Meal prepping isn’t just for impeccably organized, colorful Pinterest photos. It isn’t an art either and can be mastered by anyone. Whether you’re prepping for only yourself or your whole family, a bit of advanced preparation goes a long way.
Our goal in this article is to help you learn how to meal prep for the week. For us, we meal prep weekly for three reasons: To save our diet, time, and money.
Whatever the reason for why you’re meal prepping, we share our best tips on meal prep so you can do it successfully.
how to meal prep for the week
There are tons of meal prep tips all over the internet. We’ve tested them all, and this article includes the most useful. We’ve grouped our tips into three categories.
1. Meal prepping to achieve weight goals
2. Meal prepping to save time
3. Meal prepping to save money
In addition to our tried-and-true meal pre tips, you can download a PDF including a calendar for healthy meal prep, recipes, and a grocery list.
Meal prepping to Achieve WEight Goals
Since you’re learning more about meal prep and looking for tips, you’re probably following a diet. Whether your goal is to gain, lose, or maintain your weight, the meal pre tips in this section are critical.
One of the best ways to maintain your diet plan, without getting sidetracked by restaurant meals or unplanned snacks, is to practice meal prepping. I
However, it’s more than simply putting food into a container. You need to know what you should be eating and when. If you are interested in learning how to meal prep for weight loss, you must know your calories.
Know Your Target Calorie Goals
To successfully meal prep for your diet, you must first be aware of your calorie target.
There are many ways to calculate your target calorie goal, which we go into in-depth in our article, How to Manage Diets as a Couple. However, there is a more straightforward way that lends itself to meal prepping particularly well.
By far, the easiest way to meal prep that we’ve found is by using this $10 portion-control container kit. This container system was the key to my success when I lost 10 lbs. off my petite frame before our wedding.
Each container represents a different food group, from proteins (red), vegetables (green), carbs (yellow), healthy fats (blue), fruits (purple), and seeds and dressings (yellow).
The kit comes with instructions on how to calculate your calorie goal range, and then how many containers to eat a day. For me, I eat three green “veggie” containers a day, which I can divide into whichever meal I’d like throughout the day.
The benefits of these containers are that you don’t need to continually track your calories or worry that you’re overeating on carbs. You can eat whatever you want — as long as they fit into your containers.
The truth is, many of the clients we work with are under eating to lose weight. That’s detrimental because your body isn’t receiving adequate nutrients and could be eating away at muscle while storing more fat.
It’s imperative to eat enough calories in healthy foods without ever feeling starved, and you will still lose weight.
Too few calories is a sure way to hit a weight loss plateau. Our best meal prep idea for weight loss is to make sure you’re eating enough food. Eating too few calories is just as bad as overeating.
Diagnose Which Meals Need The Most Help
Successful meal prepping for a week requires advanced thought and organization. Therefore, it’s easier to opt to cook cleanly and prepare a few meals in advance than once you’re home after work, hungry.
For much of the day, it’s likely that you already have a routine. We are creatures of habit, and therefore our breakfasts and two mid-day snacks are nearly the same every day.
With those, we already eat healthily. However, it falls apart around dinner. Therefore, our meal prepping efforts center around dinner, as opposed to breakfast. You might be different.
We follow an intermittent fasting 16/8 plan, which has drastically simplified our meals for the week. We highly recommend you try intermittent fasting, and our IF how to guide can will help you successfully transition.
Think of your eating habits every day. If you’re unsure, take a week to keep a food journal. From there, look for patterns when you’re most likely to fall off of the “clean eating” wagon. Is your mid-day snack too often office donuts?
Or, is it when you’re running late before work, and you grab a packaged bite for breakfast?
Instead of meal prepping for your whole day, begin by targeting the one meal that you need the most help with and start there. Following this strategy is our best meal prep tip for beginners.
Do you need a full overhaul on almost all of your meals? Sometimes it’s best to go all in and spend a week learning how to meal prep for beginners. Make a bet with yourself to eat cleanly for one week with one of our Couple’s Clean Week Bet.
