Learning how to meal prep can save you time throughout the week while minimizing food waste. Prepping your meals ahead of time ensures that you stay on track with your meal plan.
There is a bit of a learning curve when figuring out how to meal prep in the way that works best for you, but no matter your strategy, these meal prep necessities will help you along the way.
1. Meal Planning Program
The first step in learning how to meal prep with the best of them is to make sure you have a meal plan ready to go. A meal plan will provide a concrete list of what you need to prep, saving time and eliminating waste.
To help with meal plan creation and with translating the plan into a prepping strategy, it’s worth investing in a meal planning program. Using a meal planning program, like Meal Plan Magic, will not only give you a nutritional blueprint targeted to your specific needs but can also generate shopping lists and meal prep outlines. If you can't quite nail down which foods to eat based on your body goals, it's also worth grabbing a template to be your guide.
2. Pots and Pans
While you won’t necessarily need a full set of pans when you’re figuring out how to meal prep, you will need at least one large frying pan and a spaghetti pot to make some basic meals. Over time, you can expand your collection to include a sauce pan or two, in varying sizes, which will make cooking all those meals even easier.
3. Proper Utensils
This may seem obvious, but using the proper utensils is important. You’ll want to have a spatula, at least one wooden spoon and a ladle to prepare basic meals. Most importantly, if you’re using a nonstick pan, you’ll need to make sure to use a plastic or silicon coated spatula so as not to damage the pan’s surface.
4. Sharp Knives
The key to chopping, slicing and dicing your ingredients efficiently isn’t necessarily knife skills, but rather the knives themselves. Using a quality set of kitchen knives can decrease the time you spend prepping, when properly used. Once you’ve purchased a nice knife set, maintenance should be a priority. Not only are sharp knives more effective at cutting produce and meat, they’re typically safer as less force is required to use them.
5. Quality meal prep Containers
As you prep ingredients and full meals, you’ll need an efficient way to store them. A high quality set of meal prep containers with locking lids will help to keep your food sealed from air exposure, and can increase the shelf life of prepared meals. When possible, choose a set of glass containers over plastic ones and make sure the lids seal tightly.
6. Measuring Cups
To make portioning out your meals into prep containers that much easier, be sure to have a set of measuring cups. Measuring cups are ideal for grains, vegetables, beans and other loose ingredients.
For durability and ease of cleanup, it’s worth investing in a nice set of metal measuring cups. You’ll be using these at least once a week, and plastic is likely to scratch or wear down and is typically more difficult to clean fully.
7. Kitchen Scale
In order to ensure you’re consuming the right nutrients, you’ll want to know exactly how much food you’re consuming. While measuring cups will work fine for vegetables, beans and grains, a kitchen scale really comes in handy for measuring out your proteins. Look for a digital scale that can measure in grams and ounces for greater flexibility.
8. Slow Cooker
No one appliance makes meal prep easier than a slow cooker. If you’re running short on time or don’t want to spend hours of your day babysitting food in the oven or on the stove, no problem—toss your ingredients into the slow cooker and you’re good to go! There are plenty of slow cooker–specific recipes available to comply with any meal plan.
9. Zip Top Baggies
While glass storage containers are ideal for storing prepared meals, they’re not always the most practical solution. You’ll want to keep a few different sizes of freezer-safe zip top bags around for packing snacks to go, or freezing smaller amounts of prepared foods.
10. Food Processor
To significantly reduce the amount of time spent shredding and chopping, a food processor can be your best friend. Chop onions without tears, shred cheese for that casserole and carrots for your salad—all in the amount of time it would have taken you to do just one of those tasks by hand.
A food processor can also be used to make homemade versions of your favorite sauces, dips and spreads, allowing you greater flexibility with your meal plan.
Written by: Elizabeth Withkowski, N.C. - Certified Nutrition Consultant