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The exciting back-to-school season is here! Whether you have children who are going back to school, or you are going back to the office, meal prepping can save you time spent in the kitchen throughout the week.

What is meal prep?

Meal prep is when you make food in large quantities, and portion it out to create grab-and-go meals. Instead of cooking for every meal, you are cooking less often during the week. It can also help you reduce food waste, save time and money spent on take-out food. Imagine, you are driving home from a long day at work, or picking up your kids from school, and you come home to an already made meal! How amazing! Meal prepping is especially convenient for those who are not currently working from home, for those who don’t mind eating the same meals a few times a week and for those who do not particularly like to cook very often.

There are many foods that work quite well for meal prepping, such as cooked grains, meats, vegetables and legumes as well as whole fruits, nuts/seeds, cheese and dips such as hummus. There are some foods that don’t work as well such as cut fruit and very perishable and delicate produce such as lettuce or berries.

How do I start?

Meal prep begins with a grocery list. This allows you to plan what food you will cook and will decrease the likelihood of you buying food that will not be used. You will also need some containers to store your food in. Glass containers are usually best since your food can be warmed up in them. You can either meal prep a mixed meal (such as a stir fry with rice, protein and vegetables) or prep separate items to be mixed and matched throughout the week such as a large quantity of grains, roasted or washed and cut up vegetables and protein such as legumes, cooked meat or boiled eggs. You can also choose just a certain meal per week and alternate. Maybe one week you prep breakfast and snacks and the following week lunch and dinner. It’s completely up to you!

Portion sizes

Breakfast:

2-3 servings of starches or grains.

1 serving = 1 piece of fruit or ½ cup of chopped fruit, 1 slice of bread, ¾-1 cup of yogurt, ½ cup cold cereal, ¾ cup hot cereal.

Source of protein such as greek yogurt, nuts and seeds, eggs, lean meats

Lunches and Dinners:

2-3 servings of starches or grains or ¼ of your plate.

1 serving = 1/3 cup rice or sweet potato, ½ cup pasta, potato or quinoa, 1 slice bread

Half plate of veggies or two handfuls

Source of protein or ¼ of your plate such as 3 ounces of meat or fish, ½ cup lentils/legumes or ¾ cup tofu

Food Safety

Be sure not to mix any raw meat or egg with food items that are ready to eat. As well, most cooked foods such as meat or vegetables will stay safe to eat for three or four days. For more information on safe food storage, check out this link: Safe Food Storage. Lastly, if you are bringing a meal to work or school and there is no refrigerator available, be sure to include an ice pack to keep food cool.

Good luck this September!

References and further reading:

Budget Bytes – Meal Prep 101

Bulletproof

EatingWell