How to Actually Meal Prep Dinners When You Barely Have Time to Breathe

Taking time to meal prep dinners always sounds like a great idea until you actually start to do it, right?

You may start off with the best intentions, but by the time the prep session actually needs to start, you’ve got a to-do list a mile long and suddenly other stuff seems more important. 

…Or is it? Even spending just 30 minutes a week meal prepping means you can save that much time or more 

And yes, there are the adages of “make one, freeze one”. Or “set aside time on the weekend to prep”. And honestly, they’re great ideas.

They work. But only if you actually do the work. 

If you’re struggling to find time to even sit your tired behind down and plan out a meal prep plan, figure out what gets made first, get the groceries and prep the ingredients then I feel you. It’s not easy to stay on top of meal prep! 

What if I told you there are a few tricks you can keep up your sleeve to make sure you’re getting the meal prep done quickly, so you’ve got more time to actually relax at the end of the long day? 

Because let’s face it: getting a few meal prep dinners ready is a total effing timesaver during the week.

After it’s done you’re always thankful you took the time to do it, right? Growing up, my dad always told me, “You have to take time to make time”. Translation: Take the time to do the thing, so you can enjoy having the time later on. 

I’m sharing with you today my alll my favorite ways to cut time on dinner prep quickly, seamlessly, and easily.

These prep tips help you work meal prep into your normal day – not find the time you don’t have.

They’re my time-saving meal prep hacks and tips, and the things I do every week to get my dinners meal prepped ahead of time so I don’t find myself rushing around in the evening… instead of just throwing in the towel and ordering pizza #guilty

Meal Prep Dinner Time-Saving Hack #1: Double it up. 

This is the tried and true way to do get make-ahead dinners ready, and there’s a reason it’s the tip you hear more often than anything else: it works. 

Here’s how: Make two lasagnas and wrap one, and serve the other. When you’re making tacos, pack another set of ingredients away in a freezer-safe bag to be used as a “meal kit”. Double up the soup and freeze half in freezer-safe containers or Soupercubes for easy thawing when you need them. 

A word about Soupercubes: I love these things. They’re large silicone cube trays, created by a grad student, and are perfect for freezing leftovers in just the right size.


The trays themselves are made of super flexible silicone that makes popping the frozen item out super easy, and the rims are fitted with sturdy steel, so you can stack the trays easily while the meals are freezing. They have a flat lid to keep everything steady in the freezer. They’re super easy to clean and really durable. I’m officially obsessed. Click here to grab them on Amazon or click here to buy directly from the website

Meal Prep Dinner Time-Saving Hack #2: Premade ingredients. 

There is no shame in my produce-aisle game, guys. And while I hate the extra plastic that comes from purchasing prepped ingredients (though I try to recycle or reuse as much as possible) buying pre-chopped vegetables, mixed salads at the deli, and other pre-made items saves me a ton of time.

I mean, I’m not trying to reinvent the wheel here. I’m just trying to get dinner on the table without losing my freaking mind in the process. 

A great place to peep pre-made stuff is the frozen aisle, where I’ll grab frozen fried rice for an easy side, or pre-made dumplings for busy nights.

And don’t forget the deli counter! Rotisserie chickens, tuna salad, and even getting a container or two of pre-sliced tomatoes, chopped broccoli salad, and other things the deli may have on hand can help you out a ton, also. 

Meal Prep Dinner Time-Saving Hack #3: Keep like with like

I store a lot of my meal prep storage items in a cloth bag that stays hung up on the wall in my pantry. That way, I can just plop the bag open next to me, and all my favorite prep items are within reach.

Another thing I’ll do is separate out ingredients while I’m putting away a grocery haul. If I’m putting away a group of ingredients I know I’ll be using to prep in a meal soon, I’ll gather them together and store them in a large mixing bowl in the fridge. When it’s time to cook, I can just pull out that container and prep what’s in front of me.

Meal Prep Dinner Time-Saving Hack #4: Paper is king

When I make recipes, I go to the trouble of printing them out on actual paper (my kids use the sheets afterwards as drawing paper) and tape them up or use a magnet, so they’re easy to refer to.

I find that if I’m using my phone or a tablet, I’ll get distracted by a call, or the screen will time out, and it’s frustrating to keep having to re-open a recipe.

Meal Prep Dinner Time-Saving Hack #5: Use a Prep Sesh plan

What’s a Prep Sesh? It’s my not-so-secret vault of easy, dump-&-cook family-friendly meal prep recipes.

Every week, I put together a meal prep plan that includes 4 kid-friendly recipes that can be prepped in about an hour. On the night you want to eat the meal, you just open up your prep containers and dump the contents onto a sheet pan, into an Instant Pot or crockpot, or use a stovetop pan. It’s super easy and the ONLY family style meal prep out there!

Want to try a Prep Sesh meal plan at home? I’ve got a FREE cookbook you can use to try it out!

It’s called “Meal Prep Packs: Dinner Made Easy” and to grab your free copy, click here.

At the end of the day, having meal prep dinners saves me a crazy amount of time during the week. It’s such a relief to know that all I’m doing for dinner that night is dumping a container of prepped ingredients in the Instant Pot and walking away, or peeling foil off a baking dish and popping it in the oven.

And by using these helpful time-saving hacks, you could be enjoying that sweet relief in your own kitchen!

Some of the links below are affiliate links, which means I’ll receive a (likely very) small commission if you make a purchase after clicking through. Thanks for keeping me in coffee money!

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With 65+ recipes made in 45 minutes or less, using only a single sheet pan… this is the cookbook busy people need to conquer their weeknights in the kitchen!