How to Meal Prep: A Simple Guide for Beginners

Meal prep saves money, saves time, reduces stress, and contributes to a healthy, balanced diet. But if you’ve never done it, this beneficial habit can seem intimidating and overwhelming.

Up until three years ago, this was true for senior copywriter Jill Goett, too. “Meal prepping was one of those ‘adult’ things I just couldn’t make myself do. It seemed way too time consuming, and frankly, I just didn’t want to spend my ‘Sunday Funday’ slaving away in the kitchen.”

But in an effort to eat healthier and save time during the workweek, she finally decided to give it a shot… and she never looked back.

Read on to hear Jill’s tried-and-true method. Spoiler: it’s way simpler than you’d think!

Step 1: Check your calendar.

First thing’s first: look at your calendar for the upcoming week.

Are you eating out with friends on Tuesday night? Do you have plans to grab lunch with a co-worker on Friday?

Note these types of activities and plan accordingly. It will reduce your food waste and save you money.

Step 2: Make a meal plan.

Keep your meal plan simple! There’s no need to prep different breakfasts, lunches, snacks, and dinners for every day of the week. That’s just too much to deal with.

Instead, choose one breakfast, one lunch, two snacks, and three to four dinners for the week. Switch up your choices the following week so you don’t get bored.

Step 3: Make a grocery list.

Many grocery stores now offer a mobile app, which makes this task exceedingly easy. (If yours doesn’t, check out these third-party apps.)

Just search for the item you need, quickly compare brands and prices, and add the best option to your list.

Of course, a good old pen and paper will also do.

And don’t forget to take stock of your fridge and pantry before adding things to your list. There’s nothing worse than spending money on ingredients you already have.

Pro-tip: Some sites (like this one and this one) will let you email yourself a grocery list for specific recipes. No pen or paper needed!

Step 4: Go grocery shopping.

If you used a mobile app like this one, grocery shopping will be a breeze. It sorts your shopping list by aisle, ensuring you know exactly where to find each item.

And, since you came in with a plan, you (hopefully) won’t buy things you don’t need… another win for your pocketbook and your waistline.

Pro-tip: Some grocery stores offer grocery pick-up services for a minimal fee. You just submit your grocery list and head to the store at your designated pick-up time. Once you arrive, grocery store staff will bring out your groceries, load your car, and send you on your way. Jill uses this service often and loves it!

Step 5: Prep your meals.

Turn on some music and put on your apron… it’s time to prep your meals!

This step will change depending on the meals you choose, but here’s an example of one of Jill’s typical food prep days:

  • Breakfast: Overnight oats. This will take just 10 minutes to make, and you’ll have delicious, nutritious breakfasts for every morning of the week.
  • Lunch: Simple rotisserie chicken salad. Ready-made rotisserie chicken is one of the best meal prep short-cuts. Just shred it with a fork or your fingers, and it’s ready to go! This salad will only take you 20 minutes to prep.
  • Snack 1: Cashews and grapes. After washing the grapes, portion out each into separate snack bags or containers.
  • Snack 2: PB&J energy bites. Energy bites are great for grab-and-go snacks. These ones take 10 minutes to prepare.

That’s it! In less than one hour, you can prep breakfasts, lunches, and snacks for the entire week.

Pro-tip: Try storing things that need refrigeration on one shelf of your fridge and keep non-refrigerated items in one easily accessible bin in your pantry. This will make packing your lunch in the morning a breeze. Jill can pack her lunch in under a minute using this method.

Some choose to prep their dinners, too. But Jill suggests picking dinners that don’t take much time to make in the first place (i.e. 30 minutes or less). This is her all-time favorite cookbook for quick, easy, and healthy weeknight meals. You can use any leftovers for another dinner during the week.

Pro-tip: Be patient with yourself! Meal prep may take a little longer at first if you’re new to cooking. For instance, learning how to chop fruits and vegetables quickly can be tricky. But you’ll get faster with time.

As it turns out, food prepping doesn’t have to be complicated. Do you think you’ll give it a try? Let us know in the comments!

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