You may think that meal prepping – or the act of planning, cooking, and portioning meals in advance -- is just for bodybuilders and diehard dieters. However, Seniors Helping Seniors® care receivers in Chicago can realize some serious benefits from it as well. It is an excellent way to maintain a healthy diet, control food portions, save time and money, and prevent waste!
But the process can be intimidating for first-time preppers. While there is certainly plenty to learn about meal prepping, there are also lots of ways to ease into this lifestyle and start reaping the rewards that accompany it. We have compiled a few tips for those new to the food prep scene. Read on to discover how to incorporate this strategy successfully into your weekly routine.
Keep It Simple
One of the most important rules in meal prepping is to start simple. Some people cook and portion out breakfast, lunch, dinner, and snacks every week. If you are new to meal prepping, trying to do all this will undoubtedly leave you feeling overwhelmed and defeated.
Begin by planning out one meal for 3 days. This allows you to get the process down before taking on too much. Once you have the hang of it, you can start preparing multiple meals, recipes, and snacks.
Prepare To Prep
Before beginning, take stock of your Tupperware cabinet. You will be portioning meals into food-safe containers that you can grab for breakfast, lunch, dinner, or snacks, so you will need quite a few in a variety of shapes and sizes.
If you can use containers, you already own, great! If not, start by purchasing one pack of reusable Tupperware that contains a variety of different shapes and sizes. Over time, you can gradually add to your stock or upgrade to better quality vessels. For convenience, make sure they are microwave, dishwasher, and freezer safe, and try to use dishes that stack nicely to save space in the refrigerator.
It is also helpful to dedicate one day of the week to plan meals and one day to prepare them. Otherwise, it is easy to put these tasks off until tomorrow, the next day, or the day after that. Choose two days that are typically convenient and stick to it…every week!
Our caregivers love to help those we serve to accomplish their goals, so get them involved in the process too. Whether you need help gathering storage containers, finding recipes, or with a lift to the local market, they are happy to assist!
Three Steps To Manageable Meal Planning
Now, the fun part – it is time to dig in! There are three main steps in the meal prep process: planning, shopping, and prepping.
Before creating a meal plan, think about your main goal. Do you want to save money? Lose weight? Ensure you are eating a balanced diet? Or would you like to help control a health condition, like diabetes or high cholesterol? You may even want to consult your doctor to discuss any specific dietary requirements. When choosing recipes, keep this goal in mind and make sure the meals you pick help accomplish it.
On your dedicated planning day, decide on the recipe(s) you will make for the week. Remember, one or two is plenty if you are just getting your feet wet. If you are preparing more than one recipe, choose dishes that have common ingredients to keep your list manageable. Write down all the ingredients needed for each recipe. Then, survey your pantry, refrigerator, and freezer, crossing off items you already have. These measures will help you save money and reduce food waste.
Pro Tip: There is an app for that! There are lots of meal planning apps for your phone that help keep track of meals and recipes. Some will even sort your ingredient list according to what department items can be found in the grocery store!
Now that you have done your pre-prep planning, grab your Seniors Helping Seniors® companion and head to the grocery store! Here are a few suggestions while you are there:
- Bring a list and stick to it! You will save money on impulse buys and avoid the temptation to grab items that do not fit your goal.
- If chopping and slicing are difficult, opt for pre-cut, canned, or frozen fruits and vegetables. They will save tons of time during prep!
- On a budget? Check weekly ads for your local store and use coupons whenever possible.
- Be sure to swing by the local produce section or the farmer’s market on the way home as well. In many places throughout the Heartland, summer is a wonderful time to find locally grown corn on the cob!
When you get home from shopping, wash all your produce so you are ready to jump right in when it is time for the next phase.
Now, it is your designated prep day, and you are ready to start slicing and dicing! Depending on what is on the menu for the week, you may need to portion out dry snacks, like nuts or cereals, or chop up fruits, vegetables, and meat. This part of the process can be time-consuming, so recruit a family member or Seniors Helping Seniors® caregiver to help.
Cook your meals in batches and portion them out into individual servings using Tupperware containers. Small jars and zip-lock bags make it easy to keep dressings, dips, and toppings that might get soggy separate.
Once everything is packaged and put away, sit back, and relax – you are done!
At Seniors Helping Seniors® in-home care services, we are always searching for ways to help our care receivers live more independently and enjoy a better quality of life. Meal prepping can be a great tool in accomplishing these goals. Getting started can be tough, but we are here to provide support, encouragement, and a helpful hand!
Offering senior care and senior home care services to elderly residents throughout the Chicago area is just one beneficial aspect of our services. Our caregivers have a warmth and understanding that comes from experience and wisdom gained over the years. They are all loving, caring compassionate people who bring joy and companionship to everyone with whom they work. That’s why our seniors often become life-long friends with those who receive our services.
If you are a senior that would like to offer assistance helping other seniors through our program then we would like to talk to you. Call us at 312-526-3666.