Although it’s a big responsibility, I absolutely love meal planning. I have a meal planning notebook that helps me outline meals for the week and a spreadsheet where I keep a running list of favorite recipes. Every entry is numbered, so when I’m feeling uninspired, I use a random number generator to make the decision for me.
I also love grocery shopping and am a huge fan of cookbooks. I joined a cookbook club in September, and my collection is ever-growing.
The kitchen is my haven. As the chief meal planner and cook in the house, I take pride in my organization skills. I’m meticulous about my fridge, and I strive to keep things uncluttered. I deep clean it several times a year and avoid overstuffing it — I like being able to spot everything on the shelves.
But it’s not always easy to find the time to plan, shop, and cook, especially for dinner. Meal planning is a consuming household chore. Sometimes, after I’ve planned the week’s meals, I’m left without the energy to cook every day.
That’s where meal prepping can make a difference.
Meal Prepping Basics
Meal prepping is the process of preparing meals in advance, and it looks different for everyone. For some, it means prepping breakfast, lunch, and dinner in separate single-serving containers. For others, it involves preparing snacks and lunches for their kids.
Some folks plan their meals because they’re following a strict macronutrient diet in pursuit of fitness. Others merely prefer to pre-chop veggies and other ingredients in advance. Many people meal prep freezer meals that are easy to grab and toss in a pan, instant pot, or slow cooker on busy weeknights.
Meal prepping is also a helpful way to save money on your grocery bill. Planning and prepping prevent impulse buys at the supermarket and reduces food waste. So put aside a bit of time on the weekend to write out the weekly meal plan. Scan your cupboards and fridge to see which ingredients you already have on hand, and shop only for what you need.
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However you choose to meal prep, find a routine that suits your lifestyle. Meal prepping shouldn’t heighten your stress, it should decrease it.
Most meal prep dinner ideas and recipes provide cooks with all the information they need for storing and planning their weekly meals. If you’re ever in doubt about how long a food will last in the fridge, check out the comments section and read reviews, or simply leave a comment/question for the recipe writer.
Here are 30 meal prep dinner ideas to add to your recipe bookmarks folder.
Shrimp Coconut Rice With Mango Meal Prep
I love meal prep recipes that have a rice base. The rice cooker is my best friend. It’s so incredibly easy to cook a huge batch and then portion it for whatever recipes I have planned. Fit Men Cook has a wide variety of recipes available via their website or app.
Low Carb Chicken Broccoli Casserole
I’d also recommend the Low Carb Chicken Broccoli Casserole from Fit Men Cook. It’s nutritious and tasty, and keeps well in the fridge throughout the week.
Easy Slow Cooker Veggie Burrito Bowls
A slow cooker is incredibly convenient when you’re running around all day and barely have time to think about cooking when you get home. This recipe takes the concept of burrito bowls and turns it into a slow-cooker friendly recipe.
The Kitchn website also has a ton of other meal prep dinner ideas and tips. They also have a fun newsletter and Facebook group for those interested in getting started with meal prepping. Check out these other Kitchn meal prep dinner ideas:
- 20-Minute Sheet Pan Chicken and Veggies
- Grain Salad with Tomatoes, Corn and Basil
- How to Make Freezer-Friendly Breakfast Burritos
Roasted Vegetable Couscous Meal Prep
BudgetBytes is one of my very favorite recipe websites. Recently, she started introducing meal prep recipes with step by step instructions on how to prep portioned meals for the week. They’re so well done, and there are many delicious options to choose from.
A lot of the recipe components can be mixed and matched, too, which is helpful if you’re the kind of person who tends to get bored eating the same thing over and over again. This couscous meal prep dinner idea is super easy to make and won’t involve you slaving over the stove on a beautiful Sunday afternoon.
Cheeseburger Meatloaf Meal Prep
When you really want to eat comfort food all week — and make it nutritious in addition to tasty.
Mediterranean Hummus Bowls
This meal prep dinner idea is a simple one, but sometimes it’s hard to think up the obvious when you’ve been prepping for weeks, and you’re sick of wondering what to cook.
Salsa Chicken Meal Prep Bowls
Her regular chicken salsa bowls are THE BEST. The recipe is easy, and as long as you choose to make it with your favorite salsa, you’re golden. These bowls are delicious and straightforward to prep.
Chicken Salad Mason Jar Salads With Creamy No-Mayo Dressing
A salad in a jar is a smart idea, isn’t it? And salad doesn’t have to be boring. Just choose your favorite dressing, and add a bunch of yummy goodies for texture and added flavor.
If salads appeal to you check out these additional salad meal prep ideas.
- Chopped Chickpea Salad (Make Ahead) From Sweet Peas and Saffron
- Moroccan Chickpea Quinoa Power Salad From Little Spice Jar
- Fall Harvest Sausage Salad From Meal Prep on Fleek
- Asian Inspired Chicken Wonton Nacho Salad From The Girl on Bloor
Meal Prep Almond Flour Pancakes
I hate making breakfast. I put all my energy into making dinner and saving enough leftovers for lunch, but I can’t be bothered to put effort into breakfast. If you’re the same, why not prepare a batch of make-ahead pancakes?
