Meal prep is an essential part of many busy fitness fanatics’ lives. However, the usual grilled chicken and broccoli made on a Sunday and eaten five days in a row can get hideously boring and uninspiring. Thanks to Winnie of Winnie’s Balance, here are 9 meal-prep hacks to take your meals from blah to brilliant.
When you’re trying to save time and money, it’s important to focus on a few key ingredients that you can prepare several different ways, or different ingredients that you can prepare the same way.
Buy your favorite source of protein, and cook 3 versions of it in the same pan
If you love chicken or turkey, buy lots of it. First, use aluminum foil to create dividers in your baking tray. Then, season your meat in three different and interesting ways. Make a turkey curry, thyme and rosemary turkey or even barbecue turkey. You can also skewer your meats ahead of time to control portion sizes and to cut down on waste.
Freeze smoothie concoctions ahead of time
Don’t have time to sift through smoothie ingredients every morning? Use your weekends to create smoothie bags ahead of time. You can portion out your ingredients in advance and pop the baggies in the freezer and just add milk when you’re ready. Alternatively, you can blend ingredients ahead of time and freeze them in a muffin tin. Then, when you want a smoothie, just pop the “muffin” in the blender with your fresh ingredients and you’re ready to go without too much muss or fuss.
Cook several different veggies the same way
“I don’t mean in an uninspiring way. If you want to roast broccoli, get some other vegetables to roast at the same time,” she explains. You can season them all differently, but the goal is to fill the oven with as many trays as it can carry. Now, that’s multitasking at its finest.
Chop a variety of veggies in advance
Lots of vegetables freeze very well. Onions and garlic can be chopped and frozen so you can sauté them at a later date. You can also chop or spiralize zucchini as it holds up well in the fridge for 3-5 days. “Spiralizing is a great way to get your kids involved in meal prep as it’s a fun and safe activity to get them to help out with,” Winnie says. Other veggies like carrots and peppers can last up to a week in the fridge as long as they are stored in an air-tight container.
Make grains and legumes in bulk
Because you can use grains and beans in so many different ways, I like to make a big batch for the week. “I usually boil a big pot of quinoa and then I use it for everything from quinoa cereal (just add milk & fruit) to a quinoa stir-fry. The same goes for beans. They can be used for a great dip, a side dish, or even to top off a salad. They add great fiber and protein and are very versatile,” says Winnie.
If you’re tired of smoothies for breakfast, make protein pancakes or muffins
“Both muffins and protein pancakes freeze really well. You can make a dozen or so on the weekend and just take them out of the freezer as you want them. You can change up the toppings to add some excitement,” she says. On Monday, you might want to top them with berries and by hump day you might need something a bit more exciting like some melted nut-butter topped with coconut flakes.
Use Mason Jars For Salad Prep
You can keep little jars of salad handy and just grab them on your way out the door. Fill jars with whole grains like quinoa or brown rice, add some of your chopped veggies on top, followed by leafy greens.
Make a few sauces and salad dressings
Sauces can take a dish from mundane to “mmmm.” Make a few sauces or dressings that you can add to your veggies or salads that will change up the flavors in big ways. You can pour your sauces into ice cube trays and freeze them and just defrost when you’re ready to use them.
Prepare a variety of protein snacks
We all have that 4 pm crash from time to time. But you can avoid a binge-fest if you plan ahead with some good protein snacks. “Boiled eggs are a great source of protein and are super easy to prepare. Most pots only fit 4-5 eggs at a time. Instead, use a muffin tin and bake the eggs,” she advises. “That way you’ll get a dozen eggs in one go. You can also make protein bites; they freeze really well and totally hit the sweet tooth spot.”