10 top tips to make meal prep easier
Make meal prep easy with these top 10 tips to take the stress out of getting ahead – from using timesaving shortcuts to making the most of a slow cooker
Meal prep can make a busy life easier by saving you from having to cook every day, but getting in the habit can feel daunting if you're not sure where to start. Our top 10 meal prep tips are here to help you make the meal prep habit and show how easy it can be.
You might not have the time or energy to cook every single day, so meal prepping lets you get ahead for busy times, whether you're stocking up the freezer with dishes ready to defrost or simply making a batch of lunches to last you the working week. From using a slow cooker, being savvy with ingredients and stocking up on good storage, our meal prep tips are here to help.
For plenty more recipe inspiration, check out our collection of 80 meal prep recipes to get started, plus we've got healthy meal prep ideas and easy vegan meal prep ideas, too.
1. Decide how many days to meal prep for
The idea of meal prep might make you think of towers of containers to last you the whole week, but if you're new to prepping ahead then start with just meal prep for two or three days at a time, or a batch of snacks for the week. This eases you into the habit, saves you from eating the same meal for a whole week and still gives the satisfaction of having food ready to go after a busy day. If you're a household of two, make a recipe for four or six people so you'll have leftovers to keep you going: try creamy chicken & sweetcorn soup or a family fish pie.
2. Start with lunch
A lot of meal prep focuses on dinners to fill the freezer, but meal prepping lunch can save you time, too. Our duo of easy rice salad box recipes takes a herby rice base and adds different toppings for two easy lunches, or try out our trio of meal prep pasta salad recipes to save you time during the week.
3. Make a meal plan
Making a meal plan for the week makes it clear when you'll use each of your meals, and makes the food shopping easier as well as the cooking. You might meal prep to stock the freezer, or you might meal prep just to use in the same week after a busy day. We've got several meal plans to help you get in the swing of it: check out our family budget meal plan or vegetarian budget meal plan to get started.
4. Make one base recipe
Meal prep doesn't mean you have to make lots of complete meals to have on standby. Instead, focus on one base component that can be spun a few different ways or served with different sides, so you'll only have to cook all the way from the beginning once and will still end up with varied, nutritious meals. Our big-batch bolognese recipe is perfect for this (we've got vegetarian and vegan bolognese spins, too): serve once as a spag bol; then add beans, a touch of spice, avocado and sour cream for burritos; then try it topped with mash for a cottage pie.
5. Make one-pot dishes to minimise washing up
If you feel daunted at the prospect of the kitchen aftermath from a meal prep cooking session, focus on one-pot dishes. Try our one-pot goulash pasta recipe which is healthy, low-calorie and freezable, plus contains three of your five-a-day. Go high-protein with these one-pot spicy meatballs or make this pot-roast spring chicken recipe filled with green veg.
6. Use a slow cooker to do the work for you
Add some slow cooked recipes into your meal prep repertoire to cut hands-on cooking time. Check out our review of the best slow cookers to invest in the perfect gadget, or simply slow cook in the oven. We've got plenty of slow cooker recipes to get you started, from a classic slow cooker chilli con carne to a comforting slow cooked veg stew.
7. Use shortcuts
Handy ingredients cut the time you have to spend in the kitchen and will help meal prep feel even speedier. Use frozen or tinned veg for a budget shortcut so you can skip peeling and chopping. Frozen sofrito (a mixture of carrot, celery and onion) can be found in larger supermarkets and gives you a head start on stews and soups – use to make a batch of these pea & ham pot pies that can be kept in the freezer.
8. Use multi-purpose ingredients
Instead of buying and prepping long lists of ingredients, make the most of clever storecupboard flavour bombs that pack the flavour in one quick dollop. Harissa paste adds instant aromatic, spicy kick – use it in these freezable harissa turkey burgers or a batch of spiced harissa lamb pasties. Miso paste adds savoury umami (try our silky silky miso & butternut squash soup), while nut butters can add quick creaminess and depth to dishes.
9. Stock up on storage
If you're going to be cooking and freezing up a storm, it's worth making sure you have enough storage to hold all your meals once you've got ahead. If you're prepping lunches, check out our round-ups of the best lunch boxes and best bento boxes to transport your meals in style.
10. Track your favourite meals
Keep a record of your favourite recipes so that each time you want to meal prep you're not stuck for ideas. Freezable fakeaway versions of your favourite takeaways are a good place to start to make meal prep fun instead of daunting. Browse our epic 90 fakeaway recipes collection for plenty of inspiration, including a slow-cooker chicken korma, classic chicken tikka masala recipe and these clever bake-from-the-freezer pizzas.
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