How to Meal Prep: A Beginner’s Guide

Coach Shanda, NASM, CPT, BCS, PES, FNS

Shanda Yakich is a wife and mother of two young boys. She fell in love with health and fitness after her own transformation 20 years ago when she revamped her sedentary lifestyle to lose 30 pounds and cut her body fat in half. She knows the struggle of balancing family, career, and heath. She is triple certified in fitness, nutrition, and behavior change. Shanda is a National Academy of Sports Medicine certified trainer and a certified Fitness Nutrition Specialist.
How to meal prep

Do you want to start doing meal prep but don’t know where to begin? Don’t worry, I’ve got you. You’re in the right place.

Meal prep can be overwhelming, especially the first time you try it. I know I’ve been there. Especially when you’re planning meals for a work day or around workouts.

So, let me start by telling you that it’s IMPORTANT to get all the recommended ingredients and proper tools BEFORE you start. The first time I tried to meal prep, I was making cauliflower pizza. The second time, I tried bbq.

I didn’t follow the directions and I used wax paper instead of parchment paper. After about two minutes, my husband asked, “What is that burning smell?” 

And, OH BOY!!!! My oven was smoking. So, as you can imagine, that cauliflower pizza crust didn’t make it to the table.

OOPS!!! We all make mistakes, right? But what’s important is that we learn from those mistakes. 

That minor setback didn’t stop me from learning how to meal prep. 

So, let’s start by taking small steps. You’ve probably heard about meal prepping, but you may not know what that buzzword means. 

Meal prepping is the concept of cooking several complete meals ahead of time. Meal prep includes planning your meals/recipes, writing up your grocery list, completing your grocery shopping trip, and then spending time in your kitchen actually preparing the meals. 

When you’re looking into meal prep for weight loss, you should get familiar with all the perks that come with it. Because there are a bunch of meal prep benefits. Meal prepping:

  • Promotes weight loss – You can control your portion sizes and know that you are putting healthy food into your body. 
  • Reduces temptation – Knowing you already have meals ready-to-go reduces the urge to go through the drive-thru or pursue another quick, unhealthy option.
  • Saves time – You don’t have to drop what you are doing to make a meal because it’s already done. 
  • Saves money – You don’t spend money to eat out.
  • Reduces stress – By preparing meals in advance you don’t have to face the daily, “What are we going to eat?” challenge. Your meals are cooked and ready to eat. 
Meal prepping

Step 1: Determine Your Fridge Space

First, determine how much storage space you have. This will determine the meal prep containers you’ll need to use. If you have limited space in your fridge, then consider using zippered plastic storage bags. Just remember the bags are a great space saver, but you should never use them to reheat food.

If you have plenty of space, then I recommend using the 2- or 3-compartment meal prep containers. These containers can be purchased cheaply online in a bundle. Be sure to use meal prep containers that are BPA-free, freezer safe, dishwasher safe, microwavable, stackable, and reusable. You also can use any plastic or glass containers you already have handy. You also might need a lunch box/cooler to take meals along when you are away from home. 

Meal prep plans

Step 2: Plan, Plan, Plan 

Set aside time to plan your meal prep. Select your recipes, prepare your shopping list, and then go to the store. When you’re ready to start cooking, block off two or three hours to devote to assembling your meals. 

Don’t try to take on too much too soon. Start small and plan meals for a few days out. In the beginning, I recommend planning no more than five days out. That will ensure your food stays fresh.

Most meals will last between three to five days in the fridge. If you want to prep for the whole week, consider scheduling two days each week to do so (such as Sunday and Wednesday) to keep food fresh.

Meal prep for weight loss

Step 3: Keep It Quick and Easy

Don’t add to your stress by trying to prepare three-course meals. Keep it quick and easy.

As the mom of two growing boys, I’ve learned that I have to stay a step ahead. If I’m not prepared, I start feeling overwhelmed. That creates a downward spiral that makes me continue to fall behind. 

I don’t have a lot of time to spend in the kitchen. And I’m guessing you don’t either. So, start off with a few simple, easy meals. 

