Cute Meal Prep Containers Can Make Your Life Better

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Meal Prep is when you prep full meals or meal components in advance. With a fridge stocked with ready-to-go meals, you’ll save both time and money. Here’s how to make it work for you.

turkey and fruit salads for meal prep

Busy days are sometimes planned. Sometimes they just happen to you. Either way, they tend to bring chaos with them.

Chaos as you hurriedly get dressed and out the door, leaving dirty dishes in your wake.

Chaos as you fight through traffic to get to the grocery store, to grab food for dinner and wait in line to check out.

Chaos as you scramble around the kitchen, trying to get a meal on the table before you’re late for your evening date with a pint of ice cream and the remote control.

Thankfully, chaos can be managed.

One sure-fire strategy to keep meal time chaos at bay during busy seasons is to plan time to meal prep. 

Ninety minutes of meal prep will save you several hours of dirty dishes, crowded grocery stores, and last-minute panic as you prepare dinner on busy nights. Not only that, but you’ll eat well and feel calmer.

Contented tummies tend to help us feel calm and happy.

Trust me when I say you will get a magnificent return on your investment!

asian rice salads in meal prep boxes

What is meal prep?

Meal prep is the practice of making full meals or meal components up to several days in advance of serving. Make-ahead doesn’t have to be limited to freezer meals.

Newsflash: Meal Prep is something that has been practiced for decades by busy homemakers and working moms, but with the advent of cute meal prep boxes, it’s become incredibly trendy and appears to be something new and modern. πŸ˜‰

You can store your meal preps (boxed meals) in the fridge or freezer, depending on the meal. For example, a burrito bowl will freeze well whereas a salad will not. Both deserve a place in your week’s meals.

Meal prep can vary depending on your needs and the number of people you’re feeding. There is no one right way of meal prepping. What works well for you in one season may need to be adjusted a few months or years later.

Why should you meal prep?

Meal prep can benefit you in a number of ways. It can be a great means of saving time, money, and stress.

Bulk cooking is a great way to save time. Prepping five boxed meals doesn’t take that much more time than prepping one. With modern refrigeration, we have the opportunity to work ahead when it comes to cooking — without any loss of taste or texture.

Meal prepping can save you money, especially if you tend to grab take-out on a regular basis. Having a stash of burritos in the office freezer will keep you from running out for fast food and your money from fleeing your wallet.

I’m a big fan of Double-Doubles and Burrito Bowls, but a trip through In-n-Out or Chipotle costs us $30 to $60 per meal. I’d rather keep that money and eat homemade!

Having meals prepped in advance has a calming effect. You know you don’t have to run to the store on the way home from work or worry about sticking to your diet during a busy week. The meals are all ready to go!

meal prep of cilantro couscous salad

Is meal prepping healthy?

Meal prepping is a great way to stick to your food goals. Meal prep has been shown to be a positive means for folks to practice portion control and avoid unhealthful fast food and restaurant fare.

In fact, it’s played a huge part in my losing 20 pounds over the last few months. When I have some meals prepped, I don’t worry about what I’m going to eat. I get on with life and satisfy my hunger without freaking out.

By prepping several meals at one time, meals that I know fit my food plan and nutrition goals, I’ve made it easier on myself to stick to my good intentions.

How to Make Meal Prep Work for You

As I said before, there’s no one “right way” to meal prep. You can do something as simple as cooking a bunch of chicken at one time and using it throughout the week’s meals. Or you can spend a little more effort and prepare several meals at one time.

Meal prep for a single person or a couple will look significantly different than meal prep for a large family. 

The key question to ask yourself is this:

What can I prep in the kitchen now that will help me out later?

I’ve done it differently over the years, depending on what’s going on during our week. Sometimes I prep the all the individual ingredients to use in the week’s meals. Other times, I prep boxed meals for me, my husband, and our kids.

The latter helps us out tremendously. Not only do my husband and kids have easy meals to pack for work or school, but we also eliminate a lot of the kitchen mess that arises when everyone is cooking all the live long day. 

You don’t want to feel my wrath if you leave my kitchen a mess. Meal prep helps us all in that!

In a household where different family members may have different schedules, meal prep can make it easier to keep everyone fed good, healthy food. Instead of nuking a tv dinner, a late comer can simply reheat a nice, home cooked meal.

meal prep ingredients for dinner

What food is good to meal prep?

The foods you meal prep will depend on your preferences for meal service, how much time you have to work, and what you’re going to prepare.

You can prep basic ingredients.

Something as simple as chopping the vegetables and shredding the cheese you’ll need for this week’s meals can save you a ton of time, making assembly at dinner time loads easier. 

Consider these meal components that you can prep in just a few minutes.

mediterranean salad with meatballs

You can prepare complete meals in advance.

From breakfasts to lunches to dinners, there’s such a variety of foods that you can prep now to enjoy later. It doesn’t have to take long to do meal prep.

Here are some of our favorites that keep well for a few days made in advance.




meal prep sheet

Free Printable Meal Planner

How do you meal prep for the week?

1. Inventory and clean out your fridge and pantry.

Cleaning out the fridge and pantry is a great way to save money! It’s a reminder that we probably already have enough food. I also get a glimpse at foods I need to use up soon, lest I throw good money away.

