On average, Americans spend 37 minutes a day preparing and serving food as well as cleaning up afterward. If you're someone who cooks three meals a day from scratch using healthy, fresh ingredients, though, there's a good chance you spend a lot longer than that in the kitchen.
Most Americans are faced with a choice these days. To eat healthy in a way that doesn't break the bank, you feel like you're constantly in the kitchen. To avoid spending all of your time in the kitchen, you end up eating take out or processed, pre-made meals.
For this reason, meal prep has become a popular concept in recent years. You can cook healthy meals all at once to be eaten throughout the week.
But can you really make five days' worth of food and have it still be good on day five? Or are you flirting with the gods of gastrointestinal issues? Let's dive into it to help you plan out your meal prep menu.
Meal Prep: Is It Safe to Meal Prep For 5 Days?
The answer to this question is: it depends. First of all, if you will be making freezable meal prep meals, they will stay safe to eat for much longer. Secondly, when it comes to fridge foods, there are a number of different factors that impact how long your food will stay fresh and safe to eat.
Things like the quality of your ingredients, how you packed them, your type of meal prep container, and your refrigerator will impact how long your meal prep meals stay fresh.
The FDA guidelines for both freezer and fridge storage are a good place to start when you are making meals ahead of time. How long foods can stay good in the refrigerator can vary quite a bit.
For example, cooked fish is only good in the fridge for three to four days, while smoked fish can last in the fridge for fourteen days.
When you are planning out your meal prep, you will want to base how long a meal is good on the ingredient with the shortest shelf life. On top of that, though, you'll want to consider that how clean your workspace and tools were will impact how long food is fresh for.
How Can You Tell If Your Meal Prepped Meals Are Still Good to Eat?
If you aren't finding the answer you're looking for on the FDA guidelines, there are a few things you can watch out for when trying to determine whether that awesome, healthy meal you made is still good. Some of these tactics might seem more obvious, but it's worth overcommunicating when we're talking about food safety.
One of the most obvious signs that your meal prepped food didn't make it as long as you thought it would is mold.
If there are signs of mold on your meals, you should definitely throw it out. Trust us. It doesn't matter how much money you spent making the food or how much time you invested in the recipe, there's nothing that should compel you to do anything but toss it.
The color of your meal prep meals is also something worth checking out. All of the ingredients should be the same color as when you first made them. If lettuce is brown, meat is gray, or anything looks kind of off, it's best to toss it.
Color can be misleading if the ingredients you used contained preservatives, though.
We've all been there. You're wondering whether your meal is still good when it's been in the fridge for a few days. The next step is to bravely take a sniff.
If there is a spoiled food smell or even a slightly funny smell, the food isn't good anymore. You want your leftovers to smell the same as when you first made them.
If your food has passed all the other tests, it's time to look at the texture. If there has been a drastic texture change or the food seems slimy, then there is a good chance that it isn't good anymore.
How Can You Meal Prep For a Full Week and Be Sure No Meals Go Bad?
When you are meal prepping, there's a good chance most meals will last for somewhere between three and five days. However, if you want to meal prep for seven days, that means you'll need to have two separate meal prep sessions a week.
The other option is to make meals that hold up well to freezing. You can then leave a few meals out in the fridge for the first three days and freeze the rest. Then, you can take a freezer meal out to thaw overnight in the fridge before you go to bed, ensuring that it's fresh when you're ready to eat.
Does all of this seem like a bit more work than you're interested in doing? Check out our delivery and pick up policy to learn whether Athletics Fit is right for you.
Have You Considered a Meal Prep Delivery Service?
While meal prep can look impressive on your friend's Instagram page, the reality is it's a lot of work. For people who don't enjoy cooking, it can be an arduous chore indeed. You can save your precious time and still eat healthily by signing up for meal prep services.
If it's time for you to start eating healthy to support your fitness goals, check out our healthy custom meals here!