meal prep

Meal Prep Tips and Tricks

meal prep

Making healthy meals easy

The key to making quick, healthy meals each week is all about meal prep. For some of you, though, getting started may not come easily to you. So this post is designed to motivated you one step a time a time with simple tips and tricks to get a wholesome meal on the table faster than you can order and pick up take out, or heat up a frozen pizza!

Now I don’t mean cooking an entire week’s worth of meals ahead of time. That would be totally overwhelming! Choose a few of these steps to get started. Week by week, add something new to find what works for you, and before you know it, you’ll be a pro!

Step 1: The Plan

meal planning

To get started, start with some simple recipes that you already know. This is not the week to attempt that new complicated recipe you found on Pinterest that you’re dying to try. Now creating a weekly meal plan may take some practice in the beginning, but it will save you so much time in the long run! After a little while, you will have a few complete meal plans with a prep schedule and grocery list that you can reuse over and over again! meal prep

First, take a look at your week to see what is going on. Are there days when you need to have something in the crock pot, hot and ready, for when the family returns from a busy day? Is there a night you can make a meal ahead for days when you are running from piano lessons to soccer practice to scouts? For some of you, it might be easier to have the same meal on a certain night each week.

Next, put together a weekly meal plan. Do you want to make a soup one night? Fish? Something grilled? Then write the days of the week across a piece of paper and list your meals and snacks underneath. I plan three meals a day plus two snacks. Write on your list which meals include recipes and where you can find that recipe.

Over time you can start to add a new recipe each week and expand your menu. I find this exciting to try something new and expand our tastes. Make a note of what works and what doesn’t.

Tip: Think of ways leftovers can be reused for breakfast or lunch another day. Perhaps make a little extra, so you have some to reuse. Make a day of the week that combines all of your leftovers so that you can get a day off. (Sadly, my extras disappear through the night with four teenage boys in the house right now, so that nugget NEVER works in my house!)

meal prep

Step 2: The List

Now the next step is preparing your grocery list. Going to the grocery with a list and sticking to it saves you so much time and money. You will be much less inclined to pick up extras and less likely to have to throw out produce that went rotten because you never used it. The best part of the list is that it reduces your trips to the grocery store. I hate grocery shopping. With a list of all my ingredients for the week, there is no more running out to the store to pick up that one item I need for a recipe. Nor do I have to grab convenience food because I have no idea what to make for dinner, and those hungry boys are scouring the pantry!

Write your list at as you are planning your week and note what you need for each recipe. Also, write how much you need of each ingredient. No need to write down what you already have. I like to break my list into categories like produce, meat, etc. to make getting through the grocery store quicker. (Did I mention I hate grocery shopping?)

Note: I often hear that buying healthy food to cook at home is too expensive. That is just not true. Grocery shopping becomes expensive when we fill our carts with chips, processed food, cookies, and juice that have no nutritional value. Preparing healthy meals and snacks is not more expensive if you STICK TO THE PLAN.

Step 3: The Prep

meal prep
This step has changed my life! As I am looking up my recipes, I make a prep list too. First I add my ingredient to my grocery list. Then I put how that ingredient needs to be prepped, how much, and what it is for. It looks something like this:

Ingredient Amount Recipe
Carrots 3 chopped
2 sliced
Carrot Ginger Soup
Coconut Curry Chicken
Zucchini 1 shredded Bolognese sauce
Cashews ½ cup soaked Cashew cheese

Within 24 hours of grocery shopping, I prep all of my ingredients for the week and store them in glass containers in the fridge. At first glance, this may seem like it takes a lot of time. But since I am doing it all in one shot, it takes much less time than prepping ingredients each day for each meal. I only have to take my food processor out once, and I only use one cutting board and knife which saves on clean up. Then through the week, I only need to pull out the ingredients for each meal, and I can easily throw together a quick, simple and healthy dinner with minimal clean-up.

meal prep

Prepped ingredients in the fridge

Step 4: Putting it into action

My final step is making a daily task schedule that I can follow each day. This can be as detailed as you want. It looks something like this:

Day Task Estimated time
Sunday Prep veggies 1 hour
Sunday Prepare overnight oatmeal 5 minutes
Monday Bake pumpkin muffins 20 minutes

Meal prep and planning may all seem overwhelming to you at first, but start small. Don’t try to do everything at once. Maybe try doing a menu plan for just one day with a grocery list, and then work up to a full week over time. Maybe just try prepping your vegetables or snacks for the week. The best way to continue to eat to nourish our bodies with wholesome food is to make it from fresh, real ingredients and organization is the key. I promise you, that if you can eventually incorporate these steps to meal planning, the stress of what’s for dinner will finally disappear.

east meal prep

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Erin Sands is a Certified Culinary Nutrition Expert whose focus is on using food and nutrition to build health and reverse disease.

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