12 Meal Prep Superheroes We Love All Under $50

updated Feb 22, 2024
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Credit: Samara Vise

People who say cooking at home requires too much effort might be right on some fronts — however, there’s also a good chance they just haven’t found the right tools to make the process easier. Your culinary arsenal must be fully stocked with quality cookware, cutlery, mixing tools, storage containers, and more in order for meal prep to not feel like a chore. But I bet that even as I was listing those items out, you got to thinking, How much is this going to cost me? If you follow our editors’ recommendations, not that much!

It’s basically our job to test kitchen products around here, and over time, we’ve racked up a growing list of favorites under $50 each. Whether you’re in need of a food processor for your next dip appetizer or a compact lunchbox with separate compartments for all your side dishes, we’ve got you covered. Just check out our meal prep superheroes below to determine which ones will fit best into your process.

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Phew! Your meals for the week are all done, but now you need to store them. Private chef Meredith strongly recommends this 18-piece Pyrex set, which has every size and shape of container you could possibly need. The glass boxes won't warp or absorb smells and colors the way plastic might, plus they come with their own airtight lids. "Even if you’re new to planning the week’s meals in advance, this set will have you prepping like a pro before you know it," she wrote. And, thanks to the containers' clear finish, you'll never lose track of what you have in the fridge.

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This might just be our favorite cutting board ever. We've covered the reBoard numerous times, and former tools editor Riddley even owns three of them, writing, "I find them to be the perfect, medium-sized, lightweight cutting boards... They’re a cinch to clean and even fit nicely in the dishwasher, too." Not only is this must-have highly practical, but it also comes in an array of beachy colors, including coral, sand, and tide. In short, the reBoard one of those rare pieces you'll always reach for no matter what you're making.

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In case you were wondering, yes, food storage is a part of meal prep, regardless of whether you're putting away tomorrow's newly made lunch or tonight's leftovers. And, if you're storing anything in the freezer, you need W&P's freezer tray. It's available in multiple sizes, including this four-cube version. The food-safe silicone releases food without a problem, and the tray's 8-ounce compartments are perfect for batch-cooked eats such as rice, protein, and veggies. Additionally, this product comes with its own lid and sports spill-proof sides. No countertop messes here!

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Mandoline slicers are undeniably useful, but they can take up a lot of counter and drawer space. It's a good thing, then, that Commerce Writer Nic found this handheld version by Joseph Joseph. "Whereas traditional mandolines include a hard plastic piece that you have to stab into food in order to secure it while slicing, this one uses a more versatile silicone accessory that lets you comfortably grip ingredients no matter their shape or size," he wrote. "You can hold it like pincers to grip small or long ingredients such as radishes and carrots, or press it flat against larger items (think: eggplants) to move them against the blade while keeping your fingers safe."

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Williams Sonoma

Food processors come in handy more often than you might think, and you don't have to spend hundreds or sacrifice a ton of space for a good one. Just ask Senior Commerce Editor Ian, who uses this mini processor by Cuisinart. It's just the thing if you're only cooking for one to two people. "I use the chop mode to smooth out chunks of carrot, celery, and onion for sauce bases and sofritos that are super-easy to work with, and the grind function is perfect for hummus, dips, and salsas," he wrote. "I’ve even used it to emulsify mayo and salad dressings!" In fact, there are few things the processor can't grind — an impressive feat considering its compact size.

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If anyone were going to reinvent the reusable plastic bag, it would only make sense for Ziploc to do it. This 4-cup container, part of the aptly named Endurables line, is actually reusable in every sense of the word. You can microwave it, heat it in the oven up to 425 degrees Fahrenheit, store it in the freezer, and clean it in the dishwasher afterward. Nic says his Endurables have stood the test of time. "I filled the Large Pouch with chopped root vegetables that I’ll cook later in the week and used the Medium Container to cook a salmon fillet that tasted great — and, as a bonus — didn’t leave me with any pans to clean," he wrote. The downsides of this product? We failed to find any.

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When you think about the most useful knife in any given kitchen, your mind might immediately picture a chef's knife, because of its versatility. This is fair, but you can't underestimate the power and precision of a good paring knife. Nick, a professional cook and Kitchn contributor, swears by this $8 find from Amazon, writing, "It’s up to nearly any task, and since they’re so cheap, I do things with them that I’d never do with my fancy work knives, like pry open a stubborn can or open some plastic packaging." Aside from slicing through bread and perhaps cutting through tough meats, there's no limit to what you can achieve with this tiny but mighty tool.

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Great Jones

We're sure longtime readers have already heard us rave about Great Jones' Full Steam Duo. It's essentially a pair of food-grade silicone colanders that you can also use as steamers, splatter guards, and trivets. Contributor Stella was skeptical at first but quickly came to love the set. "Because they collapse down to just a few inches for super easy storage (yes, even in those tiny NYC apartment cabinets), I thought they might be a little flimsy when filled with food," she wrote. "(But), I could easily hold nearly two pounds of blanched broccoli with just one hand. The Full Steam didn’t bend, sag, or topple over and spill my veggies to the floor." Although the duo costs $90, you can buy the mini colander on its own for just $40.

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One of the best parts of being an adult is that we get our own lunchboxes. Say goodbye to bulky bags adorned with cartoon characters and unicorns, and say hello to containers like this sleek, stylish bento-inspired kit from W&P. Managing Commerce Editor Tamara says her own lunchbox is cute enough to display as decor, but that's certainly not the only reason she loves it. "I’ve dealt with soggy lunchtime salads for years, and now I’ve finally found a genius solution that keeps my lunch fresh and crisp," she wrote. "With a 4-cup bowl capacity and 2-cup tray capacity, this bento box holds everything and then some." What's more, the box's BPA-free plastic construction is microwave- and dishwasher-safe.

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Pattern Brands
was $35.00

This multifunctional baking set comes with all the basics for whipping up some quick sweet treats. Got a late-night cookie craving? Use the included spatulas to mix your batter and the baking mat to roll out your dough. Stella, a former pastry chef, uses her own set for far more than just baked goods. "What I really fangirl over is not using these tools for baking, but for cooking," she wrote of the heat-resistent set. "I can sauté onions, walk away, forget I left my spatula in the pan, and come back without a worry. Not only will the spatula not be damaged, but it will also be, at most, warm (if heated at all) to the touch." And right now, this useful trio is on sale for under $30!

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Great Jones

Unless you're a total pro in the kitchen who can measure ingredients and seasonings to taste, you need a measuring cup. It's wonderful news, then, that Great Jones just recently released their very first measuring cups. Available in a 2- or 4-cup capacity, the borosilicate glass container sports easy-to-see measurements in ounces, cups, and milliliters. "I have the larger one on my countertop for measuring large amounts of liquids and dry ingredients, such as flour, rice, and sugar," Ian wrote. "I keep the other, smaller measuring cup on my bar cart, where it’s quickly taken on the role of a chic, sleek mixing glass." We're sure you understand why — this cup is a stunner.

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Sure, you can hand-wash salad greens and wait for them to dry, but this salad spinner will do a better job in a fraction of the time. Former Managing Editor Geraldine was initially reluctant to make room for this unitasker, but after dating a chef who used it, she became a full convert. "My favorite way to use the spinner for greens is to wash my arugula, kale, (and) romaine right when I get home from the supermarket or farmers market and then store it all in the spinner until I’m ready to make my salad," she wrote. "This little trick has the bonus of keeping salad greens fresh and crisp longer than if you just put them in the refrigerator right away." You can also use the spinner to rinse and drain other types of produce, as well.