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. We spend one day meal planning and a separate day grocery shopping. We create time for meal prep based on our weekly schedule and menu.
It’s going to be a challenge for the first few weeks. In the end, though, creating a regular routine is what is going to put healthy, well-planned meals on the table with ease.
Choose a day of the week that you can spend adequate time meal planning and making a shopping list.
What we've found works best for us:
Thursday: We create our upcoming week’s meal plan and come up with a grocery list.
Saturday: We go grocery shopping.
Saturday - Sunday: We meal prep for the upcoming week.
Tip 2. Plan ahead
✓ Invest in storage containers: Pyrex glassware with lids are our favorite. They’re so functional because you can easily see what you have in the fridge, re-heat food in them and they’re dishwasher safe. 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. (Quick tip if using storage baggies: Sucking the air out before closing a zip-loc bag can increase shelf life. You can even wash and re-use your storage bags a few times.)
✓ Main dish: Choose two or three meals that you can rotate. One-pot dishes, slow cooker meals, 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 wonderful chicken salad and tuna salad recipes 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.
✓ Choose a meal prep day: Look ahead and determine a day that you have time to prep.
✓ Wash: Whether it’s prep day or not, wash all your fruits and veggies as soon as you get home from the grocery store, BEFORE putting them away.
Tip 3. Look ahead at your planned meals and prep as much as possible.
✓ Snacks: Here’s where those containers really come in handy. Prep and portion out your snacks for the week so they’re ready to grab and go!
- If you’re short on prep time, simply portion out carrot sticks or almonds in baggies.
- Check out some of FfL’s recipes such as Blueberry Apple Mini Muffins, Roasted Red Pepper Hummus and Energy Bars for some amazing snack ideas.
- Another great option is to portion out nut butter for the week that you can top fruit with.
- For a complete breakdown on what to look for and what to avoid, check out our Healthy Snack Foods in the guide.
- For more snack ideas check out 70 + Simple Snack Ideas for Kids and Adults.
✓ 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 extra virgin olive oil, 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.
✓ Portion out leftovers: 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 talked about earlier to portion out your leftovers. That way, you can grab one and go without hassle or having to worry about portion control.
✓ Get creative: 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. Check out the recipe drop-down for some great ideas on ways to create meals using leftovers.
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!
- Create your upcoming week’s meal plan and come up with a grocery list.
- Use the resource A Week in Our Kitchen + Our Go-to Meals and Snacks for ideas.
- 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.