Several years ago, meal prepping seemed somewhat monotonous to me. I would see pictures of the same dinner in 5 separate containers and wonder why kind of person doesn’t get tired of the same dinner 5 nights in a row. Thankfully, I realized meal prepping doesn’t have to be an all or nothing approach. And it definitely doesn’t have to be monotonous. My goal is to help you get started with some meal prep basics.
Why Meal Prep?
Different families may choose to meal prep for different reasons. For years, I would meal prep by fixing healthy breakfasts to eat throughout the week, and I would often make foods such as taco salads that we could enjoy throughout the week. However, until recently, I didn’t find it worked for my family to do much more meal prep than that. I preferred to focus on healthy dinners I could make quickly!
Recently, I realized my family needed a change.
- Our evenings have become increasingly busy and dinner clean up seems to stretch into the entire evening!
- I never know what time my husband will be off and home. (This makes knowing when to have dinner ready incredibly difficult!)
So far, it seems like meal prepping is solving these 2 basic problems for us. Clean up is now a breeze and dinner can be ready pretty quickly!
Meal Prep Basics: How to Meal Prep
The key to any new habit or practice is to not get overwhelmed. Here are some meal prep basics to get you started.
Plan Your Food: Start With Simple Dishes
The first step with any kind of meal planning is to figure out what you will fix. This is no different with meal prepping. Sit down and decide what you would like to fix for your weekly meal plan. Decide if you want to meal prep everything or only a few dishes. You may just want to do lunch meal prep for the week, a breakfast dish, or you may choose to do even dinner meals!
If prepping several whole meals seems overwhelming at first you could start by meal prepping parts of dishes, such as chopping veggies or cooking grains (such as rice or quinoa).
Also, if you are new to meal prepping, pick very simple and basic dishes to cook. For example, you could choose one breakfast recipe and two lunch/dinner recipes. Over time, you can figure out what works for your family. For me, meal prepping breakfast is an easy win because I’m not a big morning person, and it gives me a quick win to start my day off with a healthy breakfast that is already prepared.
Here are some basic meal prep ideas:
- Roasted Sweet Potato Rounds
- Baked Sweet Potatoes
- Wash and Prep Salad Greens
- Wash and cut raw veggies like broccoli, celery, carrots, and peppers.
- Shredded Meats (Easy to fix in your crock pot or Instant Pot – like Instant Pot Shredded Chicken Recipe, Instant Pot Italian Beef)
- Egg Bake or Casserole (Like my Easy 5 Minute Egg Bake)
- Overnight Oats
- Steel Cut Oats (Like my Apple Cranberry Instant Pot Steel Cut Oats)
- Greek Yogurt Parfait with Fresh Fruit and Simple Granola
- Hard Boiled Eggs (Instant Pot Boiled Eggs)
Make Your Meal Prep Plan
We all know a goal without a plan is just a wish. Like anything, it’s important to have a well-defined plan in place or the meal prep will simply overwhelm you.
- Time – First, figure out how much time you have available to meal prep and when you can plan this chunk of time. It can be one hour or four hours. It’s up to you. Obviously, you’ll need to consider how many dishes you hope to cook. (If you don’t have a large pocket of time, you can just prep components of meals as able – be sure to read my tips on making weeknight dinners happen.)
- Remember to make time to go grocery shopping! Don’t forget, grocery shopping doesn’t have to be complicated. Remember to look over my best grocery shopping tips beforehand for a quick and efficient trip.
- Plan the order in which you will prepare your food. When planning the order, consider the length of time dishes need to cook, and make the best use of this time by working on other components. Make an ordered list of the basic steps you plan to take. Here are a few tips to help with flow:
- Set any crockpots.
- Marinade meats if needed.
- Begin cooking any grains.
- If you have an Instant Pot you want to use, set it up with your first food.
- Wash produce, chop veggies, etc while waiting on ovens, instant pot, etc.
- Start prepping! Don’t worry if you don’t get everything done you set out to do. You can always finish up at a later time. Anything you get prepped for your week already puts you ahead.
Meal Prep Basics: The Containers
You can use any kind of meal prep container to put your food in. Personally, I prefer to keep our house mostly plastic-free, especially our dishes. Using glass ensures that your container will not have any harmful chemicals such as BPA. (Even the American Academy of Pediatrics has recommended limiting plastic use with children as of this year.) However, I also love that you can see through glass easily as it helps me simplify and easily see what is in each container.
Here are a few of my favorite meal prep containers:
I actually just ordered these glass 3 compartment bento boxes and can’t wait to try them out! Several years ago I was searching everywhere for something just like this in glass and unable to find anything. I’m excited there is such an affordable and well-rated option on Amazon now!
I use my pint-sized ball jars with lids all the time. They are perfect for overnight oats, salads, veggies, dressings, and smoothies!
I have had a Glasslock glass set for several years that I use daily. The larger dishes are perfect for storing food at home and the smaller sizes we use to pack lunch. We have never had one to leak – ever! (And leaking is pretty important when packing food.)
It’s your turn to implement the meal prep basics!
You don’t need special meal prep recipes or even meal prep containers to get started. You can start with your old favorites that you know save well. However, there are certainly loads of meal prep recipes out there (be sure to follow me on Pinterest where I’m pinning meal prep tips, recipes, and tricks!) Starting with meal prep basics doesn’t have to be overwhelming. Start simple and do what works for your family!