Q + A: Meal Prep Tips + Hacks

I’m sharing my meal prep tips and hacks in this Meal Prep FAQ series! Including exactly how I meal prep, when I meal prep, my go-to weeknight dinners, and my time-saving meal prep tips.

*If you’re having trouble seeing this video, try turning off or pausing your ad-blocker. If you prefer, you can also view this Q + A: Meal Prep Tips Video on Youtube here

Welcome to our second Q+A Series. It’s all about MEAL PREP!

Each month, we are selecting a topic, polling Instagram and Facebook to gather our top 10 FAQs, and answering them here!

Read January’s Q + A Post: Life After Baby here!

This month our focus is time-saving MEAL PREP Tips. 

If you’re new around here, my name is Lindsey and I love meal prep. It’s a lifestyle I adopted over five years ago back in my fitness competition days. While what and how I meal prep has changed over the course of the past five years; it’s still something I do every week.

Because meal prep makes my life SO MUCH EASIER.

If you’re a visual person and like video, check out the rapid-fire style, question and answer video we put together at the top of this post (you can also find this Meal Prep FAQ video on Youtube here).

If you’d rather comb through the questions and answers in greater detail, grab a hot cup of coffee and read all the details below.

Q + A: Meal Prep Tips + Meal Prep For Beginners

meal prep hacks

1: When do you do meal prep? One day or multiple days?

This has changed with my seasons of life.

Prior to Bella, I did a lot more batch cooking on one weekend day (Saturday or Sunday) during a nap time, or when my husband was entertaining Brody for a few hours. But now with two kids, I find myself doing it more broken up — an hour of meal prep here and an hour there.

I’m home with the kids on Fridays, so typically on Friday mornings, I’ll do one ‘baking project’ with Brody. We make one or two of the following recipes almost every week:

And then on Sunday during nap time, I’ll try to prep a few more things, like:

make ahead banana pancakes

2: You mentioned meal prepping vegetables — how do you prep veggies for the week?

First I just want to say that I’m all about using pre-chopped veggies. That’s my go-to for saving time during meal prep and during the week.

If I’m not using pre-chopped veggies, I’ll take some time over the weekend to chop bell peppers for fajitas/tacos or peel and chop sweet potatoes for sheet pan meals. Again I store these pre-chopped veggies in these Rubbermaid Produce Saving Containers.

MEAL PREP HACK  if I’m buying veggies that have a stem, like asparagus or kale, I stick them in a mason jar with a little water in the fridge. I’m all for avoiding produce waste, and this is the best way to do it! This meal prep hack also works for keeping herbs fresh too.

3: How do you decide what to make each week?

If you’re on my email list, you’ve seen my weekly ‘meal plans’ landing in your inbox every Thursday, along with a weekly workout plan.

My weekly meal plans are simple (hence the post-it note photo below), but strategic:

  • I look at our calendar for the upcoming week, and see which weeknights we have activities and I’ll plan something quick or plan on pulling from the freezer on those nights.
  • Then on nights we’re home, I’ll pick out a few meals that might take a little longer (but honestly, most of my meals are 30 minutes or less).
  • I also try to alternate protein sources and veggies to keep our meals diverse in nutrients.

Want to see what I’m prepping for my family every week? Sign up for my email list by clicking here. 

weekly meal plan

4: What are your go-to weeknight dinner recipes?

We have a sample 7-Day Meal Plan (with a grocery list and prep guide!) on the blog. These are some of my staple go-to meals.

Additionally, there are some recipes I make a variation of every week:

  1. Stir Fry
  2. Tacos

MEAL PREP HACK I make these two recipes almost every week, but I make them ‘different’ by swapping out the protein source, veggies and sauces.

For example, take tacos:

I operate off a base formula for every meal: Protein + Veggies + Grain + Sauce

You can make pretty much anything into a ‘bowl’ using this formula, and leftovers make a great meal prep lunch and dinners.

how to meal prep tacos

5: What do you do if you meal prepped but don’t feel like eating what you prepped?

This happened to me a lot while I was pregnant, but thankfully isn’t as much of an issue anymore.

I was a lot more picky about meals and especially had a tough time with leftovers during pregnancy. The beauty of meal prep is that when I didn’t want to eat the salad bowl I brought, I also had spinach pancakes I had prepped and would eat those for lunch instead.

