making meal prep easy

Making Meal Prep Easy — Basic Cooking Skills

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The meal prep craze took over in 2019 and hasn’t relented since. Making meal prep easy is possible with a little guidance and a few tools to set you up for success. It’s completely customizable and can be crafted to fit with your schedule and to accommodate your needs. Cooking healthy meals ahead of time with the intent of saving time and money is an offer that’s hard to pass on!

This post is part of our Basic Cooking Skills series. Each week we will be doing a deep-dive into one basic cooking skill and a brand new recipe to accompany it to practice that newfound skill. Check back throughout the series for updates and new posts.


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making meal prep easy

Why It is important to make meal prep easy

Meal prep is a hidden gem of the food world. When I initially learned of meal prep I associated it with calorie-counting, food-weighing, and bland/boring food everyday. 3 things I want nothing to do with.

I’ve learned that incorporating a little bit of meal prep into your weekend routine can save you loads of time during the busy workweek! Speaking of workweeks, if you’re willing to pay a few bucks for someone to meal prep for you, Workweek Lunch is an incredible service that provides thorough weekly meal plans.  I am not sponsored by them but was an avid user for a few years. 

I don’t meal prep dinner, but each weekend I prepare a delicious breakfast for the week that I wouldn’t have time to make in the mornings before work, and a healthy, savory lunch to take to work to avoid eating out. My routine has since changed since working from home, but I still appreciate pain-free meals on stressful days.

Breakfast involves egg cups, baked oatmeal, or (my favorite) zucchini fritters. Rotating these options helps me from never being tired of these foods.

Lunch consists of a meal that I can make A LOT of in order to have 4-5 meals. This means recipes like Crockpot Cajun Chicken, Greek Lemon soup, New Orleans gumbo, or Sheet Pan Lemon Chicken. Soups, stews, crockpot meals, and sheet pan meals are prime candidates here and come filled with vegetables and nutrients.

Find what works for you and see what meals will get you excited throughout the week! Meal prep should be fun and does not have to be boring or feel like a chore. 

making meal prep easy

Guide to Making Meal Prep Easy

Prep for the Prep

Anytime before you plan on batch cooking, start out by writing down a list and see if you need a trip to the grocery store. Inventory is key! You may need to purchase all new ingredients, or you may already have everything you need in your pantry.

Make sure you have all of the required ingredients AND enough of those ingredients. One banana won’t get you very far if you’re making banana muffins for the week!

Once you have everything, set it all out on the counter to start your prep work.

making meal prep easy

Failsafe Meal Prep Foods

The goal of meal prep is to have food for the week, so it’s imperative to make meals that will truly last all week and are preserved well in the fridge. Here’s a few places to get started:

  • Cooked meats, pastas, and vegetables retain their flavor and texture. 
  • Oats and grains keep well, and some argue are even better after refrigeration
  • Fruit is better kept whole until ready to eat 
  • Some fresh vegetables that are heartier can be sliced ahead without fear of wilting or softening (think carrots, beets, potatoes etc.)
  • Snacks such as cheese, nuts, dips, and yogurts often come prepackaged in individual servings to save even more time
  • Wraps are perfect for meal prep and tend to not get soggy like sliced bread would. They can be reheated in the microwave or toasted in the toaster oven!

Foods to avoid in meal prep

Unfortunately not everything can survive the moist environment of a fridge. A lot of these items can be stored separately to make it work, but it may be more effort than you’re willing to exert. Here’s a few foods that aren’t the best for meal prep:

  • Sandwiches 
  • Crunchy chips or crackers
  • Sliced fresh fruit
  • Leafy greens
making meal prep easy

How to combine food for meal prep

You can choose to make an entire meal(s) ahead of time, or you could prep food individually and mix and match throughout the week. Play around with both techniques to find which works best for you and your schedule.

Typically, a good rule of thumb I like to follow is:

Protein + starch + vegetable

Using this basic foundation, you can mix and match to make endless combinations of meals to keep meal prep exciting and less repetitive!

For a leaner take, swap out the starch for extra veggies or a different protein. Or for a vegetarian option, swap the protein for tofu or beans.

