You know meal prep is THE way to stick to your diet and keep your budget in check, but who has the time to chop & cook all day? And who wants to to spend their beloved free time over a stove & meal planning worksheet?
If you’re an aspiring meal planner but don’t know where to start & you are so OVER hearing “What’s for Dinner?” I’m about to make life so much easier for you.
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Meal prep is VIP when you’re looking to lose weight and stay on budget, but let’s face it. It’s a struggle. Between juggling a busy career, little league games, and trying to manage life in general- it’s hard to find the time & energy to focus on planning recipes much less spending endless hours chopping and batch cooking.
I mean, how are you supposed to do it ALL?
Newsflash: You’re NOT.
Today I’m sharing the best meal prep tips (& recipes) for weight loss that you probably haven’t seen before that simplify meal prep & menu planning and save time, money, and sanity!
Here’s to losing weight & lazy weekends!
Meal Prep Tips for Beginners
Meal prep is overwhelming at first. Start slow with two or three dinner recipes and then work your way up to breakfast & lunch. So many meal prep tips recommend you go on a major shopping haul to buy food for every recipe (breakfast+lunch+dinner+snacks) and meal prep all day Sunday.
Don’t. Do. It.
If you aren’t already a cooking pro/ meal prepper this is a sure-fire way to get overwhelmed & end up on the highway to McDonald’s for dinner again.
Make a mini-meal prep haul and get the food you need for three dinner meals. I recommend you start with a crockpot recipe. Most crockpot meals make plenty for dinner + leftovers, so by cooking one crockpot meal you’ve already “prepped” two dinners & maybe a lunch depending on how many you are feeding! (I’ve included 21 simple meal prep recipes for beginners below!)
Ok, at this point you’ve dipped your toe into the pool of meal prep and you’re ready to dive in, but you’re not sure how to select your meals. Pinterest is giving you a panic attack-there are SO many recipes!
Stay calm & focused. I’ll walk you through it:)
Think about your schedule for the week. Are you going to be at the ball field every night? Working late, again? If so then you need easy one-pan recipes and slow-cooker meals. Try to avoid recipes that take 25 steps or 6 ingredients you’ve never heard of.
You need to keep it as simple as possible. Yes, I know the other recipes are pretty. But they may lead you straight to the funny farm so let’s save those for another time, ok?
Other considerations include picky eating kids or teenagers-if you know they can’t stand Taco Tuesday then maybe you shouldn’t use the fab Mexican casserole you found. Unless you’re OK with them choosing cereal over the dinner you made! (And you know what? They may do that anyway-and that’s OK. Happens all the time.)
Select Easy Meal Prep Recipes
Look for recipes with ingredients like shredded chicken, beef, pork & lots of veggies. You can batch cook all of these ingredients (easily) and make weeknight dinners fast.
Here’s a few shredded recipes that are easy to put together & make enough for leftovers! (Psst-More Meal Prep recipes at the end of the post!)
Mexican Instant Pot Shredded Chicken | 25 Minutes | Paleo Bailey
Crock-Pot Cilantro Lime Shredded Chicken | 8 Hour | Food Love
Cuban Shredded Beef (Slow Cooker-8Hours-Easy Prep) | Little Spice Jar
Instant Pot Pulled Pork | 1 Hour | Savory Tooth
Save The Recipes!
Once you have your recipes selected, save them to your phone or on a Pinterest board.
Or go old school with recipe cards!
Just keep them in a safe place so you can find them later!
Meal Prep In A Mason Jar
This may be the easiest way to meal prep-EVER! You can do all sorts of healthy recipes in a Mason Jar!! Here are a few easy recipes to start Meal Prepping-Mason Jar-Style.
Blueberry Banana Overnight Oats | Organize Yourself Skinny
Mornings Made Berry Easy Smoothie | xoxoBella
Mason Jar Burrito Bowls | Gimme Delicious
Mediterranean Lentil Salad | Tasty
Related: 16 Mason Jar Salads For Meal Prep
Before You Go Grocery Shopping:
Check Your Pantry
Do a quick inventory of what you already have in the pantry! Select recipes that use what you have on hand.
