Seven Tips to Help You Meal Prep for One

Become a meal-prep pro while you're quarantining.

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Meal prepping is a great way to eat healthy and save yourself time during the week. If you have a family, meal prep can be a little easier because you can buy in bulk and cook large quantities of food that will get eaten throughout the week. For just one person, however, it requires a little more work to meal prep just the right amount, while avoiding excess food waste and spending too much money. And we’re guessing a lot of you are trying to figure out how to meal prep for the entire week right now.

To help you manage meal prep for one, we put together some tips to get you started.

1. Check Your Calendar Before You Shop

Before you head to the store, it’s important to take a look at your calendar. Still working through some leftovers for tonight? Planning on getting some takeout on Friday? Make sure to factor these into your meal planning budget so you don’t buy too much food.

2. Make a List Before You Go

As simple as it sounds, many people skip this step and find themselves leaving the grocery store with a bunch of ingredients that don’t go together or that aren’t balanced. To make sure you stay on track, make a list on your phone or a piece of paper and try to organize it by the layout of your grocery store—produce in one section, dairy in the next, etc. This will help save time at the store.

3. Choose Food That Can Be Used at Multiple Meals

You can always choose to follow a recipe, but if you’re someone who gets sick of the same meal easily, you should choose food that can be mixed and matched. For example, you could buy rice, broccoli, grilled chicken, black beans, and sweet potatoes. For lunch two days out of the week, you could have sweet potato, broccoli, and grilled chicken. For dinner, you could have rice and beans. Then, switch up the lunch by making sweet potatoes stuffed with rice, broccoli, and beans. Flexible ingredients are key.

4. Take Advantage of the Bulk Aisle

Sometimes, you simply don’t have room for another bag of quinoa in the pantry. If your grocery store has a bulk aisle, take advantage of it. Not only can it be cheaper than pre-packaged food, but it can also save room in your kitchen because you only have to buy the amount you need.

5. Start With the Food That Takes Longer to Cook

If you’re roasting vegetables or making something that takes a longer time to cook, start with that. While the veggies roast or the rice cooks, prepare your other food so that you’re decreasing your overall cooking time and getting multiple things done at once.

6. Use an Instant Pot or Crockpot If You Have One

Both Instant Pots and Crockpots can save you a significant amount of time in the kitchen. You can use them to make large portions of meat, grains, soups, and even yogurt. They do the work for you so that you can get other things done while cooking your meals. While you’re at it, you can also make your meal prep easier with these must-have kitchen tools.

7. Freeze Meals for Future Use

Don’t hesitate to stock your freezer with meals you’ve already prepared, or ingredients that can be easily combined. Steamed vegetables tend to hold up best in the freezer and can also be used in smoothies. Meats can be frozen before or after they’re cooked, and grains can be put in plastic bags, with the air removed, and frozen. If you have herbs you don’t want to go bad, you can put them in an ice cube tray, pour boiling water in (to blanch them), and freeze. Ginger also stores well in the freezer.

Now that you have some ground-rules for meal prep, if you’re looking for some inspiration, look no further than these recipes: