A great time-saver is to use freezer bags for a slow cooker meal for each day.

The struggle is real. Cooking healthy, homemade meals for you and your family every day can seem like a massive time drain in a world where time is money…but it doesn’t have to be that way. With just a little bit of organisation and planning, you can ensure that you eat healthily for an entire week without losing out on valuable time for the things that are important to you. Here are our top meal prep tips to ensure you stay well fed, relaxed and healthy each week, every week!

Invest in a slow cooker

The slow cooker will save your life, seriously. You can throw ingredients in it early in the morning before you leave, or the evening before as you do dishes. Then all you have to do is switch it on and come home to a delicious meal. It’s really hard to get things wrong in a slow cooker and they’re far more versatile than you’d think. While people typically use them for soup, stew, casseroles and curries you can also cook whole joints of meat, make pasta and even rustle up a decent dessert in these life changing devices. Plus, they’re super energy-efficient so are cheaper to run than an oven or stove, meaning they actually save you money in the long run.

Get your grocery shopping delivered weekly

Online grocery shopping is a “big thing” overseas, but it hasn’t taken off in the same way in South Africa. Both Pick N Pay and Woolworths offer online grocery shopping, and if you are lucky enough to have a good internet connection, there’s no reason not to take advantage of it! You can generally choose a delivery time to suit you and although you do pay a delivery charge, this has to be weighed up against the cost of you driving to the store and the inconvenience of waiting in line.

The other benefit of online grocery shopping is that you can order exactly what you need for the week after deciding on your meal plan, and won’t end up with unnecessary wastage. If you look online, you may also find that some local butcheries or greengrocers will deliver without charge. These local businesses are often cheaper too, so have a look around.

Season your meats multiple ways without using multiple pans

This has got to be one of our favourite hacks ever. If you’re eating a lot of chicken and lean meats, prepping for the week can lead to food boredom pretty quickly. Avoid that by seasoning your chicken or other meat in different ways so you can change them up throughout the week. Simply use an oven tray or dish and use folded lengths of tin foil to make dividers. Then season each “section” separately – lemon and herb, barbeque, peri-peri, sage butter, balsamic…the options are endless!

Here’s an example of the foil dividers in action, taken from Pinterest:

Glass jars are your best friends

You can use glass jars to store breakfast and lunches for a week or so, as well as keeping portions controlled. Salad works great in a glass jar to ensure you always have fresh, crunchy ingredients. How? Just put the dressing at the bottom, followed by things such as red peppers, olives or cucumber. Then put the super absorbent ingredients like your lettuce at the top and seal tightly.

Glass jars also work well for oat breakfasts. You can customise jars of instant oats with fruits, spices and additions and heat them up the next day. Better yet though, opt for overnight oats. Simply put your dry oats in the jar and let them soak milk, yoghurt or your choice of liquid. Add jam or fruit for your toppings and the next day you’ll have soft oats which are ready to eat hot or cold.

Start on a Sunday

We know that meal prepping on a Sunday is a chore but if you can spare an hour or two when the family is napping or while you’re at a loose end, you’ll thank yourself for it later on in the week. And let’s be honest, most of us have more time to spare on a Sunday afternoon than early on Monday morning. Use those couple of hours to chop, store, prep and plan your meals for the week and you’ll be sitting pretty until next Saturday.

What do you do on a Sunday? If you have time then you can help yourself along by cooking one good meal (with extra) which you can freeze in individual or family portions – you can eat it towards the end of the following week as part of your meal prep and keep an extra two or three portions in the freezer. Doing this once a week means you slowly build up a stockpile of frozen meals to use on days where meal prep just hasn’t worked out or you have unexpected extra mouths to feed.

If you don’t want to cook or don’t have time though, a great timesaver is to use freezer bags for a slow cooker meal for each day. Put all the ingredients and spices you’ll need for Monday night into one bag and leave it in the fridge. Do the same for Tuesday, Wednesday and so on but throw these ones in the freezer. Then all you have to do is take out one bag each morning or evening and empty it into your slow cooker.

You can also pre-chop vegetables and fruits for salads and smoothies. Remember to store them in air tight containers to prevent them from going brown or soggy.