Now that all the planning is done from step 1 of the ReEducated Meal Prep Series, you should be ready to get your hands dirty!
This step focuses on the most important aspect of meal prep– the actual prepping: buying, cooking, and preparing of the food used in your meals.
In the early stages of my meal prepping I realized I needed a routine to make meal prep easier and more efficient.
I have meal prepped weekly, bi-weekly, monthly, and quarterly. All of them come with their own pros and cons with lots of figuring along the way.
I now know where and how to shop, how to cook several dishes at once, what order to cook them in, and the best ways divide out my food.
Keep reading to see the exact steps I take for efficient meal prep and sagacious tips to make meal prep an amazing part of your life routine.
Wanna learn the steps to your best meal prep? | Part 2 of the Meal Prep Series shows you every tip and trick you need!
The Ultimate Guide to Meal Prep:
Step Two | Prep it
**Affiliate links are in this post, for products I love and totally recommend **
Shop Till You Drop
Using the grocery list you created from step one of the ReEducated Meal Prep Series choose one or more of the budget grocery stores from the Tips and Tricks List in the Master Prep Kit and hit the stores.
As mentioned in part one bulk and budget shopping will give you the best bang for your buck when meal prepping. I use Aldi for normal grocery shopping and Sam’s Club for cheaper-in-bulk groceries and toiletries.
Here are some quick tips for meal prep shopping:
- Wednesdays are the best days to shop as it’s the sale day for most stores and Tuesdays are restock days, so you have a full assortment of items to choose from
- Get things in bulk or in a value pack. Sometimes bulking up only saves you change or is actually more expensive, so be sure to check the unit pricing for comparison. Bulk shopping biggest benefit is the time savings, but when it’s cheaper than your regular spending its an added bonus.
- Use your phone’s calculator and make a list of the items you need. When I first started prepping I wrote down the price of things in my ingredients lists which made it easier for me to budget items for next time. —Do you wanna see the pricing from my two favorite stores?- Ask me in the comments!
- Don’t shop hungry! Need I say more?
- Leave a little room in your budget for a good sale. If you see boneless chicken breast on sale for .99 cents a pound you better snatch up as many as you can! When sales are that good I usually take a day to preseason, chop, and separate the chicken into weekly portions and freeze them. #PrepNowChillLater
- Try out online shopping at places like Walmart, Kroger, and Sams. This keeps you away from delicious temptations, saves your time, and simplifies your shopping.
Prep For Preppin
Grab something to eat or a hefty snack. Your 5 perfectly prepped portions can easily turn into just three meals, if the smells get to you. Stop that temptation now!
Turn on your favorite playlist, audiobook, or podcast.
Change into your raggedy clothes or throw an apron [ get one with pockets to hold your phone]. You will get food all over the place and sweat a little.😅 It comes with the business!
Start with a clean kitchen. This makes everything better from the start. Wipe off your counters, clean your dishes, wash out your sink. Lastly, clear out your dishwasher so you can fill it as you prep.
Turn your oven on to 350. Most of the food you will cook will either right on or above this temperature, so go ahead and get your oven preheated and ready to go!
Take out all of the appliances and utensils you will be using for prep such as cutting boards, mixing bowls, measuring cups, crock pot, pans, large and small baking sheets etc… Place them in a corner of your counter and on their various places on your stove.
To cut down on cleaning I line all my baking sheets with aluminum foil and spray them down with cooking spray. Go ahead and prepare your pans with spray or oil as well. If you are using a crockpot place a liner in it to make cleaning easier.
Prep for Cooking
Get all your veggies and fruit and give them a good rinsing and scrub. Grab your wooden board and some sharp knives and chop your fruits and veggies or use your food processor.
Sagacious Tip | Buy onions,peppers, and garlic in bulk. They are in almost every recipe! I usually chop them up during one of my break weeks of meal prep and freeze them in gallon size bags and they last for at least 3 months of prep. I use to try to be cute and buy garlic to chop up, but 2 years ago learned the beauty of bulked chopped garlic and will never go back. A huge container of garlic is just $3.00 at Sam’s Club and last me forever and a day. #getchusome.
Raw poultry or pork needs to be rinsed, skinned (optional), seasoned well, and chopped based on the recipe. Be sure to use a sharp knife or scissors to chop up proteins quickly. Ground meat just needs to be mixed with other ingredients and seasoned.
Once all your veggies, fruit, proteins, have been prepped for cooking, go ahead and measure or divide out all your other ingredients for your prep. Since you are cooking everything at once, getting ingredient boxes and containers out of the way makes things easier on you and your kitchen.
When that’s all done, soak the cutting boards in hot soapy water, throw the dirty dishes into the dishwasher, and wipe down your counters.
Bake, Sizzle, and Simmer
This is the step that requires your complete attention, no one wants to burn a week or more worth of food. I’ve painfully done that and have to warn you!
Multi-tasking is key to this step, because of the different methods of cooking you can do. You can brown meat and cook rice on the stove, bake chicken and roast vegetables in the oven, while your slow cooker simmers your beans. It seems hectic, but you are actually at the peak of productivity!
Cook your food by meal—breakfast, lunch, and dinner or by category—proteins, veggies, etc.. Over my years of prep I’ve found going by meal is best for smaller preps and going by category is best for larger preps.
If something needs to be baked or slow cooked I usually start with that first and try to get as many pans in my oven at one time as possible. While things are in the oven or slow cooker, I’m either cooking on the stove, putting away dishes, or preparing my fridge for the food that is about to fill it.
To deal with varying temperatures of the different recipes, cook food about 7- 15 mins longer if it needs to be at a higher temperature or7- 15 mins less if it needs to be at a lower. For example, I cook my roasted veggies, seasoned chicken legs, and breakfast sausage at 400, and just take the sausage out 15 minutes early and cook the chicken and veggies 15 minutes longer.
