Plan Your Weekly Meal Prep Easily with this Free Meal Prep Checklist

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Meal prep is not just for hipsters and body builders. In fact, all savvy home cooks should be prepping food in advance to use throughout the week. It makes life easier! Bonus: Get a free printable meal prep checklist to help you organize your meal prep and make it happen.

asian veg rice salad for meal prep

It’s been known to happen that you find yourself…

…in a rush at meal times,

…away from home at dinner,

too scattered or too tired to get a good meal on the table. 

It happens, most assuredly. And while there are plenty of fast food joints and convenience products out there to save the day, they don’t always work for our nutritional or financial standards.

Let’s face it, generally it’s overpriced and unhealthy which makes it less than a good value, no matter your budget.

Thankfully, there’s a solution and it’s something as old as time. No, it’s not a romantic fairy tale featuring a beauty and a beast. It’s called meal prep.

You know that I love my freezer. Soooo much so that I wrote a cookbook chock full of freezer-friendly recipes.

Make ahead makes me happy.

But “make ahead” does not have to be limited to the freezer. In fact, there’s a wealth of things that can be prepped in advance and stored in the pantry or the refrigerator for use later in the week.

These days the hipsters call it, “meal prep”. Ironically, they think they’ve discovered something new, but no, our grandmothers would do as much make-ahead as they could because they were smart like that.

They just didn’t have the fancy black plastic boxes.

salads in meal prep boxes

How Meal Prep Can Help You

Weekly meal prep isn’t complicated or some fancy art that you need to study. Think about the things that you use every week that you prepare regularly.

I bet you “go through the motions” several times a week to shred or slice cheese, chop veggie dippers, or cook pasta.

I know I do. In fact, for months before I started doing weekly meal prep, I would whisper to myself, “You really should just set aside time every week to do all this stuff, so you have it already done.”

About eight years ago I finally put feet to my good intentions. I made a meal prep checklist of food items that needed to be prepped for the week, and then I set aside time during my toddler’s nap to knock out the preparation of some of those meal items.

My meal prep practice has evolved over the years so that now, instead of making my husband’s lunch every night or at 5 am before he leaves for work, I prepare a week’s worth of lunches for both of us. 

Now that I’ve got sons in college, we’re making meal prep a family affair. Our eldest recently graduated from college debt-free, in part thanks to meal prep. Instead of spending his money on meals out, he packed a lunch every day he was on campus at lunchtime.

Yep, meal prep can be a game changer.

meal prep ingredients on counter

Meal prep can save you time during a busy week. It can help you make the most of your food budget by helping you avoid commercially made foods that bring a poor value.

Meal prep can make it super simple to get a meal on the table after a crazy day.

Yes, I get you. But, how do you really make this happen? you may say.

Get a meal prep checklist.

Having a meal prep checklist is super helpful in organizing your meal prep and helping you see the big picture. 

What might you put on your meal prep checklist?

  • shred cheese for quesadillas, salads, and tostadas
  • slice cheese for sandwiches and snacky lunches
  • cut vegetables for snacks, side dishes, and to include in stir-fries or salads
  • prepare granola or baked oatmeal for breakfasts
  • hard cook eggs for meals and snacks
  • prepare salad fixings
  • bake breads and cakes
  • assemble lunches and other meals on the go

After I’ve decided on my meal plan for the week, I divide my meal prep checklist into the regular mise en place items, the ingredients you need to assemble meals throughout the week, as well as which meals I can prepare in their entirety. 

This meal prep checklist is very similar to the checklist that I’d use in a freezer cooking session, only I know that I’m probably going to store these items in the fridge, not the freezer.

If you’ve ever done freezer cooking, you can do meal prep. It’s like half-way freezer cooking!

Meal prep is like a dream come true. I have convenience without the high price or questionable ingredients list. Assembling dinner is so much easier. We eat more healthfully. And we shake the crazy that comes at 4 pm.

When I block out a couple hours somewhere in the week to work through my meal prep checklist, I’m making life so much easier on myself!

meal prep checklist

I’m sold on meal prep, and you should be, too. I put together a printable meal prep checklist to make your weekly meal prep much easier. You can laminate it and reuse it each week, using a sharpie or a wet-erase marker or just print a new one each time. 

Bonus: I’ve included a sample meal prep checklist so that you can see 

When you join my mailing list, I’ll send you the meal prep checklist as well as my best tips for simplifying meal planning.

Meal prep is, by far, a major sanity saver in my week. Grocery shopping and meal planning are essential. Putting together a meal prep list and following it is the next natural step. You will be so glad you did it. I promise.

kitchen winner meal plan logo

I believe whole heartedly that everyone can (and should!) enjoy delicious meals, regardless of their budget or schedule. I’ve developed my Kitchen Winner Meal Plans around the concept of meal prep and efficient shopping.

