Meal Prep Tips for Beginners: How to Get Started

Meal Prep Tips for Beginners

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Meal prepping is now super popular and it’s not hard to see why. It saves you time, money, and cuts down on kitchen waste. This method involves making a meal and dividing it up for quick and easy eats later. It’s handy, eco-friendly, and keeps you on track with your eating goals1.

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Yet, meal prepping may not suit everyone. You will eat the same food for a few days. It’s better for singles or couples than large families, who might not all enjoy the same meals.

Feeling overwhelmed by the thought of meal prepping? Don’t be. We’ll share the best tips to make it a smooth part of your week. By the end of this guide, you’ll know how to plan, prepare, and store your meals safely. You’ll become a meal prep expert, saving time, money, and reducing stress in the kitchen.

What is Meal Prepping?

Meal prepping means making your meals ahead of time. You then separate them into portions that are easy to grab and eat later. It’s all about saving time and money, and cutting down on the food we throw away2.

Understanding the Concept

Meal prepping is great because it’s convenient and cuts down on waste. It stops you from eating out or picking unhealthy options. This method works best for those who don’t mind eating similar meals for a few days2.

Benefits of Meal Prepping

If you prepare your meals in advance, you won’t need to cook every night. This helps save time, especially when you’re busy2. It also saves money by preventing extra shopping trips. Because you’ve planned out what you’ll eat, you’re less likely to waste food2.

Meal prep makes eating healthy much simpler. The key is to plan your meals in advance2. But if you like a lot of variety in your food, this method might not be for you. You could end up eating the same meals for a few days in a row2.

Besides, meal prepping comes in many forms. You can try batch cooking, making single meals, or just cutting up ingredients in advance2. It’s crucial to use the right containers. They should keep your food safe and tasty, without mixing smells or growing bacteria2.

There are lots of containers to choose from. Some are good for salads, others for warming up food. And, for those who love snacks, there are containers just for that too2. Also, you can use apps like Anylist or Yummly to make your meal prep even better. They help you pick recipes and make shopping lists, making the whole process smoother2.

Getting Started with Meal Prep

Starting with a small meal prep is the best way if you’re new to it. Many people call it “meal prep” when they prepare full meals in advance or set up for the week3. Start by making a meal plan. This will help you buy what you need ahead of time34.

Start Small

Begin by packing up your leftovers from dinner one night and taking them for lunch the next day3. After you’re good with that, try preparing one recipe for the whole week. Starting with one recipe meal prep is great. It gives you all your nutrients in one dish. You won’t need extra side dishes3. Once you feel more at ease, you can prep two meals, maybe lunch and dinner, or even breakfast3. The key point is to do what fits your life best3.

Create a Meal Prep Routine

Meal planning is key for successful meal prep4. Prep time can vary from 30 minutes to a few hours34. Making full meals ahead saves time. Plus, you can portion them out for several days3. Adjust your recipes to match how many days you’re prepping for3. You can also cook basic ingredients, like proteins ahead of time, to use through the week3. Adding sauces can keep your meals interesting. They go well with the pre-cooked base ingredients3.

Easy things to prep ahead are hard-boiled eggs, cut veggies, grains, and roasted items4. Adapting your portion sizes and freezing meals can make meal prep easier if you’re not cooking for many34. Meal prep isn’t for everyone but it’s a smart way to save time and make cooking simpler3.

Meal Prep Containers and Supplies

Mastering meal prep starts with the right containers. The best containers are safe for the microwave, dishwasher, and freezer, and they stack well5. You can choose between plastic and glass. Make sure to get about 10 containers. This way, you’ll have enough for lunch and dinner every work day5.

But containers are just the beginning. Essential cookware helps make meal prep smoother. You’ll need a big skillet, chef’s knife, cutting board, large pot, and roasting pan or cookie sheet. Also, don’t forget a spatula or large spoon and some utensils for measuring5.

meal prep containers

For the best meal prep containers, you have many choices. Options include reusable plastic, glass (like Pyrex and bento boxes), sandwich bags, zip-top bags, and small dressing containers5. Follow this formula for successful prep: Basic (Protein + Grain + Vegetable), Low Carb (Protein + Vegetable + Vegetable), and Vegetarian (Legume + Grain + Vegetable)5.

When picking containers, think about durability and leak protection. Make sure they are safe for the microwave and don’t hold onto smells. Plastic is a good budget-friendly choice. But, glass containers can go in the oven, which is a big plus6. Glass wrapped in silicone is a smart option for protecting against breaks6.

Always choose BPA-free containers for safe eating. For lunch and dinner, containers should be about 24-30 oz6. With the right supplies, you can master meal prepping756.

Meal Prep Tips for Beginners

Starting your meal prep journey might seem hard, but it’s not with the right steps. Successful meal prepping involves two key things: planning your meals and shopping well8.

Plan Your Meals

Choose a day, like Sunday, to plan out meals for the week ahead9. Look at your schedule to see which meals need to be made early8. This way, you’ll have an easy time at the store and a variety of healthy meals ready10.

Pick base foods that can be used in many ways. This makes meal planning simpler and meals more exciting8. Consider one-pot and slow cooker meals to make cooking and cleaning easier10.

Shop Smart

After setting your meal plan, make your grocery list10. Focus on the store’s outer edges for fresh items, and skip the snack aisles8. Choosing in-season produce can save money and offer better nutrition8.

Buy items like grains and proteins in bulk9. This is cost-effective and means you’re always ready to prep meals10. Also, using frozen fruits and veggies can cut down your prep time10.

