The Ultimate Beginner's Guide to Meal Prep

Rory Batt MSc: Nutritionist
The Ultimate Beginner's Guide to Meal Prep - The Meal Prep Market

If there was a way to free up time to do the things you really want and need to do, would you do it?

With a little bit of strategic thinking and planning, a bit of meal prep can go a long way. Whether you’re a busy professional, or someone who’s looking to stay on top of their diet for fitness reasons, meal prep can really help you stay ahead of the curve.

We’re going to take you through the basics of prepping food all the way from what the key ingredients are to how you can prep for efficiency and success, preparation techniques and turning them into good meal prep habits.

Getting Started with Meal Prep

Why is Meal Prep Important?

The key to preparing food is just to get started. You may ask yourself, why prep meals? There’s a lot of good reasons to….

  • Foodprep saves time, so you can do other things you enjoy instead of cooking everyday.
  • Prepped meals are often healthier meals, as you are less prone to eating or cooking in impulsive ways.
  • Preparing meals in advance helps save money, as you are buying ingredients in bulk.
  • Prepping in advance helps reduce food waste, and control portion sizes and increases efficiency of your lifestyle.

Setting Goals and Determining your Meal Preferences

What do you want your meal prep to achieve? For example, you may want to prep food for the entire week on Sundays, have healthy lunches for workdays or reduce the amount of processed food in your diet.

Think about your dietary needs. How do your personal dietary restrictions, allergies, and health conditions influence your meal plans and meal preparation?

You want to eat food you like, otherwise this will be hard to follow. Think about the types of food you like, the flavors and spices you enjoy, and your favorite cuisine.

Think about when you will prep your food. Consider how much time you have for meal prep and cooking during the week and plan your meals accordingly. Will you do it every 2 or 3 days, or will you do it once a week?

Start with a few meals, and then cycle through to new ones. You can always come back to ones you have tried before as easy go to’s.

Creating a Meal Prep Timeline & Shopping List

meal prep planning guide

Ok, so now let’s get into it. As a place to start, you’ll need to plan ahead for both your kitchen and the supermarket.

When we talk about a meal prep timeline, we’re really just talking about the process:

  1. Planning the meals: Determine what meals you want to prepare for the week, and make a list of the ingredients you will need for each meal. Check out and some batch cooking recipe books as a good jumping off point. This will help you make your shopping list.
  2. Grocery shopping: Purchase all the ingredients and supplies you need for meal prep.
  3. Prepping ingredients: Wash and chop vegetables, marinate meats, and prepare any other ingredients that need to be done in advance.
  4. Cooking the meals: Follow your recipe and cook the meals.
  5. Storing the meals: Place the cooked meals in airtight containers, label them with the meal name and date, and store them in the refrigerator or freezer.

Use Meal Planning Apps

These are a handy tool for you to keep track and organize all your meals and shopping lists all in one place. Plus you have them in your pocket at all times for convenience.

Real Plans

Real Plans is the best meal planning app for healthy meal plans. Get your shopping and cooking done fast and easy with our flexible meal planner.


Mealtime allows you to eat healthy, home-cooked meals, and save money with an easy-to-use meal planning app. Delicious recipes. Personalized meal plans. Smart grocery list.


PlateJoy is your personal meal planning assistant, providing custom meal plans and recipes.

Prepping for Success: Key Ingredients

Here we’re going to cover what you should include in your meal prep specifically, when it comes to ingredients.

Preparing to Perform: A Balanced Diet

A sustainable meal prep is going to be based on a good diet. You’ll want to employ some nutritional basics when considering how to put your meals together, like getting enough protein, fibre, fruits and vegetables in.

Precision Nutrition outlines really well what a balanced plate looks like, so bear this in mind when choosing which meals you want to prep.

What a healthy meal looks like

Preppers list: Essential Items For a Successful Meal Prep

The essential items for meal prep vary depending on your personal preferences and the types of meals you want to prepare. But, here’s a list of items that are commonly used for meal prep:

  • Food storage containers: Airtight containers are essential for storing prepped meals and keeping them fresh.
  • Cutting board: A sturdy cutting board is useful for chopping vegetables and other ingredients.
  • Knives: A good set of knives is essential for meal prep. You'll need a chef's knife for chopping, a paring knife for smaller tasks, and a serrated knife for bread and other soft foods.
  • Measuring cups and spoons: Accurately measuring ingredients is important for meal prep. Having a set of measuring cups and spoons on hand makes it easier to follow recipes.
  • Mixing bowls: Mixing bowls are useful for combining ingredients and marinating meats.
  • Baking sheets and parchment paper: Baking sheets and parchment paper are useful for roasting vegetables and other ingredients.
  • Slow cooker or pressure cooker: A slow cooker or pressure cooker can be a time-saving tool for meal prep, allowing you to cook meals hands-free.

