The FFF Complete Guide to Meal Prep

Thinking about meal prepping? Whatever your questions, we have them answered here. Fresh Fitness Food provides the UK’s freshest meal prep & delivery service, so whether you’re totally new to meal prep or a seasoned pro looking for inspiration, our expert nutritionists have all your questions answered here.

What is Meal Prep?

Meal prep is the activity of preparing your meals in advance, often for the upcoming week of work. Meal prep could be just your lunches or could include everything from breakfast to dinner and healthy snacks in-between.

The Benefits of Meal Prepping

Meal prepping makes sure you’re, well, prepared! Sounds obvious, but preparing meals in advance has so many benefits.

Sticking to healthier foods

Think about it, you’re out and about at lunchtime and various shops or restaurants have various options; many of which may be expensive and not that great for productivity in the afternoons. Prepping your meals at the start of the week means you already have food that removes the lunchtime decision, which can often be a random one. 

Most “meal deals” become the go-to when out and about. Often, they are loaded with sugar, very calorie dense (provide a high amount of calories, without much volume) or simply just don’t really satiate you (make you feel full) afterwards, meaning not only a slump in the afternoon but you’re more likely to reach for snacks you may not need. 

Saves time

The thing that can put a lot of people off prepping meals in advance is the time it takes to make what can be upwards of 5 meals per week. However, think about how much time you spend looking for something half decent to eat when you’re on the go. That time spent searching, queuing etc can add up. With meals prepared in advance, you may find that you can spend lunchtimes on a walk, or at the gym; quality time for yourself and your wellbeing.

Keeps you on track with the numbers

Prepping meals simply means choosing what you eat. At Fresh Fitness Food all of our meal prep delivery plans are reviewed by a nutritionist, and we tailor meal plans to our clients goals. It’s similar with meal prep you perform at home – you are in control. Having the option to weigh out ingredients for meals you enjoy means you know what you’re putting in your body – total calories, macronutrients – often planning ahead with what you are consuming can mean you stick to your nutritional goals.

Side note: unsure about Macronutrients? Check out our macronutrient video overview

Saves money

Doing small food shops every evening, ordering takeaways or grabbing things on the go quickly adds up – often at a very alarming rate! Bulk buying ingredients and purchasing for fewer recipes will likely help you reduce your food spend over time.

Minimises food waste

Rather than giving in to enticing offers and buying countless things you may not actually require, you are making sure you are only purchasing the ingredients you need. This will help to avoid the need to throw away unused, out of date items.

Reduces your ‘what to cook for dinner stress’

Often an overlooked point when it comes to meal prep, but if you sort out your dinners too you’ll reduce decision fatigue. Think about it, at the end of a long, busy day, often the last thing you will likely want to do is raid the fridge, plan & prep a meal.

FFF Meal

How to Meal Prep?

Tupperware is Life

The first thing you’ll need is some good food storage containers. Check out the section below {%%hash link} for an overview of the best types and storage advice, but keep in mind that when you prepare meals in advance you want to ensure the food stays fresh for as long as possible, and a good set of storage is key.

Enjoy the Learning Curve

Meal prepping can often be a learning experience. As you start to try new recipes, new containers or new amounts of meals, you’ll learn what works and what doesn’t. So embrace the learning curve and get creative. There are plenty of recommendations below for foods that are great for meal prep, so don’t be afraid to get started.

Prepping Food

Asking how to meal prep may provoke an “of course” answer for you – but to clarify, you are preparing your food in advance. This means you’re going to need enough to prepare! Some people like to do a single dish in advance, preparing just one meal to eat for days in advance. Others like to prepare several different meals.

If you’re just starting off, start small and do one meal across just three days of lunches. A good example of this would be chicken breast, chopped sweet potatoes and a green veg mix.

When it comes to meal prep – here are some questions to start:

  1. What do you fancy eating in the upcoming week? Look no further for some mouth-watering inspo here.
  2. What type of meals do you need to prep? Breakfast, lunch, dinner, snacks?
  3. Do you want to prep full meals or have readily prepared ingredients at hand to put into a meal, which can help to speed up cooking time?
  4. Can you make something that can be prepared/eaten in different ways, for example, a dish which can be enjoyed with both sweet potato or rice?
  5. Will you be eating meals on the go or having them at home?
  6. What heating facilities will you have available to you at the time of having your meals?
  7. How often do you want to change your meals?

