How to master meal prepping and save time, money and your sanity

Sick of spending hours slaving in the kitchen after a long day? Nail meal prep and your weeknights will be easier, cheaper and calmer. Here’s how.

Busy lifestyles can be a recipe for disaster when it comes to making healthy dinners during the week.

But the solution to hassle-free weeknights could be easier than you might think.

“Getting nutritious meals on the table day after day can be really stressful when you’ve got a lot of other responsibilities to deal with,” Shift Nutrition dietitian Skye Swaney says.

“Meal prepping can help you get organised and prepared for the week, and take away some of that stress.”

Here’s how to say goodbye to chaos in the kitchen and hello to nutritious dining every night.

How meal prepping can save you time

Simply put, meal prepping means planning and preparing meals in advance to streamline the cooking process and reduce time spent in the kitchen.

Your body will thank you too because research shows people who plan their meals are likely to have a healthier, more varied diet and a lower risk of obesity.

“When we’re rushing home from work and know we’ve got to prepare a meal from scratch, and potentially even visit the supermarket first, it’s far too tempting to just order takeaway instead,” Skye says.

The Healthy Diary co-founder and nutritionist Angela Borges says meal prepping changed her life.

“As a busy business owner, I’m always on a tight schedule with back-to-back meetings and commitments, so being prepared is a vital part of my lifestyle,” Angela says.

She says meal prepping can help you save up to 10 hours a week, reduce “decision fatigue”, and save money at the supermarket.

How to meal prep like a pro

If you’re ready to take the plunge, Angela suggests starting small – pick one meal at a time.

“If you decide to meal prep your weeknight meals, then make that your one and only meal to focus on,” she explains.

Angela says planning is the most important part of the process.

“Set some time aside to decide what you’re going to make, write it down and get your groceries,” she says.

Angela also recommends keeping it simple.

“Healthy, delicious food doesn’t have to be complicated – you don’t need more than five ingredients to make a meal taste amazing,” she says.

Skye suggests having a set day and time each week for meal prep to help you stick to it.

“Keeping to a consistent time means it’s much more likely to happen,” Skye says.

“And it doesn’t have to be a lot of time, even 15 to 20 minutes will make a difference.”

Easy meal prep tips to try

Prep your ingredients

Wash and chop fruit, veggies and salads; pre-cook rice and other grains; portion out proteins; and marinate meats.

Store prepped ingredients in airtight containers in the fridge, ready to go on busy weeknights.

The Food Safety Information Council provides helpful advice on how long you can safely store food items.

Cook in batches

Make a big batch of curry, soup or stew on the weekend and freeze portions for quick, easy weeknight meals.

Save leftovers for later

Use leftovers for lunch the next day, or freeze them to add to another weeknight meal – and cut down on food waste.

Double up

Double your quantities for any meal, and freeze a portion for another night.

Choose ‘no prep’ ingredients

Build a meal around convenience foods such as rotisserie chicken, packaged salad mixes, pre-cooked rice, tinned tuna and frozen veggies.

Roast extra

Roast a tray of mixed veggies so they are on hand to add to grain bowls or salads, or heat and serve as a nutritious side dish.

More meal-time tips:

Written by Dimity Barber.