5 Easy Meal Prep Tips for Beginners

5 Easy Meal Prep Tips for Beginners

Meal prep can be intimidating, especially if you’re a beginner. When should you do it? How long should it take? Do you have to eat the same thing every day? The list goes on and on.

Whether your goals are building muscle, weight loss, or you’re just looking to start a consistent meal prep routine, we’ve got ya covered. Consider this your easy-to-follow, step-by-step guide for a healthy and successful meal prep.

So now, it’s time to take the bull by the horns (well, tupperware container in this case) and learn some easy meal prep tips for beginners.

What Are 5 Steps to Meal Prep? 

Like anything in life, if you can break a task down into smaller steps, it makes creating healthy habits a lot easier. It’s no different for meal prep.

Follow the 5 steps below and you’ll be a big-league meal prepper in no time:

  1. Invest in some containers to store your food
  2. Gather a list of recipes
  3. Schedule some time for meal prep
  4. Make a grocery list and go shopping
  5. Cook and enjoy your delicious meals

1.) Invest in some containers to store your food

Having something to actually store your food in is meal prep 101. This is what you’ll use to separate out your meals. You might even have something just laying around your kitchen at home (like those plastic Ziploc containers with the colored lids). 

Or you can just google “meal prep containers” to see what’s out there. Don’t freak out about all the options out there and “choosing the right one.” Just go with one, test it out, and see if you like it. Whatever container you choose, just make sure it’s microwave, freezer, and dishwasher-friendly.

2.) Schedule some time for meal prep

Treat the time you block off for meal prep like you would if you received an invite from the company president for an important work meeting. Would you cancel on them or decline their invite? Absolutely not!  

Make sure you’re setting aside enough time to meal prep (start with about 1-2 hours at first). Sundays can be a good day to prepare for the week ahead. You can carve out some time to meal prep and plan out your morning so you can start your week off on the right foot. 

It might take some trial and error starting out, but the more you meal prep, the better feel you’ll get for how long things take.

3.) Gather a list of recipes

It’s time to try some of those healthy meal prep ideas you found while scrolling through social media. To keep yourself organized, you’ll want to outline your meals over the course of the week. 

Hop into Excel, Word, or Google Docs (or go old school with a pencil and piece of paper). Jot down the different meals you’re going to have each day. 

Now, that part can seem super easy—outlining your meals for the week. It might seem so easy that you’re tempted to just skip it. But... Don’t! 

Because whether you’re starting a muscle gain program or going on a cutting diet, taking the time to write things down gives it credibility and increases your chances of actually sticking to it. 

It’s kind of like hitting the gym. Once you’re there, you might as well get a workout in, since you took the time to get ready and make the commute. Same with getting a recipe list together for meal prep. Going through the trouble of writing it down and planning things out makes you more likely to see it through.

4.) Make a grocery List

Based on your recipes from step 3, map out ahead of time what to buy on your next store run.

And next time you’re at the store, consider the following scenario: You make it to the front, all ready to check out, then suddenly you realize you forgot something that’s alllll the way at the back of the store. How frustrating is that?

To prevent a situation like this from happening to you, reorder the items on your list so that you can start shopping at the back of the store and finish toward the front where the checkout lines are. 

5.) Time to cook and enjoy your delicious meals!

You’ve picked out meals, blocked off some time, and gone grocery shopping. So now it’s time to to cook your meals and enjoy the fruits of your labor!

What Should a Meal Prep Consist Of?

Ah! The question of the hour—what kind of foods should be in your meal prep? 

Here’s a list of foods that are good for prepping:

  • Meats like chicken, lean beef, and fish (salmon is jam-packed with omega-3 fatty acids, which are extremely beneficial to your overall health) 
  • Grains like pasta and quinoa
  • Beans and lentils
  • Vegetables like carrots, spinach, bell peppers, and kale
  • Fruit like apples, oranges, and pears
  • Nuts and seeds
  • Cheese
  • Condiments and dipping sauces (i.e. salad dressing, barbecue sauce, salsa, hummus, etc)

Foods that don’t work so well with meal prep include:

  • Softer fruits and vegetables like berries or lettuce.
  • Chips or fried foods that lose their crunch when you reheat them. 

