Meal prep is more than a food trend, it’s a handy approach you can use to make delicious, homemade food you’ll want to eat every day—without the wait. And while the end results look impressive, meal prep doesn’t require complicated planning or tools. All you really need is time and elbow grease.

Simply put, meal prep means prepping for meals. Sometimes that means creating a meal plan, and other times that means preparing a variety of ingredients that can be combined into various dishes quickly and easily.

While single-serve meals are the most common approach to meal prep, there are other types to choose from depending on your schedule, tastes and dietary needs.

Types of meal prep approaches include:

  • Full make-ahead meals: You cook an entire meal and store it in your fridge or freezer.
  • Batch cooking or freezing: Make multiple meals, then portion and store them. This method is useful for recipes you can easily cook in large batches, such as soup, quinoa or mashed sweet potatoes.
  • Meals for one: Prepare food and portion it in single-serving containers. (Usually enough to last a few days.)
  • Ingredient prep: For people who like to cook and serve food all at once, just prep parts of recipes. Chop veggies, mix spices or marinade meat in advance to save time when you’re ready to cook.



The key to easy meal prep is to start simple. Make one-pot recipes or focus on one main dish. Avoid the temptation to spend a whole day cooking elaborate meals. Too many recipes can complicate your meal prep fast, and you may not want to do it again if it was too hard the first time. Try making just one recipe ahead of time, then meal prep additional dishes when you get comfortable.


Depending on your diet and health goals, plan meals that will keep you satisfied.

Make sure you get enough of the right food groups to fill out your macros. A balanced meal for keto and other low-carb diets should feature quality fats, some protein and very few carbohydrates.


As long as your meal prep dishes are balanced, you don’t need to branch out of your comfort zone. For beginners, make recipes you know you’ll love—anything less could result in wasted food (and wasted time).

Once meal prepping becomes second nature, you’ll have at least a few go-to recipes you can turn to in a pinch.


It sounds straightforward, but make sure you prep enough food to fit your plan. Keep your schedule in mind: Events like work lunches and happy hours can interfere with mealtime. Do you truly need to prep a week’s worth of meals, or just enough for a few days at a time?

A large batch of cooked beef can provide quality fats and protein for at least several meals. At the same time, though, you don’t want to run into the issue of wasting uneaten food. So, make sure to have your schedule and portion sizes in mind when meal prepping.

The bottom line: Prepping your meals ahead of time can be a convenient way to encourage better eating habits, make a busy life easier and help you meet your overall health goals. As long as you have the right ingredients, enough storage containers and a little patience, you can create delicious, nutritious dishes in advance so you can focus your attention and effort on accomplishing everything on your to-do list. Follow these tips and avoid the all-too-common mistakes and you’ll be well on your way to becoming a meal prep pro!


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