Do you want to eat better but struggle to do so, week after week? Meal prep can help you streamline your healthy eating without being complicated. By putting in a little effort ahead of time, you can set yourself up for success throughout the workweek.
Here’s our simple guide for how to meal prep for the week!
Quick Tips on How to Meal Prep for the Week
First, let’s start with a few tips and reminders:
- Think simple; don’t make it overwhelming. Start with easy ingredients and uncomplicated meals. When planning your meals (which we’ll get to below), do online searches with “easy”, “simple” or “quick” in front of the recipe type you want to search.
- Start with recipes you already know. If there are things you already enjoy, begin there. Lookup a healthier version if you need to.
- Be flexible. Give yourself time to get used to meal prepping. And give yourself grace as you turn it into a habit. Also, note that meal prep looks slightly different for everyone — there’s no “one-size-fits-all” approach.
Step One: Identify and Remember Your "Why"
The most crucial question to ask yourself is: “why do I want to meal prep?” Focusing on your “why” will help you stick with it in a way that becomes a lifestyle.
Maybe you want to get into meal prepping to avoid worrying about eating healthy each day. Perhaps it’s a powerful form of self-care. Or maybe you want to save money and time.
Spend a little time thinking about this before you jump in.
Step Two: Create Your Meal Prep Plan
You need a plan for where you’re going with meal prep, even if it’s a simple one:
- Start with your dinners. What will you have each night of the week? Dinners are often the most significant meal, so it’s the best place to start for most people.
- Next, breakfasts and lunches. Many of us eat the same thing several days in a row for these meals. Plan out what you’ll have each day. You might only need 1-2 variations.
- After your meals, plan out your snacks. Keep them healthy and easy as much as possible.
You could also choose to only prep your lunches and dinners, leaving breakfast separate. Or only focus on dinners. It’s whatever will best help you meet your goals.
Step Three: Shop for Your Ingredients
Once you know your meals, create a list of ingredients you need. Be sure to check your pantry and fridge for staples you already own. It also helps to group ingredients on your list by their locations in the grocery store — for example, all produce, all beans, and all dried grains together.
If you’re able, consider ordering your groceries online. Many stores will offer services to shop online and pick up your groceries already bagged. This saves a lot of time!
Step Four: Pick Your Prepping Strategy — and Start!
This step — where you’re preparing and cooking — is highly individualized. And it’s all about saving time, so you don’t necessarily have to cook each entire meal.
Here are a few common strategies people take towards how to meal prep for the week:
- Batch cooking: You cook a large batch of a meal and eat it throughout the week. For example, chilis, soups, one-pot meals, and slow cooker recipes are great for batch cooking. Then, you can simply reheat and eat.
- Pre-portioning: This is where you divide a meal or snack into portions you can easily grab and go throughout the week. Good examples are overnight oats, trail mix, and salad-in-a-jar.
- Mix-and-match buffet style: Chop, slice, and cook your ingredients for the week ahead, then use “buffet style” for easy meals. This works well for salads, tacos, burritos, and Buddha bowls.
- Pre-prepped freezer meals: Do everything except the cooking part for each meal. Then, freeze and have them ready to throw in the oven or on the stove when it’s time to cook.
You might choose to do a combination of different styles, and that’s great! It helps to have different storage container sizes ready for portioning things out. Label each with the contents of the container and the date you prepared it.
The Bottom Line
Meal prepping can help you save time, save money, and get healthier. Use the guide above to meal prep in the way that works best for your lifestyle and your “why.”