How To Meal Prep: Ultimate Guide to Meal Prepping

Meal prepping is a simple yet powerful way to eat healthier, save time, and reduce stress around meal times.

In this ultimate guide to meal prepping, we’ll cover everything you need to know to get started, including the benefits of meal prepping, basic equipment and supplies, step-by-step instructions, recipes, and more.

You can also browse meal prep recipes from our index to save to your meal plans for the week or months ahead.

Introduction

What is meal prepping?

Meal prepping is the process of preparing meals or ingredients ahead of time, usually for the upcoming week.

This involves cooking and portioning meals or ingredients in advance, then storing them in the fridge or freezer until ready to eat.

Meal prepping has always existed in some form, such as packing a lunch for school or work or cooking a big pot of soup or stew to eat throughout the week.

However, it has become more popular in recent years due to the rise of busy lifestyles and a desire for healthy, home-cooked meals.

By meal prepping, people can save time and money while still eating nutritious meals. It allows for efficient use of ingredients, reduces food waste, and eliminates the need to make decisions about what to eat on a daily basis.

In addition, meal prepping can help with portion control and weight management, as pre-portioned meals can make it easier to stick to a healthy eating plan.

Meal prepping can be done in a variety of ways, from prepping all meals for the week in one day to simply preparing ingredients in advance to make cooking during the week faster and easier.

It can be adapted to fit any dietary preferences or restrictions and can be as simple or complex as desired.

Why Is meal prep important?

Meal prep is important for many reasons, but one of the key benefits is that it helps with planning and staying on track.

When you meal prep, you plan out your meals ahead of time and prepare them in advance, which can help you avoid the temptation to grab fast food or unhealthy snacks on the go.

By having healthy meals ready to go, you can save time, money, and stress, and improve your overall nutrition and health.

In addition to the convenience factor, meal prep can also help with portion control and weight management.

When you plan and prepare your meals in advance, you can more easily control the amount of food you consume and avoid overeating.

This can help you maintain a healthy weight and reduce the risk of chronic diseases such as heart disease, diabetes, and obesity.

Meal prep can also help with reducing food waste and saving money on groceries. When you plan out your meals in advance, you can buy only the ingredients you need and use them up before they go bad.

This can help you save money on groceries and reduce the amount of food that goes to waste.

Getting Started

Benefits of meal prepping

BenefitExplanation
Saves timeMeal prepping can help you save time during the week
Saves moneyMeal prepping can help you save money on food expenses
Promotes healthy eatingMeal prepping allows you to control your portions and ingredients, making it easier to eat healthily.
Reduces food wasteMeal prepping helps you plan meals and use ingredients more efficiently, reducing the amount of food that goes to waste
Reduces stressMeal prepping can help reduce stress and anxiety by eliminating the need to plan and prepare meals on a daily basis

Here’s an example scenario of how meal prepping can be beneficial for a busy worker in the city:

Samantha is a busy worker who commutes to the city every day for her job.

She often finds herself skipping meals or relying on unhealthy snacks and takeout during the workday because she doesn’t have time to prepare food in the morning or doesn’t want to spend money on expensive lunches.

She decides to try meal prepping on Sundays, and spends a few hours preparing meals for the week ahead.

She chooses simple, easy-to-make meals like overnight oats, salads, and stir-fry dishes that can be easily stored and reheated at work.

Now, each day she can simply grab a pre-made meal from the fridge and take it with her to work, ensuring that she has a healthy and satisfying meal without sacrificing time or money.

Not only does meal prepping save her time and money, but it also helps her stay on track with her nutrition goals and reduces stress by eliminating the need to constantly plan and prepare meals throughout the week.

How to choose the right meal prep method for you

When it comes to meal prepping, there’s no one-size-fits-all approach that works for everyone. Different methods will work better for different people based on their lifestyles, dietary needs, and personal preferences.

Here are some factors to consider when choosing a meal prep method that fits for you:

Schedule

Consider how much time you have available for meal prep.

If you have a busy schedule and can only dedicate a few hours to meal prep each week, you may want to focus on batch cooking, where you cook larger quantities of food at once and divide them into portions for the week.

On the other hand, if you have more time available, you may prefer a more elaborate meal prep method that involves cooking individual meals from scratch.

Dietary restrictions

Think about your dietary needs and any restrictions you may have.

For example, if you’re following a specific diet such as keto or paleo, you’ll want to look for meal prep recipes that fit within those guidelines.

Similarly, if you have allergies or intolerances, you’ll need to avoid certain ingredients or make substitutions.

