A Beginner’s Complete Guide To Meal Prepping: Meal Prep 101
What exactly is meal prepping? How do you meal prep? Why do you meal prep? How do you keep your food fresh when you meal prep? Get all of your meal prepping questions answered here.
What is Meal Prepping?
Meal prepping is spending a chunk of time to cook and prepare ingredients and/or prepare full meals for the upcoming week to make daily life easier.
Prepping your meals could be as simple as cooking meat and chopping veggies so you can throw together salads all week. Prepping your meals could be more involved as well and involve fully preparing and portioning each meal and snack you plan to eat.
There is no right or wrong way to meal prep. Meal prepping is supposed to make your life easier. You can prep as much or as little as you want!
Types of Meal Prep Meals
- Batch cooking and/or freezing: Cooking a big batch of a certain food, then portioning and storing that meal. This approach is useful for recipes you can typically cook in large amounts, such as a large batch of soup.
- Pre-Portioned Meals: Prep food and portion it in single-serving containers. Usually enough to last a few days to a week. This makes grabbing food on the go easy.
- Ingredient Preparation: Prep for your meals by washing and cutting veggies, and preparing your carbs and proteins. You can then use these prepped items for easy meals. You can prep this way for salads or mixing and matching different carbs, veggies and protein pairings for each meal.
What Are The Benefits Of Meal Prepping?
There are countless benefits of meal prepping. Here are just a few benefits of prepping your meals.
Saves You Money
When your meals are prepped, you will save money by not eating out and by using all the groceries you purchased.
Saves You Time
Having your meals or ingredients for your meals prepped means less time in the kitchen over the course of the week. You will also know what you are eating, so you will not waste time finding food, ordering out, etc.
Helps You Stick To Your Goals
If you want to eat healthier or eat a certain way, meal prepping takes all the guesswork and willpower out of the equation.
Reduce waste by using all the ingredients you buy and not letting your food go bad.
What Are The Disadvantages Of Meal Prepping?
Prepping your meals involves eating the same meals for a few days in a row. If you aren’t able to eat the same foods day after day, you may struggle with meal prep. However, there are ways that you can switch up your meals. Use different spices, dressings and condiments to change up the flavor of each meal.
Meal Prepping vs Meal Planning
What is the difference between meal prepping and meal planning? Both meal planning and meal prepping are strategies to make your life easier. However, they are not the same. Meal prep is planning a specific time to prepare and cook meals and/or ingredients. Meal planning on the other hand is planning recipes for the week.
Who Is Meal Prepping For?
Meal prepping is great for anyone looking to save money, save time, follow a certain way of eating or stick to a budget. Prepping meals ahead of time isn’t for everyone, but many find the advantages outweigh the disadvantages.
What Can I Meal Prep?
This answer will vary depending on who you ask. You should meal prep foods that you enjoy reheated.
Foods That Work Well For Meal Prepping
- Cooked grains (rice, quinoa, pasta)
- Cooked meat (beef, turkey, chicken, etc.)
- Veggies (both cooked and raw)
- Fruits (washed and whole/chopped for snacking)
- Nuts and seeds
Foods That Don’t Work Well For Meal Prepping
- Foods that may get soggy or not reheat well (fried foods)
Signs That A Recipe Is Perfect To Meal Prep
- The recipe can be made-ahead.
- The recipe needs prep work before cooking.
- The prepped food will keep well and stay fresh in the fridge or freezer.
- The prepped food reheats well.
How To Make Meal Prep Easier
Here are a few tips to make meal prepping easier.
Take Advantage Of Your Hands-Off Kitchen Appliances
Use your crockpot, InstaPot, AirFryer, rice cooker or other hands-off kitchen appliances. This makes prepping a little simpler and saves you time.
Purchase Grocery Store Timesavers When Shopping
When you are shopping, consider purchasing grocery store timesavers such as pre-cut veggies, a rotisserie chicken, bottled dressing or marinades to save you time when prepping.
Start Prepping With An Empty Sink And Empty Dishwasher
Before you start meal prepping, take time to do dishes and empty your dishwasher. This will make cleaning up a breeze!
Make Sure You Have Enough Meal Prep Containers
Plan ahead and make sure your meal prep containers are clean and you have enough for whatever you are making. There’s nothing worse than cooking a bunch of food and running out of storage options!
Meal Prep Recipe Round-Up
Here are some popular meal prep recipes to help you get started with meal prepping.
- Egg Muffins from Well Plated by Erin
- Breakfast Burritos from Organize Yourself Skinny
- Smoothie Packs from Happy Money Saver
- Overnight Oats from Simply Quinoa
- Taco Bowls from Valentina’s Corner
- Chicken Fajitas from Cooking Classy
- Philly Cheesesteak Stuffed Peppers from Joyful Healthy Eats
- Turkey Teriyaki Rice Bowl from Yellow Bliss Road
- Sausage and Zucchini Skillet from Counts Of The Netherworld
- Steak Stirfry from Our Salty Kitchen
- Turkey Meatballs from Taste and See
- No-Bake Energy Bites from Sweet Peas and Saffron
- Roasted Chickpeas from Yay For Food
- Sweet Potato Bagel Chips from Unbound Wellness
- Blueberry Muffins from Baker by Nature
Steps To Get Started With Meal Prep
If you are ready to get started, follow these steps.
Purchase reusable, airtight containers
You don’t need to spend a lot of money on containers to get started. You can start with Ziplock containers and move up to glass containers when money allows. Keep in mind the types of meals you will be prepping. You may need small containers for dressings or dips as well as larger containers for meals.
Plan your menu and recipes
Plan out what you want to eat and gather the necessary recipes. Make sure you account for all meals and snacks that you want to prep for. You don’t have to meal prep every single meal you eat, but if you desire to prep every meal, plan for that.
Shop for ingredients
Now that you know what you are planning to eat, head to the store and shop for the necessary ingredients. When shopping, keep prepping in mind. It may be easier to purchase some veggies that are already chopped or grab a rotisserie chicken.
Plan Time To Meal Prep
The most important step is choosing a dedicated time to prep your meals. Set aside time to prep and then start cooking.
Frequently Asked Questions About Meal Prepping
Here are some of the most frequently asked questions about meal prepping.
What should I know before meal prepping?
Before meal prepping you should know what you plan to make and have a plan for how to keep it fresh in the refrigerator or freezer.
How do you keep food fresh when meal prepping?
Keep food fresh by storing in an airtight container. The FDA also has refrigerator guidelines that they recommend to keep food fresh and avoid spoiling.
How long does food last or stay good when meal prepping?
Prepared foods can be typically be refrigerated for 2–5 days or frozen for 3–4 months. To avoid foodborne illness, keep food out of the danger zone, which is temperatures between 40° F and 140° F.
Can you freeze meals for meal prepping?
Yes! You can freeze prepared meals and also individually prepped items, such as burgers, chicken breasts, turkey meatballs and more. If you cook more than you can eat in a week, you can freeze that food for later.
Meal prepping can save you time, money and help to reduce waste. While prepping food isn’t for everyone, there are some serious benefits if you choose to prep. What is your favorite recipe to prep?