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I rely heavily on a handful of must-have meal prep items that help me get it done super fast.
There are always questions you want to ask when you start assembling meal prep items. Do you use plastic or glass storage? Bags or containers? Do you thaw in the container or transfer to the cooking vessel?
And the thing is, you’d think it was easy enough – just make a meal and store it, right?
But anyone who tries to meal prep with any regularity quickly realizes that you have more options than you’d think!
I like to keep it simple when I meal prep.
If I don’t keep it simple, I often wind up procrastinating and not getting it done in the first place. Which, of course, totally defeats the reason for meal prepping in the first dang place.
When I’m meal prepping dinners to use at a later date, there are a handful of must-have meal prep items I like to use and keep on hand to make the process simpler, safer, and easier to thaw. It’s not an extensive list, and I’m sure other bloggers and experts have lists full of different items.
These are the things I use on a regular, rotating basis to stay on top of meal prep and help make my weeknights easier.
I try to stick with a few core principals when it comes to my prep items:
- Is it washable?
I need everything in my kitchen to be easily washed, by hand. Living in NYC has meant, for us, that I haven’t had a dishwasher in almost 10 years, so easy handwash items are incredibly important as far as I am concerned. I need crevices to be easily cleaned, and the whole appliance or dish, whichever it is, to not need an overnight soak in order to rid it of staining or mess.
- Can it be stacked or easily grouped together?
I have just one fridge in my home with an attached freezer; we don’t have a backup fridge or freezer available in our small apartment. And my storage space is small. So when it comes to those must-have meal prep items, everything – from storage capacity to overall size and use – has to make sense.
- Is it unbreakable, or close to being unbreakable?
I have two small kids and my own butterfingers so this is important.
- Can I write on it or label it easily?
I usually label using old fashioned masking tape and a sharpie; I don’t tend to go overboard with fancy labeling techniques. But the labeling is SO important; it makes it easy for me to rotate the old in with the new. I can see at a glance what’s inside the container or bag. And, plus, it’s important that the material I’m adding the label too will both hold the stickiness of the label while it’s in the freezer, and allow the label to come off cleanly when it’s time to wash.
- Can I store it easily when not in use?
This need goes a little more hand in hand with storing while in the fridge or freezer, but it counts for dry storage as well. Can I stack it? Does it shrink or expand in extreme temperatures? Does it take up as much room when not in use as it does while in use? I love things like stackable lids or containers that can be pulled to a bigger size or pushed into something smaller.
Ready to see my must-have meal prep list? Let’s go!
I’m obsessed with baggy racks to the point that my students in cooking classes tease me I should be sponsored by the brand! Baggy racks are amazing for filling freezer-safe ziplock bags, but one of my favorite “hacks” for using them is as a drying rack for washing reusable bags.
When it comes to containers with lids, I’ve found one thing to be true: you get what you pay for. Few things are as irritating in the kitchen as attempting to seal a lid that won’t stay put. I’ve found buying reliable, trustworthy brands always edge out the cheaper versions.
The see-through lids are excellent; I write on top with a dry-erase marker, and can see the contents inside which means it’s easier to not forget what the heck that mystery leftover is!
I love these square, stainless steel containers in my own kitchen and they are absolutely on that must-have meal prep list for me; they’re the perfect size for lunchtime leftovers, and they stack nicely. They are also the perfect size to just drop a square of frozen, prepped ingredients into a slow cooker or Instant Pot without having to thaw it before cooking.
I searched high and low for years to find the reusable freezer-safe bag I liked best, and these Porter bags from WP have won the prize of my most beloved.
They’ve got a thick, secure ziplock top, are incredibly sturdy, clean easily (no staining!), are soft enough to shove and store in small areas, and hold up to 46oz of ingredients, prepped or otherwise.
See why over 1,000 people have left 5-star reviews for this product, which is one of my all-time faves!
I’ve waxed poetic about Soupercubes many a time, but my favorite things about them are:
- The sturdy lid, which makes them easy to stack
- The steel-enforced rim, so there’s no sloshing as you move a Soupercube container from one place to another
- The fact that you can cook in them up to 400*F, which means you can meal prep right in your Soupercube. The ease of washing them clean- and they dry quickly, too
- How easy it is to pop any frozen meal right out and transfer them, brick-like, to a stack in a freezer-safe bag.
When I talk must-have meal prep, Soupercubes are at the top of that list.
I love my little handheld chopper, and use it often. I’ve used a few different types over the years, including this hand-spun version, but the one I like best these days uses my stick blender as a motor.
Just drop garlic, roughly chopped onion, nuts, fruit, or anything else you need finely chopped, blitz it a few times, and poof! Done. Makes prep a lot easier.
This is one of my recent additions to my meal prep arsenal, and I’m so glad I have it! I popped up a strip of wood-covered magnet with an adhesive backing above my most-used kitchen countertop.
I can use the magnetic strip to hang recipe print-outs, so I can refer to them more easily. In my crowded kitchen where counter space is tight, I love this method, since it keeps the recipes off a device and off the countertop- plus it looks nice, and it holds knives as well. It’s really helpful for me when I’m testing recipes.
And that’s it! I’ve found the biggest hurdle to my getting meal prepped is the DOING IT, which means I need to make things as easy on myself as possible. Simple recipes, nothing overwhelming, and easy-to-use equipment. When you make it easy on you from the get-go, it keeps it easy from there- and you’re more likely to reap the benefits!
Want to know how I do my meal prep and meal planning?
I lay it all out in Uncomplicated Backup Meals, my vault of meal prepping and meal planning tutorials, tricks, tips, and recipes that walk you through the easy way to do it all, in a short space of time, without losing your mind!
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