Weekly Meal Prep: Save Time & Money

Do you frequently find yourself too busy to make a hearty breakfast, lunch or dinner throughout the week? If so, you might want to devote a single afternoon towards prepping a week’s worth of meals. There are tons of benefits to making a week’s meals in a day: you’ll waste less food because it’s all used up-front, you’ll save time during the week, and will always have a nutritious meal ready when you’re hungry (which means less bingeing on junk food and takeout).

Ready to reign control over your refrigerator and pantry? Here’s how you can prep a week’s worth of meals in an afternoon.

1) Plan Things Out

Everything is easier with a plan, and meal prep is no exception. First, identify which meal you struggle with the most: are you too busy in the morning to make a proper breakfast? Are evenings too hectic for you to cook? These will be the meals you’ll need to prioritize on prep day. Great dinner or lunch ideas you can prepare beforehand and reheat later include:

  • Meatloaf or stews
  • Rice or pasta dishes
  • Mason jar salads

And simple make-ahead breakfasts include:

  • Overnight oatmeal or parfait
  • Breakfast quesadilla or frittata
  • Muffins

When making your grocery list, consider at least one specific meal each day that you’ll want to make. If you can spread an idea across multiple days—a batch of muffins could serve as a whole week of breakfasts—that’s even better! Once you’ve planned a week of meals, buy the ingredients. Preferably, this should be done before prep day; shopping and prepping can turn an afternoon activity into a hectic, exhausting day.

2) Ensure You Have All Your Supplies

Because you’re making a week of meals in one day, you’ll need to make sure you have space in the fridge for food storage. You’ll also need lots of containers for storing your meals and prepped ingredients. Great options for storing prepared food include the Foodsaver Fresh Container 3-piece bundle or Just Joseph Nesting Containers, which take up little space when not in use. If you’re keeping chopped and prepped produce handy throughout the week, you’ll want some OXO GreenSaver Produce Keepers. These containers each include a basket for easy washing. Linus Fridge Binz like this one can help you keep your fridge organized and tidy. And if you’re making baked goods to store throughout the week, keep them fresh with a Bodum Bistro Bread Box (which doubles as a cutting board).

3) Stick to a Schedule

You won’t just want to plan your meals—you’ll need to plan your time, too. Before doing any food prep, have a battle plan and stick to it. This way you can multitask and make the best use of your time. Here’s a sample schedule you might want to use on your next prep day:

  1. Wash and cut produce as needed as soon as it’s home.
  2. If using the slow cooker, begin cooking right away so it can sit all day.
  3. Turn on the oven and begin making any baked goods.
  4. While that’s happening, prep your proteins and meats and cook when ready.
  5. While stuff is in the oven, prepare any rice or pasta on the stove.
  6. Finally, prepare any sauces that you might use over the course of the week.

4) Packing it Up

After you’ve planned, prepared and made your meals, it’s time to stow it away! Pack ingredients (like chopped produce and herbs) in their own containers, storing them together. Food that is prepared but not cooked can be stored in an oven-ready container in the fridge; all you’ll need to do is stick it in the oven when you’re ready to bake!

If you’re prepping lunches for work or school, consider packing them all in ready-to-go, bento-style lunch boxes now rather than later. This way you can quickly grab them on your way out the door.


Joe Sutton

Joe is a freelance writer and poet. A total homebody with a love for design, he loves brainstorming ways to transform a space. When not writing or tending to his bonsai, he's probably decorating in The Sims. You can find him on Twitter at @joesutton.

View all articles by Joe Sutton