Food preferences

Consider what types of foods you enjoy eating and what flavors and cuisines you prefer.

Write them down and find recipes related to your top ingredients.

If you love Asian flavors, for example, you may want to incorporate more stir-fries and noodle dishes into your meal prep routine.

If you’re a fan of Mexican cuisine, you could focus on meal-prepping taco bowls or burrito bowls.

Here are three scenarios with examples to illustrate how different meal prep methods can suit different people:

Scenario 1: Busy professional with limited time for meal prep and utilizing “batch cooking”.

If you’re a busy professional who doesn’t have a lot of time for meal prep, batch cooking may be the best option for you.

This method involves cooking large batches of food at once and then dividing them into portions for the week.

You can then store the portions in the fridge or freezer and reheat them as needed throughout the week.

For example, you could make a big batch of chili, stir-fry, or roast vegetables and divide them into portions for the week.

This way, you can have healthy, home-cooked meals ready to go without having to spend a lot of time in the kitchen.

Scenario 2: Fitness enthusiast looking to track macros and eat healthy and utilizing “individual meal preps”.

If you’re someone who is looking to track your macros or eat healthily to support your fitness goals, individual meal prep may be the best option for you.

This method involves cooking individual meals from scratch and then portioning them out for the week.

For example, you could prepare grilled chicken, steamed broccoli, and brown rice for a balanced meal.

You can then portion out the chicken, broccoli, and rice into separate containers to create individual meals.

This way, you can ensure that you’re getting the right balance of protein, carbs, and fats in each meal to support your fitness goals.

Scenario 3: Busy parent with picky eaters in the family utilizing “mix and match meal prep”.

If you’re a busy parent with picky eaters in the family, mix-and-match meal prep may be the best option for you.

This method involves preparing a variety of ingredients and letting everyone in the family mix and match to create their own meals.

For example, you could prepare a selection of grilled chicken, roasted vegetables, brown rice, and quinoa.

Each family member can then choose the ingredients they or want and create their own meal.

This way, you can accommodate different dietary preferences and ensure that everyone in the family is happy with their meal.

Basic meal prep equipment and supplies

ProductBenefits for Meal Prep
Cutting boardProvides a flat surface for chopping vegetables, fruits, and meats.
Chef’s knifeA versatile knife that can be used for chopping, slicing, and dicing ingredients.
Measuring cups and spoonsHelps ensure accurate measurements of ingredients for recipes.
Mixing bowlsProvides a place to mix ingredients and prepare marinades, sauces, and dressings.
Food storage containersEssential for storing and transporting prepped meals and ingredients.
Slow cookerA hands-off method for cooking large quantities of food, such as stews, soups, and chili.
Instant PotA versatile appliance that can pressure cook, sauté, and slow cook, among other functions.
Sheet panA versatile pan that can be used for roasting vegetables and meats.
Mason jarsIdeal for storing salads, overnight oats, and smoothies.
BlenderGreat for making smoothies, purees, and sauces.
Food processorA versatile appliance that can chop, puree, and mix ingredients for recipes.
Non-stick frying panIdeal for cooking eggs, pancakes, and other breakfast items.
Oven-safe casserole dishGreat for baking casseroles, lasagnas, and other oven-baked dishes.
Salad spinnerHelps to dry lettuce and other greens quickly and efficiently.
Parchment paperUseful for lining sheet pans and preventing food from sticking.
Aluminum foilHandy for covering dishes and wrapping food for storage.
Food scaleUseful for measuring ingredients by weight and for portion control.
TongsUseful for flipping and turning food while cooking.
WhiskIdeal for mixing ingredients and emulsifying dressings and sauces.
Vegetable peelerHelpful for quickly and easily peeling vegetables like carrots and potatoes.
ZesterUseful for adding citrus zest to recipes, such as in marinades and dressings.
ThermometerEssential for ensuring that meat and poultry are cooked to the proper temperature.
Mandoline slicerIdeal for quickly and uniformly slicing vegetables like cucumbers and carrots.

Meal Planning and Preparation

How to plan your meals for the week

Planning your meals for the week can help you save time, money, and stress, while also ensuring that you’re eating nutritious and satisfying meals.

