What is meal prepping? Why would I prep all my meals in advance?
This meal prep guide for beginners will help you get a handle on how to begin, how to choose your meals, how to make a meal prep grocery list and much more.
“Be prepared.” It’s a slogan that’s stood the test of time because the relationship between looking ahead and successfully meeting one’s goals is undeniable. When it comes to what you eat and how you eat, preparedness matters if you want to reach your nutrition and fitness goals
What is Meal Prep?
Meal prep is defined as preparing, cooking, or packaging food for three to four days in advance so you know exactly what and how much you are eating.
Having a healthy meal ready to enjoy can help you say no to unhealthy food choices. Tempted to go through the drive-thru on the way home to save time? No point when you’ve already got a delicious meal at home waiting for you.
Taco truck pull up in front of the office again? No sweat — you’ve already packed a hearty lunch you’re looking forward to. Someone brought donuts to the office? Satisfy your snack craving with these meal prep snack ideas.
The amount time you give to prepping food at home will greatly increase the quality of your diet. What’s more, meal prepping can be a great time-saver.
Think of meal prepping as a way to put lunch, breakfast, or even dinner on autopilot for the week. You do all of the major chopping, cooking and cleaning on one day.”
Planning ahead and prepping your meals can be a great way to make more healthy choices and avoid temptation. If you’re not used to batch cooking, start with prepping one or two days’ worth of meals at a time.
I recommend starting small with meal prep for a couple reasons. It can take a couple hours to get through the chopping, cooking, and cleaning for a week’s worth of meals. If you try to do too much too soon, you may be overwhelmed and not want to do it again.
Starting out small will allow you test one or two recipes to see how you like them and just how much of it you actually eat. You wouldn’t want to make too much food and end up wasting it.
You don’t need a ton of fancy kitchen equipment to make healthy meals at home. Here are some basic kitchen tools you might find helpful if you don’t have them already:
- Portion Fix Meal Prep Containers
- Bento-Style meal prep containers
- Pyrex meal prep containers
- Mason jars
- Chef’s knife
- Measuring cups and spoons
- Cutting board
- Sauté pan, small saucepan, baking sheet
- Mixing bowls
- Slow cooker or Instant Pot (optional)
- Blender or food processor (optional)
I recommend starting on a Sunday or Monday. Sundays often work well since most people have a little extra time and you also tend to be more motivated to engage in healthy behaviors at the beginning of the week. Meal prep is a great way to carry that enthusiasm throughout the week with just a little effort upfront.
Planning your meals for the week doesn’t have to be complicated. It might seem a little daunting at first, but it’s surprising how many different meals you can make with just a limited number of ingredients.
Beachbody offers free meal plans that have already done all the heavy lifting for you.Most are five days long, and there are vegetarian meal preps, vegan meal preps, grain-free meal prep, no-cook meal preps, and more. The meal preps are categorized by calorie level, and most include step-by-step instructions and a grocery list.
If you’re not ready to commit to a full meal prep just yet, keep it simple. No-fuss combinations like chicken, brown rice, and broccoli for dinner, and salmon, roasted carrots, and spinach for lunch. To add flavor without calories, stock up on herbs and spices.
Once you have your meal-prep recipe list, check your pantry and fridge for ingredients, make a list, and then you can head to the store prepared. And if you’re the type who tends to wander aimlessly around the aisles, here are some ideas to save time, money, and your sanity:
Once you’re comfortable meal prepping, I recommend preparing staples — like rice, oats, hard boiled eggs, shredded chicken and sweet potatoes — in bulk. You’ll return to them again and again and they can take the longest to cook. You can make a pot of rice, use some now for a meal, refrigerate a portion, and freeze a portion to be used later.
Here are my go-to foods to batch cook.
Roasted veggies: Add them to a breakfast scramble, then toss some into your salad for a not-sad desk lunch. Here are some of my basic recipes for Roasted Vegetables HERE.
Quinoa: Add this nutrient-packed food to your soup for lunch, then turn it into a side dish with baked salmon at dinner. You can find look at some of my healthy ways to put together quinoa with salads or entrees HERE.
Chicken breasts: Bake a few chicken breasts with one of these basic recipes to pair with a side of sautéed veggies and a baked sweet potato for dinner. Then add a sliced chicken breast to some zoodles for a clean “pasta” dish for lunch the next day.
Hard-boiled eggs: Grab these as an easy snack when the afternoon slump hits, then make avocado egg salad toast for breakfast in the morning. If you don’t have your own method for making a batch of hard boiled eggs you can use one of these.
Sweet Potatoes: These will last you 4–5 days in the fridge. This versatile grain can be used in a slew of recipes for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. You can get my method for Slow Cooker or Baked Sweet Potatoes Here.
How to Make Meal Prep Easy:
- Include some no-cook recipes in your meal prep. Snacks like Shakeology and foods that don’t require cooking (like salads and overnight oats) can help save time in the prep process.
- When prepping, use the oven to cook several things at once. Veggies can generally roast together, and there’s a reason that sheet-pan dinners are becoming so popular — no muss, no fuss.
- Don’t shy away from the Crockpot or the Insta Pot. They’re super time-savers — just add ingredients, set, and forget. While it’s doing the work on one recipe, you have time to focus on another.