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Meal prep is the secret behind stress-free weekday meals. Learn how to meal prep Indian food like a pro, even if you are a beginner.
If you are someone who has very little time to cook during the week but likes fresh homemade food, then you’ve got to start meal planning and prepping.
It is seriously life-changing!
You’ll no longer scurry around to put a meal together or peek into the refrigerator wondering what to cook for the night.
If you are new to meal planning, go check out this article first – How to meal plan and then come back to this post.
What is meal prep?
Meal planning saves time and money, no doubt. But if you want to spend even less time in the kitchen during weeknights, then meal prepping over the weekends will help you achieve that.
Meal prep refers to the process of getting ingredients or entire meals ready in advance (usually over the weekend). This helps to put a meal together on days when you are running short on time.
There is no one way to do it, though folks who meal prep follow one or more of the following methods –
- Ingredient prep – Chop the ingredients and refrigerate or freeze them till you are ready to cook them. For example. – chop onions, peel garlic, and marinate chicken.
- Condiment prep – Over the weekend, make base sauces such as curry sauce or tikka masala, chutneys, nut butter, ginger garlic paste, hummus, etc.,
- Dump-and-go meal kits – Assemble ingredients together and freeze them. When it is time to cook, dump all the ingredients in a slow cooker or an Instant Pot.
- Mix and match – Batch cook ingredients and use them to create different meals.
- Batch cooking and portioning – Preparing entire recipes and then portioning them for the week. Works great for oatmeal, overnight oats, etc.
Why should you meal prep?
- Makes cooking on weeknights possible.
- Eating home-cooked meals is better for your health.
- Saves you money on takeouts.
- You buy only what you need, so there is less food waste.
In short, meal prep saves you time, money and keeps you in good health.
Meal Prep 101
Before you begin meal prepping, you need to do three things –
- Get the right kitchen tools for meal prep – Check out this list of meal prep gadgets and tools you should have in your kitchen to make meal prep easier and quicker.
- Invest in storage containers – Check out these plastic-free meal prep containers that are good for you and the environment.
- Learn how to meal plan – Before you start prepping for your food, you need to have a meal plan in place so that you know what meals you are prepping for :-).
How to meal prep
There are several tasks that you can complete over the weekend to make weeknight cooking less time-consuming.
If you make Indian food at home, here are some of the things that you can do over the weekend to plan for the week.
- Chop vegetables and freeze them – There are plenty of times that we throw our veggies out because we were not able to use them before they start rotting. Here are my 2 cents – chop and freeze them. Beans, cabbage, cauliflower, okra (bhindi), etc. – freeze well, and there is NO impact on the taste when you cook them. I use frozen veggies most of the time for side dishes such as beans poriyal, cabbage poriyal, bhindi do pyaza, etc.
- Make curry sauce – This basic onion-tomato sauce is a life-saver. It stores well for a week in the refrigerator (and freezes well too). It is a versatile sauce that you can use as a base for curries, including Makhani gravies, chicken curries, and even dals. Here’s a detailed post on how to make and use curry sauce.
- Chop onions – When I am not using curry sauce, I keep a week’s worth of onions chopped in the refrigerator. While the onions are being fried, I use the time to cut tomatoes, mince ginger/garlic, etc. By the way, it is a myth that stored onions turn poisonous!
- Peel Garlic – You can either buy store-bought peeled garlic (available in Costco or most grocery stores) or peel them over the weekend.
- Make roti dough – Roti dough stays good in the refrigerator for a couple of days. You can always make extra dough and store it in the freezer. For detailed instructions on how to make the perfect roti dough and storage ideas, read this post.
- Dry roast sooji and store it in an air-tight container – it can be used to quickly make sheera, sooji ka upma, rava idli.
- Batch cooking – Make a big batch of oatmeal, chia pudding, or overnight oats and divide them into containers for a quick grab-and-go breakfast or snack.
- Paratha stuffing or sandwich stuffing – I make stuffing for aloo parathas over the weekend. They store well in the refrigerator for about 3 days and in the freezer for a month.
- Homemade ginger garlic paste – Personally, I’m not a fan of the store-bought ginger garlic paste. You can make a big batch of homemade ginger garlic paste at home or (ginger paste and garlic paste separately) and refrigerate it for a week. If you want to make a bigger batch that would last you a month, you can do so by grinding ginger and garlic together and freezing it in an ice-cube tray. Remove the cubed paste and store it in the freezer in a Ziploc bag or a freezer-proof glass container for about a month.
- Coriander chutney– It goes well with most breakfast and snack items and tastes great for a couple of days. If you are making large quantities, store it in the freezer and follow the same process as you would for storing homemade ginger garlic paste.
Meal Prep Tips
- Start slow (and small) – do one week at a time. You don’t need to follow all the strategies mentioned above. Most weekends, I just chop onions and veggies, and I find that very helpful.
- Schedule time for meal prepping in your calendar – meal prep at the same time every week. It is easier to make it a habit that way and stay consistent.
- Invest in quality storage containers. You don’t want your food to go to waste after all the time you have spent on prepping. Check out this list of plastic-free meal prep containers.
- Get the right tools for the job – Meal prep does not have to be labor-intensive. With the right tools and gadgets, you can get a lot done without spending long hours in the kitchen. Here’s a list of must-have kitchen tools I use to meal prep Indian food.
- Have a well-stocked pantry – Always keep a well-stocked pantry before you begin meal prep. Refill all the empty or half-empty spice/pulses containers before you begin.
- Make it a family activity – You don’t have to do it alone. Have your family help out with sorting groceries, cleaning cilantro and methi leaves, and chopping onions and tomatoes.
- Meal prep (twice a week) – You don’t have to do it all at once. I meal prep twice a week. On Sundays, I meal prep for Monday through Wednesday, and on Wednesday evenings, I prep for meals for Thursdays to Saturdays. We usually eat out on Sundays.
- Prep right after grocery shopping (or within a day) – This ensures that you are working with ingredients while they are still fresh.
- Cook some elements of the dish and prep the rest. I make all the base sauces – curry sauce, tikka masala sauce once a month. I freeze them and use them for meals throughout the month. I do that with ginger-garlic paste and nut butter too.
- Double up a recipe and freeze it for later.
- Follow food safety – Read through these FDA guidelines for storing foods.
- Have a fallback plan for days when you have no time – I always keep pasta and marinara sauce in the pantry. If my planning fails, I can always make this easy pasta recipe using my Instant Pot. It is a dump-and-go recipe that requires less than 5 minutes of prep time.
- How to stock your kitchen – Learn how to create a master grocery list, track your pantry items, and have a well-stocked kitchen so that you can cook delicious meals anytime you want!
- How to meal plan – A detailed guide on how to start meal planning.
- Meal themes – how to use them – Check out these 20+meal themes that’ll help you create delicious meals that your whole family will love.
- Pantry staples – Considering meal prepping? Make sure you have a few pantry staples always available in the kitchen so that you can meal prep whenever you have time.
- 30+ tips for meal planning success – Review these easy-to-follow tips and strategies that will help you meal plan and prep like a pro.
- Out of milk app – Learn how to use your phone to track your pantry items and create shopping lists by store.