10 Meal Prep Hacks to Save Time and Help You Eat Healthier

March 22, 2018

We’ve all been there – ordering in during the week because we’re too tired to cook, or stopping on our way home from the office and picking up takeout because it’s too late to make a healthy meal for dinner. Which is why at Eat Clean we’ve simplified the entire meal prep process for you! Eating healthy and living well doesn’t have to be stressful, time-consuming, or inconvenient; and meal prepping with Eat Clean is one of the easiest ways to stay healthy while saving time and money during the week.

To make things even easier, we’ve put together a few of our favorite, tried-and-true meal prep hacks – from shopping small to one-pan dinners, we’ve got you covered on how to make the most out of your meal prep plan!   

1. Prepare a leftover container before you finish your meal.

We all know how it is; dinner is just so good that it’s tempting to finish everything! To combat that, we love the idea of setting out the plate you’re going to eat on and a leftover container right next to it. That way, you can divide up what you want to eat right then and what you want to save. It’s a subtle way to not overeat or overindulge; plus, you have a super-easy meal for the next day.

2. Individual-sized items are key.

Think mini-hummus/pretzel duos from Trader Joe’s or those individual veggie/ranch dip packs. They save time and seriously cut down waste, especially if you’re cooking for just one or two people (snack items like guacamole, peanut butter, etc. are key here). Pro tip: buy a few of those small guacamole tubs from Costco; freeze half of them and put the rest of them in the fridge. Take a frozen one out in the morning so it can defrost, and by lunchtime, it will already be thawed and will make a great addition to your meal! An added bonus? It prevents overeating and promotes portion control.

3. Two words: Egg Cups.

You heard it here first! Egg cups are a godsend when it comes to quick, healthy breakfasts. They’re easy to make, packed with protein and vegetables, and make for a convenient option when you’re rushed on weekday mornings (it’s also a great way to clean out your fridge!). Just round up and chop all the leftover veggies in your fridge that you haven’t used – mushroom, bell peppers, etc. – then mix your seasonings in (our Tomato Basil Seasoning works great here). Place all the veggies into a silicone muffin tray and top them off with egg whites, then bake for 10-15 minutes or until cooked.

 

If you want to change things up and utilize different flavors at once, divide the muffin tray into sections of four; for instance: one section zucchini and herbs, one with bell peppers and our Southwest Seasoning, one with mushrooms and Taco Party, etc. Don’t be afraid to get creative!

4. Prepare freezer meals for the crock-pot ahead of time.

Freeze-ahead meals are definitely one of the most convenient ways to meal prep. What’s great about these is that you can prepare several meals at once, and have them ready to go for the next week or week and a half. Simply prep each meal and put them in individual freezer ziplocs (be sure to label them), and place them in the freezer.

 

Quick Recipe: Slow-Cooker Homestyle Ranch Chicken and Veggies makes for a delicious crock-pot meal! You can freeze it ahead of time or make it the day-of. Pick up some baby carrots or other root vegetables, potatoes, and chicken breast/bone-in chicken; toss everything with Homestyle Ranch seasoning to coat. Place the chicken in the middle of the crockpot, with the vegetables surrounding it; add a half cup of chicken broth or water to moisten. Cook on high for four hours. You can thank us later!

5. Add sheet pan dinners/one-pan dinners to your week.

One-pan dinners are about to be your new best friend. They’re easy, make a ton of food, and are still ultra-healthy. Just choose some vegetables and your favorite meat option, then toss them together and coat with freshly minced garlic or seasonings (we like the Southwest Chipotle Garlic Seasoning on chicken, and Garlic & Herb Seasoning on the veggies). Just place some aluminum foil onto a sheet pan – invest in those pre-cut foil sheets, they’ll fit a sheet pan perfectly – and spray it with olive oil spray. Add the veggies and chicken to the tray and bake until cooked.

For even more meal options, divide the sheet pan into sections – divvying up the tray means you can make up to four different meals at once (dinner party, anyone?). Starter combo: bell peppers seasoned with California Citrus, broccoli coated with Garlic & Herb, cauliflower with Southwest Garlic Chipotle, green beans with Zesty Lemon Pepper Seasoning. Add four chicken breasts to the middle of the tray (you could even toss those with different seasonings) and bake until cooked.

6. Snack on ‘free food’ and water.

Rather than having a second helping of the whole dish after dinner, snack on what we like to call ‘free food’: celery, tomatoes, cucumber, carrot, spinach, or other low-glycemic index/raw veggies. Snacking on super low-calorie foods like this is healthy, but will also satisfy your cravings.

7. When in doubt, hydrate.

If you’re still hungry after snacking or later on in the evening after dinner, have a glass of water and wait it out for a bit. Oftentimes our bodies will trick us into thinking we’re hungry, when really it’s thirst or dehydration. The key to figuring this one out? Always listen to your body!

8. Double check the ingredients listed on the back.

Look for hidden salt and sketchy additives or preservatives on the back of your grocery store items. Make sure they’re simple, straightforward ingredients that you can actually pronounce; be aware of high sodium and sugar content, and look for any other anti-caking agents that might be less-than-natural. After all, a ‘healthy’ dish is only as healthy as everything else you put on it!

9. Shop small – and take advantage of bulk bins.

Though they might be more convenient every once in a while, you don’t always have to buy the big bags of items you see at the store. If you’re just cooking for one or two, it’s easy for a lot of that to go to waste or spoil. Stores like Sprouts or Whole Foods typically have bulk bins, where you can scoop out and take however much of something you need: a handful of nuts, oats, veggies, etc. Be honest with yourself about what you’ll eat! It’ll save money and help with portion control throughout the week.

10. Buy partially-prepped or pre-cut items to save time.

Buying veggies that are pre-chopped or shrimp that’s deveined will save you time (though not necessarily money) when you’re really pressed for it. Say you forgot to meal prep for a day during the week, or suddenly it’s Sunday night and you realize you don’t have dinner plans (hey, it happens!). You can still eat healthy while saving a ton of time if you buy stuff that’s already been peeled, shredded, chopped, etc.; essentially, the hard stuff is pre-prepped for you. It’s a bit more expensive, but the time savings will make up for it if you’re in a rush.

We hope we offered some great hacks to help make your meals a bit easier and healthier for you to make. However, if you still don’t think you have the time you may want to consider a Meal Prep Company like Eat Clean do all the work for you and deliver healthy and delicious meals for the week straight to your door.

Want more Eat Clean updates? Follow #EatCleanMealPrep @EatCleanSanDiego!

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