How to Meal Prep (a Guide)
Meal prep saves money and time, and keeps us healthier. But, meal prep is not always easy to implement. I’ve been meal prepping for a few years now, and having a plan in place and making it a habit is well worth it. In the below guide, we give some of my tips and-tricks on how to meal prep for the week!
Step 1: Getting Organized
Planning Your Meals
Planning out your meals is so important! This is where we save the most time. We created this simple Meal Planning Template in Google Sheets to plan our meals and it’s worked really well. It’s categorized by the date and type of meal, and includes a recipe link, the ingredients, and a shopping list. We plan meals every Saturday, which allows us time to grocery shop on Sunday’s and Wednesday’s. Google Sheets is a great app to put on your phone so you can access it on the go.
Deciding the Meals & Repetition
Once you have a template where you can list the meals you want to make, you can decide which meals you want to put in it. Below is an example weekly meal plan. For ease of viewing, I’ve added only my breakfasts and lunches in this spreadsheet.
- Andrew repeats his meals a lot more often than we do so that makes his meal planning a lot easier. His breakfast ingredients are copied each week in the template so we always know what to buy at the store. This is a great tip when you start planning your meals if you can handle eating similar meals.
- Breakfast: He always has cereal with berries
- Lunch: He makes 5 identical power/ buddah bowls for the entire week and uses different sauces to mix them up.
- I need more variety so I plan for a few different lunches and breakfasts.
- Breakfast: I alternate between 2 types of breakfasts throughout the week: smoothies and oats. These are the breakfasts I eat every week, however sometimes I mix up the ingredients in them. I usually don’t need recipes for breakfast, but I have to think a bit more about what type of fruit I want to buy that week, etc.
- Lunch: I change this up every week, but still keep it simple with salads, veggie bowls and leftovers. I use recipes sometimes, so keeping track of the ingredients and recipe link is really helpful.
- Dinner: I cook a few meals during the week that will make enough food for leftovers for a few nights. Leftover nights save us a lot of time in cooking and prepping.
As we decide our meals, we add them to the tracker and include the recipe name and link so we can refer to it when we cook, along with the ingredients. We use this to make our shopping list. (see last column in the template). We determine what we have on hand in the house and only list the items we need to buy.
At the grocery store, we pull up the list in my Google Sheets app on my phone and we get what we need!
There are many ways to search for recipes, but we find Instagram to be the most useful. We like that we can look for recipes throughout the weeks or months and save and organize them to refer to later.
- Below is a shot of the Moving Mangoes Instagram mobile home screen (previously known as Veggie Campus). The ‘save’ symbol that is circled appears on the bottom right of each Instagram picture. If you click on that symbol it will now be in our ‘Saved’ file on Instagram which you can see by going to the same symbol on your profile home page and clicking on it.
- You can make collections such as lunch, dinner, breakfast and so on. This has been invaluable to look through and prep for the week
Step 2: Meal Prepping
We grocery shop on Saturday and Wednesday each week. We buy all of our breakfast and lunch items on Saturday, but only some of our dinner items. This is in case we have plans that pop up or our leftovers make more than we thought. This way, we don’t have too much food and waste it. We used to buy everything at once but were finding we were throwing out food.
We like shopping on Saturday instead of Sunday, because the grocery stores are less crowded. Saturday shopping has become such a habit of ours at this point that it often trumps other plans!
At the store, we use the shopping list from the Meal Prep Google Sheet to get the ingredients we need. We don’t stray from this list very often, except for maybe a few items here and there, which keeps our grocery bill very consistent. We love staying on budget.
Food Preparation/ Cooking
Once we’ve purchased all of our ingredients, we meal prep on Sunday. Our kitchen is a bit small, so we usually prep in the morning and Andrew gets his meals together in the afternoon. Although our meals are planned out for the week, we mostly prep our lunches on Sunday because that saves us the most time during the week. Sometimes we will prep ingredients for our dinners.
- Breakfast: Andrew keeps his breakfasts the same so he doesn’t prep for those and centers his prep around lunches.
- Lunch: He makes 5 veggie bowls for the week and has got it down to a science. Here is a link to his Buddah Bowl recipe and how he preps.
- My breakfasts change only slightly, and are smoothies and muesli/ granola bowls.
- Smoothies: I chop up fruits ahead of time and sometimes put them in a container together, separated for the day of the week. This speeds things up a lot. I also freeze bananas and have those on hand to throw in.
- I make veggie bowls or salads. I will chop all of the vegetables and put them in different containers, make lentils or quinoa and store in another container and some sort of a sauce.
- I combine everything in the morning, pulling from the different containers to make a lunch since I like to mix it up (unlike Andrew who keeps his consistent daily).
I make dinner for us during the week, so I’ll prep a few items that I can have ready ahead of time such as lentils, quinoa or chopped veggies. I refer to the google sheets A LOT during dinner as this has all of my recipes and is a quick reference guide!
- Consider any dinners or lunches you may eat out during so you don’t buy too much and have to throw out food
- Think about planning only for 3 days to start if you can shop again during the middle of the week. This also helps with potential food waste.
- Don’t forget to think about what you will eat on Sunday night while you are at the grocery store if you haven’t already planned for this the week before.
- Make new tabs in your google spreadsheet for each week so you can refer back and reuse and repeat a weekly plan or recipe link if need be. We have one tab where we’ve started to save recipes we use the most often for breakfast, lunch and dinner. Nice to have it all in once place!
We hope this meal prep guide is helpful and we’d love to hear from you – what are your meal planning and prepping tips?