Choose your recipes carefully – it likely isn’t the best time to try out something new, just in case things don’t go to plan. Using tried and tested recipes that you know are easy and tasty is a great starting point and you can build your repertoire from there. That being said, we’ve got some great ideas below.

Best Foods for Meal Prep

At the end of the day, the best foods for meal prep will depend largely on your overall requirements and preferences. There’s no point prepping something for the week because it stores better than other things if you aren’t going to enjoy it and/ or potentially waste it.

However, that being said, some foods are better for prepping and storing for consumption across a couple of days than others and so we’ve rounded up some of our go-tos and useful tips. These can be used in conjunction with your preferences in order to get the most out of your meal prep.

The Carbs

Most carb sources are extremely versatile and form easy additions to your meal prepped meals.

Some carb sources such as pasta and rice can start to stick together when stored, so you should either mix them into the meal you are serving them with e.g. a curry/ stew or ensure you give them a good mix before reheating and eating.

Try to avoid prepping soft veggies for something you are looking to store for a few days as they will often go soggy. Veggies with crunch are also best eaten relatively quickly after being prepped/ cooked as they will likely lose their crunch when stored.

Can you Meal Prep Rice?

One of the most common questions we get asked is if it’s safe to store rice. The answer is yes, providing you keep it refrigerated and within a container. We’d also advise you to refrigerate rice within a short period of cooking it (ideally within an hour), which keeps it fresh but also locks in some of the moisture. 

If you reheat rice, make sure it is piping hot all the way through. Do not reheat rice unless it has been chilled down safely and kept in the fridge until you reheat it. Do not reheat rice more than once.

The Protein

Grilled or baked meats and fish without any skin are easy to reheat or to store in the freezer. It’s easy to pair them with other veggies, starchy carbs and/or sauces. Avoid anything with a crust as it will not stay crispy after being stored.

Hard boiled eggs are also easy to make and you can store them for up to a week. You can add them to salads or have them as a healthy snack. 

The Healthy Fats

Healthy fats are not only needed as part of a healthy balanced diet but are also a tasty addition to any meal.

If you’re adding avocado, perhaps in the form of guacamole, always remember to drizzle with lemon, to stop it from going brown when stored in the fridge.

Garnishes of nuts and seeds are best stored separately from the prepped meal if you would like them to remain crunchy. Add them at the time of eating instead.

Sauces and dressings are best kept separate from meals, especially those which are salad based or contain cold vegetables, to avoid you having to eat a soggy salad.

Keeping it Exciting

If not done appropriately, meal prep can become a little mundane and boring. This can make you less likely to stick to it and more likely to buy additional things outside – this leads to increased food waste and increased food spend!

Therefore, to keep things exciting, focus on a few key points:

  • Variety – this is a key component to keeping things exciting. Try not to have the same meal week in week out, as you will quickly become tired of it. Variety is also important within your diet to ensure you are getting as many vital nutrients as possible.
  • Colour – filling your plate with vibrate veggies, will ensure your meal is not only varied but also appealing to the eye and also for your health. It’ll also make it better suited for a good Instagram snap! 

It’s great to think of your diet in terms of macros, i.e. the amounts of protein, carbohydrate and fat you eat, but a great deal of importance should be placed on making sure each meal is made up of various brightly coloured foods as they will add a huge amount of nutritional value to your meals. 

  • Herbs and spices – dried or fresh herbs are a great addition to any meal as they add huge amounts of flavour to a meal. They also enable you to completely transform the same foods. For example, one week you could have fish which has been baked with parsley (and lemon), but another could be with paprika and cayenne pepper – same protein source, but completely different taste!

How Often Should you Meal Prep?

It’s really up to you how often you meal prep. Sometimes meal prep can be seen as a relaxing activity, perhaps put on a podcast or an audiobook and spend quality time preparing meals in the kitchen.

A lot of people like to prepare meals for the week ahead, ensuring that towards the end of the week (when let’s face it motivation can be lower) you’re still prepped and ready to go.

Sometimes it’s about experimenting with food too – if you find your meals are not as fresh to your liking after 3/4 days, perhaps you could split the meal prep in half and complete it on a Wednesday.

