There are two main stages to meal prep: meal planning (creating your meal plan, grocery list, etc.) and meal-prepping (in the kitchen). For both, you'll find that PLANNING IS KEY. But let's look in detail at my top tips for meal prepping and planning.
Prepare a Meal Plan
This can take as little as 10 minutes (especially once you have tried-and-tested favorites you return to weekly)!But set aside 30 minutes per week for preparing a meal plan. Use Pinterest/an Excel spreadsheet/hand-written lists to make a note of recipes you like the sound of as you come across them. That way, you already have a selection to choose from when it comes time to plan.
Write Your Shopping List
5-15 minutes.Once you have the plan written up, you need to make a shopping list (or use an app to do so) of every ingredient needed. Then, cross-reference that with what you have at home. Finally, write up your final shopping list (don't forget to include your weekly staples).When writing your shopping list, try to do it in order of department from when you walk in the door. For me, that's usually fresh produce, then fridges, then freezer, then pantry - but the layout of each grocery store can differ. That way, the trip is quick and efficient.I recommend you save the lists over time, if possible doing so in a spreadsheet. That way it’ll make future lists easier to pull together.
Meal Prep To-do List
15-25+ minutes (variable)This depends on how many recipes you plan to prep, but this is critical for time management. Create a list of every meal you're creating, with every element that needs prepping and the time/cooking method (i.e., 30 minutes in the oven at a specific temperature ºF/ºC); that way, you can create a step-by-step to-do list for your meal prep day.
The Meal Prep
Variable but set aside 2-3 hours!This really depends on the exact number of meals you're making, how long the longest recipe takes to prepare, and how well you've time managed the day. Multi-tasking is key!
I like to approach meal prep a bit like Christmas/Thanksgiving dinner. First, write out all the recipes you plan to make alongside each of the elements that need prepping, along with their cooking times and methods (stovetop, oven, air fryer, etc.). That way, you can create an outline of the day to be at maximum efficiency and make the most of the time in the kitchen without unnecessarily prolonging it.This is also good to think about when meal planning. Avoid recipes that ALL require stovetop or oven cooking (so you end up not having the space to do it all at once).Multi-tasking is your friend! While things bake in the oven, get stuff chopped and prepped. Double up on things by placing a few eggs to boil in with other ingredients, etc.
Learning the basic shelf life of many meal-preppable items is extremely helpful when planning/prepping. Here are a few starting points (refer to individual recipes for exact storage information).