Sep. 26. 2016
Written By:
McKel (Hill) Kooienga
McKel Hill Kooienga, MS, RDN, LDN

McKel Hill Kooienga, MS, RDN, LDN

Founder of Nutrition Stripped and the Mindful Nutrition Method™

The key to staying on track through the fall and winter is meal prep.

It’s that time of year when the days start to get short and the air colder and eating healthy gets a little harder.  I’ve shared my top 10 tips for how to meal prep like a boss, and today I’m taking a bit deeper to share how I make meal prep as simple and easy as possible.  Keep reading for 5 meal prep tips for prepping and storing your ingredients to make meal prep in the fall a breeze!

Picture this: It’s the end of a long day, you’ve wrapped up your work, driven home in traffic, ran an errand on the way, and then you get home and there’s literally nothing to eat. What do you usually do? Call in a pizza? Make that sad box of macaroni and cheese? Opt for a bowl of cereal? Afterwards, you feel tired and a tinge of guilt for those 2 (okay maybe 3) slices of pizza. Not the ideal way to end the day, right?

The next day you swear to do better for yourself. On the way home from work, you stop by the grocery store, grab some veggies and fruits, wait in line to checkout, then lug your bags to your car and finally into your kitchen. By now it’s already 45 minutes later than you usually get home and you are starving. The roasted veggies and gluten-free pasta looked really good when you were searching Pinterest for healthy dinners earlier than day, but now they’re justing taunting you with they’re 40 minute cook time because you. Are. Starving. Your yummy  meal is finally ready an hour past your usual dinner time, and you eat twice as much as you usually would because, well, you’re a hungry gal. Afterwards, you still feel that same tired feeling (because by the time you do the dishes it’s 9:30 omg) and a little regret over the massive amounts of pasta you’ve eaten.

So what’s a busy gal to do? Say it with me now – MEAL PREP. Meal prep is the number one way I stay eating nourishing foods throughout the week without spending hours in the kitchen every day chopping, cooking, and cleaning. You shop for every meal for the entire week on Sunday in under an hour, then get busy in the kitchen for a couple more hours prepping, cooking, and storing for the week. NOW when you get home from work, that delicious veggie pasta is chilling in a container in the fridge, just waiting for you to reheat it for a bit so you can enjoy an appropriate serving size at a leisurely pace. Then you pop your plate into the dishwasher and BOOM! you’re nourished, tidy, and feeling amazing with a few hours of free time left for whatever you’d like

Sounds pretty amazing, right? Well, I’m here to tell you, IT IS! If meal prep seems like some kind of mythical creature, then this post is for you. Keep reading for my top 5 simple ways to become a meal prep queen this fall. And if you need even more tips and practical ways to show that meal prep who’s boss, read this post with 10 more ideas to get you on your way to feeling awesome.

No. 1

Make soups ahead of time and freeze them. The freezer is the holy grail for making quick dinners ahead of time. Store them in freezer safe bags or glass containers that are airtight. For example, let’s say you make a huge batch of your favorite soup this fall and winter like the Creamy Butternut Squash Soup or the All you have to do is reheat them and you’re good to go. How do you freeze soup? Pour them in the bag to lay flat and freeze.

Try these recipes to save for later:

No. 2

Freeze baked goods or energy truffles. There are times where I just want a couple slices of my Grain-Free Walnut Bread but don’t feel have the time to make it or don’t want a whole loaf. This is where the freezer is your BFF, and storing those recipes for later helps make snack and meal time super simple. If you can whip out some pieces of grain-free bread, you can have a quick Open-Faced Sprout Sandwich or Pizza Bites in just minutes. Most of these can be thawed overnight in the fridge or thawed for 20 minutes or so at room temperature. Some recipes like energy truffles are great frozen, too!

Try these recipes to save for later:

No. 3

Keep it fresh. One of the most important ways to keep your prepped meals fresh is to store them in the right container. You want to make sure you’re using airtight containers since exposure to air will make your food go bad more quickly. I’m a huge fan of these glass airtight containers because they’re microwave, dishwasher, and oven safe. Plus I don’t have to worry about any plastic particles getting in my food since they’re made from glass. They’re also really convenient for taking meals on the go since they absolutely won’t leak. You can even take a soup for lunch to school or work and it won’t spill. I’m also a big fan of these glass jars and the old favorite mason jars.

No. 4

Prepare and chop vegetables to use later on. Healthy eating can be expensive if you waste, but it doesn’t have to be. Storing produce is a challenge for many of you since I get so many questions about it, but as long as you’re washing, rinsing, and storing pre-cut vegetables and fruits in something that keeps the air out, you won’t feel like you’re literally throwing away money when you toss out bad veg. On Batch Cooking day, I’ll typically pre-cut a bunch of veggies and pop them into a bag to save for the entire week for easy snacks, toppings on salads, and stir-frys. You can also freeze vegetables, granolas, rice, beans, anything that you’re not using within a week’s time. Freeze fruits like bananas and zucchini for quick smoothies. You can also freeze vegetables or buy pre-frozen vegetables (just make sure there are no added ingredients) to put in simple stir-frys or soups. You don’t even need to thaw them! You can just put them straight into a pan for a stir-fry and cook for a few minutes then add your favorite sauce and proteins.

No. 5

Know the expiration date. One of the most common questions I get about meal prep is how do you keep the food from going bad? I wrote an entire post that you can find here on how long the most common produce ingredients will last in your fridge. Also be mindful of how you store your produce. It’s a good rule of thumb to keep your vegetables and fruits separate, and anything that you store beside bananas will ripen at a quicker pace because they give off a natural gas called ethylene which is a ripening agent. In the Guide to Master Meal Planning meal plans, I’ll include how long each recipe can be stored for in the fridge so you know exactly how long it should last.

Get to preppin’.

Did these meal prep tips inspire you to start batch cooking and prepping your meal ahead of time? Do you already batch cook and have any more tips for us? Share your thoughts in the comments so we can all meal prep like a boss! And if you want ready made meal plans for every season, grocery lists, wellness guides, and a supportive meal prep community, join us in the Nutrition StrippedGuide to Master Meal Planning!

xx McKel