This is the ultimate guide to meal prep for beginners. This guide includes tips, strategies, and resources to master meal prep.
Do you want to meal prep?
Are you interested in meal prep but you don’t know where to start? Trust me, I was in the exact same place as you a few years ago. I was hesitant to meal prep because I didn’t really know how to cook, how to meal plan, and especially how to meal prep. I let the intimidation and unknown keep me from trying! If you're in the same boat as well, keep reading to learn all about meal prep.
What is meal prep?
Meal prep is any preparation of a meal or food ahead of time. Usually meal prep refers to preparing 3-7 days worth of food at one time. There are several ways to meal prep (either meal-prepping buffet style foods or bulk recipes), but it's taking the time to prepare foods earlier to save time later.
Whether you spend 20 minutes or 2 hours preparing for the week, any time counts! It can look like packing leftovers, portioning out a casserole for lunch, or roasting a bunch of vegetables to use later. For example, think of packing all of your lunches on Sunday afternoon so they were ready for your work week. It's that exact thing, but with flexibility for all your upcoming meals.
It might sound intimidating, but with a few tips and tricks, you can start meal prepping too!
Why meal prep?
There are so many benefits of meal prep! The reason why a person chooses to meal prep varies. If you're on the fence about meal prep, this list of the top 10 benefits of meal prep will surely change your mind.
- Save money
- Save time
- Reduce food waste
- Feel prepared
- Create more healthy options
- Stay on track with your goals
- Improve cooking skills
- Develop a routine
- Reduce stress
- Ease in the grocery store
Who is meal prepping for?
Meal prep is for anyone! Whether you're a master chef or have only spent 5 minutes in the kitchen, meal prep is for you. You can be a parent, college student, or newly-wed and experience so many benefits of meal prep! If you're want to save time, money, create routine, and stay on track with your goals, then meal prep is for you.
The kinds of meal prep
- Buffet Style Meal Prep. This style of meal prep is when you pick a few proteins, grains, vegetables, or fruits that you can use all week long in various ways. For example, if you prepare chicken, sweet potatoes, peppers and onions, and quinoa, you could use those ingredients to make a salad, stir fry, or a buddha bowl.
- Batch Style Meal Prep. This style of meal prep is when you pick 2 or 3 recipes that you make ahead of time and eat throughout the week. For example, you could make a pot of chili, a casserole, and soup and use those for lunches and dinners all week long.
- Change your style. It's okay to change the style of meal prep every week! Some weeks I meal prep buffet style and sometimes I prep in a batch style. It really just depends on how I'm feeling, the ingredients I have, and what my week looks like. I encourage you to find what works for you and change your style accordingly.
How to meal prep
The beauty of meal prep is that there are so many ways to do it. I used to feel really overwhelmed and didn't really know how to meal prep and where to start. That's exactly why I created the Weekly Meal Plan Template.
This template is a free, printable resource to help you create an attainable weekly meal plan. Each template serves as a resource to make a meal plan, shopping list, and prep schedule for the week. These templates were designed in an effort to make meal planning attainable, sustainable, and fun!
More about the template
It truly breaks down how to meal prep. Here are a couple of tools included in the resource:
- Weekly Meal Plan Template: This resource lets you plan all of your meals for the week. For each day of the week, you can write down your plan for Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner, and Snacks. Whether you're going out to dinner or having leftovers, referring to the plan you created for the week will give you an overview of your week.
- The Inventory Tool: This helps you figure out what you already have. You will open up you pantry, fridge, and freezer and write down everything that might be helpful for planning meals. There are categories to make it really easy to see.
- Shopping List: This tool uses the inventory and needs section of your plan to help you create a list for the store. Creating a list will help you save time and money in the grocery store.
- Meal Prep Plan: This section of the resource lets you figure out what you can prep ahead of time. It's broken down into categories by meal and includes checkboxes to keep you organized.
This resource is a helpful tool to walk you through the process of meal planning and meal prepping! I hope it gives you confidence in the kitchen and throughout your week.
