The 10 best tools to help you meal prep successfully
Meal prep means less stress... when it's done right.
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The new year has just begun, but everyone's already stressed. Whether you're headed to a new job, bringing your kids back to school, or going to school yourself, you're probably struggling with the idea of making dinner every single night. And if one of your resolutions is to eat healthier, these new schedules can really mess with your goals. Luckily, your food anxiety can be quelled with a little planning and meal prep.
Typically, meal prep involves cooking multiple meals to eat throughout the week in advance, so you can have more free time after work and school to live your life. You can prep every meal for the whole week, or just one or two meals per day for weekdays—the options are endless.
If you're new to meal prepping, it can feel a little intimidating, and it 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. Having the right gadgets, appliances, and accessories on hand will streamline the process and make cooking all that food so much easier. Here are our top-tested products you can use to start meal prepping for real.
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. So, a meal planning pad can help keep you organized—you can write down what you plan to eat each day and jot down ingredients you need on a shopping list that tears out easily.
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 damaged or warped cutting board when chopping through your ingredients. We love this bamboo cutting board, which we named the best cutting board of 2020. 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
Food processor are underrated kitchen gadgets. You can use them to make pesto, salsa, and cauliflower rice, as well as 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 a dedicated food processor now, we recommend investing in our favorite food processor from Cuisinart.
6. Sheets for prepping, roasting, and baking
You can never have too many baking sheets. They're perfect for organizing prepped ingredients, roasting veggies, and broiling fish and poultry—not just baking cookies. After testing all the best cookie and baking sheets on the market, these lightweight Nordic Ware half-sheets won us over. They distribute heat evenly, making them perfect for cooking a variety of foods.
7. An Instant Pot for speedy meals
Efficiency is essential for making meal prepping as quick and easy as possible. Electric multicookers, 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 the Instant Pot Ultra has the superior cooking performance, intuitive controls, and updated features to make anyone a pressure cooking convert.
8. The perfect way to portion food
If you're tracking what you eat or your recipe calls for very precise measurements, you’re going to want to invest in a kitchen scale. After testing the best digital kitchen scales, this scale My Weigh came out as the clear winner. Not only it is incredibly accurate, but it 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. This container set from Glasslock is one of the best we’ve tested, and they never leaked or cracked when we dropped them. Because they're glass, they can ever go in the oven.
10. Iced coffee for the morning rush
Mornings can be chaotic, leaving you with little time to brew coffee, but good news! You can prep that too—if you're into iced coffee. Using a cold brew coffee maker, it's super easy to brew a 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 maker because it’s affordable, easy to use, and has an airtight seal, so you can even store it on its side.
Prices were accurate at the time this article was published but may change over time.
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