When most of us hear the phrase “meal prepping,” our minds automatically jump to images of countless rows of Tupperware containers filled with chicken, rice, and broccoli. The concept of meal prepping has been built up quite a bit over the years and the phrase alone is enough to intimidate most of us. But I’m here to tell you that meal prepping doesn’t have to be this insane undertaking often depicted in these images. Meal prepping can be as simple as that, prepping a meal in advance.
As someone who is not particularly keen on spending hours in the kitchen each day, I’ve compiled a few simple steps to make meal prepping easy. If you’re like me, and just want a straightforward, painless cooking routine, then these steps are for you!
Step 1: Make a Plan for the Week
The best place to start is by jotting down a quick plan for the week. The planning stage can include planning which meals you will eat on what days, as well as which days you will go grocery shopping and cook. If you like consistency like I do, you can grocery shop and cook on the same days each week to stick to a schedule. Scheduling grocery shopping times and cooking times into the week makes it much more likely to get done.
Step 2: Make a Grocery List
Using your planned meals, compile a list of any ingredients you don’t already have. Doing this instead of just winging it at the store will really help simplify things and make sure you’re not forgetting any important ingredients.
Step 3: Get Your Ingredients on Designated Shopping Day
With your beautiful and thorough list, you can now head to the grocery store on whichever day you have it scheduled into your plan. This way, you have no excuse not to go – you have the time, you planned it out, now it’s time to put the plan into action. For me, grocery shopping on Sundays is usually what works best.
Step 4: Batch Cook 1-2 Meals on Designated Cooking Days
Rather than cooking individual meals day after day, I prefer to batch cook 1 or 2 meals at a time that will provide a few portions for each family member. This way they can last a few days. (This will require multiplying most recipes, depending on how many servings it makes and how many people you’re feeding.) So on your designated cooking days, hunker down and get ready to COOK!
Step 5: Portion Out as You Go
Something I’ve never liked doing when batch cooking is storing my meals into pre-portioned containers. I just think it’s unnecessary. I prefer to store them in one large container and then portion out as I go, whether that’s putting it on a plate to eat at home or sticking it in a smaller container to take on the go. Doing it this way takes minimal time throughout the week and it really simplifies the process on cooking days.
Pro Tip: Keep a List of Staple Meals
As someone who lacks creativity in the kitchen, I’m not looking for anything complicated or fancy to cook. My main priority is to make food that will nourish me and my family throughout the week. That being said, I’ve found it extremely helpful to keep a list of staple meals on hand for when I’m planning out what to make. These “meals” are just frameworks that can be made several different ways.
Below is my personal staple meal list. You’ll notice I make sure to have a protein, some sort of starch, and colorful veggies, along with anything else needed to pull the meal together. (I don’t include spices or s+p. I prefer to just add those as I go depending on what I’m cooking.) Each meal framework includes a list of basic components with suggestions for each. Using frameworks like these can help make cooking easy and familiar while still providing the flexibility to change things up.
- Grain: quinoa, couscous, brown rice, white rice, etc.
- Protein: chicken, fish, chickpeas, legumes, tofu, etc.
- Veggies: raw chopped (tomatoes, cucumber, avocado, etc.) or roasted (carrots, brussels, asparagus, onions, etc.)
- Drizzle: EVOO, lime juice, balsamic glaze, mix, etc.
- Pasta: any kind
- Protein: chicken, fish, chickpeas, tofu, etc.
- Veggies: peppers, zucchini, tomatoes, spinach, squash, garlic, onions, mushrooms, broccoli, etc.
- Sauce: EVOO, tomato, butter, wine, pesto, etc.
- Protein: ground turkey, chicken, ground beef, fish, legumes, etc.
- Veggies: tomatoes, onions, avocado, salsa, bell peppers, lettuce, etc.
- Shredded cheese
- Sour cream/Greek yogurt
One Pan Meals
- Protein: chicken, fish, tofu, etc.
- Starch: potatoes, sweet potatoes, rice (make separately)
- Veggies: onions, broccoli, tomatoes, mushrooms, asparagus, brussels, bell peppers, carrots, etc.
- Eggs + milk
- Chopped veggies (bell peppers, mushrooms, broccoli, onions, etc.) or greens (spinach, arugula, etc.)
- Starch side: toast or potatoes
- Base: stock, water, etc.
- Protein: chicken, fish, legumes, tofu, etc.
- Veggies: carrots, onions, celery, tomatoes, etc
- Starch: pasta, potatoes, rice, corn, etc.
- Rice + eggs + oil
- Veggies: bok choy, carrots, snap peas, bell peppers, edamame, onions, garlic, water chestnuts, etc.
- Optional additional protein: chicken, fish, tofu, etc.
- Sauce: soy sauce, sesame oil, Worcestershire sauce, etc.
- Greens: spinach, arugula, romaine, mix, etc.
- Protein: chicken, fish, tofu, etc.
- Additional veggies: tomatoes, carrots, cucumbers, avocado etc, (or fruity with candied nuts)
- Dressing: oil, vinegar, balsamic glaze, lime juice, lemon juice, yogurt, garlic, mix, etc.
I highly recommend that you make your own list using the ideas above and adding your own favorite staple meals. Refer back to your list on planning days to eliminate some of the guesswork and have your ideas ready to go.
So there you have it – 5 easy steps to make meal prepping a breeze! Hopefully this post has inspired you and given you some ideas as you embark on your own ~not so scary~ meal prepping journey! With just a little bit of forethought, you’ll be a meal prepping pro in no time!