Here are some steps to follow when planning your meals for the week:

  1. Take stock of what you have: Before you start planning your meals, take a look at what you already have in your fridge, freezer, and pantry. This will help you to use up ingredients that you already have on hand and avoid food waste.
  2. Choose your recipes: Once you have a sense of what ingredients you have to work with, choose the recipes you want to make for the week. You can browse our recipe index to speed up the process. Consider recipes that use similar ingredients so you can buy in bulk and save money.
  3. Make or download a shopping list: Based on the recipes you’ve chosen, make a shopping list of the ingredients you need to buy. If you use our recipe index, you can automate this process by generating a shopping list based on saved recipes or meal plans. Be sure to check your pantry and fridge again to avoid buying duplicates of ingredients you already have.
  4. Shop and prep: Once you have your shopping list, head to the grocery store to buy your ingredients. When you get home, take some time to prep your ingredients by chopping vegetables, cooking grains and proteins, and portioning out snacks. Or you could order a grocery shop to your door, which will cost more but will save time.
  5. Store your ingredients: Store your prepped ingredients in food storage containers in the fridge or freezer to make meal prep easier throughout the week.

Example 1: Let’s say you’re planning meals for the week for your family of four. You want to make healthy, balanced meals that everyone will enjoy. Here’s how you could plan your meals for the week:

  1. You have a bag of spinach, some carrots, a few chicken breasts, a can of chickpeas, and some quinoa in your pantry.
  2. Based on the ingredients you have, you decide to make a chicken and chickpea stew, a spinach and quinoa salad, and roasted carrots as a side dish.
  3. You need to buy more chicken, some canned tomatoes, onion, garlic, lemon, feta cheese, and olive oil.
  4. You go to the grocery store and buy the ingredients on your list. When you get home, you cook the chicken and chickpea stew in your slow cooker, cook the quinoa and roast the carrots. You also wash and chop the spinach for the salad.
  5. You store the stew, quinoa, and roasted carrots in food storage containers in the fridge. You keep the spinach separate in a bag with a paper towel to help keep it fresh.

Example 2: Let’s say you’re a busy college student who wants to save time and money by planning your meals for the week. Here’s how you could plan your meals from a different perspective:

  1. You have some frozen chicken breasts, a bag of frozen vegetables, and some quinoa in your pantry.
  2. Based on the ingredients you have, you decide to make a chicken and vegetable stir-fry and a quinoa salad.
  3. You need to buy some fresh vegetables, such as bell peppers and onions, soy sauce, rice vinegar, olive oil, and some nuts to add to your salad.
  4. You go to the grocery store and buy the ingredients on your list. When you get home, you cook the chicken and vegetables together in a frying pan and cook the quinoa. You also chop the fresh vegetables for your salad.
  5. You store the chicken and vegetable stir-fry and the quinoa in food storage containers in the fridge. You keep the fresh vegetables and nuts separate in a bag with a paper towel to help keep them fresh.

grocery shopping and food storage Tips

When it comes to meal prepping, grocery shopping, and food storage are crucial to ensuring that you have the ingredients you need and that your meals stay fresh throughout the week.

Here are some tips to help you shop for groceries and store food more effectively:

  1. Make a shopping list: Before you head to the grocery store, make a list of the ingredients you need for your meal prep recipes. This will help you avoid impulse purchases and ensure that you have everything you need for the week.
  2. Shop in bulk: Buying in bulk can be a great way to save money on groceries. Look for items like grains, beans, and nuts that have a long shelf life and can be stored in airtight containers.
  3. Use coupons and sales: Keep an eye out for coupons and sales on the items you need for your meal prep. You can also save money by buying generic or store-brand items instead of name-brand products.
  4. Shop the perimeter of the store: The perimeter of the grocery store is where you’ll find fresh produce, meats, and dairy products. These are the foods that should make up the bulk of your meal prep ingredients.
  5. Choose seasonal produce: Buying produce that’s in season can help you save money and ensure that your meals are fresher and more flavorful.
  6. Label and date food: When you store food in the fridge or freezer, label it with the date so you know how long it’s been stored. This will help you avoid food waste and ensure that you’re eating fresh, safe food.
  7. Invest in quality storage containers: Good-quality food storage containers will help keep your food fresher for longer. Look for containers that are airtight, leak-proof, and stackable.
  8. Store food properly: Different foods have different storage needs. For example, fresh herbs should be stored in a glass of water in the fridge, while root vegetables can be stored in a cool, dark place. Be sure to store food according to its specific requirements.

In addition to these tips, buying in bulk can also help you save money on groceries. Many bulk items like rice, beans, and nuts can be stored for long periods of time, and buying in larger quantities can often be more cost-effective than buying smaller packages. Just be sure to store bulk items properly in airtight containers to keep them fresh.

