How to Cook Meals for a Week: Meal Prep Tips | Foodal

Vertical image of three glass containers filled with portioned rice, veggies, and chicken, with text in the middle and on the bottom of the image. Do you wish you could spend less clock time and money dining out, but you feel like you don ’ t have the time to cook dinner every night, or prepare a healthy lunch before work each good morning ?
Vertical image of three glass containers filled with portioned rice, veggies, and chicken, with text in the middle and on the bottom of the image.
Meal prepping may be barely what you ’ re looking for !

here ’ s what ’ mho to come in this article :

What Is Meal Prepping?

While there are many ways to do it, meal prepping is simply a process of prepping and cooking all ( or most ) of your dishes for the week on one day, normally a Sunday or whatever day of the week you tend to have the most exempt meter .
By getting everything ready to go ahead of time, you don ’ t have to worry about preparing anything throughout the week. rather, you ’ ll have a electric refrigerator full of either person ingredients, or dispatch recipes, that are quick to go .

Why Should You Cook Meals for the Week?

While it may seem daunting at first, once you get the hang of it, you ’ ll see that cooking what you eat for the week has many benefits .
Vertical image of a stack of portioned dinners in containers with lids.
Prepping your food in boost is :


Cooking at home is about always importantly cheaper than going out to eat or ordering takeout .
It can besides save you money by helping you to plan what you eat based on food you already have on hand at home, or whatever ’ s on sale that workweek .
And you can save even more if you buy items in bulk, and learn to batch cook .

A Time-Saver

By investing good an hour or two on a Sunday prepping your meals, you ’ ll have more time at night to spend with kin and friends, or to catch up on your favorite shows .
busy days can leave you feeling tired and stressed, and for many of us, the survive thing you want to do is an extensive series of cooking tasks at the end of a long workday .
Carving out a time period of time when you know you ’ ll be dislodge each week to prep for the workweek ahead frees you up to make more time for yourself on busier days, and to do those things that you enjoy most .
Plus, it doesn ’ t mean time wasted running to the grocery store memory multiple times per week, waiting in credit line for takeout, or sitting at a restaurant when you ’ five hundred prefer to be at family or doing other things .


If you ’ re trying to lose slant or simply eat healthier, one of the best ways to do it is by cooking more meals at home .
This way, you have broad see over the types and amounts of ingredients going into your food .
Portioning out your meals into individual containers that are fix to serve can besides help with part master .
You don ’ t need any fondness equipment for your meal homework. however, I do recommend investing in at least one time-saving appliance such as a slow cooker, electric pressure cooker such as an Instant Pot, or a rice cooker .
here are some of the essential tools and supplies that you should plan to have on hand to make meal prep a breeze :

  • Large baking sheet for roasting vegetables and making sheet-pan meals
  • Large saucepan for cooking big batches of grains
  • Large soup pot
  • One or two chef’s knives – ideally, one for prepping raw meat and another for vegetables and no-cook items, so you won’t have to stop to do dishes
  • Two cutting boards, with one designated for cutting raw meat and poultry, another for vegetables and no-cook items
  • Parchment paper for roasting and baking
  • Glass food storage containers in a variety of sizes, like these [easyazon_link identifier=”B07HCRV5JX” locale=”US” tag=”foodal02-20″]from Amazon[/easyazon_link]
  • Plastic food storage for on-the-go snack packs
  • Mason jars in a variety of sizes
  • Meat thermometer

What Foods Are Best for Meal Prep?

While most foods can be used in meal homework, there are some that exercise specially good. You can use this list as a derail off sharpen for meal plan .

  • Whole Fruits: apples, pears, oranges, plums, peaches, cherries, bananas
  • Firm Fresh Vegetables: carrots, cauliflower, broccoli, Brussels sprouts, bell peppers, hot peppers, cabbage, jicama, celery
  • Frozen Vegetables: broccoli, corn, peas, cauliflower (and cauliflower rice), carrots, Brussels sprouts, butternut squash, peppers, edamame, and mixed veggies
  • Hardier Leafy Greens: kale, green leaf lettuce, romaine lettuce
  • Starchy Vegetables: potatoes, sweet potatoes, winter squash
  • Whole Grains: quinoa, brown rice, farro, einkorn, buckwheat, barley, spelt
  • Pulses: lentils, beans, chickpeas, peas
  • Nuts and Seeds: almonds, walnuts, pecans, cashews, pumpkin seeds, sesame seeds, chia seeds, flax seeds
  • Lean Proteins: chicken, ground turkey, lean cuts of beef and pork, tofu, seafood (fresh or frozen), eggs, Greek yogurt, part-skim cheese

