For something that’s supposed to save you time and money, healthy meal prep can seem a little intimidating. Lucky for you, we’ve put together a comprehensive guide to help you get started! Why meal prep? Let’s talk about the benefits:
- You’ll save tons of time. Instead of slaving for hours over dinner every single day, you can just pop a pre-made meal in the oven and call it a day!
- You’ll save money. Eating healthy doesn’t have to hurt your wallet! When you plan all of your meals in advance and grocery shop specifically for those meals, you won’t be wasting your money on food items that just sit in your fridge and don’t get used. Healthy meal prep ensures that you stay on your budget and eliminates unnecessary spending!
- You’ll eat much healthier. If you’re like me, some days you just feel lazy. Instead of running through the drive-thru or grabbing a bag of chips for a quick snack, you’ll have nutritious meal and snack options that require little to no effort!
What you’ll need
The first thing you’ll need for healthy meal prep is to-go containers! You’ll probably want a variety of sizes and types based on the type of meals that you’re making. Portioned containers are perfect for lunches, while mason jars are great for layered salads or overnight oats. You can then get small plastic containers for dressings, dips, or small snack items.
You’ll want plenty of Ziploc bags to help portion items for super easy healthy meal prep. Use them to store chopped veggies, portioned spices, etc. If you’re looking for a more environmentally friendly option, try reusable silicon bags to store your portions.
The best part of healthy meal prep is the food. Planning ahead is the key to successful meal prep. Before you head to the grocery store, decide what meals you’ll be prepping for each week, and try to choose recipes that overlap on ingredients. In general, you’ll want to include a protein, a veggie, a smart carb, and a healthy fat. Check out this infographic to get an idea of what these terms actually mean!
The trick to cooking clean and healthy meals that actually taste good is to use spices to add flavor to your food. Check out your local grocery store’s spice selection, or even try growing your own fresh spices at home! Spices like rosemary, basil, and garlic powder are versatile across a range of dishes, so they’re a great place to start your collection.
One of the easiest ways to save money while you healthy meal prep is to eat seasonally! You’ll be able to get fresher produce for less when you keep up with what foods are in season! Check out this guide from PopSugar to see what to expect year-round.
Invest in a crockpot
A crockpot will be one of your most valuable tools for healthy meal prep. There are endless recipes out there that require minimal effort and a crockpot! Throw in your ingredients, set a timer, and you’ll have a ready-to-eat meal within hours. See some of our favorite crockpot recipes at the end of this post!
The biggest advantage to healthy meal prep is that it’s a huge time-saver and that means you’ll probably want to keep your meal-prepping time as short as possible! Make a game plan of all the ingredients you need to prepare for the week to make your meal prep go even quicker. Try cooking all of your veggies at once, or throw together salads while you wait for a meal to come out of the oven. By using batch preparation and cooking similar ingredients at the same time, you won’t want to spend your entire day in the kitchen.
Cut up veggies in advance
One hack that will save you tons of time on meal-prep days is to cut up your veggies in advance. When you get home from the grocery store, prepare all of your produce and portion it out in plastic bags or containers. When it’s time to meal prep, you’ll be able to just throw in what you need without any hassle!
Avoid the trap of unhealthy snacking by preparing healthy snacks that you can just grab and eat without any prep. Here are some of our favorites:
- Hard-boiled eggs There’s probably not an easier protein fix than hard-boiled eggs! They’ll last a week in the fridge so prepare a bunch and keep them in a container for an easy grab-and-go snack.
- Sliced apples These last 3-4 days in the fridge, so keep them handy for easy snacking. To keep the slices even fresher, try soaking them in lemon juice before you refrigerate them.
- Cottage cheese This is another great protein fix, but portion sizes are the key to keeping this snack healthy. Portion out a container of store-bought cottage cheese and keep in the fridge for another easy grab-and-go snack. Try adding peaches, peanut butter, or granola for a flavor boost!
I’m sure we’re all sick of hearing about it, but breakfast really is the most important meal of the day! It’s essential to consume the right nutrients for your body to use throughout the day, so make sure you plan easy meals for the morning. Here are some of our favorites:
- Smoothies Portion out your ingredients, throw in a Ziploc bag, and freeze. These will last for forever in the freezer, so feel free to buy your ingredients in bulk to save time and money! In the morning, simply grab one of your portions, throw it in the blender and add milk for a quick breakfast. One of our favorite combinations is a green smoothie with spinach and tons of delicious frozen fruits. For some smoothie inspiration, check out these smoothie recipes!
- Overnight oats These are so yummy and require minimal effort. You’ll need a mason jar, steel-cut oats, milk (you can use dairy, almond, coconut, or soymilk), chia seeds (these are optional), and any other ingredients for flavor. The night before, add 1/2 cup of oats, 1 tbsp of chia seeds, and any fruit or sweetener to your mason jar. Add milk, cover tightly with a lid, and shake until all the ingredients have combined. Refrigerate overnight and it’ll be ready to eat in the morning! Try this apple cinnamon flavor, french toast flavor, or (my personal favorite) chunky monkey oats!
- Egg muffins These are a great way to get in your veggies and protein first thing in the morning, and they’re so easy to make! Sautee some veggies with garlic, portion them into muffin tins with whisked eggs, and bake them for about 15 minutes! You can eat them right out of the oven, refrigerate them for the week (they’ll last four days in the fridge), or freeze them (thaw them the night before you plan to eat)! Here’s a super easy recipe for 50 calorie breakfast muffins!
Avoid the drive-thru by preparing your lunches at the beginning of the week! Portioned containers are perfect for lunches as they keep each part of your meal separate. Try to bring include a water bottle with your lunch for all-day hydration!
- Buddha bowls These meals are super healthy and super easy. Here’s a general outline for how to make them: include a protein, a grain base, fresh greens, veggies, and any extra ingredients for flavor! Literally, all you need to do is prepare the ingredients, throw them in a bowl, and enjoy! Check out this infographic for an easy guide to Buddha bowls!
- Taco salad This is another crazy easy lunch recipe. You’ll need lettuce, ground beef, seasoning, cheese, pico, and any other toppings you might want! The key to a great taco salad is how you season the ground beef. To get an idea of what type of seasonings you should use, check out this recipe!
Moms, we’ve got some groundbreaking news for you: dinner doesn’t have to be a chore! Meal prepping for dinner at the beginning of the week will save you hours throughout the week. Remember to include a protein, veggie, and a healthy carb and fat! Here are some of our favorite recipes!
- Taco Soup This is seriously one of the easiest recipes ever! Feel free to add or leave out any ingredients based on your tastes. Use your crockpot or a large pot for the stove, add all the ingredients, stir, and let it cook! Here’s one of our favorite recipes.
- One-pan veggies This is another super healthy and easy meal that can be personalized based on your taste! Slice up veggies, add spices and oil, and then bake in the oven for a crazy delicious meal. We absolutely love this salmon and veggie recipe!
With this guide, you’ll become a healthy meal prep expert in no time! Try out any of our suggested recipes, and head to Pinterest for tons more great ideas. Let us know in the comments if you have a favorite recipe that we should try out!