Meal prepping — How to save time in the kitchen and reduce your mental load

We could all benefit from spending less time cooking our daily meals. Meal prepping is an amazing tool. We’re here to provide a step by step guide to help you save time and lighten your mental load. There’s also a list of some recommended meals to give you a head start on your meal prepping journey.

Mental load is a somewhat new term that refers to how much work you mentally ‘carry’. This can be anything from the three projects at your job to organising your financials while picking tonight’s dinner. It’s been tried and tested that planning ahead makes for a more manageable week and frees up some of your mental space.

Meal prepping can eliminate a few hours each week that would normally be spent in the kitchen prepping, cooking and cleaning. If you are able to set aside about 2 hours on a Sunday, you can prep meals for the next few days or just prep your vegetables to get a head start every day.

Step One: Plan

Planning your meals is a crucial part of prepping food. You never want to do more than you have to or waste food. If you take leftovers for lunch then plan this into the number of servings you have to make. If you take separate lunches then plan these out as well as your dinners.

Noting down specific amounts of ingredients can be helpful when it comes to the grocery shop too, if you only need 3 carrots, you don’t need to buy the 1.5kg bag and unfortunately throw away the rest at the end of the week.

Step Two: Chop chop

Always start with your vegetables that need to be prepped that way they are ready to go for all the meals. Chop your onions, mince your garlic, dice your carrots, whatever you will be using.

Move onto your proteins. Remember if using meat, that it will only last for as long as the packet expiry says or if defrosted, will last three to four days in the fridge. Chop meat, rinse beans and legumes and dice vegan substitutes. Separate these into their own containers.

Finally, any spice mixes or seasonings can be made and stored in re-usable zip lock bags or small containers for later use, or set aside in ramekins for the next step. This saves a few minutes on every meal and can make the cooking seem less tedious.

For some people that still enjoy cooking, you can stop here and just have all your food chopped and spices pre-mixed for the week to come. Those who find it less enjoyable, continue onto the next step.

Step Three: Cook it up

This is the time to get cooking all the delicious meals you have planned and prepped for. Try cooking one stovetop recipe and one oven recipe at a time that way you are making the most of the time you have available.

Keep repeating this process until all the meals you want to be prepped are complete. Divide into large containers to serve from when it comes to mealtime or smaller ones if transporting meals to work. Meals will last three to four days in the fridge, so it would be best to freeze your Friday to Sunday meals and defrost them the day before consumption.

Some quick and nutritious meals that work well as meal prep are:

•    Teriyaki tofu stir fry

•    Black bean chilli

•    Roasted vegetable with honey-roasted chicken

•    Vegetarian bangers and mash

•    Creamy mushroom pasta

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