This is another reason I like to meal prep ‘components’ of meals  — if you have a ton of chopped veggies, you can throw them into whatever sounds good to you!

6: How do you rotate through your freezer stash so nothing goes bad?

Just like I write my meal plans on a post-it note on fridge (pictured above), I keep a running list of ‘what’s in my freezer’ on a post-it note on my fridge.

I aim to pull one freezer meal a week and add one new freezer meal a week; so what’s in my freezer cycles on a weekly basis.

When I take a meal from the freezer, I cross off that meal on my post-it note. Similarly, when I add a meal to my freezer, I add it to the list.

freezer meal prep recipes

7: Do you have any time-saving meal prep tips or ‘hacks’?

I’m all about taking shortcuts when it comes to meal prep.

Some of my favorite time-saving meal prep tips include:

  • Steam-in-bag brown rice
  • Pre-cooked chicken breasts or rotisserie chicken
  • Pre-chopped veggies and frozen veggies (frozen are more budget-friendly)

You can always make a meal with these items on hand.

My classic go-to meal prep grain bowl consists of:

  • Grain like brown rice, quinoa or farro
  • Roasted frozen veggies 
  • Pre-cooked chicken, rotisserie chicken or an over-easy egg
  • Topped with an oil or dressing of choice 

MEAL PREP HACK For baking, I like to find muffin recipes that can double as pancake recipes; or vice versa.

I double batch the muffin recipe, fill up a muffin tin, and then thicken the remaining batter with a little extra flour if needed and make pancakes out of that same batter. One recipe, served 2 ways! 

If you’re like me and think cleaning up is the worst part of meal prep, one of my favorite ‘hacks’ is also using non-stick, silicon muffin tins and these nonstick silicon baking mats.

I have all of my ‘meal prep essential’ products I use linked in my shop page as well!

meal prep kitchen essentials
8: What are some of your grab and go snacks that don’t require meal prep?

If you want more healthy snack ideas, check out this post where I shared my favorite Packable Snacks, both handmade and store-bought!

healthy store bought snack ideas

9: How do you meal prep on a budget and balance eating quality, organic with budget?

Honestly, this is an on-going struggle for me. In total transparency, I’m very fortunate to get a lot of quality products and pantry items from brands I love.

But truthfully, we are big eaters in our house and we create a larger budget for food since it’s important to us and we don’t eat out often. So making most our meals at home is how we save time and money and stay on budget overall.

That said, I don’t buy all organic. I organize my grocery spend based on different tiers of what’s most important for me to buy quality/organic. For me personally, that looks like:

  1. Proteins (meat, fish and eggs). That’s where I spend the bulk of our grocery budget. Having quality protein sources is something I really value. So we spend more money on grass-fed organic beef, wild caught fish, pasture-raised chicken and eggs.
  2. Dairy. I strive for quality milk and cheese since that’s a common inflammatory source. For example, organic dairy has over 60% more omega-3s (the fatty acids linked to reduced heart disease risk) than conventional dairy products (NPR).
  3. Produce. For produce, I strive to buy the ‘dirty dozen‘ organic if I can. Anything with skins (bananas, avocados), I buy conventional.

10: How did you get started with meal prep? It seems like a great idea, but overwhelming to beginners?

I stated meal prepping over five years ago; back in my fitness competition days. So it’s a habit I had prior to having kids (which I’m grateful for).

I get why it can seem overwhelming, especially for beginners. But honestly I think people overcomplicate it.

You see elaborate meal prep spreads on social media and think ‘meal prepping’ for the week will take up your entire weekend.

My recommendation, START SMALL.

  1. Start by double-batching ONE weeknight dinner.
  2. Once you’ve mastered that, add on a baked good you’d like to enjoy (muffins are an easy go to). 

Once you see the benefits of meal prep:

  1. It makes your life easier.
  2. You have healthy, ready to eat options available at all times. 
  3. You eat out less; thus, spending less money on food.

Well hopefully these benefits make you want to stay the course and keep meal prepping!

meal prep snacks

And that’s a wrap on this Meal Prep Q+A!

I hope you find these Meal Prep Tips helpful.

If you want to learn how to meal prep, I suggest starting with these guides to meal prep, below (I personally think they’re some of the most valuable resources we have on the blog): 

Next month’s topic: what would you want to ask a Pelvic Floor Physical Therapist? Drop a comment below or shoot me an email ([email protected]) with all your questions!

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meal prep hacks

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