Updated: Oct 24, 2021
What's the big deal with meal prepping?
Meal prepping takes some time upfront, but during a busy week, it can save you time and money. It cuts down of food waste and bored-snacking. If you already have a delicious and nutritious option in the fridge you will be less likely to grab something convenient that doesn't necessarily help you meet your nutrition goals, like those donuts in the break room or the chicken nuggets leftover on your kids’ plate. You have options that you can grab and take to school or work or just eat on your couch after a long day.
Pro tips to get started
1. Plan your meals for the week ahead of time
Meal planning and meal prepping are really two different pieces. Meal planning is key to the success of meal prepping! If you're just starting out with meal prepping, start simple. You want to pick easy recipes that incorporate a protein source, vegetables, and some carbs. My go-to is chicken, rice, and broccoli with sugar-free teriyaki sauce. Map out what you'll eat for breakfasts, lunches, and dinners for the week so when your smack dab in the middle of your week you don't have to do the whole "What do you want for dinner?" "I don't know, what do you want?" thing.
If you don't like to eat the same thing every single day for lunches, pick a protein or carb that is a good base for multiple meals so you can switch it up. I'll make a batch of taco meat and then put it in a burrito bowl one day, have tacos the next day, and put it on top of a salad the next. It doesn't add more work to your meal prepping but you have options.
If you want meal-prep-friendly healthy recipes, check out my recipe bundle! Options for breakfasts, lunches, and dinners.
2. Go grocery shopping with a list
Now that you've planned out your meals for the week, you know exactly what ingredients you need. Make a list from your plan to make prepping later a breeze. We've all had those moments where you went into the store for one thing and came out with 10 things but forgot the one item you went into the store for in the first place. Check out my meal planner and grocery list template for an easy way to get organized. It's even organized by section of the store so you can be efficient while shopping!
3. Have the right tools
Before you get started, make sure you have some quality, air-tight, containers to store your food in for the week. I like glass ones so the plastic doesn't stain with things like marinara sauce. Depending on your meals, you may want to look into getting containers with sections. Make sure you have a variety of sizes to store everything from whole meals to sides like veggies and hummus to dressings/sauces. You don't want things to get soggy before you get to eat them!
4. Schedule the time to do the cooking
You have planned your meals and have all the ingredients on hand. Now it's time to set aside time to actually do the cooking. It can be intimidating and you would probably much rather watch the football game instead, but think about your long-term goals. If you prep now, later in the week when you're busy and tired, it will be easy to just grab something delicious and nutritious that's already done. You can make it fun by getting your partner or roommate to help and blasting some music.
Decide how you're going to tackle the recipe(s). Figure out what will take the longest and get that going first, and save the cold items or things that don't cook long for when you have other things already cooking. Cook things in multiple appliances so you can be more efficient and finish quickly. I often put a bunch of chicken in the oven, use the rice cooker, and then have veggies steaming on the stove so they all finish at the same time and all that's left is portioning everything out. Use your air fryer and your crockpot while you're chopping up other ingredients. Save yourself some time and energy!
5. Cook in big batches (you can always freeze some)
Make things in big batches so you don't have to prep as often. You can make meals and then freeze what's leftover for easy lunches and dinners down. It's pretty easy to come by carbs and fats, so make a big batch of a source of protein and have veggies available. Both can be frozen and taken out later if you make too much. Just make sure you freeze anything that you won't be able to eat within 5 days so nothing goes to waste and you don't end up making yourself sick.
If you're brand new to food prepping - start small. You don't have to prep every meal for every day of the week. Just plan and cook one meal for the week. Lunches are an easy one to start with! When you feel like you're a lunch prepping pro, then you can add more to your plate (see what I did there) by preparing some options for breakfast and/or snacks.
I like to make protein waffles on Sundays and then freeze them so I can pop them in the toaster for an easy breakfast on weekdays. If you're really ambitious, you can even make dinners easier on yourself by chopping veggies or making marinades ahead of time. If you make meal prepping a priority on the weekend and it frees you up to enjoy more downtime with family and friends during the week! It's worth it, I swear.
for the complete step-by-step meal prep guide, including meal ideas and a meal prep planner, click here