Healthy and Easy Meal Prep Guide: The Ultimate Guide for Busy People

Deborah Olayiwola
Deborah Olayiwola
Deborah is a content marketing specialist, with a passion for the food niche, she writes engaging content that celebrates the joy of food and its power to bring people together. Having worked on different projects. Her curiosity and creativity shines through in her writing.
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We all lead busy lives these days. Between work, family commitments, social obligations and just trying to find a little “me” time, it can be really hard to stick to healthy eating habits. Takeout and convenience foods are so readily available and often seem like the path of least resistance when you’re short on time.

But relying on those options too often isn’t great for your health or budget in the long run. That’s where meal prepping comes in – it’s the secret weapon for staying on track with healthy portions and balanced meals, even during your most hectic weeks.

I get it though, the idea of meal prepping can feel a bit daunting and overwhelming at first. Visions of spending hours in the kitchen, dealing with tons of containers, and eating the same boring meals all week might initially come to mind.

But I’m here to show you that meal prep doesn’t have to be complicated, time-consuming or bland! With a little bit of planning and some easy tips and recipes, you can become a meal prep master.

meal prep 1

What is Meal Prepping Anyway?

Meal prepping simply means preparing some or all of your meals and snacks in advance. It involves taking a bit of time, usually on a day when your schedule allows like Sunday, to get organized for the upcoming week.

The beauty is that once it’s done, you have zero cooking, prep work or dishes during the busy workweek – just grab your prepped meals, reheat if needed, and eat! No more scrambling last minute or succumbing to takeout temptation when you’re tired and hungry.

The best part is that meal prepping is that it’s totally customizable based on your schedule, nutrition goals, food preferences and cooking abilities. Maybe for you, it means fully preparing 3 dinners and a handful of snacks and just having a few ingredients prepped like chopped veggies for other meals.

meal plan timetable

Or perhaps you like to have every meal and snack cooked and portioned out for the week. There’s no one-size-fits-all approach – you just have to find what works best for your lifestyle.

Why Meal Prep Is Worth It

I’ll be the first to admit that actually doing meal prep does require some time and effort upfront. But I’ve found the benefits easily outweigh the initial work involved. Here are a few top reasons why meal prepping is awesome:

Saves Time and Reduces Stress

With your meals and snacks already prepped and ready to go, just imagine how much time and mental energy you’ll save during those chaotic weeknights when you’d usually be stressing about what to make for dinner. Simply being able to open your fridge or freezer and grab something healthy without any effort is a total game-changer!

Supports Weight Loss/Maintenance

By controlling what goes into your meals and having healthy portions prepared in advance, it’s much easier to stick to your nutrition goals without the temptation of overdoing it. You’re also less likely to hit up the vending machine or order takeout when you have nourishing foods on hand. Meal prepping makes healthy eating a total breeze.

Saves Money

Think about how much you spend each week or month on restaurant meals, takeout, bottled beverages, etc. All of those costs can really add up! When you meal prep, you’re able to buy ingredients in bulk and get more bang for your buck. You’re also far less likely to waste food compared to buying ingredients for single meals.

jollof meal prep

Reduces Food Waste

Speaking of reducing waste, planning your meals makes it easy to use up what you have in the fridge before it spoils. The ability to freeze many prepped meals helps ensure nothing goes to waste if your plans change and you don’t get a chance to eat what you prepped right away.

How to Get Started with Meal Prepping

Hopefully, I’ve convinced you that meal prepping is worth trying! But I know just getting started can be the hardest part. To help make it as easy as possible, here’s a simple step-by-step guide:

  1. Get Your Meal Prep Containers Situation Sorted You’ll need an assortment of air-tight, microwave-safe food containers to store all your prepped goods. This might include:
  • Single-serving containers for snacks and meal portions
  • Larger containers for ingredients, meal components, etc.
  • Containers specifically for freezer storage
  • Mason jars for storing salads, overnight oats, etc.

meal prep container

You can go as simple or high-tech as you’d like here, but I recommend having containers that are dishwasher, microwave and freezer safe if possible. Glass containers tend to last longer than plastic ones.