This program includes clean eating guidelines, daily workouts streamed to your computer and mobile devices, and health video tutorials including discussions on sleep, hydration, and facing diet or fitness imbalances as a couple.
Avoid Decision Fatigue With Meal Prepping
Do you ever wonder if you lack self-control? Or that you have weak willpower when it comes to healthy eating decisions? We’re here to tell you that it could be decision fatigue instead.
Every day, you only have so much mental capacity and energy to make the right decisions, according to science. Therefore, the more things that you can plan or create a steady routine for will help you stay on track. This is where healthy meal prep for the week saves the day.
Meal planning helps you avoid decision fatigue so that you’re not calling for Chinese takeout after a stressful day, but already have a plan put in place for what to eat that night.
Another trick we love is a quality meal replacement shake. This ensures that you always have a convenient and micronutrient rich meal ready to go.
Meal prepping to Save Time
Before learning how to meal prep for a week, the process seems like a time suck. After, you’ll realize that meal prepping saves you time. Time spent going out to restaurants and deciding what to eat adds up fast. Weekly meal prep will save you time and make you more energized since you’re fueling well.
Learning how to meal prep for the week starts with deciding what to prep.
How To Meal Prep For The Week
While meal prepping doesn’t necessarily mean that you need to lock down what you’re eating every minute of the week, it does save time if you plan.
If you’re a beginner at meal planning, think of a few meals that you already know. Then, if you want, introduce a new one for one night.
Once you implement these tips on meal planning and hit your stride with a routine, it will come more quickly and easily, as you recycle and repurpose prior recipes.
To help you learn how to meal prep for the week, we share our best weekly menu below, with a grocery shopping list. Most of the recipes that you’ll prepare are easy, healthy recipes for meal prep. These recipes are simple meal prep veggie ideas.
- Rice Cooker Lentils with Tomato and Onion
- Carrot, Cabbage, and Apple Slaw
- Quinoa Black Bean Bowl
- Zoodle Pasta with Homemade Tomato Sauce
- Minestrone Soup
These recipes are really easy to prepare, especially if your pantry is already stocked with the healthy ingredients.
The Key Is A Thoughtfully Stocked Pantry
A well-stocked pantry makes all of the difference when you’re looking to save time while meal prepping for a week.
For example, while you may plan to have leftovers, this doesn’t always work out. I’ll cook a massive pot of Indian curry, thinking it will feed us for days. Then, Ryan goes back for thirds and fourths.
To combat this, have a well-stocked pantry with essential staples to stretch your food as far as it will go. With only a quarter cup of my curry left, I mixed in chickpeas and a microwaveable packet of quinoa to create another full meal.
Some basics to always have on hand include an array of frozen vegetables, quickly cooked grains like quinoa and brown rice, and fresh onions, tomatoes, carrots, and bell peppers. Having these ingredients on hand makes your cooking simple and straightforward.
Even if you don’t have the full week’s menu planned out, you’ll be able to access your haul from the farmer’s market and easily divide the food into meals for the week.
This is what we learned from the farm-to-table pioneering chef, Alice Waters, in her Masterclass. She’ll buy the best vegetables, lay them out on her kitchen table on Sunday, and group them into the week’s meals with the help of her pantry staples.
Another tip on meal prep: chop your fresh vegetables as soon as you get them, to make it even quicker and inviting to cook with.
We share our full top pantry staples in our downloadable PDF, Ultimate Healthy Food Guide, which also includes a healthy grocery shopping list.
Temptation Bundling and Meal Prep
“Temptation bundling” is a useful hack that will get you looking forward to meal prepping for the week.
If you have a guilty pleasure (like what watching The Vampire Diaries is for Alex), only indulge when you “bundle” it with something productive (like meal planning).
Alex only allows herself to watch [battling lovesick vampires/insert guilty pleasure here] while meal prepping for the week.
In a few days, you’ll look forward to cooking and finally know what happens in the Damon-Elena-Stephan vampire love triangle.
When you’re a beginner learning how to meal prep, this makes the task far more enjoyable.
Outsource Meal Prepping
If your goal for meal prepping is to save time, consider outsourcing the grocery shopping or the whole meal. Delivery doesn’t mean that you can give up on your diet goals; it just means that you’re savvier.
