How To Meal Prep: The Ultimate Guide

There are so many different ways to meal prep. Meal prep can be anything from pre-roasting enough veggies for the week to cooking everything for the whole week ahead of time, to cooking everything + proportioning it ahead of time. What *type* of meal prep works best for you depends on a ton of factors such as: 

  • Your budget 
  • How much time you want to spend cooking during the week 
  • How much you like cooking  
  • How much fridge + freezer space you have 
  • What you want to eat [unfortunately some foods just aren’t great to be made ahead of  time +need to be made the day of]
  • How much variety you want + need 

This guide will give you 5 meal prep options for a wide range of preferences. Test different ways to *prep* + find which option serves you most! 

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Sometimes we have weeks where we literally just have no time… or maybe you just don’t like cooking or you’re living in a dorm + don’t have access to the equipment needed to cook a lot. This is where *no prep meal prep* comes in. While this option can sometimes be a bit more expensive than buying the ingredients, sometimes the convenience is worth it!

This Walmart Grocery Haul is a great guide I like to use for a week’s worth of meals that can all be purchased at Walmart! 

Other staples that I love to keep on hand for when life gets unexpectedly crazy – all of  these can easily be combined for a balanced meal at any time + don’t go bad sitting in my pantry or fridge 

  • Store-bought rotisserie chicken [these are pre-cooked/seasoned + only $5-6, which will last you a week]
  • Canned meats — tuna, crab, salmon, chicken
  • Pre-marinated tofu 
  • Canned beans 
  • Hard-boiled eggs 
  • Microwavable rice 
  • Frozen veggies — these only take 1-2 minutes to microwave : )

This can be great if you want to buy in bulk, prep way ahead of time, + have very minimal cooking required for the following weeks. These recipes are all those that can be prepped, packaged + frozen until you’re ready to eat them + can be lifesavers during those busy exam seasons. 

Materials Needed: 

  • Freezer space 
  • Crockpot or Instant Pot 
  • Basic kitchen essentials [cutting board, knives, etc] 
  • Gallon size Ziplock bags 
  • Sharpie for labeling 

Prep Time: 2-3 hours for 5-6 weeks of dinners! 

Pros + Cons:

  • Pro: Buy in bulk! Save $$ 
  • Pro: Meals can be stored in the freezer until use [save them for when you’re tight on time]
  • Pro: *Cooking* after prep is done just involves defrosting + placing in the slow-cooker 
  • Con: Requires a good amount of freezer space 
  • Con: Somewhat limited in what you can make with this method [lots of  soups/shredded meat dishes ; )]

These are two of my favorite tried + tested plans [with grocery lists!]. If you search *Freezer Meal Prep* you’ll find tons more:

This method is perfect for you if you’re not a huge fan of reheated foods, want to eat things that spoil quickly [like seafood!], or want the flexibility to change your meals around mid-week. With this option, how much you prep is up to you! That can look like:

  • Meal prepping all of your breakfasts + lunches, but leaving dinner un-prepped
  • Pre-chopping  your ingredients so they’re ready to be cooked
  • Roasting a pan of veggies + making a ton of rice on a Sunday + pairing that with your favorite protein.

This option can be a great way to get started with meal prep + save you some time if you’ve never done it before… + it makes meal prep less intimidating!

This method is ideal if you want to cook, but don’t have time during the week. It’s also conducive to trying more recipes than freezer meal prep allows. With this method, you cook + portion everything in one day so that after that, you can just grab your meal + go! There are so many options for this but below are some ideas: 

Breakfast:

  • Try a recipe from 14 breakfast eats folder… everything from matcha banana pancakes to freezer-friendly whole-grain waffles ; )
  • Hard-boil eggs + pair it with a single-serve yogurt 
  • Make egg muffins + pair them with a piece of toast or a bagel 

Lunch + Dinner: 

  • Mason jar salads… here are some great ideas: 21 salads in a jar!
  • Try a recipe from this folder… including CHAARG meal plan recipes!
  • Grab a freezer prep meal

If you want to take it a step further, you can also look into meal planning. This can be great for a few reasons: 

  • Do all your recipe searching ahead of time — this can take so long if you’re just browsing every week
  • Optimize your schedule so that you can buy ingredients in bulk that you’ll use in multiple weeks 
  • You can color-code your schedule or bookmark recipes so you can quickly find them 
  • If you REALLY want to go all out, you can calculate how much you need of each ingredient + make your weekly grocery lists ahead of time 

Here are a few one-week meal plans:

  • I love this one for TJ’s: $40 Trader Joe’s Shopping List For A Week Of Healthy Meals
  • I made this meal plan during a semester in undergrad for planning recipes each week, + color-coded them based on the blog I found the recipe on… so that I could easily look it up!
  • This is a more complicated plan I made. This combines utilizes the freezer meal prep plans mentioned above + breaks down my grocery lists for each week. Keep in mind this was based on my current inventory at the time so don’t follow it exactly, but it can be used as a template for how to set up your own if you wish! 

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If you got through this entire meal prep guide — good for you : ) Now, it’s time to take action + meal prep some nourishing food!  Let us know which meal prep option is your fav! Tag @CHAARG + #CHAARGeats!

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