How to Cook Meals for One Week Ahead of Time

now that you ’ re convinced that preparing meals ahead of prison term is worth it ( and I hope you are by now ! ), let ’ s speak about how to actually do it .
Horizontal image of a meal planner notebook next to a pen, a water bottle, an apple, and small wooden logs on a table.
There are four basic steps to cooking everything that you ’ ll eat for the week :

  1. Pick a day for prepping
  2. Make a plan
  3. Create a grocery list and go shopping, or place a delivery order
  4. Start prepping

Below, I ’ ll walk you through each step with tips and tricks for making the march deoxyadenosine monophosphate efficient as possible .
After a few weeks of meal prepping, chances are you ’ ll find your own rhythm, and hang into a traffic pattern that works best for your schedule, life style, and eating style .

Step 1 – Pick a Day

Before you start planning and fudge, the foremost gradation is to figure out the best day for you to prep everything .
Sundays are popular, particularly if you have a Monday-Friday workweek. however, if you work on an alternate schedule, or are out of town a draw on weekends, Monday night might work well for you .
The key is to be reproducible with the sidereal day you choose if you can. This will be helpful in your pursuit to make meal homework become a habit .
It can besides help to use your homework time as an opportunity to get caught up on your favored shows or podcasts .
My kitchen is overt to the living room, so Sunday afternoons or evenings have become my time to turn on Netflix, and get to chopping and cook .

Step 2 – Make a Meal Plan

Before you can start cook, you need to make a plan. What are you going to make, and how much food do you need ?
Start by deciding how many meals you need to make that workweek .
How many people live in your family, and who ’ mho going to be home when ? Do you want to prep for all three dishes each day ? Or just lunches and dinners ?
possibly you ’ re going out to eat one night, or lunch is already covered on another day. Plans can sometimes change, but deduct these meals from your overall count .
last, for how many days in a rowing are you okay with eating the same exact dish ? personal preferences vary when it comes to leftovers, and this aspect may require a bit of trial and error for you to figure out what works .
All of these factors will help you figure out how much food to prep. then, once you know how many meals you ’ ll motivation, it ’ south time to figure out what you ’ re going to make .
When I ’ thousand looking for recipes, I try to pick ones that have a few ingredients in common, to make my meal homework even easier. Pair recipes that can be baked or roasted in the oven at the same temperature, if you can .
It besides helps to choose one or two recipes that can be made in a behind cooker or Instant Pot, for total public toilet so you can set it and forget it .
There are lots of ways to find inhalation for what to prepare. here are some of my go-to ’ randomness :

Look at What You Already Have

I about always start by taking a look at what I already have in my pantry, electric refrigerator, and deep-freeze .
Looks like there are lots of dried beans that I bought a while ago ? Those are on the menu this workweek .
It helps to follow the First In First Out ( FIFO ) system when organizing your electric refrigerator, deep-freeze, and cabinets, so you can tell what you need to use up first base, before it expires .
When I have a few ingredients in mind that I know I want to use, this helps to narrow down my recipe search .

Check Pinterest and Other Saved Recipes or Cookbooks

Take a look at the recipes that you ’ ve already saved, or flip through your cookbooks to find try on and true favorites, ampere well as newfangled options .
It helps if your Pinterest boards ( or bookmark lists ) are well-organized and labeled with the types of recipes that are on them. Need a little inspiration ? Check out Foodal ’ mho boards on Pinterest ( hypertext transfer protocol : // ) !

Explore Recipe Websites and Blogs

Check out the latest recipes on your front-runner websites and blogs for inspiration .
many of these sites, like Foodal, besides have recipe indexes ( hypertext transfer protocol : // ) that make it easily to narrow down your search based on the component, type of cuisine, or the recipe category that you ’ rhenium looking for .
monthly fudge magazines or weekly electronic mail newsletters can provide inspiration excessively .

Recreate Restaurant Dishes and Feature Favorite Foods

rather than spending money going out to eat or ordering in, try to recreate your front-runner restaurant meals at home, or start with one of your darling foods or ingredients in mind, and build out a menu from there .
return key to family favorites, put a healthy spin on comforting dishes, and look back to memorable vacations and particular family meals for fresh ideas .

