Six Kitchen Tools Essential for a Savvy Meal Prep
Updated: Jun 28, 2019
One of the biggest habits that changed my nutrition game when it came to my fitness journey was prioritizing meal prep.
Meal prep is largely described as being a designated time you choose in your week to pre-cook healthy meals in larger quantities for the strict purpose of having them available for consumption when needed. Prioritizing and acquiring this habit helps one to stick to a "meal plan" and eat healthy, no matter how chaotic a day or week becomes.
I can personally attest to the soundness of this practice. Since incorporating this ritual into my week, I have experienced major gains in the way of nutrition and the habits that surround eating foods that fit my fitness goals. It's euphoric not having to worry about what I'm going to eat once the hectic-ness of the day begins. After completing meal prep (for me, its on Sunday's), I have perfectly portable and proportioned foods (...love those P's) in the appropriate amounts, ready and waiting for me to consume. Yes Please!
Having said all of that, in my attempt to carry out this practice, I realized a few key things. Namely, the tools we use make all the difference in our ability to carry out our nutrition goals seamlessly. Read on to discover the six essential meal prep kitchen tools you wanna own to make your meal prep a breeze to get done.
Kitchen Tool #1: Baking Trays
So I will start here. A tool you might not initially think about. When you're doing meal prep, you are cooking food in slightly larger quantities. I learned very early on (the hard way) that my usual small trays were just not going to cut it when it came to meal prep. I would end up rewashing the same tray multiple times throughout meal prep. Talk about time consuming!
Then one day, a little birdie near by suggested that I get large industrial baking trays to use instead. I did and what a difference it made! With meal prep, since we’re cooking in slightly larger quantities, having baking trays makes baking chicken, roasting veggies, making “healthy” cookies and snacks so much easier and quicker. You can bake these items in one batch rather than smaller batches, cutting your time in the kitchen down significantly. So my
#1: Large industrial baking trays for sure!
Kitchen Tool #2: The Rice Cooker
Coming in at a close, close second for the top spot is a rice cooker. This beauty saves time like you wouldn’t believe. Interacting with this tool is actually the first thing I do in my meal prep. I take out my rice, pour out the necessary quantities, load it in the rice cooker, turn on the mechanism and then let it go to town. I do this before doing anything else. This way upon getting other items started, the rice is cooking in the background without my having to attend to it. When the rice is done cooking, the cooking mechanism switches over too warming, keeping my rice warm and standing by ready for consumption. This is a far cry from my early meal prep days of always burning the rice or over cooking it because my attention was elsewhere. This one is huge! A rice cooker is a definite must.
I would say an 8 cup size rice cooker is more than sufficient for most needs. I usually only prepare 2 cups of rice for meal prep, as I find that for my family of three this is more than adequate. The rice usually finishes by day three (Wednesday) which is perfect. If I need more, then it's nothing to just throw another cup or two in the cooker again. Simple!
(Note: A rice cooker is essential if rice is usually a crucial part of your diet. Whole grain rice for example, is often a large part of an active person's diet because it is a great slow digesting carbohydrate source. More on this in a later post)
Kitchen Tool #3: Large Mixing Bowls
This is another easily overlooked tool that makes a huge difference when cooking in large quantities. Along with larger baking trays, I needed to purchase larger mixing bowls. Once again, once upon a time I was re-washing the same regular sized bowls every time I needed to work with another meal prep item. It was a pain and very time consuming! With the purchase of larger mixing bowls, I could season all my meat and veggies together, simultaneously, yet individually of each other.
Kitchen Tool #4: Good Chef's Knife (Set)
This is an important one. I learned from a very wise person (my friendly neighborhood chef friend) that one of the biggest mistakes people make in the kitchen is having poor knife game. It’s also one of the most dangerous things you can do as well. Think about it. Your trying to slice and dice away, but your slicing and dicing is more reminiscent of hard core see-sawing back and forth. This means you end up taking forever to cut your veggies, seasonings, spices and meats. That’s just annoying and once again, time consuming! There’s also a greater risk of you performing involuntary surgery on yourself. We don’t want that!
Getting good quality chef knifes and taking the extra minute and two seconds to sharpen them every time before starting meal prep is worth the extra expense and effort.
A free tip for you from one meal prep-er to another: Take some time one day and pre-chop all your veggies and seasonings like onions, tomatoes, garlic, etc., that you like to use regularly during your cooking. Then freeze them! Keep them in a ziplock bag in the freezer so that when you need to sauté something during meal prep you don’t have to spend time chopping everything, as that’s where the time ‘consuming-ness’ of cooking usually resides. All you have to do is grab what you need when you need it and throw into the pan saving immense time!
Kitchen Tool #5: Large Frying Pan
This brings me to the next gem: a large frying pan. You know the drill by now: larger is better when in meal prep mode. Large baking trays, large mixing bowls, and now a large frying pan should you desire to cook by flame. Side note: I also love using a large wok for sautéing my veggies for stir fry days! But nothing is more annoying than when you have just finished cutting up all your chicken and seasoning it, and its a lot of chicken, and you turn around and realize that your frying pan is half the size it's need to be to hold it all. Now you have to cook everything in small batches, which will take longer. This is obviously less than ideal. So get a large frying pan and save time. You can thank me later.
Let’s take a break to address a common thought that usually creeps in at this point in the conversation. You’re probably thinking this could get real expensive having to re-buy kitchen tools for meal prep specifically. You already have all these items in a mid-size version, so why re-buy. It’s okay to think this because I thought this as well once upon a time.
Then I reminisced on all the time, extra effort and energy I expended trying to make my medium-sized tools work for my new habit of meal prep, where cooking larger quantities of food became the thing. It wasn’t working. And the lack of success was leaving me with feelings of frustration, which then made me not want to continue the habit of meal prep. Which I had learned at the time was a very successful nutrition habit to establish. Hence, my goals of being on top of my nutrition during the initial stages of my fitness journey were over.
So I took that thinking and trashed it! I sucked it up and made the one time investment into these tools and haven’t looked back since. Now meal prep is a breeze to complete, I’m reaching my nutrition goals more efficiently AND my family is eating healthier as well.
The moral of this story: always remember that this process of living a healthier lifestyle is completely YOURS. Do what you can and move forward into it at YOUR pace and in this case, YOUR cost. Know that with time, energy, commitment AND investment, you will get to wherever it is you wish to go.
...now onto the 6th kitchen gem!
Kitchen Tool #6: Meal Prep Bowls
The last tool: Your meal prep bowls! You can’t go through all the effort of making all this delicious, healthy food and not have a place to store it in. I suggest getting some meal prep bowls to hold your food, large enough to hold the appropriate portions, but small enough that it can fit in your duffel bag, gym bag, or whatever you may need to carry your food in as you move through your day. Personally, I make enough meal prep for Monday through Wednesday, breakfast, lunch and dinner. My snacks usually consist of a piece of fruit, or protein shake which takes negative three seconds to prepare. I’ve established a great ‘grab-n-go” situation in my kitchen presently that has been so beneficial towards the progression of my fitness and nutrition goals, while still fitting in masterfully with the craziness of my ‘wifey-mommy-boss-babe’ life.
So there it is. A short list of my buddies in the kitchen, handy for meal prep. I could probably add a few more kitchen gems to this list. Maybe someday soon in a blog post near you, I will do just that. For now however, I will keep it here because here is where it starts. Get these six essential kitchen tools as quickly as you can and your meal prep sessions will be nothing but sweet!
Happy Meal-Prepping, Friends!