5 Easy Meal Prep Tips and TricksWhy meal prep? We lead busy lives and whether your time is occupied working, taking care of your family, volunteering, exercising, or some combination of all of the above, it can be hard to find the time to create healthy, nutritious meals.
Let’s face it, when we’re busy and rushing, the easiest thing is to grab something pre-made from the pantry or fridge. So if we can somehow ensure that those pre-made items are the foods we really want to be eating, we’re in great shape. How do we do that? Meal prep.
Meal Prep BasicsMeal prep is not a snap-your-fingers-and-there-it-is kind of activity. Let’s be real, there isn’t much in life worth having that takes zero time and effort. There’s going to be a bit of work involved but the idea behind meal prep is that, if done right, you can spend just a couple of hours on the weekend and then get off easy the whole rest of the week.
Here are some of the tips I use to make meal prep easier.
1. Cook by Food GroupWhile you don’t want to eat the same thing every day, that doesn’t mean you have to make entirely different menus for each day of the week. Make a list of 2-3 food items from each food group that you can mix and match to create meals throughout the week. This can be a mix of items that need to be cooked and those that come ready-made. For example:
Protein: hardboiled eggs, grilled chicken, tofu, canned tuna, salmon
Grains/Starch: wild rice, quinoa, canned beans
Vegetables: roasted green beans, roasted cauliflower, sugar snap peas
Greens (I know this isn’t technically a separate food group, but in my opinion it should be): spinach, mixed greens
Dairy: feta cheese, tzatziki
2. Use Your Oven, Instant Pot, or Slow-Cooker Whenever PossibleKeep it simple. When I’m meal prepping, you can bet I’m not standing over the stove sautéing ANYTHING. Everything gets tossed with olive oil and spices and is stuck straight into the oven. Things like rice or quinoa, where getting the timing right matters? Instant Pot. Anything and everything else? Slow-cooker.
Line sheet pans with parchment paper and swap out the paper between dishes, minimizing washing time. Make the most of the tools available to you and meal prep will become easier than you thought possible.
3. It’s All in the SpicesThe same food item can become multiple, different meals when prepared with different spices. Hit up your local supermarket and go a little crazy in the spice aisle. A well-stocked spice cabinet will come in handy when meal-prepping. Prepping chicken breast? Lay them all out in one pan, and season them all with different spices so you don’t get bored!
4. Containerize ItThis may sound obvious but once you’ve prepped your food, sort it into containers based on the meals you’ll be using it for. Need work lunches? Combine your various food groups into a single, full-meal container for each lunch. Then, enjoy the extra ten-minute snooze in the morning, knowing you can just grab a ready-to-go container on your way out.
5. Prep Kids’ Snacks in Advance, TooFor those of us with kids, preparing snacks and lunches each night (or, who are we kidding, that morning) can be stressful and is not necessarily conducive to preparing the healthiest meals. Prep snacks and, if possible, lunches on the weekend. You can put each day’s worth of snacks in a separate zip loc or brown paper bag and label it. Then each night (or morning), stick the whole bag in your child’s lunchbox. Stuck for snack ideas? Check out our top picks for healthy snacks for kids.
Meal Prep EssentialsThese items will help make your meal prep easy, quick, and pain-free.
Large Cutting Board
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Need help planning out nutritious and delicious meals? Make an appointment with one of our registered dietitians to see how you can incorporate healthy foods into your diet.