Meal Prep FAQ: Is it Safe to Meal Prep for 5 Days?
Meal prepping is all about convenience and helping you stick to your goals, but a common question we get asked on MealPrep is: “is it safe to meal prep for 5 to 7 days in advance?” And it’s a great question.
There’s no point doing all the hard work to make yourself a week’s worth of meals only to have it go bad before it even hits your mouth. So in this blog, we’re diving into the world of 5-day meal prepping and answering the question on everyone’s mind: is it safe to meal prep for 5 days? We’ve done the research and have all the tips and tricks you need to make sure your meals stay fresh and delicious for the entire workweek. Let’s go!
5 Day Meal Prep – is it Safe?
The answer to the question “Is it safe to meal prep for 5 days?” is both simple and complex. And that’s because the answer is “it depends”. Not helpful, I know! But whether or not it’s safe to meal prep for 5 days really does depend on several factors.
Firstly, are the meals you’re making good to store in the freezer? Or do you plan on leaving them in the fridge for the week? Storing meal prep in the freezer for 5 days is perfectly fine – in fact, most meals can last up to 3 months when stored in the freezer.
However, when it comes to storing meals in the fridge, there are a lot of different factors that come into play. The quality of your ingredients, how you pack them, the type of container you use, and even your refrigerator can all impact how long your meals will stay fresh and safe to eat. For example, cooked fish should only be kept in the fridge for 3-4 days, while smoked fish can last up to 14 days.
When planning your meals, make sure to base the shelf life on the ingredient with the shortest shelf life. Also, remember that a clean workspace and tools will help keep your food fresh for longer.
What Happens if You Eat Food That’s Gone Bad?
The biggest food safety concern when meal prepping for 5 days is potentially consuming a meal that’s gone bad. When you’re prepping meals for a longer period of time, there’s a higher chance for bacteria to grow if food isn’t stored properly.
So what exactly happens when you eat food that’s gone bad? Well, you can get food poisoning, and it’s not something to be taken lightly. Food poisoning is caused by consuming food or drink that contains harmful bacteria, viruses, or toxins.
Symptoms can vary depending on the type of food and the microorganisms or toxins involved, but common symptoms include stomach cramps, nausea, vomiting, diarrhoea, and fever. In some cases, food poisoning can also cause more serious health issues such as dehydration, organ failure, and even death. So, it’s super important to take food safety seriously when meal prepping.
5 Tips to Keep Meal Prep Fresh for 5 Days in the Fridge
The good news is there are plenty of ways to make sure your meal prep stays safe to eat for 5 days.
- Make sure you’re using fresh ingredients to begin with: If you’re meal prepping with chicken that’s due to expire in two days-time, you’re already putting yourself at a disadvantage. Always buy products with a further expiry or use-by date from the day you plan on meal prepping, especially when it comes to meats.
- Choose ingredients with a long shelf-life: Meal prepping with vegetables and things like beans, tofu, rice and pasta is a good way to make sure your meals will stay fresh and safe to consume for 5 days or more. This kind of produce stays fresher and safer for longer than things like chicken, beef and pork.
- Be mindful of cross-contamination: Be super careful about cross-contamination. This means keeping raw meats separate from other ingredients and using separate cutting boards and utensils.
- Keep a clean workspace: Make sure your workspace and tools are clean before you start prepping. This will help make sure no harmful bacteria gets inside your meals and starts growing before you’ve had a chance to eat the meals.
- Refrigerate as soon as possible: And last but not least, don’t forget to refrigerate your meals as soon as possible and keep them at the right temperature (between 1 – 4 °C).
By following these tips, you can be sure that your meals will stay fresh and safe to eat for the entire workweek!
Expiration dates tell you the last day a product is considered safe to eat. Best before dates tell you that while the food is still safe to eat, it might not taste as great as it was when it was fresh.
How to Tell if Your Meals Are Still Safe to Eat
So, you’ve got a bunch of meal prepped meals in the fridge and you’re wondering if they’re still good to eat. Here are a few things to keep in mind when trying to figure it out.
- Mould: If you see any mould on your meals, it’s a no-brainer, just throw it out. Don’t even think twice about it.
- Colour: Take a look at the colour of your meals. Everything should look the same as when you first made it. If the lettuce is brown, the meat is grey, or anything looks funky, it’s probably best to toss it. But keep in mind that some ingredients contain preservatives that can change colour over time.
