One of the easiest ways to eat healthier and feel better in your body is to meal prep at home. Compared to a restaurant meal, a home cooked meal is usually lower in calories, salt, and added sugars. Since restaurant entrees often have larger portions, eating at home can easily save you 300 kcal/ meal, which adds up to ~0.5 lbs of weight loss per week if you replaced 6 restaurant meals with home cooked ones. Plus. preparing a delightful meal gives you an opportunity to treat yourself mentally and emotionally. So put on your favourite music, light some candles, and enjoy the process.
If you’re just starting to cook for yourself, I recommend planning a realistic number of meals you will cook a week (here’s a meal planner to get you started). Think about your daily life and how much time you have for shopping and meal prep. If you’re a student juggling school with a part time job, you’ll likely cook less than a retired senior living by themselves. Two to three meals/ week is a good starting point, but feel free to individualize to meet your needs.
Do you have any tricks up your sleeve for making cooking a breeze? Or a favourite recipe to share? I’d love to hear from you! Leave a message in the comment section.
If you’re not already familiar with cooking, here are a few tips to get started.
Plan with Recipes in Mind
- Make a list of the meals that you would like to eat this week.
- Make sure each meal is nutritionally balanced. Include a protein (beans, lentils, meats, fish, eggs, cheese, or tofu), starch (pasta, rice, potatoes, barley, bread), and veggies (cauliflower, broccoli, eggplant, salad, green beans…) with each lunch and dinner.
- Mix and match different foods for variety and interest. Try soups, wraps, stir-frys, stews, casseroles, pita pizzas, and sandwiches.
Grocery Shop like a Pro
- Make a shopping list– organize items into vegetables + fruit, dry goods, meats + seafood, frozen, deli, dairy, and bread so you can quickly pick them up at the store.
- Items such as as leafy green vegetables, milk, and fresh meats/ fish perish quickly, so buy only what you need.
- Shop the bulk section to get just the right amount of rice, beans, pasta, nuts, seeds, spices, and herbs.
Set a Time to Prep
- If you’re short on time on weeknight evenings, consider setting aside a couple of hours on a weekend to wash, cut, and cook some meats and vegetables for the upcoming week.
- Take a shortcut by buying meats and vegetables that are already ready to cook– for example, pre-cut strips of beef with cut up broccoli florets makes a perfect stir-fry.
Get the Right Tools
- An immersion blender makes it easy to puree soups right in the pot.
- A slow cooker can help you make a delicious dinner while you’re away at work. Try baked beans, soups, stews, or pulled pork.
- A rice cooker with a steamer insert can help you cook rice and vegetables at the same time.
Organize Your Pantry
- Keep items you use often, such as oil, in places that are easy to find and grab.
- Stock up on items that you use often. Some common items to get started: pasta, rice, canned tomatoes, beans, oil, salt, vinegar, sugar, and soy sauce.