For groceries, check to see if Amazon Fresh or Shipt are in your neighborhood. They both require a small subscription fee but make it easy by ordering your groceries on an app or online for delivery within a time window that you’re available.
Your shopping lists on both Amazon Fresh and Shipt are saved, so it’s easy to reorder your favorite items again next time.
For meals, consider outsourcing a meal or two with a service like Freshly.
The meals come prepared by a chef, features seasonal menus, and is the healthiest and best tasting option we’ve seen out there. Now all you have to decide is if you’ll have the butternut squash risotto or Baja mahi-mahi with avocado-lime crema.
Meal prepping to Save Money
When you learn how to do weekly meal prep, you’ll notice significant savings. Eating out is expensive. Here are our meal prep tips to help you save money without sacrificing nutrition.
Experiment With New Protein Sources
One benefit of meal prepping is that it gives you a license to try new recipes.
If you’re meal prepping to save money, consider substituting with inexpensive protein sources, particularly plant-based proteins like lentils, black beans, and cannellini beans.
Not only are these cheaper than chicken or beef, but they also offer high nutritional value and fiber. These are a few vegetarian meal prep ideas to get you started.
Utilize Your Freezer
Your freezer is your best friend. Not only can you store prewashed, precut vegetables and fruits, but they’re also often healthier than the fresh produce because they were frozen at peak ripeness.
Plus, they’re usually cheaper. Two of our mainstays, spinach, and cauliflower florets, are nearly half the price frozen than their fresh counterparts. It’s a win-win that elevates your meal planning preparedness.
The same goes for dried or even canned food. Dried lentils, for example, are easy to prepare. As for canned food, the prices are similar to what you’ll find in the frozen aisle. Just make sure that no extra sodium or preservatives were added.
Make a Contingency Plan to Avoid Eating Out
One fundamental way that meal planning can save money is by avoiding eating out. But that doesn’t mean you won’t be tempted.
To start, make sure that you’re well-fed both at home and in the office. That means preparing a food container to bring to your office for lunch and keeping a stock of nuts, seeds, yogurt and granola, and other healthy snacks in your office.
At home, hide a few veggie burgers or frozen ravioli in your freezer that you would look forward to indulging in as much as a night out.
Finally, agree upon the expectation for eating out. We only eat out when we both agree, and if one person thinks that they can make food at home or that we didn’t “earn it,” we stay in.
It’s that simple. We set the expectation to eat out once a week, usually in the form of takeout pizza for one weekend night.
We hope these meal prep tips help you. If you have any questions or recommendations, please feel free to share.
Weekly Meal Prep Calendar & Grocery List
Those who placed their bet with Couple’s Clean Week have spoken: “We want a week-long meal prep calendar, healthy recipes to prepare, and a grocery list for two for the full week.”
This downloadable meal prep calendar includes everything you need for a week of healthy eating.
30-Day Weight Loss Challenge
As engineers with a combined twelve years of health coaching experience, we needed to create a data-driven way for our clients to sustain weight loss.
Too many weight loss challenges involve a long list of what you can, cannot, and need to do every day. We’ve reduced the overwhelm and only require you to track five numbers a day — calories, steps, fiber, sleep, and waistline.
You’ll track five numbers daily to give you the highest return for sustainable weight loss. As a bonus, we’ll share our Weight Loss Bundle, which includes strategies, progress tracking tools, and additional weight loss plans.
Hey we're Ryan and Alex
The creators of Ryan and Alex Duo Life. We are a husband-wife duo and “lifestyle engineers.”
After eight years working in the corporate world as engineers, we left our high-powered jobs to tackle our true passion — helping couples engineer their best lives.
The synergy of our engineering minds and ten years of health coaching experience produced Ryan and Alex Duo Life. Our mission is to help you transform your bodies, minds, and relationship as a couple.
Optimize Your Life, One Friday at a Time
Enter your name and email address to sign up for our free newsletter, the Duo Life Letter. Each Friday receive evidence-based tips to elevate your health and relationship.