What You Need to Know to Maximize Meal Prep

Regardless of your reason behind meal prep recipes for the week ahead, the only way to truly succeed is to create a strategy that you can easily sustain! This especially comes into play when working with fresh ingredients, as this will dictate how nutritious your meal can become. You have to remember that the moment you prepare something, it will lose its nutritional value as time goes by; in other words, the fresher your ingredients, the more nutritious it is going to be! 

With that in mind, knowing what ingredients need to be prepped right away versus others that can last a lot longer can help you develop a week-long strategy that will maximize nutritious meals! In this article, we’re going to outline some examples of those to help you properly plan your meals to maximize taste and nutrition:

1. Chicken

For meat-lovers out there, chicken is a staple in the diet. The great thing is that if kept frozen, chicken can last indefinitely! 

Of course, if you want to meal prep it for the week, you will need to thaw it first. If you do want to cook it ahead of time, then remember that chicken can last up to two days in the fridge in an airtight container poached, roasted, or pre-cooked in any other way.

2. Marinades

You will typically make marinades when you need to use them, typically a day before they are used. If you do want to store them ahead of time, know that these usually last around a week or two. 

When using the marinades, follow the recipe as indicated to maximize the flavor.

3. Grains

Grains like rice and quinoa can be cooked and last for up to four days when stored in the fridge. With a freezer, you can extend that time to around two to three months—meaning you can prep your grains and even legumes for a few months ahead of when you need them. 

When you finally want to use them, reheat them above a stove with a bit of water.

4. Dressings

Dressings can last a week from when they are made if stored in an airtight container in the fridge. While some dressings can go a lot longer than a week, other dressings like dairy-based ones may only last a few days. 

Note that these dressings will typically thicken or even harden when cold, so when you need them, leave them on the counter to warm up for around an hour.

5. Produce

Fruits and vegetables have varying times depending on the specific type of fruit or vegetable being discussed. For instance, asparagus can last up to three days once washed and trimmed, while cabbage only lasts for up to two days.  With fruits like apples, it will only last a few hours, whereas citrus fruits can last up to four days in advance. 

The most important thing here is that if you are prepping certain produce, properly clean them and peel them. Other fruits like apples may need extra steps beforehand, such as soaking them in orange juice or water to stop oxidation—but that information typically comes with a little extra research from your end!

6. Dry ingredients

When talking about dry ingredients, we’re referring to dry mixes, such as your cake or pancake batter. As long as they are dry and stored in an airtight container, you can expect them to last for up to a month or two. 

That being said, dry ingredients, like salt, pepper, and the like, can last an incredibly long time—so you do not have to worry about replacing those anytime soon. For instance, table salt can last an incredible five years and more! That’s more than enough time for you to use up the bottle of salt you own.

Conclusion

Whatever type of ingredient you plan to work with, research their prep times and follow the tips required to ensure they last for as long as possible until you need them. It may take some time to nail some of these bits of information once you learn them—but once you get used to it, understanding how long a specific ingredient lasts will become second nature. With this, you can maximize your week-long strategy to ensure nutritious food is accessible each day.

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