The term “meal prep” has become a common and well-known term in today’s society. While it has become well-known, the details of meal prepping are still lost to many people. It can seem confusing if you only have a vague idea of what it is, but it is actually worth it to learn the particulars.
Meal prepping saves time, eliminates some stress, saves money and ensures that you always have a plan for the coming meal. This beginner meal prep ideas guide goes over the reasons you should meal prep, includes recipes, has a step by step guide for how to prepare meals, and offers some bonus meal prepping tips.
If you’re currently skeptical about meal prepping, this guide should change your mind quickly. Once you realize how easy and beneficial it is, you’ll be all for this life hack. First things first, you must know the reasons to begin meal prepping.
Reasons to Meal Prep
1. Eliminates Meal Time Stress
At the end of a long day, there is nothing worse than trying to come up with a plan when dinner time is already coming around. By then, you’re ready to relax and, if you have kids, they might be cranky, too. You may also get stressed trying to prepare the meal by chopping vegetables and doing other tedious things before dinner.
By meal prepping, you’ll find that you don’t have any of that stress before dinner. You’ll already have a plan for dinner, and you won’t have to do any of the necessary prep work.
2. Allows For Following a Stricter Grocery Budget
Meal prepping allows you to plan exactly how much money you will be spending on each item, and you’ll be able to use the same ingredient for two or more recipes. When planning, plan meals that use at least one similar ingredient to keep the budget down.
3. People Who Meal Prep Tend to Eat Healthier
When you are rushing to make dinner after work, you may grab the easiest, quickest option. Unfortunately, this isn’t always a healthy choice. With meal prepping, you have healthy, delicious recipes ready to go when you get home from work. This ensures you are eating healthy, as long as you planned healthy recipes in advance.
This same concept goes for lunchtime, too, because if you don’t have a delicious lunch planned and packed for work, you may be more likely to eat fast food or something from a vending machine. These options lack nutrients and are full of ingredients that aren’t very good for you. If you prepare meals ahead, however, you will be more likely to eat the healthy option instead.
4. Saves Time
You won’t be spending as much time making breakfast, lunch, and dinner if you prep ahead of time. This allows you to have more time after work, on your lunch break, or first thing in the morning.
Meal Prep Ideas
- Make-ahead freezer breakfast burritos. – Cut potatoes into cubes and fry on the stove or roast in the oven, then cook breakfast sausage or bacon. Scramble some eggs, and chop some vegetables. Put all ingredients on a tortilla, top with shredded cheese, roll them up, and wrap in saran wrap. Put these in the freezer until you are ready to eat, unwrap it, and microwave for 3 to 4 minutes, flipping once every minute.
- Fruit and yogurt with granola – For this, you will need a container with three spots. Put fruit in one spot, yogurt in the second, and the granola in the third spot. When it’s time to eat, combine them all and you’re ready to eat.
- Pancake and fruit breakfast bowl – cook pancakes ahead of time and put into a container that has two separate spots for food. Put a pancake or 2 in one spot, and fruit in the other.
- Baked omelet muffins – Whip eggs until well combined, then mix in whatever veggies or meat you desire. Preheat oven to 350 degrees, grease the inside of a muffin tin, pour in the egg mixture and bake for 20 to 25 minutes.
- Avocado and Chicken Wrap – Cook chicken on the stovetop and then cube or shred it. Add 1/4 cup sour cream (or greek yogurt) with 1 1/2 t garlic salt, 1/2 t pepper, 2 t lime juice, 1/4 c mayo, and stir into the chicken well. Cut and cube your avocado the day before. When it’s time to eat you simply put the chicken mixture on your tortilla, put the avocado on it, and then roll it up.
- Mason jar salad – Chop ham or turkey and add it to the mason jar. Next, chop any vegetables you want in your salad, and add those to the jar. Sprinkle cheese and then add lettuce until you have filled 3/4 of the jar. Shake the jar to mix well and top off with more lettuce or other vegetables. When it’s time to eat, open the jar, add your dressing, and enjoy.
- Soup – Any kind can be made ahead and frozen or refrigerated. You can switch this recipe up often.
