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Discover a love for cooking by learning to meal prep!
Learning to prepare and cook your own meals is one of the best ways you can stay on track with your health goals and minimise the processed foods in your diet. As you become more confident in cooking your own meals, you’ll find it easier to prepare nutritious and tasty meals in half the time.
Many people want to master the art of cooking, but they put it off because they don’t have the time – or they think they don’t have the skills. However, cooking delicious and healthy meals isn’t an art – it’s a habit. You just need to master a few go-to recipes to turn cooking into a quick, easy and fun task!
The 5 top benefits of preparing your own meals
Integrating meal preparation into your weekly routine can save you time, money – and even help you maintain a healthy weight.
1. Better health
When you know exactly what you’re using as ingredients and flavours in all your meals, it can be easier to control and minimise processed foods, saturated fats and sugars that we should be eating in moderation. You and your family will enjoy healthier meals, reduce the risk of chronic health issues and boost your energy levels.
Learning to prepare and cook your own meals just the way you like them can help make you feel more confident and self-sufficient. Ordering expensive takeaway will be a treat and not a last minute (often unhealthy) meal decision.
3. Save time
By using meal planners and prepping your food in advance, you can save time and money. While home-delivered meals may seem like a quick alternative to home-cooked dishes, by the time that delivery bike is on the road to your house, you’ve already reheated your homemade nutritious meal!
4. Save money
Eating out can be expensive. But preparing your own meals can save you money and allow you to budget effectively while eating tasty, nourishing meals at the same time!
5. Weight control
By avoiding processed foods and eating plenty of freshly prepared meals, you are more likely to maintain a healthy weight – and stay on top of your goals.
“Being able to cook delicious meals isn’t an art – it’s a habit. All you need is a few quick go-to recipes and you’re on your way!”
How to create the healthy habit of meal prepping!
Start with one night a week
If you find the whole prospect of making your own meals overwhelming, start small with just one or two home-cooked dinners a week. After the first week, you can work your way up to at least five or six dinners. You can even start preparing your own lunches too. Setting small and achievable goals helps you take the first step without pressure, giving you time to adjust to a new habit.
Prepare ahead on Sundays
Pick one or two days a week to plan your meals in advance. You can choose Saturdays, Sundays and Wednesdays, or any other day(s) that suit you.
You can use this day to do things like:
- wash and chop up your vegetables
- prepare a few meals to freeze
- make a big batch of beans for refrying
- cook and freeze some rice or quinoa.
You’d be surprised how much some simple prep can significantly reduce your cooking and meal preparation time during the week.
Work from weekly meal plans
Working from a meal plan you’ve put together in advance can help you with your grocery shopping. It’s also a great way to make sure you use up all your ingredients. Instead of making your meals on a day-by-day basis, you’ll enjoy more
flexibility to change your mind during the week and substitute ingredients if you need to. You’ll also know what to do ahead of time and avoid dinner procrastination or be tempted to eat takeout or order home delivery.
Master a few basic recipes
Learn a dozen easy recipes with easy ingredients so you can prepare your meal in under 15 or 20 minutes. These manageable recipes can include stir-fries, salad meals, gourmet sandwiches (for lunches), rice bowls, and one-pot meals. As your cooking skills improve – and you have more time to experiment in the kitchen – you can add more complex recipes to your repertoire.
Use easy-to-prepare ingredients
As you start out, focus on using ingredients that are easy to prepare. For example, if the idea of dissecting an artichoke seems too complicated, it’s probably best to start out with eggplant, zucchini, broccoli and other easy ingredients.
Serve raw and roasted vegetables
Explore different chopping techniques to prepare raw vegetables and keep a ready supply of roasted vegetables in the fridge for serving. Not only are prepped raw and roasted vegetables healthy, they’re also wonderful side dishes that are easy to prepare and save you time. Keeping a bag or two of frozen vegetables in the freezer is also a good idea for emergencies.
“Working from a weekly meal plan can help make your grocery shopping a breeze – no wasted food at the end of the week.”
Make your own frozen meals
Sometimes you’ll be too busy or tired to prepare a meal from scratch – and that’s ok! You can have your own frozen meals ready to go so you won’t be tempted to buy takeout or those pricey pre-packaged meals from the supermarket. Great homemade frozen meal ideas include vegetable lasagne, ready-made pasta sauces, pot pies, fried rice, soups and stews.
Explore the world of one-pot meals
One-pot meals and slow cookers are fantastic if you’re just learning to cook the basics. There are countless easy one-pot-meal ideas to choose from including:
- curry recipes.
What’s more, one-pot meals are easy to prepare and clean up!
Collect your favourite recipes and cultivate curiosity!
Once you get the hang of a few quick and easy recipes, you’ll be on track to building a collection of favourite meals. Remember, this is not about becoming a five-star chef! You can start a collection of recipe cards and store these in your kitchen to look through at mealtimes – or when you’re planning the week’s meals.
Another way to cultivate your culinary curiosity is to look for recipes online and buy cookbooks that spark your interest and inspire you to experiment a little more in the kitchen. You could even look on YouTube for video tutorials on making your favourite dishes.
Watch out for the temptation to order takeaway meals!
While eating out or ordering home delivered meals isn’t a bad thing, it’s not the best thing for your budget – or your waistline. So, if you find you’re still tempted to eat out frequently, check the triggers that set you on the way to grabbing those takeaway meals. Often, it’s just a lack of confidence in your cooking, the ingredients you have at home, poor planning, or you may not have the right equipment to cook what you need.
You might also not be able to resist your favourite dish from that great little Thai or Italian restaurant around the corner! And that’s okay – there’s nothing wrong with treating yourself now and then. Just make sure you identify these triggers, so you know how to deal with them when they crop up.
“One-pot meals can be a great – and healthy – starting point if you’re a beginner in the kitchen or if you’re just looking to save time.”
Home cooking can be a healthy habit of a lifetime
You don’t need to be a world-famous chef to master a few quick and nourishing meals for you and your whole family to enjoy. Simply select a few easy go-to recipes that you can prepare in advance at the start of each week and before you know it, you’ll have a meal repertoire that will save you time and money. What’s more, cooking at home means you’re less likely to eat processed foods that are high in saturated fats and sugars.
Of course, you can always treat yourself to the occasional home-delivery and favourite Thai take-out but ultimately, you’ll be able to rely on your own skills – and fresh ingredients – for breakfast, lunch and dinner.
Remember, developing a new habit takes time and effort, but mastering the art of meal prep and home cooking is worth it for your budget – and health!
Check out our user-friendly What's Cooking guide which includes a meal planner and some delicious breakfast, lunch and dinner recipes you can try at home. It’s a great way to start your meal prep journey. Bon appetit!
All information contained in this article is intended for general information purposes only. The information provided should not be relied upon as medical advice and does not supersede or replace a consultation with a suitably qualified healthcare professional.
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