Easy Meal Prepping Recipes

Meal prep recipes for beginners

  1. Chicken and vegetable stir-fry: This recipe involves sautéing chicken breast with vegetables like bell peppers, onions, and broccoli. It can be served with rice or noodles.
  2. Overnight oats: This recipe involves soaking oats overnight in milk or yogurt, then adding toppings like fruit, nuts, and honey in the morning for a delicious and easy breakfast.
  3. Mason jar salads: These salads are made by layering greens, vegetables, protein, and dressing in a mason jar. They can be made ahead of time and taken on-the-go for a healthy lunch.
  4. Turkey chili: This recipe involves throwing ingredients like ground turkey, beans, tomatoes, and spices into a slow cooker and letting it cook all day for a hearty and flavorful dinner.
  5. Roasted vegetables: This recipe involves roasting vegetables like sweet potatoes, broccoli, and cauliflower with olive oil, salt, and pepper for an easy and nutritious side dish.
  6. Turkey meatballs: This recipe involves mixing ground turkey with breadcrumbs, egg, and seasonings to make meatballs. They can be served with pasta or vegetables for a filling dinner.
  7. Egg muffins: These muffins are made by mixing eggs with vegetables, cheese, and seasonings, then baking them in a muffin tin for a grab-and-go breakfast or snack.

Meal prep ideas for breakfast, lunch, and dinner

Breakfast:

  1. Overnight oats with fruit and nuts
  2. Egg muffins with vegetables and cheese
  3. Breakfast burritos with scrambled eggs, black beans, and avocado
  4. Smoothie bowls with frozen fruit and Greek yogurt
  5. Yogurt parfaits with granola and fresh berries
  6. Homemade breakfast bars with oats and dried fruit
  7. Banana pancakes with almond butter and honey
  8. Chia pudding with fruit and nuts

Lunch:

  1. Mason jar salads with chicken, vegetables, and vinaigrette
  2. Grain bowls with quinoa, roasted vegetables, and chicken or tofu
  3. Turkey or ham sandwiches with lettuce, tomato, and cheese
  4. Wraps with hummus, roasted vegetables, and turkey or chicken
  5. Chicken or tuna salad with crackers or sliced vegetables
  6. Vegetable soup with beans and whole grain bread
  7. Leftover pasta with tomato sauce and vegetables
  8. Baked sweet potatoes with black beans and avocado

Dinner:

  1. Slow cooker chili with ground beef or turkey, beans, and vegetables
  2. Baked chicken with roasted vegetables and sweet potatoes
  3. Tofu stir-fry with vegetables and brown rice
  4. Sheet pan fajitas with chicken or steak and peppers and onions
  5. Spaghetti squash with tomato sauce and turkey meatballs
  6. Roasted salmon with asparagus and quinoa
  7. Slow cooker pot roast with vegetables and potatoes
  8. Vegetable curry with chickpeas and brown rice

These meal prep ideas are all easy to prepare, store, and reheat, making them perfect for busy people who want to eat healthy, homemade meals throughout the week.

How to make meal prep more exciting with different cuisines

Mexican:

  • Make a batch of homemade salsa or guacamole to add to meals throughout the week.
  • Try making a Mexican-inspired quinoa or rice bowl with black beans, grilled chicken or tofu, and sautéed peppers and onions.
  • Make a big batch of slow-cooker beef or chicken fajitas and serve them with tortillas, rice, and beans.
  • Make a vegetarian or vegan version of chili con carne using lentils or sweet potatoes as the base.

Indian:

  • Make a big batch of homemade curry and serve it over rice or quinoa.
  • Try making a chickpea or lentil dahl for a protein-packed meal.
  • Make a big batch of tandoori chicken or tofu and serve it with roasted vegetables and naan bread.
  • Experiment with different spices like garam masala, turmeric, and cumin to add flavor to your meals.

Mediterranean:

  • Make a big batch of tabbouleh or Greek salad for a refreshing side dish.
  • Try making falafel at home and serve it with hummus and pita bread.
  • Make a big batch of grilled chicken or tofu kebabs and serve them with roasted vegetables and tzatziki sauce.
  • Experiment with different types of olives, cheeses, and dips like baba ganoush or muhammara.

Italian:

  • Make a big batch of marinara sauce and serve it over spaghetti or zucchini noodles.
  • Try making homemade pizza with your favorite toppings.
  • Make a big batch of lasagna or stuffed shells and freeze them for later.
  • Experiment with different types of pasta and sauces like pesto or carbonara.

Brazilian:

  • Make a big batch of feijoada, a traditional Brazilian stew with black beans and pork or beef.
  • Try making Brazilian-style grilled chicken or beef and serve it with rice and beans.
  • Make a big batch of coxinha, a Brazilian snack made with shredded chicken and dough.
  • Experiment with different types of Brazilian spices like cumin and paprika.