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These pancakes from Skinny Fitalicious are low carb and paleo-friendly, but there’s no reason you can’t prepare a batch of regular pancakes to enjoy throughout the month. Make a huge batch and stick them in your freezer. You can pop them in your toaster to reheat. And of course, who doesn’t love breakfast for dinner?
Slow Cooker And Instant Pot General Tso’s Chicken
Make a big batch of this chicken at the start of the week, cook the rice in your rice cooker, and voila! You have several dinners ready. With a scrumptious recipe like this one, you won’t have to throw away money on takeout.
Meatball Meal Prep
I think meatballs are one of the most meal-prep friendly foods. They’re super easy to make, customizable, and they taste great even when prepped in advance. You can also freeze a batch for cooking later. Here are a few meatball centric meal-prep friendly ideas.
- Banh Mi Bowls With Lemongrass Meatballs From Pinch of Yum
- Honey-Chipotle Meatball Meal Prep Bowls (+ video) From Sweet Peas and Saffron
- Molasses Bourbon BBQ Glazed Chicken Meal Prep From Meal Prep on Fleek
- Buffalo Quinoa “Meat” Balls From V Nutrition and Wellness
Mexican Food Meal Prep
Mexican food is a cuisine that works well for meal prepping. If you love Mexican herbs and spices, try one of these meal-prep friendly recipes.
- (Make Ahead) Chicken Fajita Lunch Bowls From Sweet Peas and Saffron
- Meal Prep Instant Pot Mexican Rice From Eating Instantly
- Mexican Chicken Meal Prep Bowls From Green Healthy Cooking
- Taco Meal Prep Bowls From Damn Delicious
Meal Prep Soups
In the fall and winter, a cozy bowl of soup is the perfect complement to the cold weather. Whip up a big batch of soup and divide it into containers for the week. It freezes well, too. Here are a few soupy ideas for your next meal-prep session.
- Butternut Squash Soup Recipe From Sweet Peas and Saffron
- Vegan Carrot Ginger Soup From Sweet Peas and Saffron
- Slow Cooker Lentil Soup From Meal Prep on Fleek
- Broccoli-Cheddar Soup From Cafe Delites
- Superfood Quinoa Soup From Damn Delicious
Vegan Meal Prep Dinner Ideas
And for our vegan friends and readers, here are a few vegan-friendly prep ideas.
- Vegan Mushroom Goulash From Maria Ushakova
- Southwest Sweet Potato Vegan Meal Prep Bowls From Salt and Lavender
- Slow Cooker Chickpea Tortilla Soup (Freezer to Crock Pot) From Sweet Peas and Saffron
- Apricot Cucumber Tofu Steak Meal Prep From Meal Prep on Fleek
- Vegan Ramen Noodle Salad From V Nutrition and Wellness
Meal Prepping Tips
Here are a few tips to help you get started with meal prepping.
Invest In A Quality Set Of Containers
Choose sturdy glass containers with airtight lids. Glass containers allow you to see your food and easily spot what you need when looking through the fridge. They also don’t hold odors and won’t stain like other types of containers.
Label Your Meals
Whether you’re neatly stacking containers in the fridge or stocking up the freezer, labels are incredibly useful. When you’re busy, it’s easy to forget what might be in that big freezer bag. Is it chili or soup?
Do It All In One Shot
If you’re making meals for the week, choose a day that’s most convenient for you and take the time to cook everything.
You Don’t Need To Cook Everything In Advance
Some foods are better cooked right before eating but if possible, precut ingredients to simplify daily meal prep.
Plan It Out
Reserve a time to outline your meal plan for the week (or two weeks — whatever works for you). Then arrange a grocery list after looking through your fridge and pantry. Don’t head to the grocery store without a plan.
Stock Your Pantry
Always have the basics on hand. A well-stocked pantry makes planning and prepping infinitely easier. It’s also handy for times when you don’t have time to plan or prep and need to cook something in a pinch.
Save Your Favorite Recipes
Keep them in a binder, save them to a folder in your bookmarks, or use notecards. Whatever the method, have your favs on hand.
You don’t want to spend extra time Googling when it’s time to meal plan. If you try a new recipe, use a sticky note to jot down thoughts and adjustments for next time.
Join A Meal Prep Group
Whether with a few friends or a huge group on Facebook, it’s helpful to have others to go to for help and inspiration.
Prep Foods When You Get Home From The Store
Wash and cut produce (with the exception of foods like bananas and apples that will spoil quickly once cut) to save yourself time down the road.
Keep Things Interesting
Change up your routine once in a while. Eating the same foods every week can quickly become a slog, and a varied intake is key to a nutritious diet.