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Save time and set yourself up for success with our top meal prep tips.
We know you’ve probably heard it before, but meal prepping really is the Holy Grail to staying on track with a healthy diet.
We’ve all been there… you’re busy beyond belief and you don’t feel like you have the time or energy to cook when you get home from a long day’s work. We confess, this scenario played out numerous times before we started prepping. Time and time again, we wound up eating snack foods, canned soup, scrambled eggs or worse out of utter exhaustion.
Rather than turning to takeout or throwing a frozen meal in the oven, follow these simple tips and set yourself up for healthy success! You’ll not only save countless calories, you’ll establish a healthy routine and eliminate a lot of added stress. Not to mention, your wallet will thank you too!
Tip 1. Establish a routine.
Establishing a routine is the smartest thing you can do to set yourself up for successful meal planning and meal prepping.
Spend one day meal planning and a separate day grocery shopping. Then, create time for meal prep based on your weekly schedule and menu.
Maybe that's washing and chopping fruit and veggies for an hour Saturday morning before the kids are awake or tossing some chicken in the slow cooker Sunday afternoon and roasting some sweet potatoes and vegetables to mix-and-match throughout the week. Initially, it’s more important to keep meal prep manageable so you’re more likely to stick with it.
Choose a day of the week that you can spend adequate time meal planning and making a shopping list, and then set aside time to grocery shop and food prep.
What may work for you:
Thursday: Create your upcoming week’s meal plan and come up with a grocery list.
Saturday: Go grocery shopping.
Saturday – Sunday: Meal prep for the upcoming week.
Incorporating food prep into your weekly routine may feel foreign for the first few weeks. Keep in mind, there is no one-size-fits-all approach or a "right" way to do it. Like most things, there's a learning curve to discover what method works best for you.
In the end, creating a regular routine is what is going to put healthy, well-planned meals on the table with ease.
Tip 2. Plan ahead.
A meal plan is an easy way to save time in the kitchen, simplify your week and minimize stress. Think of it as your essential eating guide to staying on track. Without it, the time you spend making decisions on the fly really adds up and you’re much more likely to make poor choices out of convenience.
Some ideas to consider:
- Main dish: Choose two or three meals that you can rotate. One-pot dishes, slow cooker meals and meals that can be baked in the oven or on the grill ROCK because they require little attention and next to no cleanup. Save fancier meals for the weekend.
- Lunches: Consider choosing one easy-to-pack lunch such as tuna salad or grilled chicken for open-faced sandwiches, wraps or to top salads. We have a wonderful chicken salad and tuna salad recipe for you!
- Sides: Choose one or two vegetables that complement your meals and can be grilled, baked or roasted, such as Brussels sprouts, green beans and zucchini.
- Snacks: Choose one or two snacks that you can rotate. If you're looking for some amazing ideas, check out Healthy Snacks Made Simple.
Tip 3. Prep any foods that will simplify the week ahead.
To stay focused during prep time, it’s important to sit down with your meal plan and take note of what you’re going to prep in advance. Ask yourself, “What can I wash, chop or cook to simplify our meals this week?” and “What meals or snacks need the most attention and what can I do to minimize these stressors with intentional prep?” Then, write down your what you want to prep on the back of your meal plan or a note pad, or put it in your phone.
- Snacks: Prep and portion out your snacks for the week so they’re ready to grab and go!
- Fruits and vegetables: Slice up your fresh fruit (cap your strawberries, cut your pineapple or slice your cantaloupe). Cut up all your vegetables for the week and put them in containers so when the time comes all you have to do is throw them in a pan, toss them in a little EVOO, season to taste and bake. The beauty of it? You can season them with an array of herbs and spices, so they never taste the same! You can even split the pan in half, so you have two separate flavors. (Our staple herbs and spices: Himalayan pink salt, rosemary, thyme and pre-mixed seasonings such as Mediterranean or garlic herb.)
- Starches and grains: Plan to cook your time-consuming foods, such as sweet potatoes and grains, on your prep day. These foods typically keep extremely well throughout the week and require minimal attention, so you can multitask while they’re being made.