Japan:

  • Sushi rolls: Sushi is a popular Japanese dish that can be made with a variety of fillings, such as fish, avocado, cucumber, and crab meat.
  • Teriyaki chicken: This sweet and savory chicken dish can be served with rice and steamed vegetables for a complete meal.
  • Miso soup: This comforting soup is made with miso paste, seaweed, and tofu, and can be paired with a salad or rice bowl.

Thai:

  • Pad Thai: This classic Thai dish is made with rice noodles, chicken or shrimp, bean sprouts, and a tangy sauce.
  • Green curry: This spicy curry dish is made with coconut milk, vegetables, and meat or tofu.
  • Mango sticky rice: This sweet dessert is made with coconut rice and fresh mango slices.

Scandinavian:

  • Smorgasbord: This traditional Scandinavian meal features a spread of open-faced sandwiches, meats, cheeses, and pickled vegetables.
  • Meatballs and lingonberry sauce: These savory meatballs are served with lingonberry sauce and a side of mashed potatoes.
  • Salmon gravlax: This cured salmon dish is typically served with a side of dill potatoes or rye bread.

South African:

  • Bobotie: This spicy meat dish is made with ground beef or lamb, eggs, and a mixture of spices.
  • Bunny chow: This popular street food is made with a hollowed-out loaf of bread filled with curry and vegetables.
  • Malva pudding: This sweet and moist cake is made with apricot jam and topped with a cream sauce.

Spanish:

  • Paella: This classic Spanish dish is made with rice, saffron, and a variety of seafood, meats, and vegetables.
  • Patatas bravas: This tapas dish features crispy potatoes topped with a spicy tomato sauce.
  • Churros: These sweet fried dough pastries are typically served with chocolate sauce for dipping.

Turkish:

Turkish cuisine is known for its use of herbs and spices like mint, dill, and sumac, as well as ingredients like lamb and eggplant. Try making a classic dish like Turkish stuffed peppers or a lamb kebab for a taste of Turkish cuisine.

  • Turkish Eggplant Casserole: This dish features layers of sliced eggplant, ground beef, and tomato sauce, topped with a mixture of yogurt and egg. It can be baked ahead of time and reheated for a filling and flavorful meal.
  • Chicken Shawarma Bowls: These bowls feature marinated chicken, roasted vegetables, and a garlicky yogurt sauce, all served over rice. They can be made ahead of time and reheated for a quick and delicious meal.
  • Lentil and Bulgur Pilaf: This pilaf features a mix of lentils and bulgur wheat, cooked with onions, tomato paste, and spices like cumin and paprika. It can be served with grilled chicken or vegetables for a healthy and satisfying meal.
  • Turkish Breakfast Bowls: These bowls feature a mix of eggs, vegetables, olives, and cheese, all served over toasted bread. They can be made ahead of time and reheated for a quick and nutritious breakfast or lunch.
  • Lamb and Eggplant Stew: This stew features chunks of lamb, eggplant, and tomatoes, all cooked together with herbs and spices like oregano and cinnamon. It can be served with rice or bread for a hearty and flavorful meal.

Caribbean:

Caribbean cuisine is known for its use of spices like allspice, nutmeg, and ginger, as well as ingredients like plantains and seafood. Try making a classic dish like Jamaican jerk chicken or Trinidadian callaloo (a spinach and okra stew) for a taste of Caribbean cuisine.

East African:

East African cuisine features a variety of stews and curries made with a mix of spices like turmeric, cardamom, and cinnamon. Try making a vegetarian lentil curry or a spicy chicken stew for a taste of East African cuisine.

West African:

West African cuisine is known for its bold flavors and use of spices like ginger, cumin, and coriander. Try making a spicy jollof rice or a peanut stew for a taste of West African cuisine.

Eastern European:

Eastern European cuisine is known for its hearty stews, dumplings, and sausages, as well as its use of sour cream and pickled vegetables. Try making a classic dish like borscht (beet soup) or pierogi (dumplings filled with potatoes or meat) for a taste of Eastern European cuisine.

Russian:

Russian cuisine is similar to Eastern European cuisine, with a focus on hearty stews, dumplings, and pickled vegetables. Try making a classic dish like beef stroganoff or golubtsy (cabbage rolls stuffed with meat and rice) for a taste of Russian cuisine.

North African:

North African cuisine is known for its use of spices like cumin, paprika, and cinnamon, as well as ingredients like couscous and preserved lemons. Try making a flavorful tagine or a spicy harissa chicken for a taste of North African cuisine.