With solid meal planning and wise shopping, meal prep becomes simple8. It’s best to start small and slowly make your routine more personal and effective10.

Foods That Meal Prep Well

Some foods are better for meal prepping than others. Choosing the right ones can make meal prep easier and more fun11. Good choices are cooked grains and pastas, like brown rice and quinoa. Also, cooked beans, meats, roasted veggies, fresh veggies, fruits, nuts and seeds, and sauces or dips11.

These foods stay tasty and keep well in the fridge for a few days. Grains like brown rice and quinoa are easy to reheat. Beans, either from cans or made at home, add a lot of fiber and protein12.

Roasted veggies, such as sweet potatoes and Brussels sprouts, are perfect for bowls or sides. Carrots, celery, and bell peppers stay crunchy in the fridge. Fruits, like apples and berries, are great for breakfast or snacks11.

Sauces and dressings are key for meal prep. They bring life to simple meals all week long. Just keep them apart from other food to stay fresh12.

But some foods don’t do well with meal prep. Soft fruits, vegetables, and items like chips can get soggy. Also, items like fresh greens and tomatoes don’t last as long11.

Choosing the right ingredients is crucial for meal prep success. With the best foods, you will enjoy easy, tasty meals all week long1112.

Foods That Don’t Meal Prep Well

Meal prepping can change the way you eat and live. But, it’s key to know which foods may not last long in the fridge. Soft fruits, veggies, and snacks that are crunchy might get mushy or lose their snap13.

Exceptions and Workarounds

Yet, you can still include these foods in your prep with extra steps. Try keeping these foods separate until you’re ready to eat. This keeps them fresh and tasty13. It might take more time to prep this way, but it keeps your meals exciting all week.

It’s important to notice how different foods hold up over days. Then, you can tweak your prep to fit what works best13. Some foods that might need special care include:

  • Leafy greens (like spinach and lettuce)
  • Soft fruits (like berries and avocado)
  • Crunchy vegetables (like celery and carrots)
  • Fried or breaded items
  • Delicate proteins (like fish)

For these tricky foods, prep the parts separately and combine them when it’s time to eat13. This keeps everything tasting and feeling fresh. And it makes your prep work more effective.

meal prep unfriendly foods

Meal prepping is about what fits your life best. Knowing which foods aren’t great for prep helps you plan better. With a bit of flex and creative thinking, you can still make meal prep work, even with those tricky items13.

Meal Prep Storage and Food Safety

Meal prepping needs careful storage and safe handling to keep food fresh. It’s best to prep meals no more than 5 days ahead, to avoid quality loss after this time14. Make sure your fridge is at 40°F or lower, and the freezer is at 0°F. These temps will keep your meals safe14.

Use airtight or meal prep containers after cooking. Pick containers labeled with a 1 to 7 code on the bottom. Safest for food are containers marked with 1, 2, 4, or 515. Containers made of glass or stainless steel are also good. They can be used for both cold and hot foods. And, they cause fewer worries than some plastics do15.

For safety, quickly cool and store hot meals within 1-2 hours. Likewise, it’s best to thaw frozen meals overnight in the refrigerator14. These steps help stop dangerous bacteria from growing. This keeps your meal-prepped food safe and tasty.

Meal prep can really help with your health and fitness goals. But, making sure your food is safe comes first. With the right knowledge, meal prep’s benefits can be fully enjoyed while staying safe16. The main tips are to plan, choose the best containers, and keep up with proper storage practices to succeed in meal prep15.

Reheating and Leftovers

When reheating meal prepped foods, don’t overcook them. This can dry out lean meats17. Also, how you pack meals for storage matters. Label containers with what’s inside and the prep date. It helps you eat the oldest meals first17.

Using meal prep leftovers varies your diet and can be beneficial18. You can create new meals from old ones to not eat repeats every day18. Adding an egg to leftovers can make them tastier and less dry18.

When dealing with meal prep leftovers, it’s smart to heat proteins and veggies separately. This stops veggies from getting mushy and losing flavor18. Mixing in sauces during reheating adds moisture and new tastes18. It’s also key to let leftovers cool before refrigerating. Reheat chicken just once to avoid harmful bacteria18.

To get the most out of your reheated meal prep foods, keep these tips in mind:17

  • The best microwave reheating time for one portion is 60-120 seconds17.
  • For 2-4 portions, microwave reheat can range from 3-6 minutes17.
  • Stove reheating of a single portion should be done in under 5 minutes17.
  • For larger stove reheating, aim for about 10 minutes17.
  • Toaster oven reheating takes 2-4 minutes17.
  • Oven reheating is suited for 5-10 minutes for one serving and 15-20 minutes for multiple servings17.
  • Rest meat for 5-10 minutes before cutting to keep it juicy17.
  • If reheating pasta or rice, you may need to add water, butter, oil, or broth to keep them from sticking17.
  • Some veggies won’t reheat well and might end up too soft17.

Stick to these tips and you can have tasty, safe meals all week long without losing out on time or convenience19.


Meal prepping can really change things for the better. It helps save time, money, and eat healthier. By planning meals ahead, getting the right tools, and choosing the best foods, you make life easier. Start with small steps, build a routine, and try new things to see what fits your life the best.

More than 60% of meal preppers waste less food20. They save 25% more on their food bills than those who don’t meal prep. The perks also include sticking to food goals better. Over 80% feel they have more control over what they eat20.

With some effort, meal prepping can be a rewarding habit. It saves time, money, and ensures you eat well every day2021.

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