Knowing what we have makes planning and meal prep so much easier. My newest goal is to do this every four days so a backlog of leftovers doesn’t also waste our money.

2. Choose your meals.

While meal planning isn’t the same as meal prep, it’s definitely a step in the right direction. I use  the Kitchen Winner Meal Plans to help me choose which recipes to make based on what proteins I have on hand.

Bonus: these meal plans lay out the grocery list and the prep steps so all my work is done!

3. Buy groceries.

At the same time I plan my meals, I create a grocery list of things we need to get.

Since I meal plan based on what we already have, I try to limit my list to things that we truly need or that are really great sale items. I build a stockpile on a budget: buying my favorite ingredients at sale prices.

Whether you have a plentiful stockpile or not, be sure to pick up the groceries you’ll need for meal prep.

assembling many sandwiches

Chicken Bacon Subs

4. Prep the ingredients.

My most successful weeks — when we eat the best — are those when I’ve done some meal prep in advance.

At the bare minimum, I like to:

When I spend a few minutes working on these meal prep items, lunch and dinner assembly takes just minutes. And those extra touches like a great homemade vinaigrette make it feel like a feast!

A good rule of thumb for prepared food stored in the fridge is 4 days. Keep this in mind and use things up before they spoil or lose taste and texture.

5. Preassemble what you can.

So many of the foods we eat can be made a few hours, days, or weeks in advance. It just depends on the recipe how far in advance you want to make it.

If you’ll notice, in all my recipes, I explain how far in advance you can make and chill or make and freeze a dish. I find it handy to note these things so that you can do meal prep in advance and make things easier.

So, that’s pretty much meal prep in a nut shell. Or a cute meal prep container. πŸ˜‰

rainbow slaw meal prep

Make Meal Prep a Habit.

In order to save money and really make the most of meal prep, you need to have an arsenal of packable lunch ideas. I say lunch, but these meals really double for dinner as well. 

And they beat take-out any day of the week.

I’ve put together this quick and easy printable guide to help you meal meal prep more of a habit. Here’s just a peek:

screenshot of printable idea generator

Print out this idea generator and tack it somewhere easily seen in your kitchen. The next time you’re planning your meal prep, bring it out and let it provide all the inspiration you need to choose and plan for great packable lunches.

Bonus: all the recipes can be found here on Good Cheap Eats.

Drop your email address here and I’ll send the printable straight to your inbox.

And if you want a little more help with meal prep?

kitchen winner meal plan logoSubscribe to the Kitchen Winner Meal Plans!

This monthly meal planning service is more than just a plan of random recipes dropped in your inbox.

With 35+ weekly plans, the Kitchen Winner Meal Plans provide 7 full menus complete with recipes, as well as the grocery list and meal prep checklist to help you bring meal planning dreams to meal prep reality.

When you subscribe, you’ll get instant access to all the plans available, with more being added each month. It’s a great way to have your meal prep and eat it, too.

Start your subscription today:

About Jessica Fisher

I believe anyone can prepare delicious meals—no matter their budget.

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  1. Anna says

    I’ve been doing lots of soups, especially in the crockpot. They are great for using up bits and pieces, and sneaking in some veggies for my picky one. πŸ™‚

  2. Janet says

    My weekend prep this week included:
    1. Prepping salad greens
    2. Washing a couple pints of cherry tomatoes
    3. Prepping several pounds of carrots – grated, sliced and cubed
    4. Washing and packing grapes, apples, and raspberries for school lunch boxes
    5. Baking corn muffins to accompany soup
    6. Making Β½ dozen apple tarts
    7. Firing up the bread machine – homemade bread elevates the most humble sandwich.
    8. brewing up a large pot of tea (I love iced tea with lemon)

  3. Barbara says

    Things to do for prep this week:

    1. Make healthy muffins for sack lunches
    2. Make BBQ sauce for pulled chicken/pork
    3. Make dill pickles
    4. Make several loaves of bread.

    My meal plan this week uses about 90% pantry/freezer items.

  4. Alice E says

    Freezing both prepared food in appropriate sizes and ingredients helps me immensely. Also having the ingredients available in the pantry for quick meals is really helpful for me. I not only use mostly ingredients from the freezer and pantry for many of our meals, but I check and be sure those ingredients are available for when I need them and try to always buy them on sale.

  5. Maureen says

    You ideas are so valuable but your handwriting is beautiful!

  6. Vanessa says

    I have been following you for so long now I can lots of the time already tell what you’re going to say in posts like these! I have been so grateful for your blog. When I first got married we had a VERY tiny budget, and our grocery line was $140/mo! Now with 4 kids, it’s a little larger, but still very very frugal. The last couple bumps in the budget line have made me feel like a queen!
    I do things like bake a pound of bacon to have on hand for salads or sandwiches, carmelize onions for the week, chop veggies or fill a pasta pot full of water at nap time so dinner is easier and I can do more of it one-handed with a baby on my hip. In some seasons of life prepping two meals and freezing one has been helpful, and right now I’m keeping ingredients prepped and on hand in the freezer!

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