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Eat Clean with Meal Prepping Basics

#cleaneating #healthyeating #healthandwellness womenshealth Jun 21, 2023

Eating more healthy and clean really does require one to think about cooking at home more. Eating out and taking out is convenient, but it doesn’t always allow us to make the best choices. Meal prepping can save you time and money since you’re buying and preparing home-cooked food in advance. You may think that the process of meal prepping is too time-consuming, and it’s just one more thing to add to the “to do” list. This is actually a habit that will save you time during the week. Those days when you are running around in the evening with the kids or working late have that meeting, etc. Let us discuss meal prepping basics.

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I never really meal planned because I had the same mindset behind it “I just don’t have the time.”  The thing is that the chunk of time it takes to get organized and make meal planning happen will undoubtedly save you time during the week. Whatever your life looks like, this meal planning basics and prepping that you do in front of your week ahead is going to save you time.

Not only that, but it will also save you money. Just think how many times you run into the grocery store with a mental list of what you’re going to grab to throw together tonight for dinner, then maybe you see something else that catches your eye, or how about some of this. You know that trip that should have only cost you $15.00, instead turned into $50.00. Or, you order in or drive through for fast food. Not only is this not the best healthy option, but it’s also not the best on your wallet.

When you plan and sketch out a weekly menu, you get exactly what is on the list. Furthermore, when we write things down, like the list and the menu, our minds are more likely to adhere to that plan. So then you have it all prepped for the week, ready to place in the oven or throw it in a pan on the stove. There’s no question as to what’s for dinner, and let me tell you, that turned into the most unpleasant words I would hear during the week. One I dreaded hearing.

When you prep, it makes it easier to eat healthier as you will avoid processed foods and snacks. You’re less likely to choose the junk food option if you have a healthy dinner at home waiting to be heated or eaten. Preparing your food in advance makes it much easier when you’re looking to eat nutritious foods and control your portion size.

Methods of Meal Prepping

There are basically 2 methods to food prepping:

  1. Batching- making large amounts of food all at once and freezing or refrigerating for use later on.
  2. Portioning- dividing up portions into containers ahead of time to be ready when you need them. This is useful when making various meals you have planned for the week.


So what is batch cooking exactly? Basically, it’s just prepping and cooking a bunch of food all at once, so it makes ake cooking and creating your meals easier during your busy week. There are a few ways you can go about this.

First, you can create freezer meals to be thrown in the crockpot later. I love the crockpot and love this idea. Or one-pan meals that are already cooked and then frozen so that you can place them in the oven in a snap. Better yet, double them to freeze one for later, to make future weeks even easier.

Next, you can create meals with larger portions to utilize during the week for other meals. (This requires extra planning but saves time) A great example would be to bake or sautee extra veggies, etc., to utilize for dishes like fajitas, buddha bowls, or side dishes.


This method is basically portioning all of your ingredients out 1 day a week and separating them into containers for specific meals that you will be cooking. This involves assembling the ingredients ahead of time and refrigerating or freezing to make cooking during the week easier. This is also key to preparing lunches and healthy snacks to grab quickly at home, school, work, and on the go. This method doesn’t require a lot of cooking all at once, but you still have fresh food without a ton of repletion.

You will want to get all of your veggies and fruits washed and prepared. Having containers to portion your ingredients out is a key tool. You may want to have containers with different compartments for snacks or lunches. For meals, you may need deeper containers. Silicone Freezer bags come in handy for prepped food that you will be throwing in the crockpot later in the week.

The best plan would to use these two methods in conjunction with one another.

Containers to use for Meal Prepping

You will need to stock up on reusable, airtight food containers. This will help your meals stay fresher for longer and taste better by locking bacteria and odors out.

Glass containers are best, as you can be sure there are no chemicals leaching into your food. What’s the point of eating cleaner foods if the containers you’re storing them in are making them toxic? At the very least, be sure your containers are BPA-free. I love these containers because not only are they glass, but they can go from oven to freezer, being able to withstand extreme temperature changes.

Bento Boxes are great because they offer compartments. This makes it so that you can have a meal and a snack in the same container. This is great for taking meals to work or sending with the kids for lunch.

Mason Jars are a great container to use for meal prepping, especially if you’re planning on fresh salads. They’re a great air-tight container, perfect for storing fresh cut-up veggies and fruits in the fridge. Like yogurt parfaits, you can make them ahead and store them in a jar. Homemade sauces and dressings are perfect for mason jars, so it’s best to have various sizes.

Reusable Silicone Food Bags– are perfect for storing marinated meats, sauces, and soups to freeze, as well as frozen fruit and veggies. They are made of a safer material than plastic freezer bags so that you can keep your clean food toxin-free and save the environment to boot! They go in the freezer, the microwave, and are oven and dishwasher safe. This makes defrosting and clean up a snap!

