5 Meal Prep Tips From A Professional Chef

  • April 20, 2022
  • Lerato Mokonyane
  • 4 min read

Meal preps make your life much simpler. Prepping your meals ahead of time helps you eat healthier food without blowing your budget, saving you from spending hours in the kitchen after a busy day at work or school. Below are some tips to help you prepare better meals, faster.

#1 Incorporate meal prep into your daily routine

Schedule a specific time for meal prep at least once a week. Most people plan meals on Sunday or Monday morning, but all you need is a quiet moment during your day. A meal prep schedule makes it feel like less of a chore. 

Incorporate meal prep into your week

#2 Get the right containers and equipment 

Use reusable containers to store your pre-made food. Food containers have different designs and uses, so I try to look for the following characteristics when shopping for a good meal prep container:

  • Air-tight & liquid-proof
  • Dishwasher-safe
  • Microwave-safe
  • Eco-friendly
  • Freezer-safe
  • Leak-proof
  • Durable

#3 Plan your meals in advance

Meal planning looks different for everyone. Some people plan the meals they are going to eat on certain days of the week, while others plan for the whole week. Choose a method that works for you and your schedule. 

Try to be strategic about the order in which you consume your meals. It helps to decide on which recipes to make for breakfast,  lunch, and dinner. Check the flyers and websites of grocery stores near you to see what ingredients are in season

#4 Keep it simple and flexible 

Keep your grocery list short, this will help limit any impulse buying. I’ve shared an example of my go-to grocery list below, which can be adjusted to your personal dietary needs.

PANTRY STAPLESAvocado oil or cooking spray     
Brown rice
Lentils
Oats
Walnuts
No-sugar-added nut butter
Dark chocolate
PRODUCEFrozen mixed berries
Potatoes
Broccoli 
Avocado 
Fresh fruit, bananas, and kiwi 
Baby spinach and kale
Mixed peppers
PROTEINSEggs
Chicken breast
Tuna
My go-to grocery list

Focus on versatile ingredients that can be reused in everyday dishes. The most balanced meal plan emphasizes whole foods, such as fruits, vegetables, legumes, grains, proteins, and fats, so consider each of these food groups when preparing your grocery list.

A great way to maintain flexibility is to prepare individual ingredients such as pasta, a tray of roasted vegetables, or whole chicken. Individual ingredients give you more variety and allow you to mix and match according to what you feel like eating on a particular day.

Avoid meal plans that suggest eating the same dish for a week or month – you just end up limiting the number of nutrients you receive. For example, if you’re an oatmeal fan, change your toppings every day or change the preparation method.

#5 Repurpose ingredients and leftovers 

One of the first things I learned as a professional chef was to avoid throwing anything away. If you have leftover vegetables from a recipe, slice them up and turn them into pickles for your next Taco Tuesday Night. Pickled vegetables like carrots, cucumbers, and onions make great add-ins to your everyday salads. If you have leftover ingredients such as fresh herbs or sauces, freeze them for future use. 

For example, if you have leftover beef stew from the previous night, shred the leftover meat and repurpose it into a beef pie, soup, or salad topping for the next day. 

Switch up your weekly meal prep with different meals

Prep better meals

Most of us are busy with work, school, family (or all of the above) and barely find the time to nourish our bodies in between take-out meals. In this way, meal prep is a form of self-care as it saves you time and money, and helps you eat better and healthier. Following the tips in this post will set you on the right path to better eating.

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Chef Lerato Mokonyane has worked for some of South Africa's best-known brands such as McCain, Topo Chico, Eskort, and Sutherland Wines. She's passionate about recipe development, food photography, and everyday nutrition.

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