This how to meal prep for beginners guide will give you the basics you need to know on how you can begin meal prepping so you can spend less time cooking every week.
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When you have a busy schedule, sometimes getting into the kitchen to make a meal can be a hassle. You find yourself always eating unnutritional takeout dinners or store-bought frozen TV dinners.
There isn’t enough time for you to whip up something for yourself or the family. When you don’t have food stored in your fridge, you can easily resort to eating out which can be expensive.
Meal prepping is a lifesaver for those who have busy lives or generally want to save time.
There is often a misconception that meal prepping is expensive or you need to spend an entire day cooking meals.
But that isn’t the case when done right.
With meal prepping, you don’t have to break the bank to eat healthy food. And with just a little bit of planning and prep work, you can eat fresh homemade food every day without spending so much time in the kitchen.
If you want to know how or want to get the hang on how you can start meal prepping like a pro, then this meal prep for beginners guide is for you.
The meal prepping 101 you need so you can spend less time in the kitchen every week.
What Is Meal Prepping?
Meal prepping is deciding on the number of meals you need for a specific period, prepping the ingredients, having all or some of the meals cooked, and stored in fridge or freezer.
You can meal prep for a week or even a month. If you are a beginner, it will be best starting off by meal prepping for three to seven days until you get the hang of it and familiarize yourself with the whole process.
Why Meal Prep Is Bad For You
1. If You Do Not Like Healthy Homemade Food
If you don’t like the idea of eating healthy homemade food, then meal prep is bad for you. When you meal prep, you can decide to include healthy foods into your meals since you take your time to plan your meals.
You can have a combination of proteins, carbohydrates, vegetables, fruits, and healthy fats in one portion of your meals. If that does not sound appealing to you, then meal prepping is not for you.
2. If You Do Not Like To Save Time
When saving time is not something you care about, then meal prepping is not for you. If you want to spend your time everyday cooking, then you don’t need to meal prep.
When you prep your meals ahead of time, it saves you time because you can also cook in batches, which is a huge time saver. You also spend less time preparing meals every week.
3. If You Prefer Unhealthy Processed Takeouts And TV Dinners
If you would rather go for store-bought frozen TV dinners which are processed, unhealthy and not nutritional over homecooked meals, then meal prep is bad for you.
If you want to stick to buying packaged frozen dinners or spend more time eating out, then you don’t need to worry about meal prep.
With homemade dinners, you decide what ingredients you need to put in your food. You use fresh produces, which is not the case with the frozen TV dinners you get from the supermarket.
Still, find TV dinners appealing than homemade food? Then meal prepping is bad for you.
4. If You Do Not Like To Save Money
Meal prepping is bad for you if you do not like to save money. With meal prepping, you save money when you cook your own food rather than buying expensive frozen TV dinners.
You save money when you eat homemade food and cut down the amount of time spent eating out.
If you are not looking to save money by eating home-cooked food, then meal prepping is bad for you.
To highlight the benefits of why you need to start meal prepping and making your meals ahead of time
- Eat healthy homemade food
- Eat more nutritional dinners
- Save time
- Save money
- For Weight loss and meeting your diet goals
You now know what meal prepping is and some of the reasons why you should or should not meal prep.
When thinking of making meals for seven days, it may seem like a daunting task, but with time and practice, you will need only a few hours to cook a week’s worth of food.
You can use the below steps as guidelines to get you started, so you can begin meal prepping like a pro.
How To Meal Prep For Beginners
There are no right or wrong ways on how you can go about meal prepping your meals. What will work for others may not work for you, so you will need to do that which works best for you and your schedule.
These are only guidelines and points for you to take into consideration when starting. You can adjust as you see fit.
If you have been asking yourself
“How do I start meal prepping?”
Here is how you can start meal prepping
Invest In Meal Prep Kitchen Essential Tools
If you are going to be meal prepping, it is vital you get the necessary meal prep kitchen essential tools that will streamline your cooking and make things easy for you.
You don’t need to purchase all these items at once, but as time goes on, you can add or replace when needed. Below is some suggested list of items you might need to get started.
