By Geoff Borro MS RD CSSD and Haley Golich MS RD

Last Updated: 3/17/24

For many of us, the thought of spending hours planning, cutting, and cooking leaves us rejecting the idea of meal prep before we even get started. However, meal prep does not have to be overwhelming or take hours of our time. Rather, it can be an efficient way to help maintain a healthy diet, as well as reduce the stress that often surrounds cooking. Read on for a few suggestions that can help make meal prep work for you.

The best way to be successful is to meal plan before you meal prep.

Before shopping, chopping and cooking, be sure you know which recipes you’re using for which meal. Without a plan, you will spend more time, more money and often end up wasting food. Start with a plan!

As you plan, it is important to maintain the proper perspective. You are meal prepping to make your life better! If you look at it as simply another chore, it will always be a grind.

There is no right or wrong way to meal prep.

To be sustainable, meal prep needs to fit your lifestyle and meet your individual needs. Don’t get bogged down in thinking it has to be done a certain way.  Choose a day or two that works best for your schedule and prep in a way that helps you succeed throughout your week.

Less is more!

Don’t overwhelm yourself by trying to prep an entire week’s meals. Start slow and prep one or two meals/snacks at a time. Then, as you get comfortable with the process, you can prep more.

Remember that meal prep is not strictly about cooking.  It can mean chopping up vegetables ahead of time for recipes, portioning out food items for snacks, or cutting meat so it is ready to cook. With meals like sandwiches and salads, cooking may not be needed at all.

Choose which meal(s) would make the biggest difference in your week if you prepared it ahead of time.

Prioritize the meals and snacks that will give you the biggest bang for your buck if prepared in advance. If you are rushing around every morning and tend to skip breakfast, consider preparing it the evening prior. If you tend to graze on unhealthy snacks during the day, pre-portion some smart snacks for your week. If dinnertime brings temptations to grab something easy on your way home, prioritize prepping some chopped veggies and meat that can be cooked quickly when you get home.  You can also consider a crockpot recipe so you can eat as soon as you walk in the door.

Give yourself time to reap the rewards and make it a habit.

Your new meal prep habits will strengthen with repetition. It is important to keep it up long enough to create lasting habits and see the results of consistent meal prep. Don’t throw in the towel if it doesn’t go as planned the first few times you prep. Make adjustments along the way and know that the effort up front will be worth it. Meal prep is about making your life easier, and nothing beats opening up the refrigerator door to see healthy delicious meals and snacks ready to eat.

Try one of these easy dinner recipes for your first meal prep endeavor. Remember, you don’t need to do them all. Start small and enjoy as meal prep makes your life a little simpler each and every week. You’ll be glad you did!