Meal Prep Strategies: Tips & Tricks for an Easy Meal Prep

Now that you’ve learned about the basics on how to meal prep for the week, here are some meal prep tips for beginners to take you from kitchen newcomer to meal prep pro.  

Tip #1: Keep things simple

Meal prep tips for beginners numero uno: Keep things simple.

Don’t pretend to the the world’s greatest chef if you’re not (although you can wear a hat like Chef Boyardee if it makes you feel more official). Seriously though, choose dishes with an easy set up time that don’t have a ton of ingredients or take a long time to make. The less barriers you have to get started, the easier it’ll be. 

Here’s a simple formula to follow: 

  • Standard Meal Prep = Protein + Carb + Vegetable

If you’re following a low carb diet, you can double up on the veggies instead of having carbs. 

  • Low Carb = Protein + Veggies + Veggies

For vegans or vegetarians, your meal prep formula might look something like this:

  • Vegan or Vegetarian = Beans or Lentils + Grain + Veggies

Tip#2: Do a buffet style meal prep

This is also called batch cooking. With this, you prep a few different foods (i.e shredded chicken, steamed broccoli, sweet potatoes) and then use them in your different meals throughout the week. 

Buffet style meal prep works great if you can find meals that use the same ingredients (and it’s a time saver too), so you’re not having to buy 5 different meats or anything like that. 

Tip #3: Invest in a slow cooker or pressure cooker

Saying this is a timesaver would be an understatement. The Instant Pot, just as an example, can do miracles in the kitchen for saving you time. Find a simple slow cooker recipe, toss the ingredients in, and let everything cook while you’re sleeping or at work. 

Tip #4: Get creative with seasonings and sauces

Healthy eating doesn’t have to be bland; it can still taste good too. And the spices, seasonings, and sauces you use can help put some flavor into your dishes. 

Garlic, cilantro, parsley, rosemary, and cinnamon can pack some punch and bring out a bold flavor with your veggies, or are great for spicing up your chicken.

Tip #5: Make good use of your freezer

Meal prep becomes easier when you make use of your freezer. You can freeze most foods and come back to them later without compromising on taste. Frozen chicken stays good for up to a year, so if you have some meat that’s about to go bad, just seal it up and toss it in the freezer for another day. Make sure to mark the date! 

If you don’t have time to meal prep every week, consider meal prepping for two weeks at a time. You can freeze your meals in portion-sized containers, and then when it’s time to eat, just heat up in the microwave or oven and enjoy a quick meal.

Meal Prep Wrap Up

Now, you’re ready to take on your first meal prep! Remember, things become easier when you break them down into smaller, actionable steps. 

Here’s the 5-step formula again for a successful meal prep:

  1. Invest in some containers to store your food
  2. Gather a list of recipes
  3. Schedule some time for meal prep
  4. Make a grocery list and go shopping
  5. Cook and enjoy your delicious meals

And don’t forget about some of the meal prep tips for beginners we went over, like batch cooking and taking advantage of your freezer!

Of course, meal prep saves you time. But if you’re looking for something even quicker, try our PrOATagonist Instant Oatmeal. Key word is instant, because you can prepare it in a flash. And with 4 flavors and over 30g of protein per serving, it’s sure to keep both your stomach and taste buds smiling.  

Author: Chad Richardson

Chad is a freelance writer from Cincinnati, OH. When he’s not behind his computer cooking up content, you’ll find Chad at the gym making extremely ugly workout faces or watching sports with friends. He likes to pretend his hometown teams will play better if he yells at the TV.

Learn more about Chad on his business website here.


The information contained in this post is intended for informational purposes only and is not intended to serve as medical or professional advice. You should consult your doctor or medical professional before starting this or other fitness or nutrition programs to determine if it is right fo your unique needs.