We’ve all been there: it’s time for lunch and your coworker pulls out their lunchbox and reveals an incredibly delicious looking quinoa salad. Damn, you think. If only I had something that good. But you have… nothing. Guess you’re headed to the food truck or ordering in again.
But you can change! And meal prep can help. Meal prep is becoming more popular, but it’s hardly a new phenomenon. In fact, it’s a tradition that has been around since the very first refrigerators came onto the market. It’s a simple concept: cook large amounts of food in advance and then take it with you to work, school, or wherever else you might be going.
After a year of spending lots of time at home, plenty of people are much more enthusiastic about healthy meals and balanced nutrition. And that’s a habit we should all hang on to, even as we return to ‘normal’ life. Home-made food doesn’t just taste better, it makes it easier to stay healthy, because you are in charge of what you eat and when.
Researchers at a Spanish university discovered in a study that those who cook for themselves instead of falling back on processed foods live longer. They also found that home-made food reduces the risk of diseases such as cancer, type 2 diabetes, depression, and high-blood pressure.
In this article, we want to show you the advantages of meal prep. Plus, we have two recipes to get you started. You are so close to being that coworker with the lunchbox full of food that everyone envies!
Why meal prep is worth it
Cooking in advance helps you to pay more attention to what you are eating, and as a bonus, it’s also good for your wallet. But there are plenty of other advantages on offer:
- You save time, because you aren’t spending part of your lunch break on the hunt for food
- You get to decide what you eat – no more unhealthy fast food!
- Reusable containers help you cut down on plastic and food waste, so you’re helping the environment
- You have better portion control, making it easier to meet your nutritional goals
- Meal prep reduces stress, because you don’t have to spend as much time wondering what you’re going to eat
- Meal prep also improves your cooking skills
- Your delicious home cooked meals will inspire others to eat healthier.
5 tips for getting started
1. Create a weekly plan
Meal prep works best when you create a weekly plan and pick a set day to go shopping. For many people, that’s Saturday or Sunday.
Remember that a shopping list is a great tool to make your life easier. It’s worth sitting down before venturing to the store and planning out the week, including all the meals you plan to make and the ingredients you will need. This will establish a routine, which keeps the time you spend on meal prep nice and relaxed.
2. Choose recipes with similar ingredients
Once you are done shopping, you can get started. Cut up your vegetables and other ingredients and put them in your reusable containers so that they are quick and easy to grab when you need them.
When it comes to picking recipes, it’s best to choose meals that you are familiar with and enjoy eating. Picking meals with similar ingredients will save you time and keep things stress free.
If you are just starting out, keep things simple. Pick one or two recipes each week (for example chili sin carne: you can find the recipe below). Cook one portion for your evening meal, take a second with you for lunch the next day, and freeze two.
Bowl recipes are another great choice for meal prep. One quick and simple option is to fry the veggies you have cut up, add a dressing, and mix them all together in your lunch box for the next day – you can change ingredients every time.
It helps to keep some standard ingredients on hand at home. We recommend rice, quinoa, couscous, or bulgur.
3. The fridge and the freezer are your best friends.
If you have veggies or cooked food that you can’t use up before they go bad, put them in the freezer, ready to use for a different meal.
There are special containers you can buy for meal prep that are divided into sections, so you can keep the ingredients stored separately.
But make sure you allow hot food to cool for one or two hours before freezing it. Labels are great for letting you know what’s in each container in the fridge or freezer. Dairy products, vegetables, and fruits containing lots of water (like strawberries or watermelons) don’t do well in the freezer.
Most meals can be kept in the fridge for 3-4 days. Be particularly careful with meat, fish, and shellfish.
Our tip: don’t mix ingredients together until just before you eat them, especially if you are making salads.
4. Use leftovers for lunch the next day
Most of us do our cooking in the evening after work. So it’s a simple shift to start making a bit more food at dinner time and pack the rest into your lunch box for lunch the next day.
If you don’t enjoy eating the same thing two days in a row, you can freeze the leftovers and take them to work on a different day.
5. Plan your social life accordingly
The biggest enemy of meal prep tends to be spontaneous hangouts with friends. It’s just so tempting to throw out your meal prep plans and agree to join your buddies at a restaurant.
Remember: don’t be too harsh with yourself. If you really want to go to that Asian restaurant down the street with a few colleagues, you should go for it.
If you know that you want to be able to spontaneously decide to go out on the weekend, just take a meal prep break on those days.
Variety is the spice of life, and you can feel free to follow your gut.
Recipe idea no. 1: Vegan Chili Sin Carne
This chili sin (without) carne is quick and easy to make and gives you a great energy boost thanks to vegetable proteins, vitamins, and nutrients. And it’s vegan! It’s perfect for meal prepping, because you can freeze it and thaw it whenever you are ready to eat.
Prep time: 15 minutes
Total time: 20 – 40 minutes
Makes: 4 portions
250g canned kidney beans
2 tablespoons tomato paste
1 teaspoon salt
400g diced tomatoes
1/2 teaspoon chili powder
1/2 teaspoon pepper
250g canned red lentils
1 clove of garlic
1 tablespoon dried oregano
1 tablespoon chili con carne spice mix
450g canned corn
1 teaspoon paprika powder
100ml vegetable broth
- Finely chop the onion and garlic and then fry them in a pot together with the canola oil.
- Add the tomato paste, vegetable broth, and the diced tomatoes and mix together.
- Drain and add corn and kidney beans. Stir in the lentils and the spices.
- Now simmer all ingredients for approx. 20 minutes on medium heat, stirring occasionally.
- Add more spice to taste.
Recipe idea no. 2: Potato Broccoli Curry
And now we have a great vegan curry for you. Broccoli, lentils, and coconut milk are filling without sending you into a food coma.
Instructions: 10 minutes
Total time: 20 – 40 minutes
Makes: 4 portions
1 tablespoon red curry paste
100 g canned red lentils
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
400ml coconut milk
- Peel and dice the potatoes.
- Wash the broccoli and cut it into small pieces.
- Peel and dice the onion.
- Heat the oil in a pan and fry the onion and potatoes until the onions are translucent.
- Add curry paste and coconut milk. Let simmer for 10 minutes.
- Now add the broccoli and lentils.
- Simmer for another 10 minutes – your curry is done.
- Add spice to taste.
Cook with us in our weekly class:
quinoa salad with pomegranate and walnuts
By the way, the two recipes above come from the Humanoo app. And there are a ton more! So many delicious recipes perfect for meal prep, like stuffed peppers with bulgur and feta cheese, or salmon broccoli casserole. Sounds good, right?
Oh, and you can join us for a cooking class on August 4, 2021. We always hold a weekly class on Wednesdays, and this time we’re cooking! Join us on the app or our Instagram channel! We’ll show you how to make an incredible quinoa salad with pomegranate and walnuts. A fantastic and fresh meal prep option for summer.
We hope this article encouraged you to start really thinking about what you eat. And if it did, why not spread the love by sending us photos of the recipes in this article, made in your very own kitchen? Send us a private message on Instagram, we’d love to hear from you!
But wait, there’s more! Our goal is to continue to support you as you make healthy choices and love your mind and body.
You can do it!
Your Humanoo Team