Master meal prep to save time and keep cool

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Looking for a practical and efficient way to manage your meals and your budget? Try meal prepping. Meal prep ensures you have healthy, homemade options readily available throughout the week, all while sticking to a budget and keeping you out of the drive-thru line.

Eight meal prep containers filled with a variety of fresh vegetables, fruits, and salads arranged neatly on a plain background.
Photo credit: YayImages.

The meal prep method not only promotes healthy eating but also saves money during shopping and helps with portion control to stretch your budget even further. Find out what meal prepping entails, why it’s beneficial, how to do it and the best types of foods to include in your meal prep routine right here.

What exactly is meal prepping?

Meal prepping involves preparing meals or components of meals in advance to save time and effort throughout the week. These meals can be made for lunch, dinner or even breakfast and snacks.

Once prepared, the meals or portions of meals are typically stored in food containers in the refrigerator if they are to be eaten within a few days or frozen for longer-term storage. When time is short or when you’re just really hungry, you have food available and ready to eat.

Side note: if you’re worried that you’re not great in the kitchen, don’t let that bother you. Practice makes perfect, and here are some tips to bolster your kitchen confidence.

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What does meal prep involve?

Meal prepping entails planning your meals for the week, shopping for ingredients and cooking them in one or two dedicated sessions. This process often includes chopping vegetables, cooking grains, roasting meats and portioning everything into containers. The goal is to have ready-to-eat or easy-to-reheat meals that simplify your daily routine.

“I don’t meal prep in the traditional way as I don’t enjoy it. Instead, I meal prep no-bake snacks like protein bars, overnight oats and peanut butter cups for the week and cook off one bulk of meat. This way, I have grab-and-go snacks in the fridge and can easily make two to three dinners like quesadillas or stir fry in a pinch. I don’t enjoy spending more than an hour in the kitchen, so this gives me the best bang for my buck!”

—Shelby, Fit as a Mama Bear
A divided food container with grilled chicken, sliced beef with onions on rice, and a side salad with iceberg lettuce and a halved boiled egg.
Photo credit: YayImages.

Great meal prep recipe ideas

While you can use any recipes for meal prep, your best bet is to start by making some of your favorite dishes. Still feeling stumped? Here are some great ideas to get you started.

Casseroles are often popular because they’re easy to make in large batches and can be stored in the refrigerator or freezer. Make a batch of your favorite casserole and you can have your dinner today and lunches later on in the month.

Cooked meats like chicken, beef or pork, along with roasted vegetables and grains, are versatile and store well. Think something like roasted chicken, grilled meats, meatballs and any variety of cooked vegetables and grains. 

Big salads make for excellent meal prep. Store green salads in large jars or resealable bowls with the salad dressing stored separately for best results. Or pack pasta salad or quinoa salad in resealable containers. 

Soups and stir fries are also popular choices for prepping meals in advance. One reason is that they are very ingredient-flexible, and you can add more or less vegetables as you see fit or your budget calls for. 

Don’t forget the snacks. Prepping snacks means no more stops at the vending machine or drive-thru for snacks you know you need but didn’t plan for.

“Our favorite meal prep item is breakfast burritos. With competitive sports, we leave super early on weekend mornings. So, we prep 20 burritos on an empty Saturday morning to be prepared and save money.”

— Kristy, Money Bliss
Grilled wraps on a wooden board surrounded by tortillas, fresh tomatoes, green peppers, and herbs on a wooden table.
Photo credit: YayImages.

Meal prepping sets you up for weeks or months of healthy, homemade meals or snacks that are easy to grab and go. It’s a practical way to manage both your time and your budget, ensuring you always have nutritious options on hand.

Whether you’re tackling a busy workweek or trying to avoid the temptation of fast food, meal prepping can make your life simpler and more organized. By dedicating a little time to plan, shop and cook, you’ll find that eating well doesn’t have to be a hassle. Give meal prepping a try and see how it transforms your approach to meals and healthy living.

Laura Sampson of Little House Big Alaska is on a mission to teach modern family-oriented home cooks how to make old-fashioned foods new again. She shares her passion for home cooking, backyard gardening and homesteading on her website and blog.

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