It’s almost a new year, which means you might be thinking about ways you can up your meal prep game. That doesn’t mean you need to hop into 2024 ready to spend hours every Sunday prepping meals for 5 days a week. It’s also not only for people on weight loss or bodybuilding journeys, or for people who live by their macros or a strict meal plan.
In fact, I didn’t truly discover the “magic” of meal prep until I became a mom. It’s the time saved for me. Sometimes yes, I do prep a week’s worth of lunch. Most of the time though, my meal prep is stocking my freezer with bite-sized pancakes for my kids, or prepping bowls of cut fruit that they can easily grab.
Even if you’re not a parent, meal prep and meal planning can save you a lot of time and energy. If you’ve tried it before and felt overwhelmed, take smaller steps. It really is the little things, even when it comes to planning meals.
My favorite meal prep tools
Having the right tools helps too. Here are some of my favorite kitchen tools to make life easier in the kitchen. Of course, these aren’t “must-haves” and you don’t need every single one.
I’ve collected these over time (read: YEARS) as I build my meal prep game. Hopefully this list gives you an idea of where to start!
1. Glass containers
Let’s start with the basics – Food storage. Having an assortment of different-sized containers will save a lot of frustration later. I recommend going with glass if possible, for safe reheating straight from the fridge. Glass also seems to last a lot longer than plastic storage containers. If you can, it’s worth spending a little more for quality containers instead of replacing them every year or two. Here are some of my favs:
- Pyrex – Trusty, budget-friendly, oven-safe
- Glass containers with clip-on lids, to prevent spills
- W&P Porter Bowls – Pricey, but aesthetic and I love the shape and size
- Jars for sauces, dressings, storing nuts and seeds
2. The viral chopper
I’ve been burned many times by products that go viral on TikTok, but not this one. This chopper tool really is life-changing. I use it to make entire chopped salads (that I then eat straight out of the container). I also use it to dice apples for oatmeal and potatoes for potato soup.
3. A salad spinner
I’ve owned this Tiktok-viral tool for close to a year, and can confidently say it’s worth the hype. I can also confidently say that if I don’t have lettuce washed and prepped for myself, I am NOT making a salad.
With this little tool, I can wash and dry my lettuce as soon as I bring it home from the store so it’s ready to go.
4. A planner
Sometimes planning is what scares people away from meal prep. It feels overwhelming but can start as small as writing down what you plan to eat for dinner each week.
I’m a list person and a Millennial, which means I like to physically write things down. This Meal Prep Pad helps me write down the meals I’m planning for the week, and I love that I can build my grocery list right on the same page.
You can find this tool in the 2024 Fit Planner too. And a workout planner, a goal planner, recipes, and more. If you prefer to keep your life in one book, get this option.
5. Measuring tools
Nothing is more frustrating than digging through a drawer searching for a specific measuring cup or spoon, or realizing the one you need is missing in the sink. These little hurdles seriously add up, taking your time and adding stress.
Do you need a kitchen scale? It feels intense, but they’re not only for people who meticulously weigh their portions to hit their macros. A scale might be really helpful when you’re dividing up equal portions of protein, or when you’re baking and ingredients need to be precise.
6. This 3-in-1 blender
I have owned an older version of this Ninja system for nearly a decade, and I still use it consistently. I use the cup for the obvious thing, smoothies, but also to make salad dressings and small servings of other sauces. I’ve even used it to make nut butter.
I use the food processor to quickly chop broccoli into fine pieces, pulse together a crust or crumble for desserts, and (my favorite) make energy bites.
I use the larger blender attachment to prep large servings of smoothie that I then freeze into cubes to speed up the process later (my kids love smoothies so I make them often). I also use it to blend chunky pasta sauces for my slightly picky husband, or secretly blend veggies INTO the pasta sauce. You can use the blender for soups too.
The blades on this thing make everything super smooth. So smooth that no one will detect spinach in a smoothie or carrots in their pasta sauce.
7. Immersion blenders come in handy too
This is one of those tools you don’t realize you need until you have it. You could puree soups in a big blender, or you could use this immersion blender right in the pot. No mess, no risk of spilling hot soup on yourself.
I love that this blender comes with a mini food processor and whisk attachment, too.
8. A vacuum sealer
This is my favorite money-saving meal prep tool. If you eat meat, you know it’s EXPENSIVE. I like to buy it in bulk (I mostly do this with chicken), trim the gross pieces, and weigh it out into the portions I typically need for cooking. This is usually 1 to 1.5 pounds for me! Then I vacuum seal each portion, write the weight and date on each pack with a Sharpie, and freeze.
Not only does this save money, but I don’t have to deal with touching and cutting raw meat later (my least favorite part of cooking).
If you’re willing to put in a little work upfront, future you will thank you.
The list of vacuum-sealable foods is endless, even if you’re not a meat-eater.
9. Prep bowls
There’s just something about a matching set of mixing bowls that makes you feel ready to get in the kitchen, right?
I love these. You can grate cheese, carrots, or zucchini, or thinly slice veggies right into the bowl. And mixing bowls with lids are a game-changer.
10. A garlic peeler
Peeling garlic is the worst. This silicone garlic peeling tool is inexpensive and worth every penny to save yourself from stubborn garlic skin that sticks to everything.
While you’re at it, grab a garlic press to save yourself even more time.
11. An ice cube tray
Sometimes I use these for ice, but I mostly use them to freeze pre-made portions of smoothie and leftover pasta sauce or chicken broth.
12. An Instant Pot
Another game changer for meal prep. If you don’t own one yet or find it intimidating, I promise it’s easier to use than you think! I use it to quickly cook large portions of rice and a few of my favorite soup recipes. I also love that you can sauteé the base of a recipe (garlic and onion for example) and then add your other ingredients, which to pressure cook mode, and walk away. No manning the stove, no extra dirty dishes.
It’s a learning curve, but worth it.
13. Flat-top grill
I am totally aware that this is a big purchase and not just a quick “add to cart.” Like I said, you can meal prep without anything on this list, and that is certainly true for this griddle. But it’s a favorite of mine and it has truly changed my meal prep game.
If you’re cooking for a family or multiple portions for yourself, having a griddle eliminates the need for multiple pans or cooking in batches. I can cook 12 pancakes at once on this, or even a whole breakfast spread. We can cook stirfry insanely fast on this too and it doesn’t leave me with a wok to clean.
14. Shaker bottle
Finally, a trusty shaker bottle to take your protein on the go. This bottle has saved me so many times when I’m caught up in a busy day and just need something quick to avoid hanger between meals. It fits in my car cup holder (major win) and has a built-in filter to catch any lumps. The iridescent design makes it fun to carry, too.
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