I love to meal prep! I’m not sure I can adequately explain how amazing it is. I wish I had discovered it years ago! Today I want to share with you the meal prep steps you need to have an easy and successful meal prep.
Meal prepping can seem a bit intimidating at the beginning. Most people I know are worried about how long it takes, how to do it, and worried that their family won’t like the food. Don’t worry, I’m going to address all that here. So let’s get started!
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Why I Love Meal Prepping
Meal prepping is so great because you save yourself all the drama and stress about what’s for dinner. No more hungry children driving you nuts because you should have started dinner 30 minutes ago.
Gone are the days of last-minute runs to the grocery store because you are missing one important recipe ingredient. Say goodbye to hitting the drive-through because you don’t have enough time or energy to cook. Plus, my personal favorite, no more staring at a dirty kitchen after a long day.
I seriously went from spending an hour doing dishes each night to 10-15 minutes! That alone is enough to keep me doing this for the rest of my life!
How to Meal Prep in 4 Easy Steps
Step 1: Plan out your meals for your meal prep and make your grocery list
Plan your food for the week
The first meal prep step is to grab a pen and paper and start writing down what you want to eat for the week. I like to plan for the entire week and get it all done in one shot. Not everyone is comfortable with planning that far out. Even planning for 2-3 days in advance can save you a lot of time and effort!
To make things easier for myself, I also only cook three meals and one breakfast for the whole week. I double each meal I make and we usually eat leftovers for lunch. I usually pick one meal for myself, one meal I know my kids will eat, and one meal I know my husband will eat.
This way everyone has something they like to eat, and no one complains. This is one of the secret benefits I didn’t anticipate, but is sooooo worth it!
This is the menu for my food the entire week. My husband and kids eat the dinners but have really simple lunches and breakfasts. They eat meals that I can put together in a few minutes, so it’s nothing I feel the need to prep ahead of time.
I have different meals for Sunday because that is my actual meal prep day, so I like to keep it simple. If you need help finding great recipe ideas, follow me on Pinterest here.
Make your grocery list
Once you have picked your meals for the week, it’s time to make your grocery list. This part is usually pretty quick. As I look over the recipes I want to use, I write down the ingredients on my grocery list.
Once I’m done with that, I usually do a quick check in the pantry to make sure I’m not buying anything I already have. If you want more a more in-depth break down on meal planning, head over to my post Beginner Meal Planning in 4 Simple Steps.
Step 2: Schedule your meal prep day
The next meal prep step to do is to schedule when to do the actual meal prep. Schedule it for a day when you have lots of time and few interruptions. You also want to plan for 3-4 hours, in the beginning, depending on how many meals you are cooking.
The longer the cooking time of the recipes, the longer it will take you to meal prep. If your family eat simpler meals, you could easily be done in just 2 hours.
This can seem like a long time to be cooking, but if you are spending almost an hour cooking each night, that adds up to 6-7 hours each week. Meal prepping requires a lot less effort!
I like to do my prep on Sunday because my husband is usually home to help a little with the kids. On weekends when he isn’t home, or I am short on time, I plan really quick meals for the week so I can be done fast.
Step 3: Prep your ingredients first
The next meal prep step is to prep your ingredients. If you have vegetables that need to be chopped for some of your recipes, chop all of them at the same time. If you have meats that need to be cooked, cook them all at the same time. I group stovetop and oven meals together at the same time as well.
This saves time on cooking and keeps me from having to go back and forth to different areas of the kitchen. It also keeps more counter space free when I don’t have to leave things out that I’m not currently using.
Step 4: Start your meal prep with the meals that have the longest cooking time
The next meal prep step is to start cooking. I cook the meals that will take the longest time to cook first. If I am doing anything with my crockpot or Instant Pot that week, then I start with those recipes. If it’s a really long cook time, like 6-8 hours, I will start it that morning.
Next, I move on to anything that cooks in the oven. After that, I start making the stovetop meals. As things finish I set them aside to cool on a separate counter. This gives me a better chance of everything finishing close to the same time.
And you’re done! That’s it! You have now saved yourself from cooking ALL WEEK! Meal prepping is much simpler than it looks.
Tips and Tricks for Meal Prepping
Use your kitchen gadgets and appliances:
If you have any kitchen gadgets or appliances that you can set and forget, use them! They help save you time and you will only have to do the cleanup this one day.
Start with a clean kitchen:
Starting with a clean kitchen is super helpful. All of your pots, pans, measuring cups, and spoons will be ready and waiting for you to use them. It’s definitely frustrating to be in the middle of cooking and realize the bowl or utensil you need is in the sink or dishwasher.
I even recommend cleaning your kitchen the day or night before if you can manage it. Having to clean your kitchen, cook for 3 hours, and then clean your kitchen again makes the whole process a lot longer.
Clear out your refrigerator before you start:
I made the mistake of not doing this my first time I meal prepped. I ended up doing some pretty intense Tetris trying to fit everything in.
Now I look through the refrigerator the night before and condense any meals leftover into small containers. This frees up my big containers for the next meal prep and makes a lot more room in the refrigerator.
Make sure you have enough containers before you start:
You definitely don’t want to cook all this food and realize you have no way to store it. I personally like to put each recipe in large containers in the fridge. These take up less space in my refrigerator.
My family likes to eat buffet style, where they pull out whichever meal they want to eat, serve some in a bowl, and then put the rest back in the fridge. If you like portioning each meal out into individual meal or serving size containers feel free. Whichever works best for your family.
Grocery shop the day before:
Grocery shop the day before if you can manage it. This ensures all of your food is nice and fresh when you cook it. It also makes meal prepping easier if you aren’t tired from grocery shopping. If you’re anything like me, after making it through the store with three kids in tow, you’re not trying to do much afterward.
Freeze any extras you know you won’t eat that week:
If you have any meals that you know your family won’t finish that week, freeze the extras. I especially like to do this with soups or extra chicken and ground beef. I will sometimes buy a little extra for that week, cook it, and freeze it.
Then I just pull the food out of the freezer the night before, and then I’m halfway done with my next meal prep once it thaws the next day. This is super helpful for weeks that I need to do a rush meal prep.
I hope these meal prep steps were helpful for you and that you now feel confident enough to get started on meal prepping each week. Trust me, the time and pure mental energy saved each week are worth the effort.
If you have any questions or comments, feel free to leave them below or send me an email at Candice@littlestepsbighappy.com. Follow me on Pinterest for more tips and advice on meal prepping and healthy eating.
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I’m a busy mom of 3 turned Health and Fitness Coach and Self Defense Instructor. I help inspire other moms to reach their health, fitness, and weight loss goals. You can usually find me chasing my kiddos around, training Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu, or sneaking away to read romance novels. About Me