How to Meal Prep for the Week: A Beginner's Guide

How to Meal Prep for the Week: A Beginner's Guide


The other day I was talking with one of my clients, Alexandra. She told me how difficult it was for her to stay on track with her calorie and macro goals throughout the day. Needless to say, during the weekends, it was worse.

The thing is, Alexandra is not the first client (and definitely not the last) to tell me about this struggle. We discussed several strategies, and she was super open to trying all of them… but then I mentioned the 2 words she feared most: “Meal prep.”

Here’s the thing about meal prep. Everyone knows that it works and will make things a whole lot easier, but everyone gets scared that meal prep would bring way more of a hassle than they can handle. To be honest, in the beginning, I was like Alexandra. (And probably, some of you.)

But, after several years of meal prepping, I’ve come to understand it really is the best way to help you save time and money. And, most importantly, it can help you stay on track. So you might be wondering about meal prep like a pro.

What is Meal Prepping?

Meal prepping involves preparing and portioning out meals in advance, typically for the upcoming week. This practice can range from simply prepping ingredients for quick assembly to cooking full meals and dividing them into individual servings. The aim is to streamline your cooking process, save time, and ensure you have nutritious meals ready to go. Whether you're a busy professional, a student, or anyone with a hectic schedule, meal prepping can be a game-changer in managing your diet and reducing the daily stress of deciding what to eat.

Importance of Meal Prepping for Busy Individuals

For busy individuals, meal prepping is essential in maintaining a balanced diet and avoiding the temptation of fast food or unhealthy snacks. It allows you to control your portions and ensure you're consuming the right amount of calories and macros. Additionally, having meals ready to go means you can avoid the time-consuming process of cooking every day, freeing up time for other important activities. Meal prepping also reduces food waste and can save money by allowing you to buy ingredients in bulk.

Benefits of Meal Prepping

Getting Started with Meal Prepping

If you're just starting meal prep, it can seem daunting, but with a bit of planning, it becomes manageable. Begin by assessing your dietary needs and goals, such as weight loss, muscle gain, or simply maintaining a balanced diet. Identify which mealtime you want to prep: breakfast, lunch, dinner, or snacks. It's also helpful to decide how many days in advance you want to prepare food for. This initial planning will set the foundation for a successful meal prep routine.

Understanding Your Dietary Needs and Goals

Understanding your dietary needs is crucial for effective meal prepping. This means knowing your caloric requirements and macronutrient ratios (proteins, fats, and carbs) based on your goals. Consulting with a nutritionist or using online calculators can provide a clear picture of what your body needs. Once you have this information, you can select meal prep recipes and ingredients that align with your nutritional goals, ensuring each meal supports your health objectives.

Creating a Master List of Recipes


Creating a master list of meal prep ideas is a great way to streamline your meal prep process. Start by gathering healthy meal prep recipes that you enjoy and that fit your dietary goals. Consider a variety of cuisines and cooking methods to keep things interesting. Organize these recipes by meal type (breakfast, lunch, dinner) and include detailed ingredient lists and instructions. This master list will serve as a go-to resource when planning your weekly foods, making it easier to shop and prep efficiently.

Weekly Meal Prep Routine

Establishing a weekly meal prep routine is key to consistency. Choose a specific day, typically a weekend day like Sunday, to plan, shop, and cook. Start meal prepping for the week using your master list of recipes. Make a shopping list of all the ingredients you'll need, then once you have everything, set aside a few hours to cook your food. Having a routine helps you stay organized and ensures you always have healthy food ready to go.

How to Cook Meals for a Week

Meal Prep Containers: Choosing the Right Ones


Choosing the right meal prep containers is vital for preserving the quality and freshness of your foods. Opt for BPA-free plastic or glass containers with airtight lids to prevent spills and maintain freshness. Consider different sizes and compartments for various types of foods. Stackable and microwave-safe containers are also beneficial for easy storage and reheating. Investing in good quality containers can make a significant difference in the longevity and convenience of your meal preps.

Big-Batch Cooking Recipes

Big-batch cooking involves preparing large quantities of a particular dish, which can then be divided into multiple portions for the week. This method is efficient and time-saving. Examples of big-batch recipes include soups, stews, casseroles, and pasta dishes. These meals often taste better after the flavors have melded together over a day or two. Big-batch cooking is ideal for meal prepping as it allows you to create a substantial amount of food with minimal effort.

