Most of us are pretty busy in our day-to-day lives. Whether you are a mom, student or working full time, it can be hard (or absolutely impossible!) to cook all of your meals at home each day. This is where meal preparation (aka “meal prep”) can quickly become your best friend! Without meal prep, you increase your chances of eating junk or convenience foods if you get busy or caught out without food.
So what is meal prep? I always make sure to tell my clients that meal prep means something different to each person, so it is important you find a routine that works for you. Essentially, it should save you time in the kitchen and make it easier for you to eat healthier during the week. You may choose to prepare only breakfasts, dinners or even all of your meals, including your snacks. You may need to use a little bit of trial and error to get settled into a routine that suits your lifestyle and preferences. If you always find yourself in a hurry to get out of the door in the morning and your breakfast consists of a takeaway croissant, then preparing breakfast will help you. Likewise, if you struggle to get dinner together because you work late, you should focus on preparing dinners.
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The first thing you need to do is invest in some good quality containers – these can be tupperware or the glass variety. Keep in mind that if you are going to be reheating your food in these you want to choose ones that are BPA free and won’t fall apart in the microwave/oven. If you are going to be prepping for a few days in a row, it can be a good idea to buy containers that are the same sizes so they can be easily stacked and you aren’t playing tetris in your fridge.
There are SO many ways to prep your food, I will go through some of the things that work for me, but remember you should adjust it to suit your lifestyle. Firstly, a big thing for me is taste. Like all of you, I love eating healthy foods that taste amazing. Unless you are a hardcore clean eater, cooking up 5 pounds of plain chicken breast and steamed broccoli probably won’t float your boat. I love experimenting with flavors, in particular spices and homemade marinades and dressings.
You can check out more of my creations over on my instagram page where I share my daily eats, recipes, nutrition tips + more 🙂
I like to accompany my lean proteins with some sort of sauce or spice coating, or a lemon and olive oil dressing to jazz up my veggies. I always emphasize to my clients the importance of incorporating as much variety as possible. It’s easy to get bored of eating the same thing each day. This can be as simple as switching up your spices or protein (e.g. swapping your chicken for fish) every few days.
Some of HS’s favorite meal prep meal recipes:
- Firecracker Chicken – Great for cauliflower rice bowls, on salads, in tacos, on sandwiches + more!
- White Chicken Chili – Make this in your slow cooker for an easy on-the-go lunch!
- Honey Garlic Chicken – My most popular recipe + made in the Crock-Pot!
- Creamy Lentil Pasta + Greens – Easy vegetarian lunch or dinner recipe!
- Roasted Bell Peppers – Great on sandwiches, a side-dish for dinner or plain for a snack!
- Teriyaki Roasted Veggies – Roast them with some chicken for a simple, home-made stir fry!
- Roasted Beet Hummus – Perfect on sandwiches or as a snack!
- Pear Pomegranate + Pumpkin Seed Salad – Pack your dressing separately and add some protein for lunch!
- Oil Free Sauteed Apples – Add them to your morning oats, in your yogurt + more!
- Oatmeal Chocolate Chip Protein Pancakes – Freeze them for breakfast!
When deciding on recipes, think about A. how long they take to make; B. what pots and pans you’ll be using (avoid recipes that require the same pot for faster prepping); and C. if the ingredients in the meals can be mixed and matched so you aren’t eating the same thing every day.
As I mentioned before, if you are new to the meal prep concept I would recommend preparing a few days’ meals at a time. How much time that you dedicate to this is completely up to you! You can choose to dedicate a whole day to this or spread it out nightly.
Personally, I prefer to take a few hours out of my Sunday night just so it is done and out of the way. How much prep I actually do will also depend on what it is I am actually preparing. For example, if there are meals/snacks that I like to eat fresh, such as a salad or veggie sticks, then I just group them in the same containers in the fridge and chop them up the morning of or just before I eat it. For more complex dishes, like stir frys, I will often chop all the veggies up so that they are ready to go when it’s time to cook. It is SUPER important to write down a clear plan and do what works for you.
Gadgets that will make Meal Prep a Breeze:
A variety of glass or BPA-free plastic containers in different shapes and sizes is crucial (don’t forget tiny ones for dressing and sauces, freezer-friendly options, and mason jars). And check to make sure you have the usual kitchen suspects such as aluminum foil, plastic wrap, cutting boards, mixing bowls, measuring cups, spatulas, and sharp knives. A blender and mandoline will make your life a whole lot easier, too.
- Instant Pot
- Hamilton Beach Programmable Slow Cooker
- Anova Sous Vide
- Glass Meal Prepping Containers
- Cuisinart Hand (Immersion) Blender
- 5-Piece Mixing Bowl Set
- Racheal Ray 10-Qt. Pot
- Measuring Cups
- Ninja Food Processor
- Ceramic Knives
Make a shopping list and plot your meal-prep strategy. Review what you already have in your pantry and fridge and jot down what you’ll need to buy. (You should always have staples such as healthy cooking oils and vinegar, eggs, almond meal or breadcrumbs, chia seeds, onions, and garlic—plus, lemons and limes and your favorite fresh herbs and dried spices for easy seasoning.)
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When you get home, map out your meal-prep timeline, so you can get the longest-cooking meal going first (maybe a big pot of chili), while you’re roasting sweet potatoes in the oven, and chopping veggies for salads, soups, and stir-fries on the counter.
Fruit is a great way to dive in to meal prepping. You can cut up different types of fruit and store them just like any meals you could prepare. You can easily make fruit salads or smoothies to go along with you prepped meals. Or you can simply start off with fruit preps only.
I hope you all have a better understanding of what meal prep means and, more importantly, how to do it! Remember to only do what feels comfortable for you and make sure it suits your lifestyle. A little bit of meal prep is still better than none at all. Even if that is just chopping up a few veggies or grouping things in containers, you will feel so much better about cooking your food if you have it organized ready to go!
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