How to Meal Prep (Ideas & Recipes for Beginners)

Meal prep is a great way to make cooking and eating a lot easier when life gets crazy. I’m sharing tons of meal prep ideas and easy recipes to help you meal prep for the week and make it part of your routine.

Meal Prep Ideas

Meal Prep is the thing to do these days. Whether you’re trying to manage a busy schedule, trying to follow a special diet, or just trying to make meal time a lot easier, learning how to meal prep is a great option.

If you’re a meal prepping beginner, it might seem overwhelming at first. But it doesn’t have to take up a lot of time, and you don’t have to have every single meal 100% prepped and perfectly contained at the start of the week. You can do this process in a way that works for YOU, your life, and your family. It’s meant to make cooking and eating EASIER, not more intimidating.

So I’m sharing tons of meal prep ideas and recipes with you to help you get started! Here’s what you’ll learn in this guide:

  • Why you should try meal prepping
  • How to meal prep for the week
  • Meal prep tips for beginners
  • The best meal prep containers to use
  • Easy meal prep recipes to try

If you’re new to meal prepping, you can find tons of ideas, tips, and recipes right here to help you get started!

How to Meal Prep 

If you’re trying to figure out how to meal prep for the week and start making it part of your regular routine, these tips and ideas will help you get going.

Why should you meal prep?

There are so many reasons to make meal prepping a part of your weekly routine. Here are some of the most common reasons people start doing it:

  1. It saves time – Do the bulk of your cooking in one day, and have meals ready to go throughout the week. If you’re always busy and on the go, this will relieve a lot of stress, so you can have good meals without using up precious time.
  2. It saves money – Having any kind of meal plan can help you save money at the store, because you know exactly what you need. Having food prepared also means you are less likely to find yourself running out to grab food for convenience.
  3. It saves calories – If you’re worried about portion control for weight loss or other health concerns, prepping meals is a great way to go. Your meals are already portioned out, so you know exactly how much to eat.

It’s also a great thing to do for anyone following a special diet, whether you’re keto, gluten-free, vegetarian/vegan, low-carb, paleo, etc. It’s a lot easier to stick to these diets if your meals are all planned and prepped.

How do I start meal prepping?

If you’re totally new to this, the best way to get started is to make a plan.

  • Get some containers to store your food.
  • Gather recipes that you want to make.
  • Schedule a few hours in your week (Sunday is a good day to do it) to do the prepping.
  • Make a grocery list and go get the ingredients you need. (Check out our FREE Printable Grocery List!)
  • Make a general plan of what you need to do based on the recipes and ingredients you are preparing.

I recommend starting small. Dedicate an hour to prepare a simple meal that you can portion out for dinners every night of the week. Or just portion out ingredients to make salads for lunch every day, so you can just grab them and go in the morning.

Eventually you’ll get used to prepping food and recipes in bulk, and the whole process will become much simpler.

How far in advance can you meal prep?

Most people seem to meal prep for a week at a time. Fresh foods, veggies, and prepared foods will typically keep in the fridge for that amount of time. Anything further in advance might be hard to keep fresh.

However, if you want to prep things that can be frozen ahead of time, consider making large batches of those recipes a month in advance, then thaw them out for a week at a time. You could do this especially with soups and stews.

Is meal prepping healthy?

This depends on your goals. Meal prep is very popular with people on special diets, whether it’s keto, low-carb, vegan, clean eating, etc. So it’s definitely easy to find healthy meal prep ideas.

However, it doesn’t necessarily have to be healthy foods. Planning and preparing home cooked meals ahead of time makes it a lot easier to eat well and stick to healthier eating, but if you’re just worried about saving time, you can make any kind of recipes you like.

How long does meal prep take?

It depends on what you’re making, and how much you’re making. But you should set aside a few hours at the start of each week to get everything prepared. 2-3 hours is a pretty common time frame for a week of meal prepping, but you can cut down your time once you get the hang of it!

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Do I have to prepare every meal in advance?

No! You can, if that will make your life easier. But you might only have one meal a day that causes you stress. 

  • You could meal prep for breakfasts, so you don’t have to wake up earlier to get a good meal first thing in the morning.
  • You might prep meals for lunch to take to work, so you don’t have to buy lunches every day.
  • If your family’s schedule makes evenings extra busy, meal prep dinner so everyone has something to eat, even when you don’t have time to cook.

Do whatever works best for you! You can also prep ingredients instead of entire meals, to help get a head start on cooking each day.

Best Meal Prep Containers

If you’re going to meal prep, you’re going to need plenty of reusable containers to store the food in. You can really use any type of sealed, reusable containers you prefer. Just start with what you already have at home!

If meal prepping becomes a regular thing in your life, it’s worthwhile to stock up on nice containers.

  • I recommend glass instead of buying more plastic. They’re more durable, better for food, and better for the planet.
  • Get containers with good, fully sealable lids. Those flimsy plastic ones end up misshapen after a few rounds through the microwave or dishwasher, and the lids don’t seem to fit perfectly anymore.
  • If you’re portioning out meals for each day of the week, it’s helpful to have a full set of the same exact container and size. So grab 5 of the same container to make it easy to portion out your meals.
  • Get a set of meal prep containers with various sizes if you plan to just prep ingredients and combine things later in the week.
  • If you want to prepare lunches but still keep foods separated, get containers with compartments.

You can find food storage container almost everywhere, so just keep an eye out for the ones that work best for you. I recommend starting with a set of glass containers for weekly meal prep (like these), but you don’t need a specific type to make this work!

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Easy Meal Prep Recipes

The best recipes for meal prep are the ones that are easy to store and reheat. So if you have a favorite casserole, soup, pasta, or other dish that you typically save leftovers (or a dish that you often make ahead of time), that’s a good place to start!

Also consider recipes that don’t require cooking, or things that can be made in a slow cooker. This will make the whole process much simpler.

Another good meal prepping strategy is to just cook up a big batch of grains (rice, quinoa, etc.), a big batch of veggies, and a big batch of protein (chicken, beans, etc.), and then just portion everything out into separate containers.

If you’re looking for some recipes, try these meal prep ideas!

Breakfast Meal Prep Ideas

Lunch Meal Prep Ideas

Dinner Meal Prep Ideas

I hope these beginner meal prep ideas, tips, and recipes have been helpful to you. Remember, it’s all about making meal time throughout the week EASIER for you, not more complicated. So create a routine that works for you and your needs.

Check out our guide to Non-Perishable Foods and Pantry Recipes and Freezer-Friendly Meals for more ideas.

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Katerina | Once a Foodie
    Becky Hardin

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