- Nonstick Silicone Utensil and Stainless Steel Spatula (Set of 10)
- Spiralizer Vegetable Slicer Container
- Premium Stainless Steel Stacking Mixing Bowls (Set of 6)
- Stainless Steel Digital Kitchen Food Multifunction Scale With Removable Bowl – 2.15L Liquid Volume Room Temperature and Timer
- 6-In-1 Multi-Use Programmable Instant Pot – Pressure Cooker, Slow Cooker, Rice Cooker, Sauté, Steamer, and Warmer
- 14-Piece Kitchen Knife Set – with High-Carbon Stainless-Steel Blades and Pine Wood Block
- Stainless Steel Measuring Cups and Measuring Spoons Set of 13
- Extra Thick Flexible Plastic Cutting Board Mats Set of 4
- Nonstick Baking Sheets/Sheet Pan Set of 3
- Electric Food Processor & Vegetable Chopper with Bowl Scraper
- Enameled Cast Iron Covered Dutch Oven Casserole Pot
Invest In Good Meal Prep Containers
Having a good meal prep container to store your cooked meals is really important. You want to make sure you get a container that is safe for you and keep the quality of your food to last longer.
When picking your meal prep containers, make sure the storage containers meet the following criteria.
- It is airtight
- It is freezer safe
- It is microwavable
- It is reusable
- It is Leak proof
- It is dishwasher safe (optional)
- It has compartments
- It is BPA free
- It is clear
- It is stack-able
You can either use plastic storage containers or glass containers. Ideally, glass containers are safer because they don’t have any BPA and hence, cannot release any chemicals when you reheat the food.
You can check out these meal prep containers
Glass Mason Jar with Lid and Band – 12 jars
Before you begin prepping food, you need to plan the meals and the day you intend to carry out the meal prepping. Planning is vital in everything you do. Without planning, you can easily set yourself up for failure.
Start With A Meal Plan
There is a difference between meal planning and meal prepping.
Meal planning is planning and picking a recipe for the food you are going to eat. While meal prepping is the process of having meals cooked or prepped like chopping ingredients.
You can read this meal planning for beginners guide to get detailed instruction on how you can meal plan properly, so you don’t set yourself up for failure.
Decide On How Many Meals You Need
When you are just starting with meal planning as a beginner, start by planning for one or two meals, so you don’t get overwhelmed with the process.
First, decide on how many days you want to meal prep for and then calculate how many meals you will need for those days.
Take into consideration leftovers in the fridge or previously meal prepped meals in the freezer you might reuse. You can meal plan for three to seven days. Most people turn to meal prep dinner meals only, but you can also meal prep breakfast, lunch, and snacks.
Pick Your Meals
You know the number of meals you need. Decide on the recipe for those meals so you can make a grocery list for the items you need.
You can include recipes for breakfast and lunch as well, not just dinner. Try to include the following in your meals;
Proteins like lean meat, poultry, and fish, eggs, beans and legumes, dairy products, seeds, and nuts.
Carbohydrate like potatoes, pumpkin, butternut squash, sweet potatoes and whole grains like oats, rice, and quinoa.
Vegetables like broccoli, cabbage, green beans, kale, mushrooms, and peppers.
Healthy Oils like olive oil, coconut oil, avocado oil, and sesame oil
Fruits like avocados, strawberry, grapes, oranges, and watermelon. These are just some examples of foods you can include in your meals.
Use the Master Grocery Checklist from the Meal Planner for more ideas you can include in your meals.
Make Grocery List
Make a list of ingredients you need for each recipe. Take inventory of your pantry staples, including what is in your fridge and freezer.
Check and see what you already have in stock and make a list of what you don’t have.
Taking an inventory before hitting the grocery store is essential so that you don’t buy what you already have in stock.
You want to make sure that you are only getting the items you need; especially fresh produce, so they do not go bad.
Schedule A Day
If you have read this time management tips for busy moms, you know scheduling is a must. Scheduling task is essential for better time management.
Look at your schedule and pick a day or two that will be suitable for you to go shopping, prep, and cook your meals.
If you have many meals to cook, it can be overwhelming to do it in one day. You can split the task into two days depending on how many meals you have.
Although Sunday and Wednesday are usually the most recommended for meal prepping, decide on the day that works best for you depending on your schedule.
