View looking out from inside of refrigerator as a Black man takes out healthy packed lunch in container

Meal prepping has become increasingly popular over the last few years. To some it intimidates; to others it liberates. Meal prepping is simply the act of taking a few hours to prep several meals in advance. Some prepare meals for the upcoming week while others create meals that can be frozen and eaten at a later time. For the purpose of this article, we’ll be focusing on weekly meal prep to help take the guesswork out of what’s for lunch or dinner. Let’s begin!

Brainstorm Meal Ideas

The key to meal prepping is to have a plan. Start your meal prepping with ideas on what you want to make. If you are at a loss, start by Googling “meal prep ideas” or search on Pinterest for inspiration. You can even find a library of healthy recipes here on our website. Jot down ideas you like and categorize your list into breakfast, lunch and dinner. Don’t feel like you have to do all three — if you only want to prep lunch or dinner, go for it! Also, keep it simple. Try to plan for a well-rounded meal: protein, vegetables/fruit and a whole grain. By taking some time to write down what meals you are going to prep, you will take the guesswork out of your planning. 

Map Out Meals

Now that you know what you want to prep, take a look at the calendar. Each day during the week, write down what meal you’ll be eating. This will help you figure out quantities for your grocery shopping. Also, it will help you figure out what to cook and when. Remember, leftovers are a cook’s best friend! 

Make a List & Go Grocery Shopping

You have brainstormed and planned meals, now it’s time to get shopping! Look at the menu you have drafted and write down the ingredients you need. Create different columns for categories to help shorten your time at the grocery store. Start with these categories, adjust as needed and then go shopping:

  • Fresh Produce
  • Dairy
  • Meat/Poultry/Seafood
  • Deli
  • Frozen
  • Inner Aisles – Condiments, Canned, Bread

Tip: The following foods are great for meal prepping:

Carbs: Brown Rice, Quinoa, Lentils, Legumes, Whole Wheat Pasta

Protein: Chicken, Turkey, Lean Ground Beef/Steak, Tuna, Eggs, Fish

Veggies: Broccoli, Cauliflower, Spinach, Spring Mix, Green Beans, Asparagus, Cucumbers, Brussels Sprouts, Kale, Mushrooms, Carrots, Bell Peppers, Sweet Potato (Carb), Spaghetti Squash (Carb)

Prep for Preppin’

Cleaning out your refrigerator before you go to the grocery store is ideal. If you need to do it after, no worries — just do it before you start unloading.

Once you start unloading groceries, set aside the items you need for your meal prep. Wash and chop your produce as needed. Measure out ingredients. Get out your cooking appliances and supplies and get your meal prep containers ready.

Start Cooking!

You have a plan, your grocery shopping is done and you’re ready to get cooking! Set aside about three hours on your meal prep day — Saturday or Sunday suggested. Then, consider another 1.5 hours mid-week. Don’t forget to have fun! Turn on your favorite music channel or podcast and enjoy your ‘alone’ time. 

Don’t be afraid to mess up — sometimes the best meals are made when something didn’t go as planned. As you prep more and more, you’ll start to have favorite meals you rotate. Here are some ideas to get you started:

  • Slow cooker chicken for salad toppings, tacos, BBQ chicken sandwiches
  • Protein bowls: Roasted vegetables and your choice of protein with brown rice
  • Salads: Greens, chopped vegetables, protein of choice, hard-boiled eggs, black beans, dressing
  • Soups and chili

Benjamin Franklin said, “If you fail to plan, you plan to fail!” Start simple and grow your meal plans little by little. The more you meal prep, the easier it will be. Have fun while cooking and feel good about the fact that you are creating healthy, delicious meals for you and your loved ones.

For delicious, healthy recipes, visit our recipes page, and for more meal prepping tips, read “Meal Prep Like a Pro.”