You wake up, open the fridge, and find a filling, healthy breakfast that kicks off your morning just right. You pack a healthy lunch for work in less than two minutes. At night, you don’t need to get in the kitchen to cook a healthy dinner, because it’s already waiting for you in the fridge. Nope, you don’t need a personal chef, frozen dinners, or a magic spell to make this happen.
If you want healthy meals at your table but despise slaving away in the kitchen, learning how to meal prep is a must. Meal prepping saves you both time and money and ensures you have healthy meals in your kitchen every single day of the week. You won’t have to choose between binge-watching your favorite show or cooking something for dinner, or between making breakfast or sleeping 20 more minutes. You can do both.
What’s meal prepping and how does it work?
Meal prepping puts your diet on autopilot so you can spend your time on more important things (like napping).
You make a week or a month’s worth of meals in just one day by cooking large batches of a few key dishes, and store them in your fridge and freezer until you’re ready to eat them.
Most people are intimidated by meal prepping, but it’s actually a simple and intuitive process that can radically simplify your life and your health.
Here’s exactly how to meal prep like a pro and stop worrying about what’s for dinner:
1. Choose how long in advance you’re going to cook
First off, pick if you want to cook in advance for the whole month or just for the week.
If you’re just starting out, try meal prepping for only a week until you feel comfortable enough to put your whole month’s meals on autopilot.
2. Go through the food you already have at home
We all have those ingredients in our pantry we’re not quite sure how to use. Maybe it’s an odd can of white beans or a spice you intended to use but it’s still brand new. Now is their time to shine.
Make a list of the ingredients you already have at home and would like to use.
Also, take into account any produce sitting in your fridge that you’ve been meaning to use, but haven’t.
3. Create your weekly or monthly menu
Now it’s time to take a deep dive into your favorite food blogs and create a menu that makes you happy.
Create your weekly breakfast, lunch, dinner, and snacks menu with recipes that are simple and call for ingredients you have at home.
If you have a virtual stash of saved recipes, even better – just pick from there!
To simplify your meal prep, eat the same thing several times a week. For example, sip on a green smoothie for breakfast every morning.
4. Make your shopping list off your menu
Make a list of the ingredients you need to cook the meals in your menu, then divide the list by category and hit the (farmers’) market.
5. Shop fresh produce at the farmers’ market and everything else at the supermarket
The farmers’ market is the best place to find fresh, seasonal, local produce and ethical meats for your recipes. Shop everything else at the supermarket, such as canned foods, whole grains, and spices.
6. Clear your freezer
Make some space in your freezer so you can store your meals. It’s the perfect time to get rid of old frozen foods you’ve forgotten about.
7. Clear your schedule
Meal prepping will take you a few hours of up-front work, so clear your calendar for the day, put on your favorite music or podcast, and get ready to cook.
In the end, this will save you countless cooking hours throughout the week, so it’s definitely worth it.
8. Cook your meats first
Start by cooking dishes with meats, since they usually take the longest. These include lasagnas, soups, hearty stews, roasted chicken, and other meaty meals.
9. Cook the rest of you staples
Cook staples that you’ll eat often, like quinoa, rice, beans, lentils, or chickpeas.
10. Cook your snacks
If your snacks are something other than fruits, veggies, or nuts, now’s the time to cook them. Energy date balls are a fantastic option.
11. Clean and prep all non-freezable foods
While the main dishes are cooking, take care of delicate foods that you want to enjoy fresh, like greens, berries, and veggies:
- Wash, dry and store your leafy greens for salads: Kale, lettuce, spinach, parsley.
- Clean, dry and store fruits for snacking and adding to your breakfast: blueberries, strawberries, raspberries.
- Clean and cut up crunchy veggies to snack on: carrots, celery, and peppers.
12. Store your cooked meals for the next three days in the fridge – and freeze the rest.
When everything’s cooked, here’s how to store it:
- Non-freezable foods: Keep leafy greens, berries, and snacks in air-tight glass containers in the fridge.
- Meals for the next 3 days: Serve portions for breakfast, lunch, and dinner, and store in glass containers in the fridge.
- Meals for the rest of the week (or month): Store in Ziploc bags in the freezer.