The thing nobody tells you about being an adult is just how busy you become. On top of working, running errands, and taking care of your kids, you also have to make meals for everyone—including yourself. Planning healthy meals every day can get overwhelming, especially when you already don’t have a lot of time. That’s why it can be so helpful to prep your meals ahead of time.
Meal planning is a good idea to avoid fast food and prioritize healthy food in your diet. It can also help with weight loss. The idea behind meal planning is simple: plan out all your meals for the week, and make enough of your dishes to eat for several meals. Then you divide the dishes up into individual containers, complete with all of the sides and toppings. Just stack them in the fridge and pack them up for lunch or warm them up for dinner.
Meal prepping can take more prep time up front on the day that you make your meals, but the time and energy you’ll save throughout the week is worth it. Just imagine: you’ve come home from a long day at work and instead of having to come up with a meal and make it, all you have to do is pull it out of the fridge! Meal prepping is the best way to have a quick meal ready and save on the extra cost of going out or buying food multiple times a week.
However, when you make your food in advance, there is a risk that it will go bad before you can eat it, even if you store it in the fridge. If you’re planning multiple days’ worth of different meals, the last thing you want to happen is for it to go bad. There are several different ways that your food can go bad, but they are preventable. Here are some common mistakes that people often make when meal prepping, plus some tips and tricks for avoiding them and for making sure you make meals that will stay good until you get to eat them.
Store it Properly
The secret ingredient to meal prepping successfully is the container. You want a container that is packable, reusable, and leak-proof. You can find dedicated meal prep containers, but popular options also include bento boxes, glass containers, and lidded bowls. But one of the most important features is that your container is easy to clean thoroughly. Make it dishwasher safe. Keeping your container as clean as possible between uses is crucial to keeping your food good for longer because it keeps out harmful bacteria. Whatever meals you decide to make, the first step is to make sure you’re storing them in a clean environment. Don’t skip this step.
When you’ve picked your containers and you’re ready to store a meal, make sure that the containers are completely airtight. You don’t want any air or bacteria to get in and spoil the food before you get a chance to eat it. Make sure your fridge is cold enough to properly refrigerate your food—it should not be warmer than 40 degrees Fahrenheit.
Prep on a Schedule
A common mistake that people make is to prepare their food too far in advance. Your food’s actual lifespan depends on what it’s made of, but a good rule of thumb is that most cooked food will go bad in four days, according to the USDA. You’ll know for sure that your food has gone bad because it will start to smell, get slimy, or even grow moldy. Since your food won’t last a long time and you want to avoid food waste, you can’t prepare food for a whole week in advance. Instead, you should set aside at least two evenings every week to prepare your meals. To stay really fresh, you can cook every other night to just make meals for the next day. Just make sure you always know how old the food in your food is, so you don’t accidentally eat something unsafe.
Choose the Right Ingredients
Some ingredients last longer than others, so when you make your meal time menu when you’re at the grocery store, make sure you include those. Here are a list of long-lasting ingredients from Well and Good to add to your grocery list:
- Sweet potatoes are not only very healthy for you, they also last up to a week in the freezer. You can make them the base of your new meal, add them in as ingredients, or they make for healthy snacks.
- Rice is an excellent grain that doesn’t really get soggy. It’s great for a week of meals, plus it’s versatile: you can build on top of it, or add it as a side dish.
- Cooked chicken breasts are healthy sources of protein that go great in any meal. You can prepare them almost any way you like in the slow cooker or the pressure cooker. Just make absolutely sure that the chicken is cooked all the way through before you store it or eat it.
- Oats are perfect for quick breakfasts. Bake them into muffins or make them into overnight oats.
If you keep making the same meal over and over, you’ll get bored and not want to eat it anymore. The food will pile up in your refrigerator, going bad, and you’ll have to throw it out. TopFoodInfo suggests planning new meals every so often so you stay interested and excited. It’s a great way to keep your food fresh—it can’t go bad if you’ve eaten it! Successful meal preppers keep a list of recipes that they enjoy and rotate through them. That way they get to keep eating the things they enjoy, but don’t eat them so much they get sick of them!
Batch cooking and meal prep are good ways to keep fresh ingredients in your diet and stay away from fast food. But if you’re not careful, the food you carefully prepare could go bad. If you follow these simple steps, you can make sure that all of your careful planning and hard work don’t go to waste.