How to Prep Food For Your Busy Week Ahead
It’s easy to fall into the trap of relying on takeaways and fast food to get you through the week, but you run the risk of depriving your body of the nutrients it needs.
Preparing your meals ahead of time is easy and provides you with healthy food every evening after you come home from a long day at work. All you will need to do is heat them up.
Here are 5 top tips for prepping your meals:
1. CLEAR YOUR FRIDGE AND FREEZER
Before you start prepping, make sure you have plenty of space in your fridge and freezer to store your meals. Otherwise, if you are shoving your pre-prepared dishes into random spaces, you won’t have a clear idea of what you have and what needs to be eaten first.
2. CHECK YOUR TEMPERATURES
Make sure your fridge and freezer are running at low, consistent temperatures. It is worth buying a fridge thermometer to monitor temperatures accurately. According to guidelines from the Australian Institute of Food Safety, your fridge should be kept at 5 deg celcius or below and your freezer should be set at -18 deg celcius or below.
3. LABEL FOODS CORRECTLY
We’ve all had the experience of pulling leftovers out of our fridges and freezers and not having any idea of what the food is and how old it is.
Buy proper labels and indelible marker pens and mark clearly on your food prep containers what the meal is and what date it was prepared. Check our food safety guidelines below, to know how long you can safely store your dishes.
4. DOUBLE UP
To make things easier but still have variety in your diet, cook double quantities of each meal. Make enough dishes to last you a fortnight.
Below is a sample guide of what meals you can prepare and double-up on.
MEAL PREP IDEAS
|Lentil and vegetable chili||Beef or chicken casserole||Vegetable lasagne||Tuna pasta bake||Chicken or prawn curry|
|Tuna pasta bake||Lentil and vegetable chili||Beef or chicken casserole||Vegetable lasagne||Chicken or prawn curry|
5. HALFWAY PREPPING
If you don’t want to prep whole meals, you can cook parts of them in advance, making it easy to assemble your dishes in the evening. Cook in batches and portion out before storing.
Good meal components to cook and store include:
- Beans and pulses, soaked and cooked
- Roasted, sliced meats
- Roasted vegetables e.g capsicum, zucchini, potato, pumpkin
- Sauces e.g tomato sauces, pesto or curry sauces
FOOD SAFETY DO’S AND DON’T’S
As a general rule, foods kept in the fridge should be eaten within three days of preparation, and within two days for poultry.
To be on the safe side, for most foods stick to a maximum of two to three months for freezing foods. Some can be frozen for longer, for example steaks. Check the US government food safety storage guide for details on how to store particular foods.
Improperly stored and re-heated rice is a common source of food poisoning. Make sure you refrigerate it or freeze it as quickly as possible after cooking, don’t let it sit around at room temperature for long periods of time.
When you reheat, make sure rice is piping hot throughout before serving.
Don’t heat up food immediately from frozen. Ideally, frozen food should be defrosted slowly in the fridge. Take your meal out of the freezer in the morning and leave to defrost in the fridge over the day.
You can also place frozen meals in their containers in a bowl of water to speed up defrosting.
At a pinch, you can defrost meals in the microwave, but make sure you are using the absolute lowest wattage, and stir occasionally during the defrosting process.
Slow cookers are a great way of preparing meals. If you can, cook your food on high for an hour or so while you are getting ready in the morning, then turn down the setting before you head out.
Check that your meal is heated properly, using a food thermometer.
Avoid re-freezing any foods. Be aware that if you have defrosted one of your ingredients e.g frozen prawns to add to your meal, it’s best not to refreeze the finished product.