Meal prep tips
One of the great things about meal prep is that there isn't a right or wrong way to do it. There are some strategies that work well for some people, but that others might not enjoy. You have the ability to change what you do each week depending on what your time, preference, and skills. Check out this post about meal prep tips to learn more tips & tricks!
- Keep it simple
- Make a schedule
- Work ahead
- Research recipes
- Have fun with meal prep
- Invest in containers
- Use your slow cooker
- Focus on the parts
- Portion out snacks
- Assemble ingredients
- Pre-Cook meals
- Switch up meals
Meal prep resources
If you're feeling really inspired and want more on meal prep, here are a few resources that might be helpful.
- Weekly Meal Plan Template: These are free, printable resource to help you create an attainable weekly meal plan. Each template serves as a resource to make a meal plan, shopping list, and prep schedule for the week. These templates were designed in an effort to make meal planning attainable, sustainable, and fun!
- My Fitness Pal: If you're using meal prep for diet purposes, using an app like MyFitnessPal can be helpful. This app tracks meals, nutrients and has a full database of foods & recipes to make it easy. It can help calculate caloric needs based on your activity as well.
- Pinterest: There are so many meal prep recipe ideas on Pinterest! You can search for specific meals, foods, and more. Check out my Pinterest for recipe inspiration and meal prep tips!
- How to Meal Prep Videos: Youtube is a super helpful resource for learning cooking skills and watching how-to videos for recipes! There are videos all about cooking for beginners as well as meal prep specific tutorials.
- Meal Prep Recipe Inspiration: I bet you there's a food blogger for you. Whether you're looking for a certain kind of diet, cooking method, or recipe, I guarantee there's a food blogger for you! The recipes you’ll find on my site are usually healthy, quick, and easy. I love to eat nutritious food that tastes good. One of my goals is to find affordable and easy options to fuel an active and productive lifestyle.
- Some of my favorite healthy food bloggers are Minimalist Baker, Fit Foodie Finds, Ambitious Kitchen, Little Bits Of, and Bev Cooks.
- Inspiration on Social Media: Instagram is another great spot to look for meal prep inspiration. Here are a few accounts you can follow: Meal Prep & Chill, Meal Prep Society, and Meal Prepster.
- Meal planning app: An app to schedule meals and make shopping lists!
What should I meal prep?
You have so many options! You can choose to buffet style meal prep or batch style meal prep. Remember that whatever you choose, any time you take to prepare foods will save time later. So pick a few things and get started! Here are some recipes to get you going:
- Breakfast: Baked Pancakes + Sausage McGriddles + Berries & Cream Pancake Skillet
- Lunch & Dinner: 20 Minute Burrito Bowl Meal Prep + Healthy Buffalo Chicken + Honey Sriracha Chicken + Healthy Chicken Salad
- Dessert: Monster Cookie Protein Bars + Healthy Cake Batter Dip
- Healthy Meal Prep Recipes - 30 Ways
- Chicken Meal Prep Recipes
- Meal Prep Recipes with 9 Ingredients or Less
- 52 Healthy Meal Prep Recipes
- Healthy Dinner Recipes that are Perfect for Meal Prep
Want to know even more about meal prep?
Here are a few other resources I've created to help you get started with meal prep:
- Meal Prep Tips: Whether you're a meal prep beginner or pro, this list of 10+ meal prep tips and tricks can help you quickly and easily prepare for the week!
- Benefits of Meal Prep: Are you unsure if meal prep is worth the hype? If you're on the fence about meal prep, here's a list of the top 10 benefits of meal prep!
- Weekly Meal Plan Template: This template is a free, printable resource to help you create an attainable weekly meal plan. Each template serves as a resource to make a meal plan, shopping list, and prep schedule for the week.
You can meal prep
If you made it this far into the post, I bet you're convinced meal prep is worth the hype! I want to encourage you to learn, grow, and try new things. You totally got this!!