Schedule the days you decide on in your calendar, so you don’t forget and double book yourself.
To Summarize the meal planning process;
- Decide how many days of food you needed
- Decide how many meals you need
- Pick recipe
- Take stock inventory
- Pick meals
- Make grocery list
- Schedule a day to meal prep
What we have looked at so far is meal planning. Now that you are done with the meal planning stage, you can begin meal prepping your meals.
Go Grocery Shopping
You can’t cook meals if you don’t have any groceries or ingredients at home. So you will need to hit the grocery shop to get the necessary items you need.
You can choose to do your shopping online, in-store, or at your local farmers market. Shopping online save you the time you use to make a trip to the market.
If all your items are not available to be purchased online, you can buy those that are available and then make a quick trip to store to buy the few you need.
That way, you still don’t spend much time at the grocery store. You can stock up on non-perishable pantry items.
Always check for sales items and consider buying some of the items in bulk so you can save money on groceries as well.
Double-check your grocery list to make sure you have included everything you need. Because realizing later when you have already started cooking that you forgot something is a huge bummer.
Prep Your Meals
The next step after grocery shopping is prepping the ingredients you need to start cooking.
Rather than putting the groceries away, you can begin prepping immediately you get back from the market. You can shop and prep on one day, and the following day you can cook and clean.
Splitting the task makes it less overwhelming for you.
Wash, peel, and chop all the vegetables you need for the meals. You may need to cook your proteins with some of the vegetables. Whatever prepping you need to do, do them in batches for all your meals. It saves time.
How you go about pepping your protein will depend on your recipe. Some of the ways you can prep protein include;
- Season and marinate the protein if needed for roasting or grilling.
- Season and boil protein if required for stew or sauce.
- Ground protein to make meatballs or burgers and freeze.
Wash and cut any fresh fruits you need for the week. If you have meal prep containers with compartments, it will be easy to go ahead and portion the fruits into each container.
Prepping your carbohydrates or grains can be done when you start cooking because you usually need to prep and cook them straight away.
Weight your grains and cook per instructions. Cooking rice will be much easier to use a rice cooker for time-saving purposes.
Cook grains and portion it in a freezer bag and store in fridge or freezer. Wash, peel and boil any other carbohydrates you need.
When you finish with the prepping, you can put them in the fridge and use the next day to cook the meals.
All the ingredients are prepped. Time to start with cooking. Decide on how you are going to cook your meals.
What cooking method will you be using? You can use more than one method at the same time to save you time.
Oven – use the oven to roast vegetables and protein. Add seasoning to vegetables when roasting for some flavor.
You can use both racks to roast vegetables and proteins at the same time. Make sure to check the temperature regularly to avoid burning your vegetables.
Grill – using the grill is an excellent alternative to the oven. Drizzle some healthy oil to your vegetables and proteins and make yourself a nice grilled dinner.
Crockpot – crockpots are great time savers. Combine all your ingredients together, and throw them into the crockpot, switch it on, and you can go about with other tasks.
When you don’t have time to get into the kitchen, crockpots will come in handy.
Cooker – you can use your cooker for cooking just about anything. Most cookers come with four plate hob you can use to cook multiple things at the same time.
Use any of the above cooking methods to cook your meals. You can use more than one at the same time.
Portion Food And Store
With all the prepping and cooking completed, use your meal prep storage containers to portion out the food and store some in the fridge to eat in the coming days and some In the freezer if you batch cooked.
When you have different components in your meal, it will be best to get a meal prep container that has dividers or compartments for easy portioning and better appearance.
Meal Prepping Tips For Beginners
- When meal prepping, keep it simple.
- Start with one or two meal
- Start with recipes you are already familiar with before trying out new recipes
- Cook meals in batches and keep the rest in the freezer
- Cook multiple items at once in the oven. Use both racks
Do you meal prep your meals? How do you go about it? Let me know in the comment section below.
Don’t forget to Grab your FREE Meal Planner Printable below.
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Welcome! I’m Mariette and a mom to a toddler. While trying to improve my life, manage my home and time, I will also like to help you do the same. I am passionate about inspiring other moms to get organize and simplify their life so they can thrive at motherhood and work. Learn more –>