Save Time and Money: Top Tips To Meal Prep and Organise Your Pantry
Here are my top tips to make meal prep easy for a hassle free week of yummy healthy meals.
- Make one bulk slow-cooked meal on the weekend. (I do mine on a Sunday whilst I’m cleaning.) Freeze into containers for back up meals or lunches.
- Make a huge salad to last you a few days. Use well dried cos lettuce leaves, whole cherry tomatoes and hard veggies like capsicum and carrot to last you most of the week. Softer veggies like cucumber, cut tomato, small celery pieces etc go soggy quickly.
- Identify busy nights where cooking is hard. Personally, I get home late on Mondays and Thursdays, so whatever meals I plan for those nights has to be fast and easy. With my salad already prepped, that usually involves cooking some simple protein to go with it. I also keep pre-frozen containers of rice and quinoa that I can defrost and toss through my pre-made salad for a healthy carb hit.
- Hate packing lunches? So do I. Therefore, I make extra dinner to cover lunch the next day too.
- Ask for help. Even if your fella (or girlfriend) doesn’t like to cook, invest the time in showing them a few simple meals, or ask them to cover the clean up. It makes the world of difference.
- Keep fast eats in your cupboard. Whilst a fried egg, piece of grilled cheese toast and bag of steamfresh veggies might not be very fancy, it’s a pretty well balanced meal that’s cheaper than dirt and takes less than 5 minutes to make.
- Budget for a blow out night. I’ve made peace with the fact that, despite my best laid plans and good intentions, there’s usually one night each week where my Meal Plan goes into the F*cket Bucket. Inevitably, I wind up at our local Thai joint or ordering some grilled fish (yes, and chips!) on the fly. Therefore, I only plan 5 meals out of 7 each week (one night takeaway, one night socially eating out) and budget $30 for this takeaway splurge.
- Cut your veggies up before they go into the fridge. With the aid of my wonderful partner, we spend an hour together after a weekend shop to wash, prep and put veggies into containers in the fridge. Whilst an hour of time on your weekend might seem like a huge sacrifice, bulk prep is so much more efficient, saving hours down the line and making the whole week run so much smoother.
- Invest in a vegetable mandolin and spiraliser. These simple convenience devices make chopping veggies so much easier and faster!
*Please note: This tip is not recommended if you are pregnant or immunocompromised.
TAKE A TOUR OF MY HOME MFC KITCHEN
And see what I mean…
As I was creating this worksheet, it occurred to me that it might help you to actually see what I’m talking about.
Hand over heart, I got up from my desk and photographed my fridge and cupboard without organising what was there or doing any additional prep. That’s because the tips I’m talking about have become my modus operandi, a habit I don’t have to think about. And they can for you too!
This is my fridge:
Note that I’ve purchased containers for my bulk food prep which neatly fit the space I’ve got to work with. I collected these over a period of a couple of months – tuppaware’s expensive so I didn’t do it all at once! Truthfully, I would much prefer them to be glass but I couldn’t find a plastic alternative in large enough sizes. The smaller jars are shatterproof glass or leftover food jars.
Here are onions pre-chopped and stored in oil with a little salt. So handy to scoop out and use straight away! (I picked up this great tip from the fabulous Paterson’s Cooking School.)
Planning a quick dinner makes life easy! Here is a packet of dry falafel mix reconstituting with a little water for a fast dinner tonight:
Red cabbage shredded for Korean taco’s later this week. Veggie sticks up the back on hand for a healthy snack to go with hummus.
Leftover Spring Rolls from last night’s dinner. A.K.A today’s lunch!
Sprung! I have a definite sweet tooth. These brownies are sweetened with pumpkin puree, coconut sugar and stevia. Mind you, sometimes I have the ‘real deal’ on hand too. Depends on what my body feels like!
Grated pumpkin is so handy to sweeten cakes, muffins, pudding pancakes and frittatas. Small cubes of pumpkin roast quickly to toss through a salad or add to any meal.
