19 Tips To Keep Prepped Meals More Appealing
“How to keep prepped meals more appealing?” or “I don’t like to eat foods that are week old, but I need/ want to meal prep because of [fill in the blank]. Help!” Sounds familiar? These are questions you can find in many communities, where people talk about cooking and meal prep in particular.
I have been in similar situations, where I just couldn’t eat a certain dish for the 10th time a week. It’s a real struggle if you have your diet laid out but start to dislike the meals that are in it. On one side it’s a surefire way to think about the food you want to avoid in the first place, but also it makes you wonder if you can endure the dieting. Today I like to share a few tips on how to keep prepped meals fresh and more appealing.
Table of Contents
How to keep prepped meals pretty and tasty
#1 cook foods individually
The first tip comes from one of my dad’s 27-Pro-Tips tips.
There, he advised to cook and season the ingredients/ foods separately. Some foods lose quite some water when prepared. This also happens if you have too much in a pot or pan. You would need a really powerful stove to heat up quick enough. In reality it takes a few minutes for the food to heat up. As the result the foods gets steamed rather than fried. But only frying with relatively high temperatures closes the surface and keeps the juices inside the food. This way everything stays crunchy and you add some flavor from roasting. So, if you want to cook a lot of things don’t throw everything into on pot or pat at once. Cook each food one by one.
#2 store ingredients separate
To follow up with the previous tip, you should store the cooked foods in separate containers. Things won’t mix up and especially pasta and potatoes keep pulling water even when cold. To prevent them from turning into paste make sure they don’t touch or sit any in liquids.
#3 Instead of cooking, fry the food
Steaming is a very gentle way to prepare foods, but also it makes certain foods mushy. The same goes for cooking in hot or boiling water.
But frying closes the surface and pores of any goods and reduces watering a lot. The structure stays intact and keeps the water inside. The Food remains crunchy and, as mentioned about, the roasting adds flavor.
#4 Add salt last or just before eating
This is another tip to prevent watering. Salt pulls water out of the food. Part of it will simply evaporate, but especially with the amounts of food needed to prep for a week things can add up. Spices and herbs are all fine. Watch out, tough, as some seasoning already has salt in it.
Some like to add salt right before serving or even later: Just before eating.
#5 Create ever so changing dishes
Let’s take the first tip (cook and store foods individually) a bit further: Now that you have a bunch of bowls with different ingredients, cooked and ready in front of you, it’s super easy to create a few different dishes for every day. Mix and match as you like and use seasoning, spices, and different sauces to create variation. Don’t be afraid to try something new.
Often the magic lies within the seasoning or even just one or two key components.
Ginger and soy sauce give anything an “Asian” theme.
Tomatoes, basil, and rosemary bring in some “Italian” flavor.
#6 Use colorful ingredients
Let’s be honest: The second you look at a meal you judge and rate it whether you’re going to like or even eat it. The meal can still be very tasty, but if it’s not looking too good, you might not give it a chance. This is especially true when the meal is like a stew or a soup or a darker sauce with vegetables in it.
But we can give our meals an advantage by using plenty of color. A colorful salad or any other meal looks much more interesting and therefore tasty if it has many colors. So, next time you buy peppers – buy all the colors! Keep an eye open for foods that you know have a distinct color, like carrots which are always orange. You may find them in different colors as well.
Some stores have them in purple and yellow. Give them a try.
One of my favorites is purple Brussel sprouts. That’s a real eye-catcher!
#7 Don’t cook foods too long
When cooking vegetables, keep them crunchy
Most vegetables become very soft the longer you cook or fry them. If you plan to reheat your meals, keep the veggies a bit more on the crunchy side. They won’t lose as much water and their cells stay mostly intact. Once you heat them up they are cooked through on point.
Additionally: You save a little time and energy.
#8 Add sauces and dressing last
From the points above it makes sense to keep sauces and dressing in extra jars. Add right before heating, or heat up while still in the jar then pour over your foods.