- Smell: Smell is another important factor. Take a sniff of your meals and see if they smell the same as when you first made them. If they smell spoiled or off in any way, it’s probably best to throw them out.
- Texture: Lastly, check the texture of your meals. If there’s been a drastic change in texture or if the food feels slimy, it’s probably not good anymore.
When in doubt, it’s always better to err on the side of caution. If you’re not sure whether a meal is still good or not, it’s probably best to just throw it out.
Techniques to Keep Your 5 Day Meal Prep Fresh
Alright, now that we’ve talked about safety concerns, let’s dive into some meal prep techniques. There are a ton of different ways to prep meals for 5 days, but some of the most popular techniques include batch cooking, portioning, and marinading.
- Batch cooking: With batch cooking, you cook a large quantity of a certain dish and then divide it into smaller portions to be stored in the fridge for 5 meals worth, and then put the rest in the freezer. This is a great option if you’re short on time or want to make a big batch of something that can be used in multiple meals.
- Portioning: This is when you divide your ingredients into individual containers or bags so that you can grab and go during the week. This is a great option for people who want to have more control over their portions or are looking for a more grab-and-go type of meal.
- Air tight containers: Storing your prepped meals in airtight containers is important for several reasons. One of the main reasons is that it helps to keep the food fresh for longer. Airtight containers prevent air from getting in, which slows down the process of oxidation and spoilage of the food. This means that your meals will last longer and stay fresh for the entire 5 days.
Meal Ideas That Can Safely be Prepped for 5 Days in Advance
When it comes to meal prepping for 5 days, it’s important to choose dishes that can be safely stored for that length of time. Here are a few ideas for meals that can be prepped in advance and safely stored for 5 days in the fridge:
- Grilled chicken or fish with a side of roasted vegetables.
- Slow cooker meals such as pulled pork, beef stew, or chicken curry.
- Mason jar salads. These are great options for a grab-and-go lunch. Simply layer your favourite greens, vegetables, and protein in a mason jar and store in the fridge for up to 5 days.
- Egg dishes such as frittatas or quiches.
- Casseroles or lasagnas are also a great option as they can be made in advance and stored in the fridge for 5 days.
Here is a list of some great websites and blogs with recipes and ideas for meal prepping inspiration:
- 55 Big-Batch Meals That Will Last All Week
- 9 Sunday Dinners That You Can Repurpose All Week Long
- 25 Genius Meal-Prep Recipes That Will Last You All Week
- 76 Batch Cooking Recipes
- 37 Make-Ahead Lunch Recipes To Last You All Week
- 24 Meal-Prep Recipes You Can Make On Sunday For The Whole Week
It’s important to note that when storing these meals, it’s important to use proper containers and to store them in the fridge below 4°C, to avoid any kind of food poisoning.
The Best Containers for Storing & Keeping Meal Prep Fresh
When it comes to storing meal-prepped meals in the fridge, it’s important to use the right type of containers to keep your food safe and fresh. Here are a few options that are great for storing meals in the fridge:
- Glass containers: Glass containers are a great option because they are non-toxic, non-reactive, and can withstand temperature changes without warping. They are also microwave and dishwasher-safe.
- BPA-free plastic containers: BPA-free plastic containers are a budget-friendly option that are lightweight and easy to store. They are also microwave safe, but it’s important to ensure they are BPA-free as BPA can leach into food and pose a health risk.
- Stainless steel containers: Stainless steel containers are a great option because they are durable, dishwasher safe, and don’t absorb odours or flavours. They are also non-reactive and non-toxic.
- Silicone containers: Silicone containers are a great option for reheating food in the microwave, as they can withstand high temperatures without warping or leaching chemicals into food. They are also dishwasher safe, and can be used as storage and reheating containers.
It’s important to ensure that the containers you use are airtight and leak-proof to prevent contamination or spills.
Make sure you label each container with the date and type of food stored, to keep track of food freshness.
Read more: Meal prep containers buying guide
Consider Ordering Your Meals from a Ready-Made Meal Provider
If meal prep isn’t your thing and the thought of spending hours in the kitchen doesn’t sound appealing, consider ordering your meals from a ready-made meal provider. This can be a great option for people who don’t enjoy cooking or simply don’t have the time to do it.
With meal prep services, you can have healthy, delicious meals delivered right to your door without all the hassle of meal prepping yourself. And, most ready-made meals come in air-tight and sealed containers, with the meals lasting anywhere between 5-10 days when kept in the fridge!
Check out some of the best ready-made meal providers in Australia here and order today.