Step 3 – Make a Grocery List and Shop

now that you have your recipes picked out, it ’ second clock time to make your grocery store list !
I ’ meter all about efficiency, so I like to organize my list in the order of where certain ingredients are in the storehouse .
For case, I list all the produce items together, followed by shelf-stable items found in the middle aisles, and last meats, dairy products, and eggs, which are on the opposition english of my local grocery store storehouse from the produce department .
Horizontal image of a woman holding a grocery list and pushing a red grocery cart filled with fresh produce.

While you don ’ t have to get that specific, it does help to at least keep your list organized by the grocery store department so that you won ’ thymine have to constantly go back to grab things .
To skip an extra errand, or if going yourself to the grocery store international relations and security network ’ deoxythymidine monophosphate possible, grocery store manner of speaking services are another excellent time-saver, and you can typically pick a delivery window that ’ s the most commodious for you .
A sample grocery list could be organized in a way that looks something like this :

  • Produce
  • Meat/Poultry/Seafood
  • Bakery
  • Dairy and Eggs
  • Frozen
  • Bulk Bins
  • Everything Else

One final examination tap when making your list :
Make a note of any ingredients that you can substitute with a similar detail, if something is unavailable or if it ’ south on sale .
When I have clock time, I like to check for coupons and look for prices in grocery store flyers to do a little comparison shop and find the best deals before I go. But sometimes there just isn ’ thymine time for this .
Being compromising allows me to make good choices at the storehouse – if I planned to cook chicken but I realize that gripe is on sale for a very dear price or I find an empty spot on the shelf, I might make a last-minute barter, equally long as it ’ mho one that can work as a substitute in the recipes I have planned .
Using an on-line manner of speaking service will typically give you the ability to select substitutions ahead of time, or a shopper will contact you about any replacements. You can order in promote, select a convenient clock to get your groceries delivered, or target an orderliness that will be ready for pickup at a adjust time – all of which can besides help you to save time and money .

Step 4 – Start Prepping!

once you have your meals planned and your kitchen is stocked, it ’ south time to start prepping and cooking !
Vertical image of empty glass jars in various sizes, glass bowls in various sizes, and containers with lids.
There are three chief methods that you can use to go about this. It ’ s up to you to determine which one works best, and this may vary from week to week .
I normally use a blend of methods, depending on the recipes I ’ m seduce and what my agenda looks like that week. If you ’ re modern to meal prepping, it can be helpful to try them all out and find a mix that works best for your life style .

1. Batch Cooking

If you ’ re looking to save money and spend the least total of prison term fudge, then batch cook is for you !
There are two ways that you can utilize this method :
Mix and Match
The foremost is to cook large batches of individual ingredients to mix and match throughout the week. This works well with recipes like salads and grain bowl .
If you thrive on variety, you ’ ll credibly enjoy this option .
Large Batch
Another option is to cook boastfully batches of precisely a few recipes to eat throughout the week, such as chili, enchilada, and pasta bakes .
Doing this normally creates leftovers, which can be frozen in individual portions that can easily be thawed and reheated late .
If you ’ re not a fan of casseroles in general, or leftovers on repeat without much kind, this might not be the best choice for you .

2. Prep Ingredients and Cook Later

There are besides time when it makes more sense to prep your ingredients ahead of time, but not cook and assemble them good away .
Examples of when this method may be best include :

  • Preparing a recipe that is best when assembled, cooked, and eaten on the same day.
  • If you won’t be cooking a particular dish until the end of the week, and some of the ingredients are likely to go bad if you assemble them too far in advance (especially raw meat/fish and eggs).
  • If there simply isn’t enough time to prep and cook all your recipes on your designated prep day that week.

For this method, you ’ ll do all the homework ferment for a recipe in advance, such as chopping vegetables, making sauces, and marinating your proteins. then, you store each detail individually, and meet and cook on the night when you need it .

A Note of Caution:

Play close care to how long you ’ ve had sensitive kernel in the electric refrigerator. Refrigerated uncooked kernel is only safe to consume for up to 3 days .
If you don ’ deoxythymidine monophosphate design to use the kernel that you ’ ve purchased or prepped until later in the workweek, I recommend either cooking it ahead of prison term, or storing it in the deep-freeze and thawing it in the electric refrigerator the night before cook .
Some recipes can even be assembled a night ahead of fourth dimension, such as lasagna .
however, I don ’ thyroxine recommend assembling them excessively army for the liberation of rwanda in boost that won ’ thyroxine be cooked until the end of the workweek, for food quality and safety reasons .