#9 Freeze meals
If possible freeze your meals. That’s the best way to maintain quality and freshness.
#10 Use foods that won’t get mushy
Certain foods like mushrooms, tomatoes, eggplants, zucchini, and onions tend to get mushy very fast. Their structure is a bit softer and breaks even more when cooked.
When the cells are broken they are open and their juices run out.
Instead, use foods that stay crunchy longer. Examples are peppers, carrots, green beans, broccoli, Brussel sprouts and so on.
#11 Don’t let foods sit in their own juice plate in bowl/ container
Foods that sit in their own juices or any liquid won’t get prettier. To prevent that put a plate upside down into the bowl. The stored food is now raised and the liquids will flow away under the plate.
#12 Containers with different compartments
If you plan to fill your containers for each meal right after cooking get meal prep containers with separate compartments. They prevent the foods from mixing together and even sauces can be kept separate this way. Huge win.
#13 Keep rice, potatoes, and pasta in individual containers
These carb-sources will easily stay fresh and pretty for a week when kept in individual containers. Rice can even be frozen after it’s cooked. Remember to portion it before freezing, otherwise, you have to “chip” off from a brick of frozen rice. Potatoes and pasta should sit on an upside-down-plate in their bowl (s. above).
#14 Cook/ fry meat in the right size
I know it’s convenient to fry a whole chicken breast. But even quality meat gets dry especially when you re-heat it. And nobody likes chicken that’s almost dust.
Cut it in half
Prepare the meat in bigger pieces unless they are part of a sauce in which they stay. Still, cut your chicken breast in half.
#15 Arrange salads the night before or in the morning
Salads are a great staple in any healthy diet, but the thin leaves break very fast and lose their crunch. If you plan to bring a salad every day consider to arrange the salad the night before or in the morning. Chop all ingredients on prep-day and just an add hand-full of each when arranging. Dressings can be filled into little jars, sitting in the fridge until needed.
#16 Sprinkle the fruit with lemon juice
Prevent the fruit from turning brown by sprinkling some lemon juice over it. The vitamin C keeps fruit nice and pretty. It also adds a nice fresh flavor to any fruit.
BTW: The sourness of fruits comes from the vitamin C. That’s why “sour makes happy”.
#17 Bolognese stays fresh for a week easily
It’s not the fanciest sauce in the world – although it can be pretty awesome! – , but you can use it as a base for variation.
Just add different vegetables like beans, potatoes, corn and chili/ Tabasco to turn it into a chili con carne.
Or you make a quick lasagna.
Fry the ground meat separately so you can add different meat to the base-sauce.
#18 Don’t break the cooling chain
Nothing is worth than being really excited for a meal only to find it’s spoiled. Make sure to keep it cool for as long as possibly. Use a well insulated cooling box to ensure your food survives the commute during the hot season.
#19 Kill bacteria with hot foods
Fill containers with hot foods to kill off bacteria, let cool down then move to the fridge.
Spoilage shouldn’t be a huge problem when planning for 5 to 7 days. However, especially during the warm season and when weather changes even cooked foods can go bad.
In Germany, we say “the food is tipped over”.
Use the hot food to kill anything that may sit in your bowl and containers. Don’t lick the spoon or touch the food either.
Nothing tastes as good as a freshly cooked meal, that’s steaming hot, crunchy, juicy and just so delicious.
And as much as we like every meal to be like that, the truth is that most of the time it’s simply not possible to have fresh meals all the time. Maybe that’s one reason why so many cultures have one special day a week where everybody gathers around to enjoy and celebrate a fresh meal.
We can’t have that every day, but we can do some thinking and trying to keep our meals as fresh and appealing as possible.
Use the tips from this article as an inspiration to get creative others a real actionable tips that you can try right away.
I want this to be the ultimate list full of great tips and tricks to keep prepped foods appealing for longer.
Please share this article and let me know how you like it! Do you have tips that work really well? Let us know in the comments. How about we features the best ideas here in this or a following article?