Now that I've been meal prepping regularly for well over two years, I am convinced it is one of the best things you can do for yourself (and your family) to make weekday mealtimes a whole lot easier.
While the ins and outs of meal prep will vary based on your needs, preferences, and schedule, there are some general rules that always apply. Here are the seven things I always do when meal prepping.
1. I assess my schedule for the coming week.
The amount and type of food I meal prep changes week to week based on a few different variables, but namely my schedule. Some weeks I eat dinner at home every night, other weeks I eat dinner out once or twice, and still others I have back-to-back early mornings, meaning I need an easy grab-and-go breakfast option. To make sure my meal prep efforts match up with my needs, it is essential to first assess my schedule for the coming week.
2. I block off at least 30 minutes.
There is no way around it: Meal prep takes time. The exact amount of time depends on what works best for you. But I've learned that the most successful meal prep sessions require blocking off 30 minutes (although preferably one hour) so that I can be 100 percent focused on the task at hand.
3. I make a plan of action.
I'm certain there's nothing that can make meal prep more overwhelming, intimidating, or frustrating than diving into a prep session without having a game plan. That is to say, an ordered list (mental or written) of exactly what I plan to accomplish. It is the first thing I do in every meal prep session. It helps me identify which foods take the longest to cook and the ingredients I'll need. And, most of all, a plan of action keeps me organized and minimizes my time in the kitchen.
Get inspired: How I Meal Prep a Week of Meals for Two in Just 1 Hour
4. I choose recipes that make good leftovers.
When it comes to meal prep, not all recipes are created equal. Since the premise of meal prep is cooking foods now that you can eat throughout the week, one of my top markers for choosing recipes is thinking about if they make really good leftovers.
5. I cook multiple things at a time.
For me, meal prep is all about multitasking. To make the best use of my time, I always make a point to cook multiple items at once. For example, while a tray of chicken thighs are roasting in the oven, I can simmer a pot of quinoa on the stove, and get a pot of hard-boiled eggs going at the same time.
6. I pull out storage containers ahead of time.
There is nothing worse than finishing meal prep only to realize that the storage containers I want to use are already packed full or are dirty and in the dishwasher. This has happened more times than I care to share, but I think I've finally learned my lesson.
7. I make a plan for how to turn my prepped food into meals.
It's a big waste of your time, money, and food when you don't actually eat the food you put the effort into prepping. Even when I don't have an explicit meal plan, I always take a few minutes after meal prepping to think about (and usually write down!) a loose plan for how I'll take advantage of all that food in the coming week.