Before you head out to the store make sure there’s room in the freezer & fridge. You don’t have to do a complete clear out, but you do want to avoid an unfortunate I Have No Space scenario when you unload the groceries!
Meal Prep On A Budget Tips
Select recipes with ingredients that are on sale. Check the Sunday paper for ads, and coupons-BEFORE you pick your meals for the week
Choose recipes with fruits & vegetables that are in season. They’ll be less expensive!
Make meals stretch by adding extra veggies, wild and rice.
Select recipes you can double or that will yield leftovers. Find one or two repeatable recipes that you can use more than once. Chili is my go-to double recipe. Easy, simple, and nobody complains about having it as leftovers.
Bonus: You can use leftover chili in burritos, taco salads, and soups to switch things up in the easiest possible way!
Shop Multiple Stores
Yes, this can be time-consuming, but it’s also a way some people save BIG on food! If you’re new to this meal prep thing, I don’t recommend shopping all day-at five different stores-you’ll have zero energy left. Save money on canned & bagged items at the Dollar Store.
Meal Prep Shopping
Organize Your List
Go with a master list and do not get distracted! Stick to your list and make one run to the store. This will save you time & so much money…Those last minute trips to the store cost you a ton!
To keep you on track at the store, organize your shopping list by section. Produce, Dairy, Meats, Frozen, Canned, Baking, Spices-if you know your store’s layout by heart, place these categories in the order of how you shop. I like to leave the cold stuff for last because I’m super-paranoid of spoilage!
Buy in Bulk
If you know you’re going to be eating chicken for three nights, take advantage of the family-sized packages of chicken. You can also buy meat and pork in value-sized packs. When you get home, you can portion it out in ziplock bags & freeze for later.
Frozen Is Fabulous
Buy frozen fruits & veggies to save time & money! Frozen fruits & vegetables often have a higher level of antioxidants & nutrition compared to their fresh counterparts.
Frugal Meal Prep For Weight Loss Favorites
Meal Prep Batch Cooking
Don’t spend all day meal prepping. Set a timer for two to three hours on your preferred meal prep day-most folks do Sunday, but it’s up to you. Roast all of the veggies for your upcoming meals and portion them out in air tight containers. Use these for salads, side dishes, or soups. Cook chicken, make a roast, and batch cook quinoa and wild rice.
You’ll be amazed at what you can get accomplished in a few hours. A few of my favorite meal prep batch cooking foods are:
Veggies Roast Cauliflower, Zucchini, & Carrots together-they have similar cook times
Grains: Quinoa & Wild Rice
Beans & Legumes: Navy-Black-& Kidney beans, Chickpeas
Find one or two recipes to double & freeze!
Meal Prep Storage Tips
Invest in quality meal prep containers. You need dishwasher, microwave, and oven safe. label glass with a lockable lid is best but if you need to use plastic go for BPA-free. This Glasslock 18-piece assorted oven set is fabulous!
Zip-Top Freezer Bags
Use these for everything from smoothie prep to soups to save space. Make sure you get all of the air out before sealing.
Make sure you label all of your meals-especially freezer meals with the name of the dish, date it was prepared, and the expiration date. You may want to write other instructions too like dethawing time & cook time. Use a label maker or a permanent marker so it will last!
Shelf Life of Meal Prep Foods In Fridge
Hard boiled eggs + Veggies – 1 week
Cooked Beans + Peas- 5 Days
Cooked Whole Meat, Poultry, Fish-3-4 Days
Ground Beef & Chicken – 1-2 Days
Cooked Ground Beef + Poultry – 3-6 months
Bacon + Sausage -1-2 months
Veggies – 8-12 months
Cooked Beans + Soups – 2-3 months
Bread- 1-2 months
Raw Chicken – 9-12 months
Other Meal Prep Tips
Use Your Crockpot!
Call it a crockpot or a slow-cooker-either way; it’s going to be your best friend! These easy recipes make dinner happen with little to no work! You can also batch cook in these little magic pots-Use it on meal prep day to make your chicken for the week.
Love Your Leftovers
Instead of letting food go to waste because nobody wants to eat last nights chili, use it to create tacos or burritos. Have a lot of leftover veggies from that sheet pan meal? Use them in an omelet or breakfast muffins!
Meal Prep Must Have Tools
Keeping it real – you don’t have to buy a bunch of stuff to rock meal prep. But you do need a few items if you’re going to make it work.
Sheet Pans – You don’t need anything super-fancy here. I found this Wilton Perfect Results Mega Large Cookie pan on amazon. It’s non-stick & dishwasher safe. Check to make sure it will fit into your oven before you buy-it’s 15X21!
Measuring Cups & Spoons– Again, nothing special here that requires a lot of $. You’re looking for durable, easy to see measurements & you want dishwasher safe. Nobody has time for hand wash. I found this angled measuring cup you may like because of the grip. It’s also easy to read…OXO Good Grips: Measuring Cup
Crockpot – Stop everything now if you don’t have a crockpot! This is one of those kitchen meal prep “tools” you’ve got to have to be successful. Seriously. I found this Black+Decker 7 Quart Teal Wave on amazon. (It comes in other colors/patterns that are super cute!)
Instant Pot – Yes, it is different than a slow-cooker. I won’t go into all the details, but an Instant Pot is a necessity. This Instant Pot Duo Plus comes in 3 different sizes-3 Quart-6-Quart-8 Quart & does everything from steaming rice to making yogurt!
Congratulations! You’re now an organized meal prepper ready to take on a healthier cleaner lifestyle.
Need a little recipe inspiration? I’ve got you covered with healthy recipes for breakfast, lunch, and dinner! These delicious protein filled meal prep recipes won’t take long to prepare & they’re perfect for beginners!
Meal Prep Breakfast Recipes
- Peanut Butter Overnight Oats | Minimalist Baker
- Freezer Breakfast Burritos | Damn Delicious
- Make Ahead Berry Quinoa Breakfast Meal Prep | Sweet Peas and Saffron
- Turkey & Egg Breakfast Casserole | Aimee Mars
- Low Carb No Egg Breakfast Bake | Kalyn’s Kitchen
- Meal Prep Strawberry Banana Smoothie (In A Bag!) | Fit Foodie Finds
- Easy Vegan Peanut Butter Banana Breakfast Cookies | Beaming Baker
Meal Prep Lunch Recipes
- Turkey Taco Lettuce Wraps | The Cozy Cook
- Tuna Salad Meal Prep | Damn Delicious
- Quick Teriyaki Chicken Rice Bowls | Crunchy Creamy Sweet
- Cold Sesame Noodle Meal Prep Bowls (Vegan) | Sweet Peas and Saffron
- Lemon Roasted Salmon with Sweet Potatoes & Broccolini | Little Spice Jar
- Chicken Fajita Meal Prep Lunch Bowls With Cilantro Lime Quinoa | My Food Story
- Superfood Taco Bowl Meal Prep Recipe | Fit Foodie Finds
Meal Prep Dinner Recipes
- Slow Cooker Shredded Beef Sandwiches | Yummy Healthy Easy
- Food Prep Roasted Veggie Quinoa Bowls | Slim Sanity
- Shredded Chicken Tacos (Ready In 30 Minutes!) | Cake Whiz
- Italian Chicken Meal Prep Bowls | Easy Peazy Mealz
- One Pan Healthy Italian Sausage & Veggies | Chelsea’s Messy Apron
- Cashew Chicken Sheet Pan | Life Made Sweeter
- Sheet Pan Thai Glazed Salmon With Vegetables | The Recipe Critic
I hope these meal prep tips and recipes help you find a way to save time, money, and stick to your diet-whatever it may be!