- Chicken tacos – Add 8 chicken breasts to a slow cooker and pour one jar of salsa overtop. Cook on low for 6 hours. Add to tortillas or taco shells, top with your favorite taco toppings.
- Shredded chicken salad – Ahead of time, chop lettuce and vegetables for a salad. If you’d like, you could boil a couple of eggs to top it off. The morning of, add 8 chicken breasts to a slow cooker and add 1 cup of chicken or vegetable broth. Cook for 6 hours on low. Allow to slightly cool, and then add it to the salad mixture. Top with your favorite dressing.
- Burrito bowls – Begin cooking 4 cups of rice. While the rice cooks, brown 1 pound of ground beef, add taco seasoning and follow directions on the package. When the rice and the beef are finished, allow them to cool. Cook corn and black beans and then allow those to cool. Add all of this to a bowel. When it is time to eat, heat for a couple of minutes in the microwave and then top with cheese, salsa, and chopped green onion.
- Protein bars (homemade or store bought)
- String cheese
- Apple slices with peanut butter
- Tuna salad with crackers
- Celery and peanut butter
- Vegetables and hummus
How to Meal Prep
Those who have been meal prepping for a while and have a solid routine down know what tasks should be done and the order in which to do them. Luckily, some are willing to share those meal prep ideas with the rest of us.
Step One: Plan Your Meals and Grocery Shop
You must know what you will be eating throughout the week if you want to effectively prep. Meal planning ahead of time is probably the most important step. Once you have your plan, you can go grocery shopping to ensure you have all the necessary ingredients.
Step Two: Preheat The Oven
Preheat your oven based on the temperature required for the meal you are making.
Step Three: Begin Browning Meat
When meal prepping, you brown any required meat ahead of time, as well. By starting it at the beginning of the process, you’re ensuring that it is ready on time.
Step Four: Chop The Veggies
If your meal requires any vegetables, this is the time to chop them. By doing it while your oven is preheating and your meat is browning on the stove, you will be utilizing your time wisely.
Step Five: Roast Vegetables
Roasted vegetables are perfect for meal prepping because you can roast them ahead of time.
Step Six: Bake Any Other Necessary Foods
If a recipe says to bake any portion of the dish before combining and freezing or refrigerating, now is the time to do that.
Step Seven: Begin Distributing Food to Dishes
This is where you will combine the ingredients for each recipe. You’ll put them all together, cover the container, and then store it in the freezer or refrigerator.
Step Eight: Easily Cook The Meal
When it is time to have that meal, you simply pull it out of the freezer in time for it to thaw and then put it in the oven, microwave, or on the stove (however it is recommended in the recipe) to cook it. No preparation needed!
Meal Prep Tips
There are many tried and true tips that have been determined over time, one tip being to only prepare only certain ingredients instead of the entire recipe. This would save time on your meal-prepping day and, although it wouldn’t be as simple as throwing the meal in the oven, it would still save some time before dinner.
It is recommended that if you do this method, you chop all fruits, vegetables, and potatoes, and then brown all meat ahead of time. These are the cooking tasks that take the most time.
Another tip is to let all of the food cool before covering the container. This prevents the vegetables from getting soggy.
A third tip is to look for the slow cooker, instant pot, one pot, or sheet pan recipes. The reason for this is that it will save you time and clean-up both before and after the meal. Recipes that only use one dish for cooking can also be combined in the same container for storing, too.
Some other meal prepping tips include:
- Double the recipes that you know you love
- Don’t choose a bunch of time-consuming recipes for the same week
- Plan at least a week in advance so you can make sure you have all the ingredients
One final tip is to enlist the help of someone you enjoy spending time with. By having help with meal prepping, you’ll get it done more quickly and it’ll be a more enjoyable process.
Final Thoughts On a Beginner Meal Prep Ideas Guide
Whether you choose to meal prep for an entire week at once, or if you choose to prepare meals only one day in advance, you are likely to see the benefits instantly. You’ll find yourself being less stress at meal times, eating healthier, and saving money.
Not only does meal prepping have those benefits, but you can make delicious recipes, too. Many recipes that you already cook on a regular basis can be at least partially prepared ahead of time, so think about those ones when you are first beginning. Meal prepping is so beneficial and, if you follow this meal prep ideas guide, it will be easy, as well.