It’s amazing how satisfying weekly meal prepping can feel. If you don’t love cooking, cleaning dishes everyday, or want an easier way to stay on your diet, the best thing you can do is meal prep.
Not only can meal prep curb the urge to call in your favorite takeout on a nightly basis, it also takes the guesswork out of meals, giving you more time to dominate other facets of your week, as well as more time to spend on things you enjoy.
With proper meal prepping, you’ll be able to save money and reach your health and diet goals faster. By cooking all of your weekly meals at one time, you waste less ingredients and can portion out the exact quantity of food you will need for each meal.
Meal prepping can be boiled down to three different types of prep:
- Batch cooking: prepare a meal that is large enough to feed five to six people. Once the meal is prepared, place into storage containers and freeze to preserve the flavor. Thaw the servings throughout the week and enjoy them each day for lunch or dinner.
- Meals for one: prepare meals to eat throughout the week using similar ingredients. The meals do not have to be the exact same and are not frozen. Prepped meals for one are typically made for lunches.
- Ingredient prep: prepare all the ingredients for your meals throughout the week without going through the final process of cooking the meal. This prep is best for those that enjoy cooking every night but it allows you to save time by not having to cut, chop, dice, or otherwise prepare any ingredients each night. You can do it for breakfast each day too with these simple smoothie recipes!
It might seem tedious or difficult to get started with meal prepping but with these tips, you will be a meal prepping pro in no time!
It all starts with a clean kitchen.
This is the number one tip I always advise. Have all dishes cleaned and put up, have all trash taken out and put to the curb, have all your counters sparkling clean. Cooking with all your dishes dirty, counters with gunk over them, and trash at its max isn’t just difficult but frustrating.
Having to pause every so often to clean a dish or two adds so much time to the entire process, that your prepping could take twice as long as it should. If your counters are dirty, then you limit your prep space to just a few places throughout the kitchen. When your trash is already full at the start of your prep, then you don’t have room in the bin to add any of the trash you are about to create to the pile. If you can’t throw the garbage in the trash, you might be tempted to pile it up on the counter which further reduces your counter space for prep.
I often tell people that meal prep starts not with cooking but with cleaning your kitchen. Trust me, this will save a lot more time, work, and stress than you can imagine.
Invest in quality glass storage containers.
I don’t want to even think about how many cheap plastic containers I have bought over the years; in truth, I have probably spent more on those cheap containers when I could have just bought one good set of glass containers. The benefits of glass containers definitely far outweigh the heftier price tag.
Glass containers are dishwasher safe, microwave safe, and even BPA free. Plastic containers are great for storing sandwiches or anything else you might not plan to heat up. But if you decide to make curry, pasta bakes, soups, you might find that the plastic containers leak with even the slightest tilt. Glass containers don’t spill and they certainly don’t melt – if you are cooking food hot enough to melt glass, you might want to consider turning down the stovetop.
Plus, having a fridge full of beautiful, glass containers filled with all your delicious meals is one of the most satisfying things! It has definitely kept me motivated to meal prep each week.
Get used to loving rice.
Rice is one of the greatest ingredients for weekly meal preparation. It is cheap, provides a pure carbohydrate source, and reheats very well. The best thing about rice though is that it spans virtually every cuisine. It never has to be prepared in the exact same way for each meal but you can still make one batch for the entire week.
As an added bonus, when rice is cooked, cooled, and reheated, some of the starch is converted to resistant starch, which acts as a prebiotic to feed the healthy bacteria in your gut.
Don’t be afraid to make fresh meals out of frozen ingredients. Frozen foods are great for those on tighter budgets or those without a ton of culinary skill. Look up simple recipes with great seasonings to help add extra flavor to your meals as some of the flavor can be diminished based on the freezing process.
Nowadays you can find every food group in the freezer aisle – frozen quinoa, frozen mixed vegetables, and frozen lean proteins – to help you make meal time easy, simple, and balanced. Just be sure that you aren’t getting foods with a ton of extra ingredients which could throw off your diet goals.
Plan a weekly menu.
Humans are such dynamic beings that have wide ranges of tastes and cravings which can often make meal prepping difficult. Rather than trying to make it through the week on the same meals for lunch and dinner, try mixing it up! You could make 4 servings of one dish, 6 of another dish, and 4 of a different dish and you now have all lunch and dinners made for the whole week with tons of diversity.
Figuring out three different dishes to make is pretty easy for a whole week, and prepping three meals is not the most intense thing to do on a meal prep day. Try to ensure that your ingredients can cross over to other meals so that you waste the least amount of food possible. You could even make 8 servings of one meal and freeze half of them for the following week.
If you need help determining how much protein, carbs, fats, and protein you should plan for each meal, you can check out this article we put together about Simplifying Nutrition.
Keep it simple.
Start out with prepping your lunches for the week. Get into the habit of prepping your meals and being good about eating them each day. As you begin to get into the habit of making your meals each week and sticking to the habit, begin adding in dinner prep. As you start to see the benefit and make the habit a lifestyle change, start prepping your breakfasts and snacks too! Soon you’ll have everything prepped and ready every single week.
You can also keep it simple by making basic meals that you can flavor with whichever sauces or seasonings you are craving at the moment. Cooking plain chicken, white rice, and your favorite non-starchy vegetables lends to many different flavors and combinations to keep your palette happy and your cravings at a minimum.
Consistency is key when it comes to having success in your meal prepping endeavors. Use these simple tips to keep you motivated. Meal planning and prepping can make your weekly meals easier and can ensure you stay on track. Don’t be afraid to mix things up or try new recipes, you will be surprised how easy and satisfying meal prepping can be when you follow these tips and tricks!