Meal prep might be the best-kept secret of those who maintain a consistently healthy eating routine. Knowing how to meal prep efficiently will stock your fridge and freezer with dozens of delicious dishes that will last for the whole week.
This ritual can be the make-or-break factor that helps you stay on track with your diet and achieve your wellness goals rather than resorting to last-minute cooking improvisations.
Knowing how to meal prep lowers the amount of time you spend cooking on weeknights, cramming your dishwasher, and worrying about fulfilling your macro needs.
Learn how to master the art of meal prepping so you can easily support your ketogenic diet.
What Is Meal Prep?
Meal prep consists of selecting, planning, and preparing a big batch of dishes that you can store in your fridge for up to a week (or freeze for a couple of months or more).
Regardless of how you decide to use this technique, the main goal remains the same: to have readily available, healthy meals that support your keto and nutritional needs, while removing any stress from cooking.
You can adjust your weekly meal prep session to fit your needs and schedule. Maybe you’d rather go out on Saturday night and do your cooking on Sunday afternoon or evening. Or maybe Monday is your day off and that works better for you.
Whatever you decide, you can quickly learn how to meal prep healthy recipes. If you have kids, meal prep can be a fun way to involve them in the cooking process and show them the importance of preparing their own food.
Plus, there’s an oddly satisfying feeling when you open your fridge and see all the meal prep containers beautifully lined up and filled with delicious, keto-friendly food that you’ll get to enjoy throughout the week.
Why Should You Meal Prep?
Apart from avoiding stressful situations in the kitchen during your work week, meal prep is useful for many other reasons:
- Save money: You won’t spend as much of your hard-earned money on takeout and you’ll reduce food waste.
- Save time: You won’t waste precious minutes (or hours) fussing around the kitchen or trying to improvise last-minute meals.
- Have full control over the ingredients and portions: By meal prepping, you can mindfully portion out the correct macros for a balanced keto meal.
- Eat healthier: Meal prepping can prevent you from resorting to less nutritious foods or high-carb options.
How to Meal Prep: Planning, Shopping, and Storage
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If this is your first time meal prepping, this guide will set you up for success. Here are six tips to kickstart your journey.
#1: Choose One Meal
You don’t have to stress over preparing every meal for your entire week. Instead, try picking one meal: breakfast, lunch, or dinner. Choose the one that you struggle with finding the time to cook.
For example, if you start early in the morning and like to hit the snooze button, breakfast meal prepping might be for you. On the other hand, if you end up having lunch at your desk while browsing emails, lunch meal prep could be the way to go. Or if you work night shifts and want to leave something prepared for the rest of the family, then dinner meal prep might be your main focus.
#2: Pick Your Method
To start meal prepping, you can take two different approaches: full meal prep or prepping meal elements.
- Full meal prep: This method consists of packing a full meal into a container. This option is great for portion control and it keeps things simple — you just have to heat it up and enjoy.
- Prepping meal elements: This option consists of preparing the most common ingredients you consume throughout your week — like roasted zucchini or chicken breasts — and batch cook each one separately. You can then mix and match them as you please to keep things fun.
You can also combine both meal prep techniques to avoid repeating the same meals all the time.
#3: Start Meal Planning
Meal planning is one of the most important parts of meal prepping. During this step, you pick the recipes that you’ll be batch cooking.
Choosing the perfect meal prep recipes isn’t hard, but there are a couple of things to keep in mind:
- Pick recipes that are easily portioned out — for example, Crock-Pots yield large amounts that can be split up into meals.
- Choose recipes with ingredients that will maintain their freshness longer, such as the cabbage in this low-carb romanesco.
- Opt for recipes that you can freeze and quickly reheat.
- Prepare big batches of the most versatile keto foods and use them in different combinations. For example, you can make cauliflower rice, use it as a side dish with this crispy skin salmon, toss it with your favorite roasted veggies, or even use leftovers to prepare a keto pizza for Sunday lunch when you have more time to spare.
It’s also vital to keep your keto meal plan diversified to stay engaged in your low-carb diet. Try new recipes each week to experiment with different ingredients and learn more about keto foods.
#4: Make Your Shopping List and Head to the Grocery Store
The next step is to prepare your grocery list, using the meal plan you’ve just devised. Here are a few tips on how to make grocery shopping easy and budget-friendly:
- Create a master shopping list.
- Check off the ingredients you already have. Look through your pantry and fridge — you might already have some of the ingredients at home.
- Organize your shopping list by sections (fruits, veggies, meat, etc.) to avoid going through the same aisle more than once.
- Opt for ingredients that are in season as they’re usually more affordable and taste better.
- Check your favorite grocery store’s upcoming discounts or available coupons and adjust your meal plan accordingly.
- Stick diligently to your shopping list to stay well within your monthly budget and avoid unnecessary purchases.
One more thing: Have a keto-friendly snack before you head to the grocery store. Going shopping when you’re hungry might make you reach for a high-carb treat that can hinder your keto goals.
Read next: The Top 10 Tips for Doing Keto on a Budget
#5: Pick Your Food Containers
Food storage containers will become your new obsession once you learn how to meal prep.
- Airtight containers: These are designed to keep food fresh for longer periods of time. Airtight containers are great to preserve the original flavors of food items (like coffee beans and spices) and to prevent cookies and crackers from going stale.
- Mason jars: If you don’t have time to prepare your keto smoothie in the morning, you can blend it the night before, store it inside a mason jar, and grab it as you leave the house for work the next day.
- Glass containers: Even though glass containers are breakable, this useful option can be used to freeze and reheat meals safely. Therefore, if you’re planning to use both your oven and microwave to warm up your food, they might be a good investment.
- Plastic containers: These are a last resort, but plastic is lighter and easier to carry than glass. These are good for salads, snacks, and nuts. Just look for the BPA-free sign as this compound is commonly used in plastic production and can be harmful to your health[*]. Never heat plastic of any kind.
#6: Label Everything
Once you’re done with cooking, make sure you add the name of the dish and the preparation date to the food container. This is especially important if you’re freezing your meals. You’ve probably found yourself more than once staring at a frozen food box, trying to guess what’s inside and when you cooked it.
Labeling things is also useful if you’re cooking for others. If someone in your household has food allergies or is on a special diet (like vegan or vegetarian), make a note on the container to avoid confusion.
Knowing How to Meal Prep Will Support Your Ketogenic Journey
Hopefully, you now understand why meal prepping is such a crucial tool to keep you on track with your healthy eating goals. Starting this routine is especially important if you have a very busy schedule throughout the week, and find it difficult to stick to your keto diet.
Follow the simple tips and recommendations in this beginner’s guide and you’ll be on your way to becoming a meal prep expert. You might even end up meal prepping more than one daily meal.
Keto meal prepping is one of the best ways to help you stay in ketosis and fulfill all your macronutrient requirements. For more meal prep inspiration, check out these easy keto-friendly recipe ideas: