With such busy personal lives, meal prepping is a saving grace for so many people. Getting all of the prep work out of the way in advance saves precious time and energy. Getting more time to ourselves while having the peace of mind arising from having lots of tasty dishes meal prepped and ready to enjoy later is indeed very liberating. There are many benefits associated with meal prepping such as cost saving, time savings, and a healthier lifestyle. But how much time are we actually saving by meal prepping?
The amount of time meal prepping can save per month
Most pre-prepared meals can last a maximum of 5 days in the fridge. A week’s worth of meals can be prepared at the beginning of each week. Seven out of twelve months have 31 days. If we prep 5 days of meals and then another 5 when those run out (and so on), we will have ready to consume meals 24/25 days a month. So, you will need to spend at least 6 days a month doing the meal prep (6 days of prep is multiplied by 5 days’ worth of meals, the 5 days you save before the next prep, which equals 30).
To put this in perspective, it would probably take most of us about 25 minutes to meal prep one meal. It would take 2 hours and 55 minutes to prep a seven-day weeks’ worth of meals. This works out to be an average of 12 hours and 42 minutes per month. This would allow us enough time to calmly prepare our meals. According to the US Department of Agriculture, it takes 37 minutes per day to do food preparation with no prior prepping. This averages out as 4.5 hours a week and 18 hours per month.
By doing meal prep, we save ourselves almost 6 hours per month. Which isn’t much apparently. But the numbers above only accounts for the actual food preparation. Whereas the bulk of the time spent in daily food preparation tend to be in decision of what to prepare and gathering the ingredients to prepare it, a number that is more difficult to quantify.
If you do decide to prep meals for a 5-day week, then it would take you 2 hours and 5 minutes to prep those meals all at once, which is approximately 12 hours and 36 minutes per month in a month with 30 days (5 meals multiplied by 6 to equal the 30 days). Even though you would be prepping less meals at once, it would still take less time to meal prep in advance than to spend 18 hours per month making food with no prep work.
Of course, if the meals are very intricate then you may want to take another day to continue prepping. Otherwise, you can dedicate 3 to 4 hours a day to prepping 5 to 7 days of meals. And then repeat that once those meals run out.
By requiring us to plan and prepare everything in advance, meal prepping may in fact be sparing us several days a month in food preparation. Some advance meal preppers can spend just a few hours a day to meal prep for two months into the future. Time savings is just one of the potential upsides of meal prepping. One that may or may not warrant a need for meal prepping. Meal prepper are usually driven by other goals and motivation as well.
Things needed to maximize time saving while meal prepping
As stated above, less elaborate meals will take less time to prep. So, if you are aiming to maximize time saving as much as possible, start simple. You can make healthy meals without needing to put too much in them. Things like vegetables are super quick to prep and store. The more time you spend on the meal prepping process, the quicker and more efficient you will get. Start off making simple things and then start to add more components to the dishes as you go.
Another way to maximize time saving is to make sure to do grocery hauls either the day before or the same day as your meal prepping. In doing so, you have all the ingredients ready to use. This will also ensure that they are fresh and extend their lifetime in the fridge. On that same note, having high-quality, sealable containers will also keep the meals fresh and prevent them from going off. After all, there is no point putting time and effort into meal prepping if you’ll just have to start from scratch because the food wasn’t securely sealed. Doing everything to extend the life of meals will help to maximize time.
A variety of cooking equipment will also reduce cooking times and add variety to how meals are prepared. For example, you could use the oven, an air fryer and a George Foreman style grill to simultaneously cook the protein for your meals for the week. This will get plenty done at the same time and allow you to prep more than one meal at once. When it comes to reheating, having both a microwave and a small toaster oven will allow you to reheat multiple things at once, so this is a good idea for extra efficiency.
And while all of that is important, the best way to reduce time in the kitchen is to have everything planned in advance. Make a meal plan for all the things you are going to prep, including the ingredients, equipment you need, and then you’ll be completely organized. Keeping the kitchen clean and tidy will also make it easier to get everything done in the least amount of time. Having a well-thought-out plan is half of the work when it comes to meal prepping.
Are we sacrificing a quality diet to save time?
One of the biggest worries when it comes to meal prepping is that healthier foods will not last as long being stored in the fridge. So many people choose ingredients which are less healthy but more convenient. However, there is no need to sacrifice a quality diet to save time. It is entirely possible to meal prep and still eat a diverse range of foods. For a balanced diet, the things that are recommended are vegetables, meat/fish, carbohydrates and dairy if your body tolerates it. All of which can be worked into pre-planned meals.
If you are worried about the shelf life and variety of prepped meals, remember that meal can also be stored in the freezer to preserve them for even longer than the 4 days that they’ll last in the fridge. The best way to ensure that you are not sacrificing a quality diet for convenience is to ensure that your meals vary. You could prep some with meat, others with fish, some completely vegetarian, and add things like cheese when you come to eat the meal to add some dairy. The food variety problem is something that gets less and less critical with the lengthy time foods are preserved in the freezer.
This is why it is a good idea to have written plan. A trip to the grocery store in advance: you can gather healthy, fresh ingredients and put them into meals that can be preserved. That way, your diet will improve or at least see no negative impact while still benefiting from the time that meal prepping saves.
The role organizational skills play in efficient meal prepping
The importance of perfect organizational skills has already been discussed but must be emphasized as perhaps the most important part of the meal prepping process. If your meal plan is organized and the fridge, the cupboards are organized, you’ll have everything you need to get meals prepped quickly and effectively.
The idea is that you’ll have more spare time when you’re at home. You won’t have to rush to plan a meal when you’re already tired from other commitments, because when you’re not enjoying preplanned meals, you’re executing preplanned meal preparations. Suffice to say organization is a major part of meal prepping.
Quick and tasty meals to prep
So, with all of that in mind, here are some of the tastiest and healthiest meals that you can quickly prepare and enjoy at your convenience. You can find detailed recipes for these dishes online, with the precise measurements of each ingredient required.
Chicken Caesar salad
- Crushed garlic
- Lemon juice
- Ciabatta loaf
- Parmesan cheese
This is a quick and tasty meal that can be enjoyed cold. You don’t even need to spend time heating it up. It is perfect for lunch and has plenty of healthy ingredients to give you a tasty, balanced meal.
- Mince beef
- Crushed garlic
- Olive oil
- Beef stock cube
- Tomato paste
- Chopped tomatoes
- Grated cheese (optional)
This is another super tasty dish that can be prepped with little effort. All you need to do is boil a pan of spaghetti, brown the mince and cook it in the created sauce. This meal is great to make in bulk. If you would prefer a vegetarian option, then switch out the mince beef for Quorn mince. This will also cook quicker.
Salmon and vegetables
- Green beans
Salmon is really good for you and it pairs wonderfully with vegetables. It will take no time at all to prep the vegetables. Salmon is also easy to cook because it just needs to be baked in the oven. The salmon can be seasoned with herbs and lemon for more flavor. Thyme, dill and rosemary are three tasty options for seasoning.
- Crushed garlic
- Vegetable stock
- Carrot (optional)
This is a classic meal choice and preparing it from scratch yourself is much healthier than canned soup. Adding chunks of onion and some crushed garlic gives it extra flavor. You can also add chopped carrots as well for a healthy addition. A blender is the quickest way to prep this meal. Then it can be warmed up on the stove when you choose to eat it.
- Vegetable stock cube
- Arborio rice
- Chopped garlic
- Olive oil
- Parmesan cheese (optional)
You may choose not to prep the rice with the rest of the ingredients. If so, cook the rice the day of and then add the rest of the prepped ingredients to flavor before serving.
So, meal prepping is a great way to save time and still enjoy a healthy, balanced diet. The five meals mentioned above are just a few of the meals that you can prepare and then serve up at your convenience. There are so many recipes out there that you should try out, so make sure to experiment and try out different dishes to build your meal prepping master plan.