Sketching out a Meal Prep Plan

The first thing you want to do to start planning out your meal prep is finding recipes. Getting organized is step 1. Do you have a bunch of cookbooks? Do you use them? If not, donate them, give them away to a friend, whatever you need to do. If you haven’t used them in 3 years, set them free! Next, if you do use one or two cookbooks, seek out the recipes you do use. Flag the page with a post-it, doggy ear, whatever works. You will also want to take a look at your favorite dishes that you make regularly.

When looking at these recipes, ask yourself if you need to adjust them to make them healthier and cleaner. If you know, they are foods, or use ingredients that are not the best for you, explore how you can make them cleaner and healthier? Can you substitute chicken or beef with? If not, be sure to be mindful of your meat quality. This is key with clean eating. You want to look for labels such as hormone and antibiotic-free, grass-fed, pasture-raised, and organic. For some help on label-reading fundamentals, check out my article here.

After you’ve picked out your favorites, gotten them organized, and perhaps tweaked them a bit, you’ll want to brainstorm some theme nights. I don’t necessarily mean taco Tuesday, although that’s great! You can make it as simple as chicken Thursday, or Meatless Monday, or Whatever Wednesday (great for pulling out the leftovers). You will want to come up with as many of these as possible. Plug in those recipes you organized as ideas for those nights. When you start planning, you don’t have to do the same thing every week. For example, for chicken Thursday, you can categorize all of your chicken recipes to plan on Thursdays.

Another way of going about this would be to choose 2 nights with a different type of chicken dish. That way, you can “batch” and prep for the week using the chicken. Maybe Tuesday and Thursday. And then the next week, maybe it’s ground beef that you can brown on Sunday and use for Taco Tuesday and make some stuffed peppers to freeze. You really need to find what works for you and get it on a rotation. If you are moving toward a more plant-based diet, Meatless Monday is fantastic. It will allow you to try new plant-based recipes once a week and then build on them as you learn.

Another great place to find recipes is, of course, Pinterest. You can find thousands, and it is effortless to go down some rabbit holes there, so when searching for recipes, be sure you are as specific as possible. For example, search for recipes specifying an ingredient, such as “portabella mushrooms,” instead of just “dinner recipes.”

Also, with Pinterest, you will want to organize them on boards to find them easily. Having one folder labeled just “recipes” can become very unorganized quickly, and it will be difficult to find anything. Be specific about what type of recipes they are and categorize them accordingly. You can follow my boards here for a head start. Organizing and coming up with a plan may take a little time. After coming up with a plan, you can start constructing a menu that fits you and your family’s needs. It will then fall into place. Like anything new, you will need some practice before your prep routine starts to feel like a breeze.

Making a Meal Prep Menu

Now, looking at your recipes, some might have a few similar ingredients, such as bell peppers or black beans? These are great to plan the same week so that on shopping and prep day, you can buy and prep for 2 meals at once for that week. Grouping them in the same week with another couple of recipes similar to one another decreases the work. If you can double the recipe to freeze one for another week, this will decrease your work in the future.

It’s always a good idea to have one of these meals on hand for an “emergency” meal. This is when something comes up, and you can’t cook. You got stuck at work late, or a child was not feeling well. Whatever the case, things come up. Having a meal or 2 in the freezer for those types of events takes the worry out of an already stressful situation. Also, just being able to have someone or yourself throw a frozen meal in the oven will have dinner made in 30 minutes with no effort.  You can rotate them out into your planning when they’ve been in the freezer for some time.

Sketching out a menu doesn’t have to take too much time. Don’t overthink it, think of the easiest meals to prep and/or cook together. Just start with one week, and once you have a blueprint, you can start planning meals for two, and once you have got that down, your whole month can be done before you know it!

Prepping for the Meals

Many people think that they have to take an entire Sunday afternoon to prep meals for the week. This is not necessarily true. Although Sunday is a common day that people tend to meal prep, you may want to split it up throughout the week. What day do you grocery shop? When you get home, automatically wash and chop your fruits and veggies that you will need for your meals. Then another day, do your batch cooking. Maybe you only want to plan 3 days at a time, and your schedule allows you to do this on Saturday and Wednesday.  

Ok, so this all sounds well and good, but I must admit, it can take some time to really adopt this habit; however, if you can establish a meal prepping routine, this can really make your life a lot easier. Establishing a routine is a work in progress. The downside to meal prepping is that you may be eating dishes during the week that are prepared using the same ingredients for a few days in a row. To avoid getting bored, try different spices, dressings, or condiments. When you start getting into this for a few weeks, you’ll have some meals frozen, and your system will come together. It takes some trial and error. But, you will be so much less stressed in the long run while saving time and money on dinner!