of batch cooking, having the right storage containers really does make a difference. Food can get freezer burn pretty quickly in plastic containers, which is why I love glass with locking lids. They are also really excellent to take to the office with you because they can be thrown into the microwave without gross plastic leaching into your food, and they won’t leak in your bag! Invest in the right storage containers, and you will be excited to fill them up with all kinds of meal-prepped yummy goodness.
Eat what you like: As a beginner, it can be overwhelming to figure out what to cook every day. There are literally millions of recipes online, and if you are anything like me, your cookbook can be more of a decoration than a technical tool. The answer? Cook what you like! Craving Chinese takeout? Make sure you have hoisin sauce, sesame oil, fresh ginger, and garlic on hand at all times, and a gorgeous stir fry is only moments away!
Use a fifty/fifty ratio of store-bought to pantry/fridge-supplied: As mentioned above, having the right pantry ingredients can make all the difference when thinking through your meal prep. If you go home to an empty pantry and refrigerator, you won’t get much done. Having ready-made sauces, marinades, shredded veggies, store-bought tortillas, stocks, and curries can take a potentially 2-hour meal prep down to 30 minutes. Bringing home a store-bought rotisserie chicken can take you down a dozen different delicious paths--from quick chicken pot pie, to coq au vin, to thai chicken green curry.
Mise en place: French for “everything in its place”, mise en place is in every professional chef’s toolkit for a reason. Basically, it means having all of the components of the dish you are making pre-measured, minced, chopped, washed, de-seeded, and just generally prepared before you start any actual cooking. The actual cooking process for many home recipes can take 5-10 minutes if you have your mise en place all organized and ready to go. Bonus points for batch prepping all your mise en place for the week and having it ready to go in the refrigerator for when you come home!