- Meats: Consider baking, grilling or cooking your meats on meal prep day. We often precook ground meat and grill chicken ahead of time so we can use them in lunches, such as chicken salad, in a wrap or to top a salad throughout the week. Just like your veggies, you can split the pan in half and season your meat two different ways, so you have two separate flavors. (We do this a lot with chicken.) Determine how long your meat takes to cook and whether or not you prefer to make it ahead of time.
Small actionable steps like chopping some veggies, pre-mixing a marinade or tossing a roast in the slow cooker and then using those components to create multiple meals will help you BIG TIME during the workweek.
Tip 4. Get creative and reinvent your leftovers.
Another little secret: Revamping a meal ROCKS! Come up with creative ways to give your leftovers a meal makeover.
We often raid our fridge and pantry to come up with some crazy new concoctions. We’ll use our leftover meatloaf in beef tacos or add curry to leftover chili and make stuffed peppers or zucchini boats. Most our our recipes include some great ideas on ways to create meals using leftovers.
Tip 5. Invest in storage containers.
Investing in storage containers is not only ESSENTIAL when it comes to meal prep, it allows you to properly portion out your leftovers throughout the week. Pyrex glassware with lids is our favorite. They’re so functional because you can easily see what you have in the fridge, reheat food in them and they’re dishwasher safe.
A few of our favorites:
- 2-cup glass storage containers: Great for chopped ingredients or pre-portioned leftovers
- 6-cup glass storage containers: Great for storing washed fruits and veggies, pre-made snacks, meals, etc.
- 8-cup glass storage containers: Great to marinate in or to store large portions of pre-cooked meals 4-ounce mason jars: Perfect for condiments, dressings, and sauces
- 24-Piece Superior Glass Food Storage Containers Set: Perfect set of assorted storage containers in place of purchasing individually
- 4-ounce mason jars: Perfect for condiments, dressings, and sauces
- 16-ounce mason jars: Great for storing overnight oats, sauces, broths, stocks and single servings of soup (which can be frozen for future meals too!)
- Gallon-size freezer bags: Great for storing freezer meals like marinated chicken, as well as pre-made foods like breakfast burritos, snack bites and homemade pizza dough (you may want to wrap them in foil first)
Now that you’re all prepped, meals should be relatively simple to throw together throughout the week. After you’re finished eating, use those lovely containers we just talked about to portion out your leftovers. That way, you can grab one and go without hassle or having to worry about portion control.
(Quick tip if using storage baggies: Sucking the air out before closing a Ziploc bag can increase your shelf life. You can even wash and reuse your storage bags a few times.)
Give it a shot!
We know this takes some organization and planning, but honestly, we couldn’t make healthy lunches and dinners happen if we didn’t meal prep! If you don’t have a system in place, give this a try. It may take a little getting used to (yes, sometimes it stinks to give up a few hours to chop and cook), but you can absolutely do it and it WILL set you up for success!
Take Action Today
- Create your upcoming week’s meal plan and come up with a grocery list. If you're in need of checklists and cheat sheets to create and execute a clear plan of action in the kitchen week after week, check out our Meal Planning and Food Prep Cheat Sheets.
- Choose a grocery shopping and meal prep day. Look ahead and determine when you have time to grocery shop and prep.
- Wash your produce as soon as you get home from the grocery store this week.
- Set aside time to chop, bake, grill or cook as much as possible for the upcoming week.
- If you're looking for a more structured, planned out approach, check out our comprehensive guide, Meal Prep Made Easy.
Let's simplify nourishing meals — together!
Cheers to a healthy lifestyle and living FULLforLife!
xo, Pam & Kalie
Gain Time and Sanity?
Meal prep is meant to simplify your life, not create more stress. It doesn’t mean prepping, cooking and portioning every single meal for the week ahead (unless you want to).
Our easy-to-implement (but effective) system focuses on mastering habits and routines that simplify and make food prep work for YOUR LIFE.