5 Things That Have Made My at-Home Meal Prep So Much Easier
This is Obsessed: my weekly column devoted to sharing all the things I'm loving right now—from unique food and gift ideas to travel destinations and beauty products—plus some tips and tricks for living your best life.
When the pandemic started, I had no choice but to cook and eat at home. I tried to find the silver lining and made it my mission to eat healthier. I got in a really good groove during which I was meal-prepping lunches for the week (even though I was just "commuting" to my spare bedroom to work). But after restaurants near me started opening, it became easier to hop off the meal-prep train and go to a drive-through restaurant or order takeout for lunch. I quickly realized that this is not only an expensive habit, but also a pretty unhealthy one when you do it too often. So I've been trying to get back into the swing of things and make a few meals each week or big batches of staples like whole grains and roasted veggies for easy-to-customize meals.
I've noticed that I've not only lost a few pounds, but I feel better (and my bank account isn't quite as sad). Here are some things that have helped me save time and money while meal-prepping.
A Coffee Maker
Hear me out: Coffee is absolutely part of my daily meal prep, because if I didn't have my Nespresso machine and milk frother at home I'd go buy a $5 latte every morning. I acknowledge that going out for coffee every day is a ridiculous (and ridiculously expensive) habit, so my Nespresso has saved me so much money over time. Whether you opt for an espresso machine or an old school drip brewer, making your coffee at home can save you some serious cash (and taste just as good as the joe from your local coffee shop). I also love stocking up on cold brew concentrates in the summertime (like this 32-ounce one from Chameleon, $9.99 at Target)—all you have to do is add a little milk or water and go!
I don't love eating the same meal every day, so I like to batch cook things like lean proteins, grains, potatoes and/or veggies so I can mix and match items and switch up the flavors. An easy way to add flavor and variety is by adding a really great sauce to the mix. Here are some of my favorites:
- Wicked Kitchen's Sticky Teriyaki Sauce is amazing for drizzling over veggies or using in stir-fries and grain bowls (you can buy it at Sprouts stores nationwide).
- Carbone's pasta sauces are especially delicious on noodles, pizza, homemade meatballs and polenta. The arrabiata sauce is my favorite since it adds a welcome amount of spice to your favorite meal. (Buy it: $39.95 for a 4-pack on Amazon)
- Red Clay makes my absolute favorite hot sauces. Lately, I've been really into using the Verde hot sauce on veggies, tacos, eggs or avocado toast. (Buy it: $9, Red Clay)
- I've waxed poetic before about Truff's truffle oil. It's incredible on roasted potatoes, grain bowls, eggs and more. (Buy it: $24.99, Truff)
A Cutting Board and Knife
I've recently discovered that I'm much more likely to eat fruits and vegetables if they're already chopped up. I love eating fresh produce in the summer, so I've been prepping things like our Strawberry Fruit Salad and Summer Crudités and Dip every week (though I usually just buy store-bought guac or hummus to keep things easy).
A good cutting board and knife are probably the two things I couldn't live without in my kitchen. Though they're both a bit of a splurge, I love my cutting board from Fifth & Cherry (buy it: $299, Fifth & Cherry) and my Wusthof 8" chef's knife (buy it: $89.95 at Williams Sonoma) for easy meal prep. Want some other options? Check out our test kitchen's guides for their favorite chef's knives and cutting boards.
It's crucial to have a few really nice containers to store your prepped goodies. For every day meal prep, I love these glass containers (buy them: $45 for ten containers with lids, Amazon). They allow me to see exactly what I have on hand, and the middle divider is handy for keeping things organized. Plus, since they're glass they'll last forever and they're easy to clean in the dishwasher.
If I'm trying to keep something extra hot or cold all day, I love using my Rigwa Life bowl. I think it's also worth picking up the inserts to store things like granola and berries on top of your smoothie or yogurt bowl. And if I'm making something like curry, I know it'll stay piping hot for hours.
Jaime Milan is EatingWell's digital editor for all things newsy and trending. She's always on the hunt for the latest and greatest things to share with EatingWell's readers. In her spare time, you can find her experimenting in the kitchen, tackling home projects with her husband or taking pics of her very photogenic American Eskimo Dog, Grits. Follow her on Instagram at @jaimemmilan.