3. Cook and Portion Out Meals

You can besides choose to do all of the recipe homework, forum, and cooking in one day .
I highly recommend this option for when you are prepping lunches, breakfasts, or recipes where only some of the ingredients are cooked, such as fresh green salads with bake chicken on top .
This method is similar to mix-and-match batch fudge, but rather of making bad batches of just a few ingredients as described above, you ’ ll be following more specific recipes that may not have as many ingredients that overlap with one another .
however, for time-saving and budget purposes, I placid recommend trying to use the like granulate or protein in more than one recipe .

General Steps for Prepping and Cooking Meals

here ’ s a general flow that you can follow for prepping meals ahead of time. Your process may look slenderly different, depending on the type of recipes you ’ ra make .
Vertical image of a portioned salad in a glass bowl next to a bowl of spinach, dressing, pomegranate seeds, and orange slices.
Review these steps, and well customize to whatever recipe you will decide to use .

Step 1 – Review the Recipes

Before you start chopping and cook, review your recipes cautiously. Make note of ones with alike ingredients than can be prepped or cooked in concert, cooking times, and oven temperatures .
besides note recipes that you plan to cook to completion, and those you ’ re going to finish fabrication and cooking for subsequently in the week .
If you are cooking everything on the like day, then you ’ ll decidedly want to make note of whether any recipes require prep the day before, such as soaking beans or marinating meats .

Step 2 – Measure and Cook Starches and Legumes

As grains, potatoes, beans, and lentils can often take the longest to cook, I like to start them first. This footfall can besides include soaking beans or lentils nightlong, anterior to cook .
Boil and cool any pasta you may need, for broil casseroles or pasta salads .

Step 3 – Chop Vegetables and Measure Ingredients

adjacent, start chopping your vegetables, mincing garlic, and measuring out other ingredients .
Unless you plan to cook the vegetables all at once, I recommend keeping the measured ingredients grouped together by recipe to avoid confusion .

Step 4 – Start with Slow Cooker and Pressure Cooker Meals

If your meal plan includes a Crock-Pot or clamant Pot recipe, start those first so they can cook away while you work on your other recipes that can be finished more quickly .

Step 5 – Cook Proteins and Vegetables

next, cook the proteins and vegetables .
Depending on your recipes, you may be able to cook them in batches. Just make indisputable to put vegetables and proteins that have different cook times on offprint baking sheets .
If you only have one bake sail, you can either cook the proteins/vegetables that take longest to cook first base, or keep them on divide sides of a bombastic bake sheet so it ’ south easy to promptly transfer the cooked ingredients to a container .

Step 6 – Prepare Sauces

While your basis ingredients are cooking, this is a good prison term to prep any sauces, dressings, or marinades you might need .
Note : If you plan to cook all your proteins on the same day, then you may want to marinate them the day before. Otherwise, you can marinate on your homework day, and finish assemble and cooking on the night when you plan to eat the marinade protein serve .
This can besides be a good time to get a head starting signal on doing the dishes .

Step 7 – Assemble Mixed Dishes and Cook

If you want to cook all of your meals ahead of meter, then the following step is to actually assemble all of your prepped ingredients .
For exemplar, if you are making a veggie enchilada casserole, this step would include layering all the prepped ingredients .
After everything is assembled, it ’ south time to cook your meals, either on the stave or in the oven, depending on the recipe.

Of course, you can besides stop here and finish assembling and/or cooking when you are quick to finish making the recipe for dinner during the week. In those cases, make certain all your food has cooled to board temperature before storing in the electric refrigerator .

Step 8 – Portion Out and Store

once your meals are cooked, you have two options :

  1. Cool and then store the full meal in a large container (for example, you’d put a covered pan of lasagna in the fridge).
  2. Portion out each meal so that each container has one serving in it (for example, one slice of lasagna in each small container). While this takes up more room in the fridge, and requires more containers, it’s a convenient option – especially for packed lunches.

About Kelli McGrane, MS, RD

Kelli McGrane is a Denver-based record dietician with a lifelong love of food. She holds undergraduate and chief ’ sulfur degrees in nutrition skill from Boston University. As a registered dietician, she believes in the importance of food to nourish not only your body, but your soul vitamin a well. nutrition is identical personal, and you won ’ t find any food rules here, early than to just enjoy what you eat .

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