Middle Eastern:

Middle Eastern cuisine is known for its use of herbs and spices like parsley, mint, and sumac, as well as ingredients like chickpeas and tahini. Try making a falafel wrap or a tabbouleh salad for a taste of Middle Eastern cuisine.

Fusion:

You can also experiment with combining flavors and ingredients from Eastern European and Russian cuisines with other cuisines. For example, you could make a Ukrainian-style borscht with a Japanese twist by adding seaweed and tofu, or a Russian-style beef stroganoff with a Mexican twist by adding black beans and salsa.

Meal Prepping for Specific Diets

Meal prep for weight loss and healthy eating

  1. Plan your meals ahead of time: Planning your meals ahead of time can help you make healthier choices and avoid impulse eating. Look for recipes that are high in protein, fiber, and healthy fats, and low in processed carbs and sugar. You can use our advanced search filters to find these recipes.
  2. Use a macro calculator: Using a macro calculator can help you determine how many calories and nutrients you need to consume each day to reach your weight loss goals. Aim for a moderate calorie deficit of 500-750 calories per day.
  3. Choose lean proteins: Choose lean proteins like chicken breast, turkey, fish, and tofu to help you feel full and satisfied. Avoid processed meats like bacon and sausage, which are high in saturated fat and sodium.
  4. Incorporate vegetables: Vegetables are low in calories and high in nutrients, making them a great addition to any weight loss meal plan. Choose a variety of colorful vegetables like leafy greens, peppers, broccoli, and carrots.
  5. Weigh your food: Weighing your food can help you accurately track your calorie and nutrient intake. Invest in a kitchen scale and measure out portions of proteins, grains, and vegetables. You can also track what you eat using our food diary tracker.
  6. Cook in bulk: Cooking in bulk can help you save time and money while ensuring that you have healthy meals on hand throughout the week. Cook large batches of protein, grains, and vegetables and divide them into portions for easy meal prep.
  7. Portion control: Portion control is key for weight loss. Use food storage containers to portion out your meals ahead of time and avoid overeating.

Meal prep for vegetarian and vegan diets

Meal prep for vegetarian and vegan diets can seem challenging at first, but with the right knowledge and tools, it can be a simple and nutritious way to eat.

When planning meals for a vegetarian or vegan diet, it’s important to include a variety of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, legumes, nuts, and seeds.

These foods provide essential vitamins and minerals like fiber, protein, iron, calcium, and vitamin B12, which can be more difficult to obtain from a diet that includes meat.

One way to make meal prep easier for vegetarian and vegan diets is to focus on batch cooking.

This involves making a large batch of a dish like a bean chili, fruit salads, vegan pancakes, lentil soup, or stir-fry, and portioning it out for meals throughout the week. This saves time and ensures that there are always healthy, plant-based meals on hand.

It’s also important to include sources of protein in vegetarian and vegan meals. Legumes like chickpeas, lentils, and black beans are great sources of protein, as are tofu, tempeh, and seitan.

Nuts and seeds like almonds, chia seeds, and hemp seeds also provide protein and healthy fats.

When it comes to snacks and sides, fresh fruits and vegetables are always a great choice. Hummus, guacamole, and nut butter are also delicious and nutritious options.

In terms of nutrition, it’s important to be aware of the nutrients that can be more difficult to obtain from a vegetarian or vegan diet.

Vitamin B12, for example, is primarily found in animal products, so it’s important to ensure that sources like nutritional yeast or fortified plant milks are included in the diet. I

ron and calcium can also be more difficult to obtain from a plant-based diet, so including sources like leafy greens, tofu, and fortified cereals can help.

Meal prep for athletes and fitness enthusiasts

Meal prep is an important part of an athlete’s or fitness enthusiast’s routine as it helps to ensure that they are getting the right nutrients to support their training and recovery. While many athletes opt for meal prep services, cooking at home also be enjoyable.

When meal prepping for athletic performance, it is essential to take into consideration the individual’s specific needs, goals, and training schedule.

One important aspect of meal prep for athletes and fitness enthusiasts is understanding and tracking macronutrient intake. Macronutrients are the three essential nutrients that our body needs in large quantities: protein, carbohydrates, and fat.

Athletes and fitness enthusiasts require specific amounts of macronutrients to support their activity levels and reach their performance goals.

For example, someone who is trying to build muscle may require a higher protein intake, while someone who is training for endurance may require a higher carbohydrate intake.