Individually Portioned Meals

Individually portioning your meals ensures you have the right amount of food for each serving, making it easier to manage your diet. After cooking, divide your meals into single-serving containers. This method is particularly useful for those tracking their caloric intake or following specific dietary plans. Having individually portioned meals can also help prevent overeating and make it more convenient to grab a meal on the go.

Prepped Ingredients


If you prefer freshly cooked meals but still want the benefits of meal prepping, consider prepping ingredients instead of whole meals. This means washing, chopping, and portioning out ingredients in advance. For example, you can prepare vegetables, marinate proteins, cook grains, or any meals ahead of time. When it's time to cook, all the components are ready, significantly reducing your cooking time. Prepped ingredients offer flexibility while still saving time during busy weekdays.

Meal Prep Tools

Essential Tools for Efficient Meal Prepping

Having the right tools can make meal prepping more efficient and enjoyable. Essential tools include sharp knives, cutting boards, measuring cups, and meal prep bowls. A set of good-quality pots and pans, along with baking sheets and casserole dishes, are also necessary. Additionally, storage bags and airtight containers for storing prepped ingredients and meals are crucial. These tools help streamline the process, making it easier and faster to prepare your meals.

Recommended Kitchen Appliances

Certain kitchen appliances can significantly enhance your meal prep experience. A slow cooker or Instant Pot can simplify cooking large batches of food with minimal supervision. A high-quality blender is useful for making smoothies, soups, and sauces. A food processor can save time when chopping vegetables or making purees. Other helpful appliances include a rice cooker for perfect grains and an air fryer for healthier cooking options. These appliances can help you prepare meals more efficiently and with less effort.

Beginner Meal Prep Tips

Start Simple

For beginners, it's best to start simple to avoid feeling overwhelmed. Begin with just a few meals or snacks and gradually increase as you become more comfortable. Choose easy recipes that you are familiar with and enjoy eating. Focus on preparing just one or two types of best foods initially, such as lunches and snacks. Starting simple helps you build confidence and establish a routine without feeling burdened by the process.

Invest in Quality Containers

Investing in quality containers is crucial for successful meal prepping. Look for durable, leak-proof containers that can withstand frequent use and washing. Glass meal prep containers are excellent for reheating in the microwave and oven, while BPA-free plastic containers are lightweight and easy to carry. Having a variety of sizes can accommodate different types of foods and portions. Quality containers help keep your food fresh and make meal-prepping more efficient.

Utilize Freezer-Friendly Recipes

Utilizing freezer-friendly recipes is a great way to extend the shelf life of your prepped meals. Dishes like soups, stews, chili, and casseroles typically freeze well and can be reheated without losing their quality. When preparing these meals, make sure to cool them completely before freezing and label each container with the contents and date. This approach allows you to prep in larger quantities and always have a meal ready when needed.

Incorporate Variety

Incorporating variety into your meal prep prevents boredom and ensures you enjoy your best foods throughout the week. Rotate different proteins, vegetables, and grains to keep your meals interesting. Try new recipes and experiment with different cuisines and flavors. Including a mix of cooked and fresh ingredients can also add variety. Planning for diverse meals keeps the experience exciting and helps you stick to your meal prep routine.

Which Days Are Best for Meal Prep?

Choosing the Most Convenient Day for You

Choosing the most convenient day for meal prep depends on your schedule and lifestyle. Many people prefer Sundays as it allows them to create a meal plan for the week. However, any day that gives you a few uninterrupted hours can work. Consider your weekly routine and select a day when you typically have more free time. Consistency is key, so try to stick to the same day each week to develop a habit.

Tips for Scheduling Your Meal Prep Sessions

Scheduling your meal prep sessions can help ensure you stay committed. Block out a specific time on your chosen day dedicated solely to meal prepping. Treat it as an important appointment that you can't miss. Prepare a plan and shopping list the day before to streamline the process. Breaking the session into smaller tasks, such as chopping vegetables in the morning and cooking in the afternoon, can make it more manageable.

How Do You Store Your Meal Prep?

Proper Storage Techniques

Proper storage techniques are essential for maintaining the freshness and safety of your prepped meals. Store meals in airtight containers to prevent contamination and moisture loss. Keep similar items together to make it easier to find what you need. Label each container with the date and contents to keep track of when the food was prepared. Use clear containers so you can easily see what's inside without opening them.

Guidelines for Refrigerating and Freezing Meals


When refrigerating meals, store them at or below 40°F (4°C) to keep them safe from bacterial growth. Most meal prep meals can be stored in the refrigerator for up to four days. For longer storage, freezing is a better option. Ensure meals are completely cooled before freezing to prevent ice crystals and freezer burn. Wrap items tightly and use freezer-safe containers. Label everything with the date and use within three months for the best quality.

