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It happened to me — again. I was all set to meal prep for my family on Sunday, only to realize I didn't have the ingredients I needed. As a working mom of three, it's tricky for me to just head to the store on a whim and I kinda-totally panicked.
But, instead of resigning myself to a week of takeout and cereal — again — I remembered that Walmart+ can deliver groceries to your door in an instant. Within a few hours, I had everything I needed for the week, dropped right on my doorstep. We all enjoyed delicious nutritious meals over the next few days, and nobody saw me sweat.
Heard of meal prep but never really tried it? Regularly prepping meals for the week ahead can help you avoid this kind of crisis situation from unfolding in the future, Michael Schulson, chef, CEO and founder of the Philadelphia restaurant group, Schulson Collective, tells Yahoo Life. Not only will meal prep allow you to have prepared ingredients at the ready, "it just allows you to really enjoy the dining experience," Shulson says. And, he points out, "the amount of cleanup, prepping or cooking that you have to do when you've already done meal prep is limited — that's a big deal."
Top Chef star Antonia Lofaso, author of The Busy Mom’s Cookbook: 100 Recipes for Quick, Delicious, Home-cooked Meals, tells Yahoo Life that meal prep is an important element of allowing her to eat healthy foods. "I can't rely on waking up in the morning and not know what I’m eating throughout the entire day, and leaving it up to chance," she says. "As much as my day moves and shifts, meal prep, or as I like to call it, 'tomorrow food,' is important."
Lofaso says that once or twice a week, she'll prepare food and put it into containers that she can pull out throughout the week.
Chef Judy Joo, host of Food Network's Korean Food Made Simple, tells Yahoo Life that meal prep takes a little planning and thinking about what you'd like to eat during the week. Then, "all of your ingredients are measured, cut, and sometimes depending on what it is, mixed and cooked too."
Of course, some foods are better for meal prep than others. "Some ingredients are good for a couple of days before; others you should only do a few hours before," Joo says.
A few good options to prep in advance:
Fresh salad greens. "If washed and stored in airtight bags with wet paper towels, [these] can stay good for a few days depending on the type of leaves." Romaine, kale, cabbage, arugula, and radicchio have staying power after they're prepped, Lofaso says.
Vegetables. "Most vegetables hold up well," Lofaso says.
Most meats. While you don't want to bread chicken cutlets in advance — they can get soggy — Schulson says that things like meatballs and pot roast "actually taste better when they're made ahead of time."
Another pro tip, per Schulson: Unless you're prepping a stew, store your ingredients separate from each other. "If you mix certain things together ahead of time, like tomatoes and greens, they'll get wilted," he points out.
If you've never done meal prep before, Lofaso says it's a good idea to start. "Meal prep seems like a task, but it pays off in volumes," she says. "The two to three hours that you spend meal prepping twice a week will pay off by being able to feed your body a great number of nutrients in a short amount of time, which is immeasurable."
Interested in giving meal prep a go, but need to fill your fridge first? Consider using Walmart+, the retail giant’s new delivery service. Once you sign up, you'll get a risk-free trial for 15 days (upgraded to 30 days if you answer a quick three-question survey). After that, you’ll be charged $13 per month or $98 per year — it’s up to you.
With Walmart+, you can get fresh groceries, perishables and other gear at always-low Walmart prices delivered to your door, sometimes within hours. Stock up on these options to make your meal prep experience even better.
To really ace the meal prep game, solid storage solutions are a must. This 10-piece set from Rubbermaid is crafted from BPA-free Tritan plastic to give you a clear view of what's inside. A nice perk: They're easy to stack, helping you to organize your fridge in the process.
Root vegetables like carrots do really well with meal prep. You can chop them up and toss them in stews, keep quarter-shaped slices in the fridge to throw over salads, or create sticks to nosh on whenever the mood strikes —and they'll hold up over time. This five-pound bag will last through more than a few meal preps.
Shop it: Grimway Farms Whole Carrots, 5 Pound Bag, $22, walmart.com
Meal prep involves plenty of dicing and chopping, and you're going to need a cutting board that can stand up to all that work. This Thyme & Table board is made from sturdy acacia wood and features silicone feet to help you really get a grip. A ridge around the perimeter keeps meat juices from dripping onto your counter.
Shop it: Thyme & Table Kitchen Acacia Wood SoHo Cutting Board With Silicone Feet, $20, walmart.com
Nothing says "summertime dinner" like skewers on the grill. Slice this New York strip steak into chunks and let it hang out in your marinade of choice in a container until you're ready to cook it. Then, slide it onto a skewer along with some veggies, grill it up and enjoy.
Shop it: Marketside Butcher Grass-Fed Beef New York Strip Steak, $9, walmart.com
Is your current knife set not cutting it anymore? Keep this in mind: Dull blades can cause slipping, which could lead to accidental cuts and scrapes — two things that'll slow down your meal prep plans. This 23-piece set from Farberware offers plenty of options. It also never needs sharpening, so these tools are always ready to go.
Shop it: Farberware Classic 23-piece Never Needs Sharpening Dishwasher Safe Cutlery and Utensil Set, $20, walmart.com
A good marinade can mean the difference between a basic meal and something extraordinary. This J.L. Kraft option infuses the flavors of garlic and parmesan into your meats and vegetables, and it's so easy to use. Simply tear open the bag and pour it over your food. That's it!
Shop it: J.L. Kraft Garlic & Parmesan Marinade In-A-Bag, $3, walmart.com
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