Having different shapes and sizes also allows you to get the most efficient use out of your containers. Pro tip: Find containers you actually like looking at so you’ll be more motivated to use them!

  1. Take Stock and Make a Meal Plan Before you go grocery shopping, take stock of what you already have in your kitchen that needs to get used up – vegetables about to go bad, open cans or packages of foods, etc. Build some meals around using those up first.

Next, sketch out a rough meal plan for the week. Ask yourself:

  • How many meals and snacks do I want to prep? Breakfast, lunch, dinner or a combo?
  • Will I want access to variety or am I ok eating the same meals a few days in a row?
  • How many days am I actually going to need prepped food for? Account for nights you’ll be eating out, have plans, etc.
  • What are my favorite healthy meals that I’d be happy eating a few days in a row as leftovers?

Meal plan

Don’t go overboard at first – start with just a few meals and go from there as you get the hang of it. Having a loose plan will make your shopping trips easier and ensure you actually use up what you prep.

  1. Go Grocery Shopping Make a grocery list based on your meal plan and stick to it to avoid overbuying. This is also a great opportunity to stock up on staple ingredients like olive oil, spices, broth, etc. And don’t forget to grab plenty of fresh produce!

Groccery Shop

At the store, hit the produce section first and then work around the perimeter to focus on healthy whole foods. Limit your inner aisle trips for just the few packaged items you need to cut down on the temptation for unhealthy options.

  1. Choose Your Recipes Wisely Stick with recipes that are simple, healthy and easy to batch cook. Look for one-dish meals like casseroles, stir-fries, sheet pan meals, etc. that combine protein, veggies and healthy carbs all in one. The fewer number of recipes used, the easier your prep will be. Things to avoid arerecipes that are heavy on prep work or have a lot of fussy components.

Recipes Wisely Stick

Some great examples of meal prep-friendly recipes:

  • Turkey Chili
  • Baked Chicken
  • Vegan Burrito Bowls
  • Breakfast Sandwiches
  • Pasta Bakes
  • Grain Salad Bowls
  • Overnight Oats
  1. Batch Cooking & Smart Shortcuts When you actually get into the meal prepping, enlist some smart efficient techniques to make things go faster. Cook items with similar cook times together like roasting your protein and veggies on the same sheet pan. Use your handy slow cooker and Instant Pot to handle things while you get other tasks done. Make ingredients go further by batch cooking things like:

Batch Cooking

  • Baked or Grilled Chicken Breasts
  • Hard Boiled Eggs
  • Quinoa and Rice
  • Roasted Sweet Potatoes
  • Sauteed Vegetables
  • Lentils and Beans

These building blocks can be repurposed into all sorts of different meals like salads, burrito bowls, grain bowls and more.

  1. Apply Restaurant Tricks: Restaurants have been batch cooking, meal prepping and repurposing components for years to streamline their kitchen processes. Follow their lead by making extra servings of proteins, grains and veggies that can be used in different ways later in the week. For instance, grill a few extra chicken breasts that can go into salad or sandwiches on another night.

Food Storage

Sauces and dressings can make or break a meal, so have fun whipping up tasty options that will allow you to transform the same grilled chicken into completely different meals easily. Think salad dressings, sauces for grain bowls, marinades, etc. These add tons of flavor and versatility to your prepped ingredients.

  1. Master Food Storage Techniques Once your meal prep is done, you want to make sure all your hard work stays fresh and delicious throughout the week.

Food Storage Techniques

Note: Label and date prepped items, rotate stored foods, and prioritize perishable items like greens and herbs. Cooked meals freeze well in airtight containers, but avoid high-moisture foods like tomatoes and watermelon.

Blanch veggies before freezing for best results. Frozen foods may change texture, but still work in cooked recipes like soups and stews. Follow recommended storage times for cooked foods to ensure flavor, nutrition, and safety. Stay organized, and enjoy your meal prep benefits! Key takeaways: label, rotate, prioritize, and freeze wisely.

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Deborah Olayiwola
Deborah Olayiwola
Deborah is a content marketing specialist, with a passion for the food niche, she writes engaging content that celebrates the joy of food and its power to bring people together. Having worked on different projects. Her curiosity and creativity shines through in her writing.

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