Sagacious Tip | If I know my chicken legs and roasted broccoli are going together for the meal prep there is no reason not to cook them on the same baking sheet. When they are done I combine the broccoli with the chicken juices and its always to die for.
Divide and Conquer
On the last leg of cooking take some time to prepare your containers for your meals. You can divide up your food in several different ways. The key is to stick to containers that are reusable, microwaveable, and dishwasher safe. I personally use a mix of different containers that work with all the different foods I have meal prepped over the years. Check out what I use below:
You can get these in plastic, glass, or any other sales pitch to make you feel good about yourself.
When I first started meal prep the individual serving containers were super hyped on Instagram and Pinterest, so yall know I had to be cute with it too. This is also great for people who are using portion sizes to lose weight, count carbs, or just need some self-control! 🙋🏾 These also can come division free or divided for those who don’t like their food to touch and/ or hate soggy food.
- Filling these up can get annoying, especially once you get to the 7th one out of 15.
- If you use the plastic ones they can stain easily with anything acidic like tomato sauce or melt in the microwave
- You can easily lose the thousands of lids each set comes with or they break, bend, and rip
Cute, hipster/ bohemian, and good for the environment. They are also strong and durable.
- Glass anything is not good for traveling. Even though mason jars are strong and all, my heart would drop every time I threw my bag around and heard that clanking noise #avoidheartattacks
- They can be hard to clean: don’t make the mistake of getting the regular mouth jars and be sure to buy a bottle brush for those times your dishwasher just will not clean them right
- Losing the lids, this is probably the most annoying part, plus they rust easily
I decided to use mason jars only as holding containers instead of for food. They totally add to the bohemian theme of my apartment and make things easier to find in their clear glass.
- Cheap, easy to use, clear so you can see what you are working with
- Great for holding items like granola bars
- Comes in various sizes
- Can be placed in freezer, then plopped in the fridge when you are ready to defrost
- Not reusable- I feel a slight tinge of guilt every time I throw one away
- Rips and breaks easily
- Your food can get mushed and only holds stronger foods well
- Can hold entire meals for the week
- Quick dishing out of your meals. I literally pick up my pot and dump the contents into the bulk containers and smile in satisfaction. Every. Single. Time!
- Bulky – sometimes you just don’t have room in your fridge for all of that
- Some of the same issues of the individual serving containers, but with less lids and such to deal with
I use a mixture of all of the containers above to hold my food:
- Ziplock bags to hold my snacks or extra small snack containers to make them more portion sized
- Mason Jars for specialty ingredients or mason jar salads
- Bulk containers for my breakfast and lunch –
- Individual Serving Tupperware for dinner at my second job, that only has a mini fridge
Pick the containers that best fit your meal prep needs and make an assembly line to start packing the food in. Don’t put the tops on immediately! Let the food cool down for at least 20 minutes, while you clean up the last bit of your prep.
The final click of your Tupperware tops signal completion. Take a look at what you did!
Ask your parents, best friend, Great Aunt, Grandma whoever got that guap, to buy you a cookware set.
Not the cheap stuff from Walmart, but the legit, heavy pans that can only go up to level 5 on your stove or they will burn.
Here is the pan set I use and it has made my meal prep life golden!
When I first started meal prep, I only used a huge extremely old pan for cooking all my meals – I was food stamps poor right after college.
Sally was nice and all, but I had to wash her out constantly, my food would burn easily, and she never cooked things exactly how I wanted.
But my Wolfgang Puck Set does me right. I got plenty of pans for everything I need, plus they can go directly in the oven. Shoutout to the Rents!
2| Large and Small Baking sheets
I use a combination of Dollar Tree cookie pans and huge half sheet pans baking sheets from Sam’s Club.
I recommend you get big sheets to combine meals or to just make cooking faster.
The small sheets are great for flash freezing (example pictured) and for smaller things you need for you prep ( such as only 5 slices of bacon instead of 10 😅 )
You can read about its greatness here. It was the best meal prep buy I have ever made!
Muffin pans in general just make meal prep life easier, because they automatically portion size anything you put in them.
4 | Stock up on spices and frequently used condiments:
Check the Tips and Tricks PDF from the Master Prep Kit to get my staple spices and condiments. When you have these constantly stocked meal prep is always easier and tastier.
Sagacious Tip | Switch from table salt to the huge bulk container of kosher salt and just pour your salt into small food prep containers when using. Kosher has a lot more depth of flavor and is super cheap. Also use a fresh pepper grinder over regular ground pepper —buy a pepper grinder or just reuse one you get from the store and refill it with bulk peppercorns from Sam’s Club. Both of these tips will change your tastebud life!
5 | Make use of your appliances:
Crock pot give the most tender meats and flavorful dishes, plus is perfect for set it and forget meal prep!
Prep Finale A.K.A Netflix and Chill
Hopefully, the steps above make meal prep much smoother and efficient for you!
Now take some time to relax. That was some legit work you just did! Grab some wine and Netflix or grab a book and get lost for a moment.
I always relax directly after prepping to make it seem like a reward- Pavlov’s Law- If you prep you get a glass of wine and your favorite Netflix show.
Give yourself a pat on the back, you don’t have to worry about your food for the rest of the week [month, quarter]!
Evaluate the ReEducation:
- Having a strategy is key to efficient meal preps
- Batch cooking requires multi-tasking and focus, with beautiful results
- Get the Master Prep Kit to further organize your future preps
- Keep reading the Meal Prep Series and ReEducate your meal prep.
Are you now prep ready? Do you have any additional tips I can add to the prepping stage of meal prep? Comment below!
Let’s Be Friends