To determine the optimal macronutrient intake for their specific needs, athletes and fitness enthusiasts should consider teaming up with a specialist such as a registered dietitian or a sports nutritionist.

These professionals can help them to calculate their individual needs based on their body composition, activity level, and performance goals. They can also provide guidance on how to adjust their macronutrient intake as their training progresses.

Once an athlete or fitness enthusiast has determined their optimal macronutrient intake, they can use this information to plan and prepare their meals accordingly.

Meal prep can help to ensure that they are getting the right balance of macronutrients and that they have healthy, nutritious meals ready to go when they need them. It can also help to save time and reduce stress around meal times.

Troubleshooting and Common Challenges

How to avoid common meal prep mistakes

Common Meal Prep MistakesHow to Avoid Them
Not planning aheadSet aside time each week to plan your meals and make a grocery list. This will help ensure that you have all the ingredients you need for your meals and reduce the likelihood of last-minute trips to the store.
Overcomplicating recipesStick to simple recipes with just a few ingredients. This will make meal prep easier and less time-consuming.
Not using proper storage containersUse containers that are leak-proof, microwave-safe, and freezer-safe to store your meals. This will help ensure that your food stays fresh and safe to eat.
Not labeling your mealsLabel each container with the date and contents of the meal. This will help you keep track of what you have and when it was prepared, reducing the risk of food waste or spoilage.
Not varying your meals enoughIncorporate a variety of ingredients and flavors into your meals to keep things interesting. Try different cuisines or ingredients to mix things up.
Ignoring food safety guidelinesFollow food safety guidelines for storing and reheating your meals. This includes keeping your food at the proper temperature, thawing frozen food safely, and reheating food to the proper temperature.
Over-prepping or under-preppingDetermine how many meals you need for the week and prep accordingly. Over-prepping can lead to food waste, while under-prepping can leave you without enough food for the week.

How to handle food safety and hygiene

As explained in our food storage guide, here are essential tips to follow:

  1. Wash your hands: Before handling any food, make sure to wash your hands thoroughly with soap and warm water. This helps to prevent the spread of germs and bacteria.
  2. Clean your work area: Make sure your work area is clean and sanitized before you start meal prepping. This includes cleaning your cutting board, countertops, and utensils.
  3. Follow the 2-hour rule: The 2-hour rule is a food safety guideline that states that perishable foods should not be left at room temperature for more than 2 hours. This includes foods like meat, poultry, fish, eggs, and dairy products. After 2 hours, these foods should be refrigerated or frozen to prevent the growth of bacteria.

In layman’s terms, the 2-hour rule means that you should not leave perishable foods out of the refrigerator or freezer for more than 2 hours. This is because bacteria can grow quickly at room temperature, which can lead to foodborne illness. So, if you’re meal-prepping with perishable foods, make sure to keep them refrigerated or frozen until you’re ready to use them.

  1. Use a food thermometer: To ensure that meat and poultry are cooked to a safe temperature, use a food thermometer. The internal temperature of meat and poultry should reach at least 165°F (74°C) to kill any harmful bacteria.
  2. Store food properly: When storing food in the refrigerator or freezer, make sure to use leak-proof containers and label them with the date and contents. This helps to prevent cross-contamination and makes it easier to keep track of what you have. You can also use our food storage chart to know how long foods last.

Solutions to common meal prep challenges

Meal prep can be a challenge for anyone, especially for those who don’t cook much or are new to meal prepping.

Here are some common challenges that people face when meal prepping, and some solutions to help overcome them:

  1. Lack of time: Many people find it difficult to carve out the time needed to plan, shop for, and prepare meals. One solution is to set aside a specific day and time each week for meal prep, and to keep it consistent in your schedule.
  2. Limited cooking skills: If you’re new to cooking or don’t have a lot of experience, it can be intimidating to try new recipes. Start with simple recipes that require few ingredients and build your confidence from there. You can also watch cooking tutorials on YouTube or take a cooking class to improve your skills.
  3. Limited kitchen equipment: Some meal prep recipes may require specialized kitchen equipment that you don’t have. Look for recipes that require only basic equipment and build your collection over time.
  4. Limited storage space: If you don’t have a lot of space to store prepped meals, try using stackable containers or freezer bags. You can also prep meals that don’t take up much space, such as soups or stews.
  5. Boredom: Eating the same meals every day can get boring quickly. To keep things interesting, try new recipes, experiment with different cuisines, or vary your meal components throughout the week.
  6. Expense: Meal prep can be expensive if you’re buying a lot of specialty ingredients or pre-made meals. Look for recipes that use affordable ingredients or buy in bulk to save money.
  7. Lack of motivation: It can be hard to stay motivated to meal prep week after week. Try involving friends or family members in your meal prep, or join a meal prep group or community for support and inspiration.

