29 January, 2022

Meal prepping or batch cooking has become increasingly popular in recent years. The idea is to cook a meal or elements of a meal in larger quantities, then divide it up into portions and ready to grab and go when mealtimes come around.

It’s all about making life easy when it comes to making food decisions. You can take the thinking out of what’s for lunch or dinner. Making it easier to choose a healthy option when it’s late in the day or when tiredness takes over your decision-making.

So here are our top tips:

Choose what type of prepper you want to be.

A lot will depend on the time you can spend prepping and what storage capacity you have. Options to think about:

  • High level of time and space required for Batch cooking for the freezer– cooking several dishes you can portion up and freeze to dip into in the weeks ahead.
  • Medium level of time and space required for Make-ahead meals – cooking complete meals for a couple of days ahead, maybe twice a week, that you can simply pull out the fridge and eat or reheat each day.
  • Low level of time and space required – prepping ingredients ahead of time to use in cooking – some ingredients will keep for a few days, others you can freeze to pull out ready to go.

Think carefully about what you want to prep.

Start off small and focus on one meal that pains you, such as breakfast or lunch.

You may want to simply plan a day ahead, for example, for preparing overnight oats for breakfast you could throw oats chopped fruit, and milk in a mason jar and place them in the fridge ready to go first thing in the morning. You could do this each night whilst making dinner.

Or you could plan your lunches for the week ahead, and make a large batch of soup, packed with a variety of vegetables, that you could eat each day. Thinking this through before you move on to your meal choices will help save you time and effort.

Choose your dishes.

There are lots of recipes that can be used for meal prepping. Many of your favourite dishes will be perfect to adapt to larger quantities. Remember, some foods keep fresher for longer than others. Things like rice should be cooked and eaten on the same day. Here are some ideas below to get you started:

  • Freezing options – lasagne, curries, chilli, soups, casseroles, ratatouille, turkey Bolognese, fish mash topped pie, banana bread, flapjacks.
  • Make-ahead meal options – vegetable and noodle bowls, roasted chicken breast, mixed bean or pasta salads, Greek or niçoise salads – remember to leave dressings and sauces on the side.
  • Ingredient prep options – many individual elements of dishes such as vegetables and pasta can be prepped and/or cooked ahead of time and frozen ready for use. In addition, think about cooking extra portions when roasting or cooking vegetables and freeze them ready for next time. All these mini-preps can save you time.

Top tip: Write a shopping list, making sure you note the quantities you will need before you do your weekly shop. There’s nothing more upsetting than not having enough or missing one key ingredient!

Set aside some time and combine activities.

To begin with, you will have to build meal prep into your routine. It’s best to block off some time to get it done.  You’ll feel the benefit in the time you save and how happy you feel with yourself for eating healthily. You may want to combine it with other activities – you could block some time off on a Sunday morning where you get your cooking underway and then do an online exercise class whilst it’s cooking – healthy eating + more exercise = two healthy habits sorted!

Storage – Think about how you want to store your prepped food. There are plenty of alternatives to plastic, such as pyrex, ceramic or stainless steel. When buying you need to look for a leak-proof and hardwearing design that’s easy to care for. If you can, choose designs that nest together to take up less room in your fridge or freezer.

Reheating food safely is an important part of food prepping – Cool foods quickly. Ideally cooked food should be placed in the fridge or freezer within two hours of cooking. Thaw frozen meals in your fridge and not on your worktop.

Ensure any reheated foods are hot before serving.  Food should only be reheated once. The more times you cool and reheat food, the higher the risk of food poisoning. Frozen meals should be reheated and eaten within 24 hours of defrosting.

Label and date your containers so that you can consume foods within a safe period. Refrigerated meals should be consumed within 3–4 days and frozen meals within 3–6 months.

Check out our Prevention Hub for more advice and tips on eating a healthy diet.

If you’ve found this article helpful, please consider making a donation today to support our work.

With your help, we can act NOW to prevent breast cancer in the future. With your support, fewer people will hear the words “you have breast cancer” and experience the devastating impact this disease brings.

Breast Cancer UK’s brand new recipe e-book is out now! Download (for free) ‘Organic Flavours’ today. What are you waiting for? Get cooking. 

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