Learn how to make a Meal Prep Meal Plan with 5 practical tips. Healthy, quick meal prep makes your whole week better. These tips make it easy!
Do you value healthy, homemade food but find your evenings are totally chaotic when you cook from scratch?
Are you craving healthier food but resort to takeout because you simply don't have time?
Do you DREAD the question, “what's for dinner?” more than any other words in the world?
Meal prep meal plans can help with all of these things! You'll go into each week with a plan but, better than that, you'll have realistic tools for actually executing that plan. Whether you're a total meal prep newbie or you're simply looking to up your game with more efficient meal prep, these tips can help!
What is a meal prep meal plan?
A meal prep meal plan outlines your meals for the week, as well as how you will prepare them ahead.
There is no one right kind of meal prep meal plan. You may want to prep EVERYTHING ahead of time because you have zero time for the kitchen when you get home from work. Or, you may want to strategically prep certain items to make weeknight meals come together super quickly. I tend to fall into the latter camp, but you do what works for you!
I urge you to experiment.
Do you thrive on the total ease of cooked-ahead meals or do you crave the freshness of prep-ahead, but not cook-ahead meals?
How many meals do you need to plan and prep ahead? Do you really need 7 dinners prepped or does that create food waste because leftovers never get eaten?
Do you need to include meal prep breakfasts and lunches on your meal plan or just dinners?
Only you can answer these questions and it takes time. Pay attention to how your meal plan is working for you each week and make changes as necessary.
One thing that does work for everyone though? Efficiency! The 5 tips below will help you create a meal plan that allows quick meal prep. Meal prep is only useful if it's actually doable week after week!
5 Tips to Make the Best Meal Prep Plan for You
1. Strategic Timing
Once you've selected your recipes, where should you begin with meal prep?
Think through which items on your list will take the longest. Do you need to roast a chicken for an hour and a half? Get that started first! You can prep other items while it cooks.
If you're not sure where to begin, start by washing and chopping all of your produce. Prepping all of the produce for your entire meal plan at once is much more efficient than prepping each recipe individually.
2. Oven Temp
Oven temp may seem minor but, trust me, it's huge in terms of efficiency. Try to create a meal plan where everything that needs to be baked in the oven cooks at the same temperature.
You can easily hack this by adjusting cooking times. For instance, you can bake chicken at either 350 F or 400 F, by changing the cooking time. If you're not sure how to do this, just Google cooking times for different temperatures! With practice, it will become second nature.
If this sounds like way too much work, our Prep Dish meal plans do the work for you 🙂 Our meal prep instructions always have one single oven temp at the top that you'll use for all of your meal prep.
3. What stays fresh?
Meal prep is only a good use of time if the food you prep actually tastes good when you eat it.
So which items work well for meal prep? What stays fresh and what winds up wilty or dry by the time you eat it? This determination relies partially on personal taste. For instance, I don't mind a make-ahead frittata. Some of our subscribers, however, prefer to chop any veggies going into the frittata ahead but make the frittata fresh.
There are a few general rules you can follow though:
- Seafood First: Unless it's frozen, you'll want to schedule any seafood on your meal plan for the beginning of the week.
- Chop Potatoes Later: I recommend chopping most produce ahead but potatoes are different. You can wash them ahead of time but wait to chop until you're ready to cook. Otherwise, they'll turn an unappealing color.
- Make Salads, but Don't Dress: Salads actually work quite well for meal prep! Just make sure to leave off the dressing until you plan to eat. Also wait to add toppings like avocado, chopped tomatoes or chopped berries. You can prep all of these items ahead, just add them to the salad later!
Want more tips? Check out my free Meal Prep Fresh Guide which outlines exactly how long you can expect different items to last in the fridge.
Food should not just be convenient, it should be delicious. The only way to actually stick to meal prep week after week is if you're actually enjoying the meals. For most people, at least some degree of variety is key for enjoyment.
So how can you incorporate variety without spending hours scrolling for recipes every week? Try these strategies:
- Mix up the Protein: Try chicken one day a week, beef another day, fish another day and vegetarian another day. Even if you keep the preparation super simple, incorporating different proteins will automatically infuse some variety into your meals.
- Try Different Cuisines: Another way to include variety is to include different cuisines. Mediterranean Mondays? Taco Tuesdays? These are simple ways to include different cuisines.
- Keep a List: We all have times when we sit down to make a meal plan and have zero ideas on what to cook. I highly recommend starting a list of your family's favorite meal prep meals. Over time, it will be long enough that you can simply select a few recipes from the list on those uninspired weeks and still have enough variety to make the meals enjoyable.
Need some easy meal prep recipes to get you started? Here are some of my favorite resources:
- Easy Chicken Meal Prep – 20 Best Shredded Chicken Recipes
- 15 Easy, Healthy Side Dishes – Meal Prep Sides
- 2021 Subscriber Favorites – 10 Everyday Healthy Recipes
5. Multi-Purpose Components
This is one of my all-time favorite tips. You don't have to choose between eating the same meal every day and prepping 7 totally different dinners. Prep components you can use in different ways throughout the week.
Make shredded chicken and use it for Chicken Salad one day and Chicken Vegetable Soup another day. Cook a batch of quinoa and make my Summer Quinoa Salad one night and Spinach Pesto Quinoa Stuffed Acorn Squash another. You get the idea!
You can get my top 10 Gluten Free Meal Prep Components here. Watch my short video, Cook Once, Eat Twice, for more ideas on this meal prep strategy!
Make it easy! Prep Dish Meal Prep Meal Plans
If you love the idea of meal prep meal plans but it seems like way too much work, let me make it easier for you!
Prep Dish offers weekly done-for-you meal prep meal plans. All subscribers receive 4 meal plans every week: Gluten Free, Paleo, Low Carb and 1 Hour Super Fast meal plans.
Don't worry if you don't follow a specific diet. Our Super Fast meal plans always focus on healthy recipes but do not adhere to any specific diet. Many of our subscribers who aren't gluten free also use our gluten free meal plans, making adjustments as they choose. This is one of the advantages of meal prep meal plans versus meal delivery services! You have control over exactly which ingredients you buy, making it easy to adapt a meal plan to suit your diet, tastes or budget.
Prep Dish meal plans have three main components: an organized grocery list, step by step prep day instructions and “dish day” instructions that detail the minimal steps you need to complete when you're ready to enjoy your meal.
I understand that choosing how to feed your family is an important decision! That's why I'd love for you to try our meal prep meal plans for free to see if they're a good fit. Just click below and I'll get you set up with a free trial!