50 Meal prep tips for busy people


  1. Use a blank weekly meal planner to write down your dinners, lunches or both.
  2. Check your freezer and pantry to see all the foods you have.
  3. Make a shopping list of what you need for your meal plan.
  4. Make a shopping list of the core foods you buy each week and add to it, so you don’t need to start from scratch every week.
  5. Include meals that family members like and enjoy helping out with.
  6. Include more one-pot meals like casseroles and stir fries to cut down on clean-up.
  7. Try to do the food shopping in one go to save return trips to the supermarket.
  8. Have back-up plan with frozen meals and frozen vegetables ready to go.
  9. Get the right kitchen tools. Items like a good garlic press and knife set to make cooking more efficient and enjoyable.
  10. Upgrade your food storage containers if needed with a set that fits together and is easy to use for both storing larger meal portions and taking food to work.
  11. For inspiration, buy a few 30-minute or less recipe books for fast meals.
  12. Create a favourite meal plan or recipe folder.
  13. Make grocery shopping in one trip for all the items you need a priority.
  14. List foods on your shopping list in the order you travel around the supermarket.
  15. Check that use-by dates will last until the scheduled meal in your plan.
  16. Buy pre-cut, pre-washed vegetables and salad for when you’ll be short in time.
  17. Grab some dried herbs or herb paste to quickly add flavour to meals.
  18. Keep a stock of specific canned foods. Canned beans for a quick chilli con carnie and canned tuna or salmon for lunches.
  19. Get some frozen berries as a back-up for fresh, especially when they are out of season.
  20. Clean out your fridge and keep everything in order. Small trays for condiments are helpful.
  21. Label foods or containers clearly to prompt you to eat them when scheduled.
  22. If you have a chest freezer, keep a list of what’s in it and the deadlines to use it.
  23. Use the two crisper drawers to split your vegetables into those for dinners and those for lunches.
  24. Wash and chop vegetables after you buy them, ready to use when you prepare meals.
  25. Spiralize raw carrots or zucchini noodles in advance as they last for 3 – 5 days when stored air-tight.
  26. Freeze portions of raw chicken breast, steak or other proteins ready to defrost over night before you need them.
  27. Bag up a week ahead of snacks like nuts, dried fruit, trail mix and vegetable sticks.
  28. Declutter your kitchen. Is there anything that can be moved from benchtops to give you more space?
  29. Get out all the pots and kitchen gear you’ll need before you start.
  30. Prepare all your ingredients first, laid out ready to use.
  31. If you do the cooking, ask family to help you chop and prepare ingredients.
  32. Don’t bother peeling all vegetables. Give carrots a good scrub and leave the skin on for more fibre.
  33. Grate parmesan cheese at room temperature to minimise chunks coming off.
  34. Make your lunch at least the night before and even better, a few days before or a week ahead.
  35. Put together lunch salads in a jar, with the dressing at the bottom so it all doesn’t go soggy.
  36. Prep your pans. Get them hot, heating the oil to cooking temperature while you are preparing ingredients.
  37. Invest in a slow-cooker. Put it on a stew when you go to work and it’s ready for dinner.
  38. Steam vegetables with a microwave steamer to save time and avoid washing heavy pots.
  39. Roast at a higher temperature. As you get a feel for your oven, you may be able to cook roasts faster.
  40. Hard-boil eggs in the oven. Put them in a muffin tray for around 30 minutes. You’ve got a convenient protein supply for the week.
  41. Clean as you go to avoid the pile-up and mess at the end.
  42. Make it family time on weekends to prepare and cook meals for the week.
  43. Cook more of the same meal. If you are cooking it anyway, increase the portions so you cook more servings to use later.
  44. Enjoy a bigger roast on the weekend and use the left-over meat and vegetables in weekday lunches.
  45. Cook several chicken breasts at once to either reheat for dinners or shred for salads or wraps.
  46. Freeze curries and casseroles into batches ready to defrost overnight.
  47. Make up a big batch of soup which can be portioned and stored in the fridge or freezer.
  48. Pre-cook rice, then portion it for the freezer ready to microwave for stir fries.
  49. Use muffin trays lined with muffin cups to make weekday snacks, like mini-frittatas.
  50. Cycle your favourite lean meals to create a list of “weekday winners”. I’m sure you’ve found some simple, new ideas to try.


Remember, you don’t have to try everything at once, especially if you are building your kitchen or culinary confidence. And be flexible, knowing that sometimes your best plans will get hijacked. Putting some effort into mastering meal preparation will reward you for life