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meal prep with rice and vegetablesMeal prep refers to making whole meals or preparing recipe ingredients ahead of schedule to save time later. Meal prepping like a chef involves efficiency, organization and the ability to create delicious meals quickly.

You can adopt some of the strategies used by pros to make your home cooking experience smoother and more effective. Here are some tips to help you plan and prepare meals ahead!

1. Plan Your Menu

The first step of successful meal prep is planning your weekly menu. Considering breakfast, lunch, dinner and snacks, balance your diet with a variety of proteins, vegetables and grains. Look for recipes that have similar ingredients to reduce waste and streamline meal prep.

2. Create a Shopping List

Once the week’s menu is planned, create a detailed shopping list with items grouped by category to make your trip more efficient. Sticking to a list helps you avoid impulse buys and ensures you have everything you need to prepare your meals.

3. Invest in Quality Tools

Get yourself some high-quality kitchen tools, including a chef’s knife, pots and pans, mixing bowls, measuring cups and spoons, a vegetable peeler and storage containers. A variety of airtight containers will keep your prepped ingredients fresh and organized.

4. Batch Cook Items

Choose a day of the week to prepare large quantities of food at once. Cook multiple servings of proteins, grains and roasted or steamed vegetables. Once prepared, portion the food into your airtight containers with the contents and date labeled. Throughout the week, you can mix and match components to create different meals.

5. Pre-Portion Ingredients

Pre-portioning ingredients saves time and makes cooking a breeze. For example, wash and chop vegetables for on-the-go snacks, marinate proteins and measure out spices and sauces, then store them in individual containers. When it’s time to cook, you can quickly assemble your meal without additional prep work.

6. Use Freezer-Friendly Recipes

Certain meals are perfect for freezing and reheating later. Soups, casseroles and cooked grains freeze well and can be stored for several weeks. Make large batches and freeze individual portions. When you need a quick meal, simply defrost and reheat.

7. Keep a Well-Stocked Pantry

A well-stocked pantry is essential for quick and efficient meal prep. Keep staples like canned beans, tomatoes, broth, pasta, rice and various spices on hand. These ingredients can form the base of many dishes and save you from making extra trips to the store.

8. Repurpose Leftovers

Leftovers can be transformed into new meals with a little creativity. For instance, roasted chicken can become tacos, chicken salad or a pasta dish. Use leftover vegetables in a stir-fry, omelet or soup. Repurposing leftovers not only reduces waste but also keeps your meals interesting throughout the week.
By planning your menu, batch cooking, pre-portioning ingredients and staying organized, you can streamline your prep process and enjoy home-cooked meals with less stress. And when you don’t feel like cooking, you can always stop by Colony Diner for a bite to eat!