Meal prep, or the art of cooking large batches of food for the week ahead, is a great way to save money, eat healthier, and gain more time throughout the week. However, it can be difficult to make the switch between cooking small, daily meals to using your kitchen for one big cooking session a week. Your kitchen is probably designed and organized for the former, so it helps to take the time to optimize it for the latter. Here’s what you need to do.
Ok, this is an extreme example, and by far the most expensive suggestion on this list. According to HomeAdvisor, the average cost to remodel a kitchen in Las Vegas usually ranges between $21,897 and $40,607. However, you don’t have to redo the whole kitchen, and focusing on some specific areas can be a big help in making the space more efficient.
In particular, you may need more countertop space for chopping, mise en place, and portioning meals. More storage space can also be a blessing, especially if you rely on large pots and pans to make big portions for your family.
If you don’t have the budget (or the option, if you are a renter) to remodel, you can still clear up loads of space in your cabinets and on your counters through good old decluttering. The Spruce has some great advice on decluttering a small kitchen. Cut down on tableware you don’t use, throw out anything that is broken or doesn’t work, and focus on having a smaller selection of versatile, good-quality, larger pots and pans.
Stock Up on Essentials
Before you start your meal prep adventure, make sure you have everything you are going to need. You don’t want to find yourself with a huge pot of chili and no way to store it.
In particular, you will need:
- Re-usable containers. You need enough for the number of meals you intend to prep, and they should be durable and high-quality. This guide from the Manual covers all your best choices in plastic, glass, stainless steel, and kits.
- A good chef’s knife
- At least two chopping boards (one for raw meat and one for everything else)
- At least one large pot
- A fully-stocked kitchen pantry
- All the essentials for keeping your kitchen clean as you cook
Optimize Fridge and Freezer Space
Meal prep relies a lot on your fridge and freezer, so make sure you always have space. If most of your meals are going to come from meal prep, keeping your fridge clear should be easy: your ingredients should either be in the fridge or in the meals, so they don’t have to compete for space. But if you only meal prep some of your meals, things can be more complicated.
Maximizing fridge and freezer space is mostly a matter of staying organized. Start with a clear out, assign specific areas for each type of food, and consider using some see-through containers to keep everything in its place. When freezing liquid or saucy foods, use a reusable sandwich bag and press it down flat to take up less space.
Meal prep does take a little bit more thought and planning than regular daily cooking, but it does pay off. You save loads of money on pricey lunches and lazy takeout binges, you reduce food waste by buying only what you are going to be cooking with, and you can eat a lot healthier. It’s an inherently efficient way to eat, and optimizing your kitchen for it is the best way to make it even more efficient. And don’t worry — meal prep can also be plenty tasty, too.