What is “Meal Prep”, Anyways?
Reasons to Meal Prep
How to Meal Prep: Picking When to Eat
How to Meal Prep: Picking What to Eat
How to Meal Prep: Food Storage
How to Meal Prep: Ingredient Prep
How to Meal Prep: “No-Cook” Ideas
Meal Prep in Whatever Way Works for You
Some of My Favorite Meal Preps
Other Resources

What is “Meal Prep”, Anyways?

Meal prep is setting aside a block of time to prepare and cook your meals well in advance of when you plan to eat them. Figuring out how to meal prep answers the question of “whats’s for breakfast/lunch/dinner?” and takes the stress out of making those meals between work, school, childcare, fitness classes, sleep, volunteer work, home improvement projects, Netflix binges, or anything else in your busy schedule.

Reasons to Meal Prep

  • Simplicity – as I mentioned above, having food ready to eat at meal times can remove the stress of three-times-daily cooking in your life.
  • Save Money – when yummy food is already prepared and waiting for you in the fridge, it can be harder to talk yourself in to eating out.
  • Reduce Waste – meal prep demands that you be intentional with your ingredients. When you prep your meals ahead of time, those bell peppers go directly into your dish instead of getting forgotten in the back of the fridge.
  • Meet Health Goals – prepping meals and snacks ahead of time can help you portion your food and meet any calorie and macro goals you might have for yourself.

How to Meal Prep: Picking When to Eat

oatmeal with strawberries

Do you tend to skip breakfast because you just can’t get in the habit of waking up early enough to make yourself something? Maybe you order out for lunch more often than you’d like to, because you can’t find time to pack a lunch for yourself in the morning. Learning how to meal prep can help solve these problems. By setting time aside during the week – whether it be a larger block of time once a week, or smaller blocks of time a couple days of the week – you can have prepared and packed meals waiting in the fridge for you, that only need to be grabbed and eaten when you’re hungry.

recipe book and cards

How to Meal Prep: Picking What to Eat

Don’t be intimidated by the fancy grain salads in health magazines or the protein-packed meals featured in fitness blogs: you can get started meal prepping with many of the meals you already usually make for yourself.

The best way to start meal prepping is to prepare meals you know you’ll eat and enjoy. Once you get used to the regular shopping and cooking that comes with meal prepping, then you can branch out and try new recipes. Don’t feel the need to try too many new things at once.

How to Meal Prep: Food Storage

In order to make your meals ahead of time, you’ll need something to store them in! Any existing containers you might have will probably work fine, as long as they are BPA-free and food safe. Personally, I prefer glass for any meal I plan to re-heat, as glass tends to hold up better in the long run for that. I have a couple sets of these glass containers that I use near-weekly for soups, stews, rice and beans, oatmeal, and more. Salads, grazing meals, and other cold foods will be fine in plastic though.

how to meal prep chopped veggies

How to Meal Prep: Ingredient Prep

Okay, maybe you hate leftovers, or can’t stand eating the same thing more than one or two days in a row. You can still incorporate aspects of meal prep into your cooking routine by preparing ingredients for your meals ahead of time. Save time by chopping up all the veggies you need for your Monday stir fry and Wednesday minestrone at once, and storing in the fridge until needed. At the same time, trim, dice and marinate chicken to be used on Tuesday (and maybe freeze some extra for next week, while you’re at it). Prepping these ingredients beforehand can make mealtime easier, especially with a busy schedule.

almonds

How to Meal Prep: “No-Cook” Ideas

Snacks, grazing meals, and more

Maybe it’s not the repetitiveness of meal prep that bothers you – maybe you just hate cooking. That’s okay! There’s plenty of things you can prepare for yourself ahead of time that don’t require any cooking.

Snacks

Meal prepping snacks ahead of time can be a great way to control your portions and save yourself from running to the vending machine at work. Use sandwich baggies or small containers (especially if you want to reduce waste) to portion out anything from carrot sticks, to M&Ms, or potato chips for an easy grab-and-go snack.

Grazing Meals

Grazing meals are really just a bunch of snacks that make up a meal. They’ve been getting a lot of traction as “adult lunchables” on some food blogs and Reddit. Here’s some ideas to prep your own no-cook grazing meal:

  • Veggies (carrot sticks, celery, grape tomatoes, snap peas)
  • Fruit (bananas, apples, oranges, grapes)
  • Nuts (almonds, cashews, peanuts)
  • Deli meat (ham, turkey, salami)
  • Hard boiled eggs
  • Cheese (cheese sticks, slices, cubes)
  • Crackers
  • Applesauce or mixed fruit cups
  • Don’t forget dessert! (fun-size candy, pudding cups, cookies)

Salads

I know I ragged on salads before, but, if you don’t feel like cooking, you can throw a lot of things together to make a delicious and satisfying meal out of a salad. When building a salad, don’t forget:

  • Some protein: you can buy pre-cooked chicken, deli meat, hard boiled eggs, or even beans and legumes (chickpeas are a favorite of mine in salad)
  • Veggies other than lettuce: shredded carrots, grape tomatoes, olives, avocado
  • Something crunchy: croutons, tortilla strips, nuts like almonds or walnuts

And more?

Some other no-cook options include: overnight oats, parfaits, dips and spreads, and non-lettuce salads like egg salad or pasta salad (okay, you’ll at least have to boil some pasta for that last one). A Google search on “no-cook meals” will bring up lots of ideas, and many of them can be prepped in advance to feed you for a few days at a time.

how to meal prep chopped broccoli

Meal Prep in Whatever Way Works for You

Meal prep doesn’t have to be an all or nothing thing: you can prep just your breakfast for Monday if you’d like, or have five servings of all three of your main meals prepped and waiting in the fridge for you. Figure out which meal you struggle the most with, or which mealtime you’d like to simplify, and start your meal prep journey from there.

Some of My Favorite Meal Preps

I meal prep in some fashion almost every week. I usually set aside time on Sunday to get my cooking done. My meal prep style is usually prepping all my lunches for the work week, hard boiled eggs for breakfast and snacks throughout the week, and usually something for dinner that night that will last my fiancĂ© and I until Monday or Tuesday. Depending on our dinners for the remainder of the week, sometimes I’ll prep ingredients for future meals on Sunday, too. If you don’t already have some meals in mind, here are some of my favorite things to meal prep to get you started:

Other Resources

You can find a lot of other blogs and websites dedicated to meal prepping, but as I’ve mentioned above, it’s really about finding what meals are tasty and satisfying to you. There’s plenty of recipes I’ve tried and couldn’t stomach past day three, or that didn’t fill me up at lunch time. Here are some of my favorite websites for finding new recipes and ideas.