Depending on what type of planner you are, meal prepping can either be super fun or super overwhelming. It takes time…a good chunk of time…and if you’re not well planned for your meal planning, it can be a frustrating exercise. But meal prep doesn’t have a secret to it—at its core it’s just cooking big batches of meals—or single ingredients that are helpful for building meals, like quinoa or roasted vegetables—that you can then portion out. These tips will make sure you meal prep as smartly as possible, so you feel like it’s making your life easier not harder.
1. Make a meal plan
It sounds obvious, but you’ll want to really sit down and think about your week and how many meals you need to make. Have more dinner plans with friends than usual this week? Maybe you’ll want to prep more snacks or try out a new lunch recipe. Make a list of all the meals you don’t have commitments for and decide what to make from there.
2. Schedule it
Put it on your calendar—seriously. Because the easiest way to stick to your meal prep plans is if there’s no other time to do it. Sunday is the most obvious day to do your meal prep for the week ahead but find the time that works best for your schedule.
Have someone hold yourself accountable and try meal prepping with your partner, a friend or even get your kids involved.
3. Stock up on containers
Meal prep is all about the containers—invest in a good quality batch that you love and make sure they are sturdy and leak-proof.
4. Shop in bulk
Lots of meal prep recipes rely on ingredients like grains, seeds, nuts, and beans, all of which are much cheaper if you buy them in bulk at grocery stores. This is also a good way to test out new types of grains—like farro and buckwheat—without committing to a whole package that’s bound to go bad.
5. Use a slow cooker
Your slow cooker might become your meal prep best friend. You can wake up Sunday morning, toss some ingredients inside, set it and forget about it until Sunday evening when you want to portion out your meals for the week. Make the meals feel fresh by topping them with fresh herbs before digging in.
6. Know when to cut corners
The biggest misconception with meal prep might be that it means making everything from scratch. Wrong. Meal prep doesn’t mean you’re ricing your own cauliflower if you don’t want to. You can still stock up on shortcut staples like pre-made salad bags, canned chickpeas and black beans, cauli rice, frozen brown rice, zoodles, and pre-cut butternut squash. These will help ease your prep and make sure you don’t spend hours in the kitchen every Sunday.