Meal prepping looks so easy.
Scroll through Instagram on a Sunday afternoon and you’re bound to see several pictures of elaborate-looking spreads: breakfasts perfectly pre-portioned, homemade nut butters and salad dressings, vegetables chopped for snacking, trail mix packaged for grab-and-go eating, maybe even cookies or muffins all ready for dessert cravings, whenever they may strike.
These pictures are beautiful and fascinating to look at, but they can also be overwhelming if you’re new to meal prep or if you’ve fallen off the meal prep wagon the last few weeks. Meal prepping can be as easy as it looks, but you’ll need a strategy that will keep you energized and not overwhelmed and frustrated.
And don’t even get us started on the thousands of click-bait articles that tell you how to “Meal Prep Like A Pro In 5 Steps!!!” that reliably are either crazy complicated (somehow each step has five more steps) or are trying to sell you some magic container/cookbook/supplement. No thanks!
We’ve compiled our best tips to get back into (or started with) meal prepping regularly and ways to up your game and keep the overwhelm to a minimum.
Beginner Meal Prep Tips
Are you totally new to meal prep? Fell off the wagon for the last few
weeks months? This section is for you!
Get Your Containers Together
Getting organized is the best first step to successful (and long-term) meal prepping. If you’re reaching for your wallet, hang on! There’s most likely no need to go out and buy meal prep containers right away. Getting everything organized and taking stock of what you do have is the goal.
Go through your containers. If you’re using plastic, make sure it’s BPA free. If you’re using glass, make sure to check for nicks and chips. Next, take stock of your lids and see what matches with what. Left with a pile of lids or containers with no matches? Throw them out or store them out of the way.
It’s a good idea to have between 5-10 meal prep containers and matching lids. If you’re coming up short, buying containers can be a huge motivator, just like buying new workout clothes can get you inspired to hit the gym.
Check out Talia’s handy video guide below to choosing the right containers for you:
Keep the Food Simple
What can be overwhelming about meal prep “guides” is that they don’t meet you where you’re at. And when you’re just starting to get back into meal prep, the last thing you need is to be pressured into attempting to make a four-course meal.
Ease into the process by prepping just one meal for the week: breakfast, lunch, dinner, or even just a bunch of snacks. Or double your dinner recipes for the week so you’ll have an extra portion for lunch the next day. The key here is to start small to teach yourself that this is a manageable (even enjoyable!) process.
In terms of your first meal prep recipe, soup is a great place to start because it keeps well over several days, thanks to the flavorful broth, and is usually a one-pot recipe (+1 for no dishes!). I love this Flu-Fighter Chicken & Rice Stew, which has stovetop and crockpot options available and somehow tastes better the longer its in the fridge.
Just Do It!
Time for a little bit of tough love. At the end of the day, the best advice to get back into meal prep is to just do it. Easier said than done, right?
Making meal prep a habit will take time (and way more than 21 days), so take it one week at a time and commit to making something – maybe some overnight oats for a grab-and-go breakfast or a big pot of chili for lunches during the week. Take shortcuts: grab premade pasta sauce and broth and go for pre-chopped veggies and fruit.
Simplify the process and it’ll give you the momentum to get the habit started (and keep it going).
Let WWL Do the Legwork For You
If you’re the type of person who prefers being told exactly what to do, you may have more success with a plan in hand.
The Workweek Lunch Meal Prep Program comes with meal-prep-friendly breakfasts, lunches, and dinners laid out for the entire workweek, all with easy-to-follow instructions and quick swaps to accommodate for dietary restrictions. With 200+ tried-and-tested recipes to choose from, the Workweek Lunch plan is easy to customize, and once you swap new choices in, your grocery list will automatically update ensuring you’re always set up for success. Plus, it costs less than a fancy cocktail at only $7.99 per month.
Not ready to commit? Take the Workweek Lunch Meal Prep Program for a test drive with the free Three-Day Mini Meal Plan.
Advanced Meal Prep Tips
If you’ve been meal prepping for a while, these tips will help you up your meal prep game. These tips are great for preparing for times when meal prep isn’t feasible, like a busy work schedule or vacation.
Create a More Detailed Plan
Once you’ve been prepping small-scale for a few weeks, try upping the ante with a full-week’s plan: breakfast, lunch, dinner, and snacks. Now, you may not be prepping all of these things, but getting into the habit of thinking about your week is a great meal prep practice.
Do you have any dinners out planned? Going out of town? When will work keep you away from home? Taking stock of your schedule helps to identify where meal prep can help (reheat-and-eat dishes are amazing for late work nights) and how often you’ll be opting for takeout (which helps ensure you’re not buying food that will go to waste).
I swear by Talia’s meal planning grid for keeping my meal prep (and life – too far?) on track. I’ve updated mine slightly to include columns like “What’s on sale?” and a list of things from the previous week I need to use up. Maybe you have kids and need a serious snack column to ensure your kiddos have something to eat after school every day. The template is very user-friendly and easy to customize, so you can build a format that works for your lifestyle.
Choose Exciting Recipes
One of the most common meal prep complaints is boredom. This comes from the thinking that meal prep means you’ll be eating chicken, broccoli, and rice for every meal, which definitely doesn’t need to be the case. If you’ve prepped in the past and spent days dreading eating what you’ve prepped, then you’re doing something wrong!
One of the key benefits of meal prep is that it happens during a reserved time. You don’t have to meal prep after work when you’re exhausted, or in the middle of the day when you could be spending time with your kids, or when you’re already starving and dreaming of pizza delivery. That dedicated time allows you to try exciting recipes, even if they take a little longer.
Do you love your local Indian restaurant’s Chicken Tikka Masala? Try to recreate it at home! Maybe you have a food processor that you never use. Dust it off and make one of these food processor recipes. Cooking (and eating) should be exciting. Use your meal prep to expand your horizons each week with delicious food that you’re excited to eat.
Experiment with Your Freezer
Preparing freezer meals ensures you have food already prepped when life gets crazy and meal prep can’t happen.
There are two methods you can use: freeze an already cooked meal (think meatballs and muffins) to thaw, heat, and eat or freeze the components of a meal (think soups and lasagna) uncooked to be cooked in a Crock Pot or Instant Pot at a later time.
That said, not every meal is a contender for the freezer. Pasta, veggies you plan to eat raw, and most dairy won’t taste great thawed, so opt for freezer-tested recipes for your first attempt.
We’re all human, and we have to roll with the punches when things don’t go according to plan. Don’t be hard on yourself if you can’t make meal prep happen every week. Meal prep isn’t a lifestyle; it’s simply a tool we can use to eat well consistently, create more time in our schedules, and save money.
Want more awesome meal prep tips, advice, tricks and inspiration every week? Sign up here and you’ll also get a free meal plan and meal prep starter kit.