There are many approaches to meal planning and meal prep and it really depends on your goals.
My goal is to use meal planning and a bit of prep to make my week more organized and not have to manage decision fatigue everyday - while not spending my entire Sunday cooking.
Here is how I do it!
This post was originally published May 2019 and was revised February 2021.
First of all, I am NOT one of those meal preppers that cooks the whole week of meals, portions them into containers, and then just reheats them all week.
Some weeks I cook and reheat most of the week, but most weeks, I prep ingredients for the week. This makes snacking on healthy foods easier, and it makes dinners come together so quick during the week .
Here is what my weekly meal planning and prep routine looks like.
Choose meals for the week & write it down
This probably doesn't come as a surprise, but this is very first step for me. I normally do this on Saturday and put my grocery order in for delivery on Sunday morning.
Making a plan, shopping, and doing prep all in the same day is overwhelming and exhausting.
I try and buy only what we need for the week, and plan is critical for this.
I created my own template that I use (that you can have for free here), and I use it each week.
Pro tips for making a meal plan:
- Don't over plan! You don't have to plan every single meal for the week.
- Create a master list of meals that are loved in your household. This makes it easier to select what to put on the
- Don't plan a week of dinners with all recipes you have never made before.
- Start building a plan with ingredients and freezer ingredients that you already have on hand. This will save you money week to week as well.
Pull out anything from the fridge that is now a health hazard and wipe down all the shelves.
If you make a plan, buy only what you need, and stick to your plan, this step takes a whole minute.
This takes me less than 5 minutes and is not daunting at all when you keep up with it. This also helps keep expired things to a serious minimum.
This is what my fridge looks like at the end of the week when I started planning and buying only what I needed for the week.
Pull proteins / meals from the freezer for the next 2-3 days
No more forgetting to pull things from the freezer and coming home to rock solid freezer ingredients.
Pro tips for managing your freezer ingredients
- Don't pull more than 2-3 days at a time. This way you can adjust your plan throughout the week and not waste food.
- Have a "thaw bin" - put all thawing meat in a contained space in the fridge. You don't want raw meat juices on anything in your fridge!
Wash, chop, peel, and store fruits and veggies
(and assemble grab and go salads)
If they are prepped - they get eaten.
This is the single most important thing I prep each week. If I don't, bags of mushed veggies get tossed - and my heart breaks just a little bit.
I personally like to use clear containers so I can see everything that I have. I really do think that having your veggies stare you in the face on the daily- and having them ready to eat, they will get consumed.
You can find the run down of all of the containers I use here!
Cook and Store Prepped Ingredients, Snacks, or Meal Preps
Some weeks, all I cook is hardboiled eggs on prep day, and some days I cook and prep lunches for the week.
It all depends on my energy level and how chaotic the week ahead is.
Meal prep is not all or none. You can do small prep every few days too. It is totally up to you!