How to Meal Prep for the Week

Firstly, make sure you have set aside ample time to prep your meals – perhaps even schedule it in your calendar ahead of time. Pre-warn your family members, flatmates or partner, to make certain you’ll have free use of the kitchen – if you’re doing a week in advance you’re going to need it.

Write yourself a shopping list to ensure you don’t forget any important ingredients. Then, check your cupboards for dry ingredients such as spices and ensure you have all of the necessary cooking equipment. Lay out all of the containers (and corresponding lids) required and ensure you have enough space in the fridge to store everything. Having your containers ready means it’s easier to portion out the food too.

Plan the actual prep and cooking process before starting so that you can be time savvy with it. Whilst certain elements are cooking, prep other parts of the dish. For example use the time it takes to boil rice, to chop and prep all the veggies for that particular meal.

Meal Prep for Fat Loss?

When it comes to fat loss, you need to be in a calorie deficit – this means burning more calories than you consume. A calorie deficit can be achieved in two ways, either by increasing the amount of physical activity you do or decreasing the quantity of food you consume. We usually recommend a combination of both to get the best results.

Meal prep can be an extremely useful tool to help support your goal, due to the benefits mentioned previously. It can also help you improve your eating habits and often make more appropriate choices. It can take out the guesswork when it comes to your goal!

Storing Prepped Meals

There’s no point spending time prepping meals if you’re going to fall at the final hurdle and fail to store them correctly. Storing your meals appropriately will not only help keep them as fresh and tasty as possible but also in tip-top condition from a food safety perspective.

Container Types & Sizes

It’s of course up to you which containers you choose, but we’ve got a few tips that may help.

Ideally use a matching set. This is not only for aesthetic purposes but also ensures they can be neatly and easily stacked in your fridge.

Check that your containers are BPA free, with an air-tight seal. It’s often a good idea to test out the air-tight seal by filling your tupperware with some water and holding it over the sink. You’ll soon be able to see if there are any leaks.

Lay flat in your bag if you can. Related to the previous point, also bear in mind that if you’re putting your tupperware into a bag, there can be bumps along the way, on your commute for example. Keeping the tupperware flat can help not only the presentation of the meal but also avoiding accidents.

Ensure you can reheat and store your containers. For ease of use, your meal prep containers should also ideally be microwave, refrigerator, freezer and dishwasher safe. This will mean you can use and clean them wherever you find yourself.

Refrigeration

Once cooked, you’ll want to allow your meals to cool down to room temperature before sealing and putting them in the fridge. However, try to make sure food is out for no longer than two hours.

Most food prep will need to be stored in the fridge. Ensure your fridge is at a temperature between 1°C and 4°C, which is out of the food temperature danger zone.

Can you Freeze Meal Prep?

You can freeze prepped meals providing you have cooked them from scratch – ensure you do not freeze already re-heated meals. If you’re planning on freezing prepped meals, try to do so the same day they are cooked to ensure maximum freshness. This will need to be planned into your meal prep.

Do I need to defrost frozen meal prep?

In most cases, you need to defrost your meal prior to reheating and eating them. It is recommended to remove your frozen meal prep out of the freezer the night before and allow it to defrost in the fridge overnight. 

If you are in a rush (or forget to get your meal out the night before), meals can also be defrosted using the defrost setting on your microwave.

Not Enough Time to Meal Prep?

Meal Prep Services

Meal prep doesn’t have to be a chore and has a range of very useful benefits. To get the most out of the process, it largely comes down to a little planning ahead of time.

However, if this sounds a little daunting, if cooking is perhaps not your forte, or if you simply can’t be bothered to carve out the time, no problem – we’ve got you covered! At Fresh Fitness Food, our bespoke, time-saving meal plans are designed by top nutritionists and tailored to the unique health and fitness goals of people just like you.

Clients on the service report saving an average of 7 hours time per week! Just think about what you could do with all of that extra time!

Sign up here and have nourishing meals delivered straight to your door, ready to eat – so you’ll never need to think about prepping, cooking, counting macros or cleaning dirty dishes or Tupperware again. Plus, you can get £50 off a 5-day trial with code BLOG50.

Georgia Head

Published by Georgia Head

In her teenage years, a love of food and rowing led Georgia into this field as she wanted to know how to optimise performance through nutrition. With a BSc in Nutrition and an MSc in Sports and Exercise Nutrition, she has the skill set to help you track towards your goals and maximise your potential.

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