How Long Does it Take to Meal Prep?

Time Management Strategies

Effective time management is crucial for efficient meal prepping. Start by planning your meals and creating a detailed shopping list to avoid unnecessary trips to the store. Batch cooking and multitasking can save time; for example, you can bake multiple items in the oven while simmering a pot of soup on the stove. Setting a timer and working within a specific timeframe can also help you stay focused and productive.

Breaking Down Meal Prep Tasks

Breaking down meal prep tasks into smaller steps makes the process less overwhelming. Divide your meal prep into stages: planning, shopping, prepping ingredients, cooking, and portioning. Tackle one stage at a time, which can make the overall task more manageable. For instance, you might chop vegetables the night before you plan to cook. Breaking tasks into smaller chunks can make meal prepping feel more achievable and less time-consuming.

Let's Make Meal Planning Easy

Tools and Apps for Meal Planning

Various tools and apps can simplify meal planning and make it more enjoyable. If you’re unsure about what foods to include – or to avoid – in your meal plan, we are building an app that will tell you all you need to know about nutrition – the real truth. No sugarcoating. (And no sugar either.)

Using a meal planning app can help you organize your meals, keep track of your dietary goals, and discover new recipes. Additionally, digital calendars or meal planning journals can help create a meal prep for the week.

Should I Meal Prep If I Don't Want to Repeat the Same Meals?

Strategies for Meal Variety

If you don't want to repeat the same meals, focus on variety and creativity in your meal prep. Plan different recipes for each day or mix up your ingredients to create new dishes. Use versatile ingredients that can be repurposed in multiple ways, such as grilled chicken for salads, wraps, and stir-fries. Incorporating a wide range of flavors, textures, and cuisines can keep your meals exciting and prevent monotony.

Rotation of Ingredients and Recipes

Rotating ingredients and recipes helps keep your meal prep fresh and interesting. Change up your protein sources, vegetables, and grains each week. For example, use chicken one week, beef the next, and fish the following week. Rotate recipes from different cuisines, such as Italian, Mexican, and Asian dishes, to keep your taste buds satisfied. This approach not only adds variety but also ensures a balanced and diverse nutrient intake.

Meal Prep Recipes to Get Started

Best Meal Prep Recipes for Breakfast

Breakfast is an important meal to prep, as it sets the tone for your day. Some great meal prep recipes include overnight oats, breakfast burritos, and smoothie packs. Overnight oats can be customized with different fruits, nuts, and seeds. Breakfast burritos can be filled with eggs, vegetables, and protein, then frozen and reheated as needed. Smoothie packs can be prepared with frozen fruits and greens, ready to blend with your choice of liquid.

Best Meal Prep Recipes for Lunch

For lunch, consider recipes that are easy to reheat and enjoy. Grain bowls, salads, and wraps are excellent choices. Grain bowls can be made with quinoa, brown rice, or couscous, and topped with your favorite proteins and vegetables. Salads can be prepped with hardy greens like kale or spinach, which hold up well over a few days. Wraps are versatile and can be filled with a variety of ingredients, such as grilled chicken, hummus, and fresh veggies.

Best Meal Prep Recipes for Dinner

Dinner meal prep should focus on hearty and satisfying dishes. Casseroles, stir-fries, and sheet pan meals are perfect for this. Casseroles like lasagna or baked ziti can be made in large batches and portioned out. Stir-fries are quick to prepare and can be customized with different vegetables and proteins. Sheet pan meals, where you cook all ingredients together on one tray, are convenient and minimize cleanup.

How Long Will Meal-Prepped Food Last?

Guidelines for Food Storage Duration

Understanding how long meal-packed food lasts is essential for food safety. Typically, cooked meal plans stored in the refrigerator will last between three to four days. For longer storage, freezing is a good option, with most meals remaining safe to eat for up to three months. Always label your containers with the preparation date to keep track of their freshness and avoid consuming spoiled food.

Tips for Ensuring Food Safety

Ensuring food safety in meal prepping involves proper handling, storage, and reheating. Always wash your hands and sanitize surfaces before preparing food. Cook all meats to the recommended temperatures to kill any harmful bacteria. Store them in meal prep containers and refrigerate promptly. When reheating, ensure food reaches an internal temperature of 165°F (74°C). Following these guidelines will help you enjoy your healthy meals safely and prevent foodborne illnesses.

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