Meal prep for beginners can be extremely overwhelming if you don’t know where to start. Many people love the idea of meal prep but struggle to make it a regular part of their lives. I’ve heard of many different obstacles to preparing meals for the week:
“I don’t have time.”
“My partner is a picky eater.”
“I’m not a good cook.”
“I don’t know how to meal prep”
“I get bored with eating the same thing every day.”
“I wouldn’t even know where to start.”
It’s understandable why these challenges can make meal prep intimidating for beginners. Fortunately, all of them can be overcome. The key is to work smarter, not harder.
With the right strategy, meal prep can seamlessly fit into your lifestyle — and even become something you look forward to.
When I first started meal prepping, I was often frustrated.
I spent hours on Pinterest picking out recipes for the week that usually turned out bland or soggy after a day in the fridge. My entire Sunday would be spent grocery shopping and stumbling through five meals, only to be disappointed by what I prepared.
It was disheartening to go through this every week, so it was challenging to make meal prep part of my routine at first. Now, I am over two years into consistent weekly meal prep thanks to the WWL meal prep program. If you’re new to meal prep, read on for our meal prep for beginner’s guide!
Want more guides on how to meal prep? Check out our meal prep pro tips!
Understand Your “Why”
The foundation of sticking with any habit is understanding why you want to develop it. Meal prep doesn’t have to be time-consuming at all, but it will require a portion of your weekend, which means that it has to be more relevant to you than whatever else you could be doing with that time. Otherwise, it’s going to be really difficult to incorporate it into your life every week.
So take a moment to ask yourself, “why do I want to meal prep?”.
There are so many reasons why meal prep might be important to you. For me, the most significant benefit I get from meal prep is more mental energy.
By having my food prepared, I have saved so much time not battling with decision fatigue. This allows me to focus on what really matters to me: spending quality time with my loved ones, practicing self-care, and working towards my personal and professional goals.
Meal prep might be important to you because it helps you save money, eat in a way that makes you feel good, or spend your time the way you want to rather than cooking every night. Whatever your motivation is, get clear on it before you start prepping to give you the momentum you need to begin making it a habit.
When you feel like giving up, your “why” reminds you to keep going.
One of my biggest mistakes as a beginner meal prepper was trying to make all my meals for the week at the same time. This rigid approach was time-consuming and overwhelming. It gave me quite a bit of shame around food waste when I would inevitably toss some of my meals.
You don’t have to make a full week’s worth of meals at one time. In fact, we recommend that you don’t!
There are many advantages to doing one big prep on the weekend and one smaller prep halfway through the week instead. This strategy allows you to honor your cravings, eat a greater variety of meals, and adapt to your schedule’s last-minute changes.
You don’t even need to make more than one meal to get the benefits of meal prep. Meal prep for beginners is all about finding what style of meal prep works for you! That could be prepping as little as one or two meals that you can grab throughout the week without having to think about it. You would be surprised how much this small change will improve your life!
If you’re hesitating to dive into a full meal prep routine, start with just one recipe. For example, overnight oats are an approachable and simple breakfast that takes minutes to prepare. Simply customize our master recipe with your favorite fruit and toppings, and your breakfast is taken care of for three days!
Not Every Meal is Right for Prep
One of the mistakes I would make when I did my own meal planning was choosing recipes that might be good that day, but really did not taste great as leftovers. I consumed (and threw away) many soggy salads as a result.
A good recipe for meal prep is one in which the flavor and texture are not affected by chilling in the fridge for a couple of days. In fact, some meals are actually enhanced over time.
For example, I have found that I enjoy The Best Slow-Cooked Beef Chili Recipe right after I make it. The beauty of the WWL program is that all the recipes are specifically designed for meal prep, so you really can’t go wrong!
Here are some of our favorite, easy meal prep recipes for beginners:
- Starbucks Copycat Recipe: Spinach Feta Breakfast Wrap
- Easy, No-Frills Banana Bread Muffins Recipe For Snacks & Breakfast
- Vanilla Almond Granola Sweetened With Maple Syrup
- Savory Muffins With Cheddar Cheese
- Freezer-Friendly Veggie Breakfast Burritos
- Orange Chicken Recipe (Trader Joe’s Copycat)
- Lemon Garlic Orzo & Broccoli Skillet With Sausage
- Our Favorite Mac and Cheese Recipe
- Thai Coconut Curry Soup With Chicken (One-Pot!)
- 30-Minute Steak Fajitas: Perfect for Dinner or Meal Prep
- 30-Minute Beef Stir Fry With Soba Noodles
- The Easiest Hummus Recipe You’ll Want To Make Every Week
- Homemade Sandwich Bread Recipe (8 Ingredients)
Check out our full catalog of free recipes for more delicious meals!
Progress, Not Perfection
When I first started prepping, I made many meals that ranged from not very good to straight-up gross. Thankfully, joining WWL completely changed the game for me. Even now, there are meals I make that I am not about to post on Instagram. (I’ve burned a lot of rice in my life.)
It’s best to respond to meal prep disappointments with self-compassion and patience. You’re only human, and especially when you’re first learning how to prep, you will make mistakes. Like any skill, you will improve over time.
If you’re concerned about food waste when you don’t love what you prepped, try repurposing it! Check out this super helpful blog for some ideas for reusing leftovers to create meals that are more satisfying.
Planning is Essential
It’s been a long time since I went grocery shopping without a plan. However, I got a taste of it when the pandemic first hit and stores were chaotic.
With so many items out of stock, I had to think on my feet. In my panic, I brought home a lot of ingredients I had no idea what to do with. That’s how I ended up with a rotted head of lettuce in my refrigerator and a random collection of frozen foods that I’m still figuring out how to use.
Not planning before you prep not only creates food waste, it’s also why some people are under the impression that meal prep is time-consuming. When you don’t plan ahead, the time you spend making decisions on the fly really adds up.
You don’t have to waste your weekend improvising meal prep. With the right strategy and recipes, you can even prep in under an hour. There are so many ways to save time, food, and money by planning ahead; a great place to start is our meal planning for beginners guide.
Want to use the same meal prep template I use each week to plan my meals? Download this free meal planner template.
Since mastering meal prep, I feel significantly less anxious about cooking, food, and planning my week in general. What helped me most was joining the WWL program. It’s affordable, flexible, offers hundreds of tasty recipes, and takes the stress out of meal planning every week.
Comment below how meal prep has helped you the most!