This is all about balance and finding what proportions, combinations, and variety works for you. It’s completely personalized and can be switched up at any time.

making meal prep easy

How long do meal preps last in the fridge?

Generally, meals will last 3-5 days refrigerated. This will depend upon the quality of the food when cooked and the type of containers used, as well as a slew of other variables. 

To be safe, having two small preps throughout the week will ensure food is fresh and available everyday. Otherwise, you could prep on the weekends and find another option to fill your Friday meals.

Start small, and as I’ve mentioned repeatedly, find what works for you! Maybe start by just prepping breakfast (like me!) and then once you’re comfortable start to work lunch into your routine as well.

If meal prep ever feels like a hassle or that it’s requiring more of your energy, take a step back and reevaluate your goals in doing this. Are you meal prepping to save money? To save time? Keep your goals in mind and adjust to what’s reasonable.

Materials Needing for Easy Meal Prep

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Implement Your New Skill

Coming up next Thursday is one of my favorite new recipes that will allow you to try out your new knowledge. Check back soon!

Do you meal prep any of your main meals or snacks? Share your faves below!

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29 thoughts on “Making Meal Prep Easy — Basic Cooking Skills”

  1. These are all great tips! I should really start prepping my breakfast, mostly for when we are back at work, I usually just avoid it to sleep more! Will check some ideas for lunch too, thanks for sharing x

  2. I’ve actually never really been into meal prepping as I’m quite an intuitive eater but I have been using a Hello Fresh free box this week and I’m really enjoying it and I like knowing what I’m having for dinner each day, so perhaps meal prepping might be the next step for me to try especially as I’m trying to eat healthier dinners and stop just throwing processed crap in the oven for ease! x

  3. This is really great as I recall my mom used to do a lot of meal prep and cook food ahead of time for us to have. It is good to have the basics of meal prep and add other foods along the way.

  4. I really need to get into meal prepping! I feel like my days would run so much smoother. Thanks for these easy tips!

  5. I had the same thought about meal prep when I first heard about it as well: bland and basic dieting technique. But it can definitely be more exciting than that. I’ll have to take your tips to heart when I plan to do some prepping!

  6. Interesting post! I never tried meal prep- but this screams effective to keep the diet balanced and save budget!. Thank you for sharing this x

  7. I always find it easy to do meal prepping in the morning then when you come home after a day at work, you can literally just cook away. God knows if that helps or not!

  8. This is such a helpful post. I’ve only meal prepped a couple of dishes before as I’ve worried about how fresh they would stay. I’m definitely going to follow your advice and experiment more.

  9. This is such great tips! And so simple! I use to meal prep in the past but found it was so complicated that I fell off from doing it. But with the tios and suggestions you have provided here, I can definitely see myself trying this again. I love the prep for the prep portion. Such a great idea.

    Thanks for sharing

  10. I have a love affair with meal prep containers and I like to meal prep, helps saves time and money. Thanks for this

  11. I know about meal prep and I even wrote about it. But, this article here taught me a lot more. Meal prep does not only save your time and ensure that you eat healthy foods. It also protects you from unplanned, unhealthy meals.

  12. Gabriela Herrera

    This post is so helpful this is the 2nd time I read it. I recently started meal prepping and selling to my friends. Love all the helpful information.

  13. Pingback: 21 Basic Cooking Skills for Beginners - Abundance of Flavor

  14. These meals look amazing. I meal prep off and on, and I would really like to get in the regular habit. I just moved and I’m in the middle of a kitchen remodel so hopefully, I’ll start again after that.

  15. These meals look great. I keep saying I want to meal prep and then just haven’t. I definitely think on my better days it would help, as then on my worst days I have food ready for me. Thank you for sharing these tips!

    Lauren

  16. Great resource post! Full of useful info that will help save time and energy in the kitchen. Love saving time by learning new prepping tips. Thanks!

  17. I haven’t really tried meal prep before but I would love to. I feel like it would help so much with time. It’s good to know that most meals only last about 3-5 days in the refrigerator. Thank you for the tips.

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