The school year has just started and you're probably already stressed. Between work and bringing the kids to and from school and their various activities, is there even time to cook dinner? Or maybe you’re just trying to eat healthier, but time and hunger lead you to order pizza...again. But with planning and preparation, your meal struggles can be solved with a little meal prep.
Typically, meal prepping involves taking one day to make multiple meals to eat throughout the week ahead so you can have more free time after work and school. You can prep every meal or just prep one or two meals of the day so you have one or two less things to worry about—the options are endless.
If you're new to meal prepping, it can feel a little intimidating and it honestly will probably take some experimenting to figure out what will work for you. For instance, some foods do reheat better than others, so you might want to avoid prepping quesadillas that'll just get soggy before you eat them.
It's also important to keep in mind that a meal-prepping session will take more time than cooking a single meal. To streamline the process, the right gadgets, appliances, and accessories will make cooking all that food so much easier. Here are 10 things you can use to start meal prepping like a boss.
1. A planner for your upcoming meals
The easiest way to fail at meal prepping is to not have a plan. It’s essential to decide your meals ahead of time and make a grocery list before you head to the grocery store. This meal planning pad can help keep you organized by writing down what you plan to eat each day and jotting down ingredients you need on a shopping list that tears out easily. Seriously, it can be a lifesaver for the busy school year.
2. The easiest way get to through a lot of chopping
When preparing multiple meals at once, it’s a good idea to get all of your chopping out of the way first, so everything is ready to go when you start cooking. To avoid tiring your arm out while cutting up various vegetables, fruits, herbs, and meats, you’re going to want a sharp kitchen knife. We recommend this chef's knife from Victorinox because it’s affordable and gives you great control.
3. A solid surface for cutting veggies
You also don’t want to use a gross, old cutting board when chopping through your ingredients—it’s probably filled with bacteria. We love this bamboo cutting board, which we named the best cutting board of 2018. Not only is it beautiful (and perfect for meal prep Instagrams), but it’s stable and easy to maneuver. You’ll be spending quite a bit of time preparing ingredients, so you might as well do it on a quality cutting board.
4. Measuring cups to portion everything
You could buy measuring cups at any old home store, but because they're pretty essential for meal prepping, we strongly recommend having a high-quality set handy. Some break too easily, others may not come with those odd sizes like 2/3- and 3/4-cup that you’ll eventually need for a recipe. After testing the best measuring cups, we found this set from Bellemain to be the sturdiest, most robust option. They fit in most containers and include those weird middle sizes. And they outperformed all the other, more expensive stainless steel options we tried.
5. A gadget that chops and blends
The food processor is a very underrated kitchen gadget. Not only can use it to make things like pesto or salsa or even cauliflower rice, but it can also chop vegetables, shred cheese, and pulverize herbs and dry ingredients. Seriously, it will significantly cut down prep time so use it whenever you can. If you don't have one, or yours doesn't work very well, we recommend investing in our favorite food processor from Cuisinart.
6. Sheets for roasting and baking
Prepping lots of ingredients at once, whether you're cooking veggies or meat, can be a lot easier when you have enough baking sheets to cook them all on. For that, you’ll want to have at least two or three baking sheets on hand that can handle your ingredients. After testing all the best cookie and baking sheets, we absolutely love these from Nordic Ware because they’re lightweight and distribute heat evenly, making them perfect for cooking a variety of foods.
7. A pressure cooker that can do most of the work for you
Efficiency is essential for making meal prepping as quick and easy as possible. Electric multi-cookers, often referred to as pressure cookers, are great because they have all the functions of a pressure cooker, rice cooker, slow cooker, and more. With a good pressure cooker, you can cook anything from rice to soup to chicken, leaving your stovetop and oven free for other tasks. When we tested the best multi-cookers, we found that this Crock-Pot's electric multi-cooker was every bit as good as the cult-favorite Instant Pot, but it costs nearly half as much.
8. The perfect way to portion food
If you're tracking what you eat or you're really into making sure every portion is the same size, or your meal prep calls for precise baking, you’re going to want to invest in a kitchen scale. After we tried the best digital kitchen scales, this one from My Weigh was the clear winner. Not only was it the most accurate, but can also measure grams, kilograms, ounces, pounds, and baker’s percentage, making it easier than ever to weigh out food no matter what you're making.
9. A way to store all of your delicious meals
After whipping up a big batch of meals for the whole week, you going to need some good, microwave-safe containers to store them in. It’s important to avoid containers that have BPA or other toxins that can leach into the food you’re reheating and this container set from Glasslock is the best one we’ve tested. We love these containers because they didn’t leak or break when we dropped them. Bonus: Since they’re glass you can reheat them in the oven, too.
10. Iced coffee for the morning
Mornings can be chaotic, leaving you with little time to brew coffee, but good news! You can prep that too—at least you can with iced coffee. Using a cold brew coffee maker, it's super easy to brewmakea quart of concentrated cold brew coffee that will last you a week (or at least a few days). We named this one from Takeya the best cold brew coffee makers because it’s affordable, easy to use, and has an airtight seal, so you can even store it on its side, which is extra useful when your fridge is filled with all your meal prep handiwork.
Prices are accurate at the time of publication, but may change over time.