Want to eat healthy but can’t seem to find the time to get a healthy meal on the table after a long day at work? Meal prepping may be the answer to your time-crunched life.

Meal prepping involves shopping for and preparing foods at one time so they’re ready and waiting for you when you want to put together a meal quickly. Many people meal prep on Sundays, but you can meal prep any time it’s convenient for you.

One of the biggest barriers to eating healthy that people cite is a lack of time.  Healthy eating requires some work – and time. You have to wash and cut, cook and prepare and then clean up when you’re done. Unlike convenience foods, you don’t just pour your meal out of a box or package, snap your fingers and it’s done.

If you take some time each week to plan your meals, then shop, wash, cut and package food in containers so it’s ready to grab or prepare, you’ll be well ahead of the game. Here are some benefits to meal prepping:

  • Helps you eat healthier and consume more fruits and vegetables.
  • May help you manage your weight, since you are better in control of what and how much you eat compared to when you eat out or get takeout.
  • Can save you money. Food prepared at home is less expensive than eating out. And in many cases, whole foods are cheaper than ready-to-cook or convenience foods from the market.
  • Saves time and reduces stress. No need to stress over what’s for dinner when you know you have food waiting for you at home. You also don’t have to spend time cooking from scratch or going to a restaurant.

Ready to get started with meal prepping? Here are some tips that can help:

Mix things up. Does the thought of eating chicken day after day sound horrible? It won’t if you come up with different ways to prepare it. Cook up a bunch of chicken one day and then plan a variety of meals that won’t taste like you’re eating the same thing over and over. Try a chicken stir-fry one day, shredded chicken tacos another and chicken and veggie wraps a third.

Use your freezer. Some food will only last 2-3 days in your fridge, so if you want to cook up a big batch of food you can use at a later time, freeze it. Store individual portions in freezer bags or storage containers and label with the food and date. Then when you’re short on time, just grab something out of the freezer and defrost or microwave.

Be selective in your prep. If you don’t have time to prep all your food or meals, don’t fret. Just focus on what will save you the most time or provide the biggest benefits. So for example, if chicken takes an hour to prepare from fridge to table, cook some up on meal prep days. If you find yourself grabbing a muffin on the way to work, spend your time prepping healthy breakfasts you can take on the go, like egg muffins.Think you’ll eat more fruit or veggies if they’re washed and cut? Then make that your focus.