Each weekly plan includes a full week’s menus, a coded grocery list in case you want to swap out a recipe here and there, and a complete list of things to prep at the beginning of the week to make the meals super duper simple.

It’s like having a subscription to those fancy pants services that bring you a recipe and a box of ingredients — only a whole lot cheaper!

You can subscribe for the Kitchen Winner Meal Plans for a month or a whole year, just depends on what you want to do and how much you want to save.

Check out all the good stuff here:

What do YOU do for meal prep each week?

About Jessica Fisher

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

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  1. Could not agree more!! I prep EVERYTHING! It makes my life so much easier especially as a work outside the home mama. Can’t imagine going into the work week without my food prepped. Also, make ahead meals, freezer cooking, and food prep has been the KEY strategies in my weight loss. I am able to control the calories by controlling the ingredients and portions.

    Every mom needs to try make ahead meal prep at least once. It really does change lives. 🙂

  2. Andrea says

    Ok, I’d like to try this.
    As far as the chopping and slicing, do you just put the foods in clear plastic containers in the fridge?
    I never thought about pre-chopping onion for recipes because I thought they would stink up the fridge? I guess not?
    I like to have fruits and veggies washed and readily available in the fridge too. Will get back to that!

    Last thought, when my peppers start to get a little soft, I chop them and put them in the freezer to add to recipes like scrambled eggs. YUM!

    • Jessica Fisher says

      Yes, I have a large Gladware collection, to my husband’s chagrin. 😉 As long as it’s an airtight container, the onions won’t stink. You can also freeze chopped onions.

      • Jessi says

        You can also buy chopped yellow onion in the freezer section. It’s around $1.50 a bag in Texas and has about 2 cups chopped onion. Maybe a little more expensive than doing it yourself, but it’s a huge time saver.

  3. Great minds must think alike! I was just thinking how much time I spend every day making meals and snacks when I would much rather be spending time with my kids. I made some meals and snacks ahead today and decided I should do this every Sunday. I’ll save myself lots of time during the week, and my kids can play with daddy on Sunday while I prep. Win Win. 🙂

  4. Kayla H says

    Inspired by your previous post about prepping for the upcoming week, I have declared Sunday afternoons as my prep time because I really need to get more organized in the kitchen. Today didn’t exactly work out as planned- several things came up- but I did get some things prepped ahead and others planned for tomorrow. Your new printable is just what I need to get me started on the right track! I have your OLAM planner, and I am amazed how much we think alike. Please keep these ideas coming! 🙂

  5. Micha says

    You are one smart chica, Jessica. I do try to get some dinner prep done early in the week but not on the scale you do. When we get the ink I printing this out and finding it a home in my kitchen.

    Also I cannot believe the youngest Fish is going to be 3. They grow up too quickly.

    • Jessica Fisher says

      She grew up fast, didn’t she?

  6. Wow, thanks for the download! Doing things ahead of time makes life so much easier.

  7. Pam says

    Great idea! I also often tell my husband that as soon as I get home from the grocery I need to prep veggies for the week – however I often don’t do it. Last week I did make a fruit salad – that was GREAT to have ready for breakfasts/ lunches/ snacks.

  8. I love this idea! The list I printed out had your prep items already on it; do you have a blank list that I missed?


    • Jessica Fisher says

      I filled in basics. I haven’t made one that was completely blank. But, thanks for the suggestion!

  9. Kathy says

    love this idea, thanks for sharing it! Can’t wait to get sorted for this week.

  10. Working on that now! Family has so many food allergies that I want to cut out on fast food and unhealthy foods. On a mission to transition our family to organic and whole foods! 🙂 Super excited! Using your recipes along with other bloggers to build up our recipes database!

  11. Thank you!

    I would also suggest double-checking the prices when you’re buying cheese. Around here, 8 oz. of cheese is 8 oz. of cheese – the price is the same whether it’s in a block or already shredded, so I let the manufacturer do the shredding for me. 😉 (I used to buy it in a block and grate it myself when there was a price difference, but if it’s the same, I’d just as soon not have to do that part.)

    • Jessica Fisher says

      I would agree, as long as it’s the same quality cheese. I can’t find hormone-free cheese already shredded, so I’m happy to shred it myself.

  12. Kathleen D says

    When you wash and chop produce doesn’t it go bad faster? I typically will do it the night before but it seems too many days in advance wouldn’t fare well?

    • It depends on what it is. Peppers, onions, broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage, carrots. These all last pretty well. I don’t wash berries or fruit until right before serving.

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