Nutritional Health

Preparing Meals

Introduction to Meal Prep

Some people have had the chance to practice meal preparation activities aka meal prep in their home. This can include helping to get dinner ready, making their own lunch, or getting into baking (yummy cookie dough!). For others, preparing their own meals might be a new opportunity!

Making your own meals is good for your health and your wallet! By cooking your own food, you can be more aware and informed about exactly what ingredients are in the food you are eating. You have a chance to read labels, eat a variety of different foods, and prepare meals that are important for your health goals. Grocery shopping and planning your meals is also a good way to save you some money. It can also help avoid the impulsive Skip the Dishes or Uber Eats orders!

Some people love cooking! But it is not everyone’s favourite activity. Sometimes other priorities in your life make it difficult to find time to get groceries and meal prep. These other priorities can include work, school, and volunteering.

A strategy to help make your life easier when it comes to preparing meals is meal planning. As the name suggests, meal planning involves thinking about what you might want to eat in the near future. You then come up with a plan for those meals. Meal planning is ideal. By taking some time to plan out your future meals, you save a large amount of time!

Below are some tips to help you get started with meal planning:

  • Choose a meal planning template, such as this one from Foundry to help you stay organized
  • Before you go grocery shopping, “shop” your pantry first. Check out what you already have in your pantry/fridge!
  • Think of meals that use some of the same ingredients so you buy less.
  • Try to cook large quantities of individual foods with the intention of using them in different ways throughout the day.
  • Use the freezer to store foods, and plan to use leftovers.

You can meal plan for a week or a couple of days. You should do what works best for you! Check out this page for some quick and easy meal prep ideas/recipes.

Something to try out is scheduling a weekly time for meal preparation. This involves doing activities that make it easier to cook your meals later in the week. Pre-cutting vegetables, marinating your meat or portioning a larger dish. This all helps to make your week go smoother.

Preparing meals with others can make it fun. Maybe you’ll also learn a few new things too! If you have roommates, siblings, friends, or family, reach out. Ask if they want to get together once a month to make some sharable meals. These can be pre-made and portioned to cook later in the week. This can help offer variety in your weekly meal plan. It also gives you an opportunity to try new foods that you might not know how to make alone. Overall, meal prepping with others can make the whole process much more enjoyable.

Remember… cooking doesn’t have any rules! You will get better the more you try it!

Preparing Meals on a Budget

Sometimes, you might find yourself strapped for cash. You may be unable to buy large amounts of groceries. It can also be pricey to get certain items you might have wanted to eat or include in your weekly meal plan. There are some steps you can take to try and incorporate healthy eating into your life even on a small budget.

Some tips for grocery shopping on a tight budget include:

  • Write up a shopping list and try to stick to it!
  • Buy frozen or canned fruits and vegetables. Prices of fresh goods change based on the season and availability of fresh food.
  • When possible, buy foods such as beans, pasta, rice, spices in bulk.
  • Try buying no-name brands and shop the flyers or specials that are available at the grocery store.
  • Look for items on the top and bottom shelves. The most expensive items are usually kept at eye level!

Check out this link for more tips on how to eat well on a tight budget. Also, check out Budget Bytes for easy low-cost recipes!

Perhaps you are unable to eat some foods due to dietary restrictions, or due to religious and cultural reasons. You can check out websites like BBC Good Food for lists of fairly inexpensive dietary restriction recipes.

When you have the time and resources, you can expand your pallet by trying out different recipes from around the world! Check out BBC Food for a non-exhaustive list of recipes from across the world.

If you are having trouble securing food for yourself or your family, and you have found yourself unable to afford groceries – you are not alone! There is support out there. Consider reaching out to your local food bank. Click this link to find a food bank near you!

Want to learn more about nutrition and healthy cooking for teens and young adults? Check out our Groups and Workshops page to check when the next Converse & Cook workshop is happening!
Looking for someone to talk to? Check out Kickstand Connect to sign-up for private, free virtual appointments with our Mental Health Therapists and Peer Support Worker.
If you or someone you know is in crisis, contact emergency services (9-1-1) now.