When you know how to meal prep, your life becomes SO much easier! Stick to this weekly meal prep routine to save time and money.
How to Meal Prep
Meal prep is a total game-changer, but I always recommend that you start small. You don’t want to overwhelm yourself! Try making one set of meal prep bowls or batch cook one recipe to get your feet wet then slowly work your way up to regular weekly meal prepping.
When I first started meal prepping, I often cooked one big recipe and packed it all up into meal prep containers to enjoy throughout the work week. Then, I would get ingredients to make a simple and easy breakfast like steel cut oats or a smoothie in the morning.
Nowadays, I've been able to cut my meal prep time in half by focusing all my energy on ingredient prep versus batch-cooking. I spend just about an hour or so doing things like chopping up veggies, marinating meats, or cooking grains to help my dinners come together quicker during the week. Interested in trying this out? Grab a free trial to my meal planning app Dinner Prep Pro to guide you through this process.
Whichever way you're meal prepping, there are a few tips and tricks I've learnt along the way. I outlined my steps for how to meal meal prep below so you can get started!
Make a “Master List” of Recipes
When you're first starting out and are unsure of what to make, I suggest creating a Master List of recipes. I learned this informal process from my mom! Each week on Saturday morning, she would ask everyone in the house what their plans were for the week and take suggestions for dinner. From there, she'd go into her memory bank of favourite recipes, list out a couple we hadn't had in a while, then plug them into her meal plan, which was just a small piece of paper posted on the fridge each week.
To get started with your meal prep, start documenting the recipes you like and don't like. Whether that's on paper in a notebook or through a blank Word doc on your computer, mark them all down! Odds are, you have at least ten recipes you've made that you know are easy and you really enjoy.
Divide your list into “Recipes you like” and “Recipes you want to try”. That way you can try new things and actually put a plan in place to make them, and you can go with easy old favourites that will be sure to please and hopefully don't take too much time to make. Easy, right?
Weekly Meal Prep Routine
There are 5 basic steps (plus one bonus step!) that I follow when I go to meal prep every week:
- Choose 2-5 recipes from your Master List. I love to use Pinterest to organize my meal prep ideas (check out my boards) and then depending on my schedule that week, I'll go through and choose 2-5 recipes to make. These recipes usually double as lunches and dinners! Then, I'll either prep a breakfast or just have a few easy grab and go items on hand if I don't have time to.
- Sit down and make your meal plan. Make the effort to sit down and plan out your meals at least once a week, even if you have to schedule that planning time into your calendar. From there, you'll add your recipes from your Master List into your meal plan. Learn about all my tips for meal planning here.
- Go grocery shopping. Grocery shopping can seem like a huge chore but you just need to make your list efficiently and shop during downtimes (think after work or during the evenings on weekends). I've rounded up all my grocery shopping tips if you need any additional help in this area.
- Prep your ingredients or batch cook. Either prep your ingredients on the weekend (i.e. cook meat, cook and shred chicken, cook rice/quinoa, chop veggies, etc.) so that it's faster to cook your weeknight dinners, or you'll batch cook entire meals ahead of time so all you have to do is reheat the day-of. I'm a huge fan of ingredient prep myself and even built Dinner Prep Pro, a meal prep app, to help you through this process every week.
- Store your food in the right containers. After you have cooked or prepped any ingredients for meals that you're going to cook later in the week, you'll want to store your food in the right containers. I have a list of my go-to meal prep containers below. HINT: you don't need a million different gadgets. Just some glass meal prep containers, freezer bags and round bowls will often do the trick!
- BONUS: Repurpose your leftovers. If you have time, I recommend that you try to get creative with your leftovers! I will usually do things like load up frozen fries with extra toppings or make pita pizzas, salads, grilled cheeses, stews, curries and more with leftovers. There are so many options to turn your old food into something new! Browse these leftover meal ideas for more inspiration.
How long do meal prep meals last in the fridge?
You can typically expect most meal prep recipes to last for 3-5 days. It does depend on the ingredients used though. Here's a general guide:
- Meats and chicken have about a 5 day shelf life
- Spinach and lettuce starts to brown after 3-4 days unless you add them separately
- Any sauces or salad dressings (see my 5 homemade salad dressing recipes here) will last for a couple weeks up to a couple months
- Any food you freeze (soups, stews, pastas and certain curries freeze best) will typically last up to 3 months – check out my dump dinners here, which are perfect for the freezer
- Homemade snacks such as protein balls will last for 1-2 months in the fridge as well.
Meal Prep Tools
Once you've mastered your own meal prep routine and figured out what you're going to do, you want to make sure you have the proper gear to store it all!
Here are my go-to meal prep containers:
- Glass square meal prep bowls are stackable and perfect for microwaving your food safely.
- Mason jars are perfect for salad because the lettuce stays separated from sauces.
- Salad containers are another awesome option for keeping your greens and proteins separated so nothing gets soggy.
- These bento box containers are perfect for packing snacks and lunches together!
- **Get my full list of tools here**
Meal Prep Recipes
To help you get started on your new meal prep routine, I rounded up some of my favourite meal prep recipes from breakfast to dinner!
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