How long do foods last for meal prep?

FoodDays (Fridge)Months (Freezer)
Apples3 weeks6 months
Apricots2 to 3 days3 to 6 months
Asparagus3 to 4 days6 to 8 months
Avocados3 to 4 days3 months
Bacon, Uncooked7 days6 to 8 months
Bagels1 to 2 weeks6 months
Barbecue Sauce4 months3 months
Beef Roast Uncooked3 to 5 days6 to 8 months
Beets7 to 10 days6 to 8 months
Bell Peppers4 to 5 days12 months
Berries4 to 5 days6 months
Bread1 to 2 weeks4 to 6 months
Broccoli3 to 5 days12 months
Broth1 to 2 days3 months
Brussels Sprouts3 to 5 days12 months
Butter1 to 3 months4 months
Buttermilk1 to 2 weeks3 months
Cabbage1 to 2 weeks9 months
Cake1 week3 months
Cheesecake1 week2 months
Carrots3 weeks12 months
Cauliflower3 to 5 days8 months
Celery1 to 2 weeks12 to 16 months
Chicken, Cooked3 to 4 days4 months
Chicken, Uncooked1 to 2 days12 months
Chocolate Syrup6 months6 months
Cilantro7 days6 months
Cookies2 months1 month
Corn1 to 2 days12 months
Cottage Cheese1 week6 months
Cream Cheese2 weeks2 months
Cucumbers4 to 5 days6 months
Egg Salad3 to 5 days1 month
Eggplant3 to 4 days12 months
Eggs, Hard Boiled1 week6 months
Eggs, Raw3 to 5 weeks12 months
Fish, Cooked3 to 4 days3 months
Fish, Uncooked1 to 2 days3 to 8 month
Frosting, Canned1 week3 months
Garlic1 to 2 weeks6 months
Gingerroot1 to 2 weeks4 months
Grapes1 week12 months
Green Beans3 to 4 days12 months
Green Onions1 to 2 weeks4 months
Ground Beef, Cooked3 to 4 days3 months
Ground Beef, Uncooked1 to 2 days4 months
Half-and-Half3 to 4 days3 months
Hard Cheese (cheddar), Opened3 to 4 weeks9 months
Hot Dogs, Opened1 week2 months
Hot Dogs, Unopened2 weeks2 months
Jams6 months6 months
Jellies6 months6 months
Ketchup6 monthsIndefinitely
Leftovers3 to 4 days3 to 4 months
Lettuce3 to 4 days6 months
Lunch Meat, Opened3 to 5 days2 months
Lunch Meat, Unopened2 weeks2 months
Maple Syrup12 monthsIndefinitely
Margarine6 months12 months
Mayo2 months3 months
Melons3 to 4 days6 months
Milk1 week6 months
Muffins1 week3 months
Mushrooms2 to 3 days12 months
Mustard12 months12 months
Okra2 to 3 days6 months
Olives2 weeks6 months
Onion2 months6 months
Orange Juice, Opened7 to 10 days8 to 12 months
Parsley7 days12 months
Peaches3 to 4 days6 to 8 months
Pickles1 to 2 weeks6 months
Pie3 to 4 days6 months
Pork Roast, Chops or Ribs, Uncooked3 to 5 days4 to 6 months
Processed Cheese Slices1 to 2 months3 months
Radishes10 to 14 days3 months
Ribs Uncooked3 to 5 days4 to 6 months
Rolls1 week3 months
Rutabagas2 weeks10 months
Salad Dressing3 months6 months
Salsa1 month4 months
Sausage, Uncooked1 to 2 days2 months
Shredded Cheese1 month3 months
Shrimp, Cooked3 to 4 days3 months
Shrimp, Uncooked1 to 2 days7 months
Soft Cheese (brie)1 week6 months
Soup or Stew3 to 4 days3 months
Sour Cream1 to 3 weeks2 months
Soy Milk1 week3 months
Spaghetti Sauce4 days6 months
Spinach1 to 2 days1 month
Steaks Uncooked3 to 5 days6 months
Tofu1 week3 months
Tomatoes2 to 3 days12 months
Tortillas4 to 7 days2 months
Turnips2 weeks6 months
Whipped Cream1 day3 months
Whipped Topping1 to 2 weeks3 months
Whipping Cream1 month4 months
Yogurt1 to 2 weeks2 months
Zucchini4 to 5 days3 months