Lunches and dinners are the most convenient to prep. Start by picking healthy recipes you are already familiar with and focus on two primary lean proteins. 

For example, chicken and lean ground turkey are great options. Both proteins are versatile and stay fresh for days.

I choose recipes that will work with either meat option. Since most of us like variety and don’t want to eat the same thing every day, raid your spice rack. 

For example, one of my favorites is my taco meal prep. Tacos are delicious and easy to prepare ahead.

Meal prep tacos

Taco Time 

Taco Time

Prep Time 10 mins


  • 1 ½ lb lean ground turkey meat cooked with taco seasoning
  • 1 can black beans
  • 1 can whole sweet corn
  • 2 ½ c chopped green lettuce
  • 1 c cherry tomatoes halved
  • ½ c shredded low-fat cheese


  • Divide ingredients equally into five portions.
  • Layer ingredients into separate containers.


Add small portions of salsa in separate containers on the side for more flavor and texture.
Meal prep Greek feast

Greek Feast 

Meal prep Greek feast

Greek Feast

Prep Time 10 mins


  • 5 cooked chicken breast cutlets seasoned with Greek seasoning. (4-6 oz each)
  • 2 ½ c white rice
  • 1 c diced cucumber
  • 1 c diced tomato
  • ¼ diced onion
  • 2 ½ c romaine lettuce
  • 5 lemon wedges


  • Divide ingredients equally into five portions.
  • Layer ingredients into separate containers.
Meal prep balsamic chicken

Balsamic Crockpot Chicken 

Balsamic Crockpot Chicken

Prep Time 5 mins
Cook Time 4 hrs


  • 2 lb boneless skinless chicken breast
  • ¼-½ c balsamic vinegar
  • 2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 lb baby carrots
  • ½ lb green beans
  • 2 baby red/yellow potatoes cubed
  • 1 tsp Italian seasoning
  • 2 garlic cloves minced
  • Salt pepper to taste


  • Drizzle 2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil in the bottom of the crock pot
  • Place boneless, skinless chicken breast in a single layer in the middle of the crockpot. Sprinkle with Italian seasoning.
  • Add carrots, green beans, garlic, and potatoes along edges.
  • Drizzle balsamic vinegar over everything.
  • Cook on low for 4 hours, or until chicken is cooked completely through and vegetables are tender.
  • Divide into 5 equal portions.

Step 4: Multitask

Lastly, learn to multitask. 

If you use your oven, stovetop, and crockpot to prepare more than one meal simultaneously, you’ll save a lot of time.

Understand Meal Prep Tips

The key to success is meal prep planning: 

  • Choose simple, healthy, familiar recipes
  • Keep it simple and focus on two main proteins
  • Write up your grocery list
  • Go shopping
  • Block out time to prepare meals
  • Fix meals for three to five days out
  • Multitask and prepare more than one meal at a time

Then you can take a big sigh of relief that you DID IT. And enjoy how much easier the next few days will be with your meals already done!!! Planning your meals also makes it easier to ensure you eat a pre-workout meal.

It is not easy to choose healthy foods when you are so busy, and let’s face it, we all lead busy lives. That is why meal prepping is so important and can be a crucial factor in any weight loss journey or effort to lead a healthy lifestyle. 

Flying by the seat of your pants in the nutrition department just does not work!  Learning how to meal prep and being consistent doing so gives you total control over what goes into your food and what goes into your body. That makes meal prep a perfect strategy for anyone who wants to stay on track with their health goals.

As a full-time mom and coach, it is key for me to make meal prep a priority. I have to keep consistent on my meal prep plans every week to help me reach my goals. There is instant gratification knowing I have my meals done in advance. 

My secret weapon for meal prep is one you can use, too: The LadyBoss® Pocket Personal Trainer. 

The Trainer eliminates the guesswork and provides you with the essential tools you need to create yummy, healthy meals and snacks. The Trainer delivers new meal plans and grocery lists each week. 

To get started using the Trainer, click here for your FREE 7 Day Experience.



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