How to meal prep for the week- tons of tips to get started with meal prep, strategies to find a system that works for you, and lots of meal prep recipe inspiration!
How to meal prep
Interested in meal prep but don’t know where to start? You are in the right place!
I believe in you! Yes, you. You can do this.
Meal prepping can look so intimidating when you’re getting started. I know I was overwhelmed when I first started out.
Want to know a meal prep secret? You don’t have to prep all your meals for the week. You don’t have to prep 30 freezer meals in one go.
Start off simple and you will be amazed at how much impact even a little bit of meal prep can have!
How to Meal Prep
This post covers a LOT! Click on any of the links below to go directly to that section
- Meal Prep 101: tips for getting started
- Meal Prep Containers
- Step One: Make a Meal Plan
- Step Two: Shopping & Groceries
- Step Three: Meal Prep Strategies
- Meal Prep Recipe Ideas
Meal Prep 101: tips for getting started
How to meal prep: The first thing? Just start. Just do it. It doesn’t have to be perfect, you don’t have to get fancy.
Just pick one meal. Pick the meal that gives you the most grief. Focus on that meal. Even prepping just one meal ahead will give you the benefits of meal prepping. I promise!
For me, that was breakfasts. I prepped my breakfasts for the week at first, then I started adding in lunches, and finally snacks.
Here are four tips for meal prep beginners:
- Keep it simple- like we discussed above, just picking one meal that pains you and focussing on that will prevent you from getting overwhelmed, and you will still feel the benefits of meal prepping!
- Schedule it- write it on your calendar. Block off time. Make it as difficult as possible to make excuses.
- Use dependable recipes- it might not be the right time to try a crazy new recipe. Using recipes you know are easy and tasty is a great base to start off of.
- Have fun and reward yourself- I like to crank up the music and have fun when I’m prepping. And it doesn’t hurt to bribe yourself with a coffee or a bit of chocolate, right?
Meal prep containers
Depending on the type or recipe you are prepping, you will need storage containers! You do not need to get fancy. Try to make do with what you already have on hand. But if you are in the market for new containers, here are my favorites:
- Kinetic 22-Piece Glassware Set– (green lids) a variety of sizes that work for storing different meal prep components. Great if you are just starting out with glass storage containers!
- Snapware 2 cup glass storage containers (middle; blue lid) are durable, freezer, microwave and dishwasher friendly, and are great for pre-cooked meals
- Prep Naturals Glass 2 Compartment Containers (middle right) are great for meals where you want to keep certain components separate until just before serving
- Prep Naturals Glass 3 Compartment Containers (top left) are perfect for Bento-style lunches or snack boxes! Keeps crackers, chips, trail mix etc separate from fruit, salad etc to keep them crisp.
- pint size jars from Ball (great for storing veggies, overnight oats, parfaits etc)
- 1/2 Pint Jars– great for storing sauces & dips
- Weck Jars (12.5 oz and 0.5 L pictured)- another type of jar; more expensive but they have glass lids rather than metal.
- 6 cup glass storage containers from Snapware (not pictured; great for meal prep snacks or chopped veggies)
- gallon size freezer bags from Ziploc (great for freezer meals)
How to meal prep for the week- I’m going to walk you through my process. Is this the right process for you? Maybe. Maybe not. But it always helps to see how others do things.
STEP ONE: Make a meal plan
Even if you don’t prep your meals ahead, having a plan is an easy way to save time and reduce stress.
- I start by writing out our dinners, since we eat something different each night.
- Next, I add in breakfast and lunches. We often eat the same thing 3-4 days in a row for breakfast and lunch, so they are easier to fill in.
- And last but not least, I pick some healthy snacks.
(Pictured: an example of my meal plan. I write it out on my Evernote App, and write the ingredients I need to shop for in brackets)
Here’s how I decide what to put on my meal plan:
- Take stock- The first thing I do is check my fridge and take stock of what is left over. I plan a few meals early on in the week around those items. You can also check out the freezer in case you have any frozen protein or meals that need to be used up.
- Check what’s on sale– I mostly check out proteins and stock up on chicken thighs or chicken breasts, pork tenderloin or salmon. But costly produce like berries are also great to price out. I will use these as the starting point for deciding on meals.
- Write out theme days- Meatless Monday, Taco Tuesday, Stir Fry Wednesday, Pasta Thursday, Pizza Friday, Slow Cooker Saturday, Leftovers Sunday. You get the idea. This is a great way to get the ball rolling if you can’t think of anything.
- Check my inspiration boards- aka Pinterest. I have a LOT of Pinterest boards filled with meal prep ideas, and they are my go-to’s when it comes to planning out my meals for the week. Come and check out all my boards!
- Remember which items will go off! I plan for non-frozen seafood early in the week. Berries are best consumed within 3-4 days of purchase. And our small family always has leftovers so I build that into our plan either as lunches, or as a leftovers for dinner day.
STEP TWO: make a shopping list and get your groceries
First, I go through my meal plan and write in ingredients that we need beside the menu item. Then I write up a shopping list. I use Evernote for this, which is an app that synchs between my phone and computer. I love that I can make check lists because I get great pleasure in checking things off my list.