My juicing box is looking a little sad! Down to the last few dregs but beats having no juice at all 😉
Finally – my pantry! Although this isn’t a ‘meal prep’ tip exactly, having a well organised pantry makes cooking MILES more pleasant. Do you notice how I’ve grouped items in similar categories? Flours, oils, sauces, baking needs, nuts, seeds, can, pastas etc are all in certain spots so that I can grab things quickly. Plus, I can see what I’ve got to use up soon and it saves me doubling up on the shopping list!
(And no, I don’t store yoghurt in the cupboard! That tub up top has milk kefir culturing for tomorrow’s breakfast.)
PIMP MY MEALS…
Having a few ‘staple’ condiments on hand makes transforming drab meals to fab flavours super easy!
Try stocking up on these few items to pimp up your veggies, salads, wraps, sandwiches and stirfrys…
- Infused olive oils (lemon, garlic or truffle are great options) with balsamic glaze,
- Tamari roasted almonds,
- Truffle oil & porcini salt,
- Yeast flakes,
- Dried wakame flakes, toasted sesame & soy sauce,
- Dried fruit & nuts (I love pistachio & dried cranberries),
- Ras el hanout (this is a Moroccan spice blend available from high end supermarkets or specialty stores. Sprinkle over roast veggies for an instant flavour boost.)
- Dried blueberries (add to salads with blue vein cheese – now THAT is what I’m talkin’ about!)
#MFC Meal Planner
Beautiful humans, please note: This Meal Planner is NOT designed with the intention of calorie counting, controlling food or needing to stick to a set plan.
It IS designed to empower you to be organised in eating meals that appeal to you taste-wise, as well as helping you to feel good.
Also, because cooking can be a time-waster and shopping can be a budget blower, I really find that creating a Meal Plan saves me loads of time and dollars.
In reality, I don’t necessarily stick to the meal that I allocate for certain nights. That’s where mindful and intuitive eating comes into play. Each night, I pick from my list a dinner that actually sings to my soul.
Also, I never plan specific amounts. My intention is to eat from a place of comfortable fullness, so I don’t have portioned amounts. Here’s the template I start with:
(For Breakfast & Snacks, these only have one space as they tend to be fairly similar day in and day out)
Here is an example of how I actually use my Meal Planner
Steve porridge & fruit
|D||Falafel wraps||Chicken Salad||Zucchini Fritters||Salmon||Vego Mexican|
|Snacks||Fruit, yoghurt, nuts/figs/darkchocolate, pumpkin brownies|
Even though I’ve allocated ‘Chicken Salad’ on Monday night, I might make Mexican if I feel like it instead and switch those around.
However, Mondays & Thursdays are usually pretty set, as I pick fast meals on those nights as I’m tight for time on those nights.
Two nights are left blank to account for my ‘take out’ night and a day on the weekend socialising.
Then it’s a matter of simply jotting down the ingredients I need to go with everything. I also quickly check my cupboard for staple stuff I’m low on, then add that too. So my final shopping list might look like this:
- Nut milks
- Peppermint essence
- Cacao nibs
- Porridge sachets
- Mt Bread Spelt Wraps
- Falafel Mix
- Chickpea flour
- Refried beans
- Canned tomatoes
- Canned corn
- Pure corn tortillas
- Olive oil
- Coconut sugar
- Dishwash liquid
- Laundry liquid
- Toilet Paper
- Health & Beauty:
- *Weekly salad stuff
- Steve breakfast fruit
- 4 x Zucchinis
- Chicken Breast
- New kombucha jars
*After many times doing this, I’ve got a good feel for the routine salad and juicing ingredients I need to last a week. If you’re new to this and wondering how much salad stuff to buy for two people, try the following: 1 iceberg lettuce, 2 capsicums, 2 tubs cherry tomatoes, ¼ red cabbage, 3 carrots, then also grab a bag of frozen veggies that you can defrost and use instead if you run out of fresh salad before the week’s over.
All up, this exercise takes me about 10 minutes on the weekend if I’m sticking to meals that I know. If I’m searching for new recipe inspiration, it takes longer; however, that’s by choice and because I love exploring new ideas with food!
Please tell me your tips for easy meal planning in the comments below!