Fresh is best: Importance of Using Fresh Ingredients In Meal Prep

Importance of Using Fresh Ingredients In Meal Prep

It doesn’t take a genius to figure that fresh is best when it comes to prepared meals. There’s several reasons why this is the case though….

The main reasons are that the taste is better and that the nutritional value is often greater with fresh foods. The ‘life force’ is said to be better with fresh foods, providing you with the essential energy you need to be your best everyday.

If you’re doing meal prep to optimize your life, then of course you’ll want to feel great as a result of it. Fresh foods are worth the extra step to prep, especially if you are doing prep over the longer term.

If you enjoy the foods you eat, from the fresh flavor they provide, then you’re more likely to stick with meal prep for the long haul, as well as experience better health.

Prepped and packed: Tips for packing and storing prepped meals

  • Invest in good quality, reusable containers for your meals. This helps reduce waste and is more environmentally friendly.
  • Avoid dishes with too many ingredients, sauces or delicate components that can be difficult to transport and may spoil quickly.
  • If you're packing perishable items, such as dairy products, fruits, and vegetables, make sure to keep them chilled with an ice pack or a frozen meal.
  • Pack just enough food for one meal to avoid overeating or waste.
  • Make sure to store hot food hot and cold food cold to avoid foodborne illness.
  • Don't forget to pack a fork, knife, spoon, napkin and a small container of salt, pepper and other seasonings.

Preparation Techniques

Now, let’s get into the practicalities of actually prepping meals. Here, we’ll lay out some steps you can take in order to set yourself up for a successful meal prep.

Tips for preparing meal prep

The Good Prep: Tips for preparing food to make it more enjoyable

A successful meal prep will be one that you won’t get bored of, and that not only saves you time, but also keeps you feeling fulfilled and satisfied.

You can use a combination of factors to ensure you’re enjoying your food, just to keep things interesting. After all, variety is the space of life!

  • Use fresh ingredients
  • Experiment with different herbs and spices
  • Play with texture, such as crunch from nuts or creamy sauces, or dried fruit for chewiness
  • Take time to make your meals look nice. This makes them more appealing, and nourishing.
  • Think about what flavors would go well together to really bring the dish together
  • Keep experimenting with new recipes - this keeps it interesting!

Can you prepare vegetables the night before? Benefits and tips

Whether you’re prepping for the week, or even just the next few days, there’s a lot to be said about handling your veg all in one go to save time and efficiency.

It makes total sense to prep veg beforehand all at once. You’re already doing it, so why not make it an efficient use of your time.

Slicing veg for the next day is a great time saver so you can get straight down to the cooking the next day. It also spares a lot of the nutritional content of them, so long as you don’t leave them for too long - maybe a day or so.

Use containers in your fridge to store your chopped veg, so you can get at them easily and identify them easily. This is the key to preparing vegetables in advance. You can keep them in the fridge for a good few days, so long as you use airtight containers.

Meal Prep Recipes and Ideas

When it comes to meal prep, it’s often the mornings and daytimes we need to save the most time. Having something on hand for breakfast and for lunchtimes can be the difference between spending more than you want to, and/or deviating from your health goals.

Here at Marvins Den, we’ve actually gone a step further in the meal prep game, helping you take the prep out of meal prep. We deliver you prepared meals on demand, that suit your dietary and health preferences.

Low Calorie Lunch Meal Prep: Healthy Lunch Options for Weight Management

Satay Prawn Nooodles
Peri-Peri Halloumi
Chicken Pad Thai
Field Green Risotto

Breakfast Meal Prep: Quick and Easy Breakfast Options for Busy Mornings

Ashwagandha & Dark Chocolate Granola
Homemade Granola


Meal prep can be a game-changer for anyone looking to save time and eat healthier during the week. By preparing meals in advance, you can avoid the stress of having to cook every day and ensure you have healthy, delicious food ready to go.

We’ve provided you with the basic steps for successful meal prep and tips for making your food more enjoyable. From planning your meals and shopping for ingredients to cooking in bulk and storing your meals, there’s everything you need to know to get started with meal prep.

With these tips and strategies, you'll be able to meal prep like a pro and enjoy delicious, healthy food all week long!

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