Here’s a post with 5 Free Meal Planning Apps that I use, in case you’re interested!
Get shopping- I order my groceries online, though I do have to pick them up. I have a baby and a 4 year old and going to the grocery store with them is my personal version of hell. Ordering our groceries online means you get extra time to peruse the flyer, and you are less likely to impulse buy things you don’t need!
STEP THREE: start meal prepping!
You have your meal plan, you have your groceries, you’ve got this! Remember to pick one meal and focus on that to start.
There are SO many different ways you can meal prep. Let’s discuss meal prep strategies.
Meal prep strategies
Guess what? You DO NOT need to prep full meals. Small steps like cooking a batch of rice, chopping some veggies, or tossing some chicken in the slow cooker are going to help you out BIG TIME during the work week, I promise.
Let’s run through some meal prep strategies. You can pick one (or more than one) that works for you and run with that. These are just ideas, and you don’t have to use all of these strategies!
1. Buffet style meal prep- a lot of people enjoy prepping their veggies, protein and carbs ahead, then using them for easy meals. This is great for tacos, salads and that sort of thing. You can also prep a big portion of protein and use that as a base for several meals through the week.
- Some ideas:
- chop or spiralize your veggies
- roast up vegetables or potatoes in some seasoning (here are 7 spice blends you can use!)
- shake together dressings, sauces, etc
- cook up grains, pasta, quinoa
2. Batch cooking- cook up a big batch of something and enjoy it through the week.
- Some ideas:
3. Portion things out- whether it is an entire meal or just a component, portioning out is one of the most important steps of meal prep because it means you can just grab your meal and go.
4. Assemble ingredients but don’t cook- this is typically done with freezer meals, but you can often store in the fridge as well. By assembling your meals ahead, when it comes time to cook, you simply need to dump them in the slow cooker or Instant Pot, and press the button!
5. Pre-cooked meals- this is my approach for breakfasts and lunches, and is perfect for meals that you don’t have time to prep on the days you will eat. All you need to do is grab them from the fridge, re-heat if necessary, and enjoy!
- Some ideas:
Pick one of these meal prep strategies and get started. You can refine the process over time and find what works best for you.
For my family, I pick a combination of pre-cooked meals (breakfasts & lunches), portioned out snacks, and freezer slow cooker or Instant Pot meals (dinners).
How to meal prep- recipe ideas
I want to finish off this post with some ideas for easy recipes that are perfect for beginners. These are the simple recipes that I come back to time and time again! Any one of these recipes would be perfect to start your meal prep journey with.
- Meal Prep Breakfast Egg Muffins– this post has SEVEN different flavors, and can be stashed in the fridge or freezer!
- Meal Prep Steel Cut Oatmeal– another post with SEVEN different flavors, plus instructions on prepping in your Instant Pot, slow cooker or stove top.
- Meal Prep Breakfast Burritos– this recipe contains kale, mushrooms and onions to sneak some veggies into your morning routine.
- Meal Prep Smoothie Packs- assemble your smoothie ingredients ahead and store in the freezer. 5 recipes to get you started.
- Or check out this round-up with 28 Healthy Breakfast Meal Prep Ideas
- Turkey Taco Lunch Bowls– easy to customize based on what you have in your fridge, and under 400 calories per serving.
- Honey Sesame Chicken Lunch Bowls– this stir fry is great for a meal prep lunch or dinner.
- Southwestern Sweet Potato and Lentil Jar Salads– vegan, gluten-free, and so easy to throw together.
- Chicken Fajita Lunch Bowls– chicken, veggies and rice tossed in a fajita-inspired vinaigrette.
- 38+ Healthy Lunch Meal Prep Ideas– this round-up is updated often, and contains lots of lunch ideas, plus tips and a video.
- No Bake Energy Bites 7 Ways– a nut-based energy bite recipe with 7 different flavor combinations. Vegan and gluten-free.
- Nut Free Energy Bites– these energy bites are date based…three recipes to satisfy your cravings.
- Greek Yogurt Fruit Dip– serve with fresh fruit for an easy way to mix up your fruit.
- The BEST Easy Homemade Hummus- serve with veggies or pita chips.
- 17 Healthy Office Snacks– perfect grab and go meal prep snack recipes to keep you out of the tortilla chips.
- 7 Chicken Marinade Recipes You Can Freeze– portion out your chicken breasts right into a marinade, and freeze it for an easy, flavorful dinner option.
- Baked Turkey Meatballs 7 Ways– prepare and freeze some turkey meatballs for an easy and healthy dinner option.
- Freezer Slow Cooker Meals– assemble your slow cooker recipes ahead and freeze. When you’re ready to cook, thaw, dump into the slow cooker and press start. Easy!
- Here are 17 Healthy Dinner Meal Prep Ideas– from prepping your veggies ahead to entire meals, this post has a lot of ideas to get you started.
You really do!
The benefits of meal prep are so worth the effort. You will save yourself time and money. You will feel less stress. You will eat healthier. Just remember this if you start to feel the resistance (the one that tells you you’d rather watch Netflix).
Feel free to leave a comment with any questions you might have. I love sharing the meal prep love and I’m here to help!