The benefits of meal prepping are wide-ranging and proven, but it can still be downright overwhelming when you get to the kitchen. There’s so much food to cook, especially if you’re cooking for more than one, and if done incorrectly it can end with your kitchen looking like a total disaster.
The benefits of meal prepping far outweigh the costs, though, and all it takes is a couple of tools and a little bit of organization to get your meal prep routine running smoothly.
Here are a couple of key pieces of equipment that you’ll need to get started with meal prepping:
- Reusable plastic storage containers for your food
This is one of the main staples of meal prepping! All that prepped food needs to be portioned out and ready to go by the time you’re sitting down to eat, so you should have quite a few food containers on hand to make that process easy.
You’ll probably want to purchase a pretty big set to cover all the meals that you’ll be eating for a week. If you’re not a fan of buying plastic or are on a budget, you could always recycle and use other containers (for example, the ones that you buy butter in). If you do follow this method, make sure that you thoroughly clean them out before reusing, and invest in some painter’s tape and a marker to label everything properly.
- Cutting board and knife set
This will be one of the first things you’ll reach for when you start your meal prep cooking every week. Your cutting board doesn’t need to be fancy, it just has to be cut-proof! Many people like wood chopping boards for the durability, but plastic works just as well.
Your knife set doesn’t have to be fancy either, but it should be sharp. A chef’s knife can take care of many basic cuts, but it’s also helpful to have a couple of others like a serrated knife for different uses.
Since you’ll be cooking everything at the same time, we recommend doing all of your chopping all at once to save time, then divvying up the ingredients later. Practice food safety as well – designate one board for veggies and one for meats, and thoroughly clean them between each ingredient so as not to cross-contaminate.
- “Mise-en-place” bowls
Now these are purely optional, but having bowls on hand to separate your ingredients per recipe is going to make your life way easier as you meal prep. “Mise-en-place” refers to prepping all of your ingredients (chopping veggies, measuring out herbs and spices, prepping meats) before you start cooking so that everything is easy to grab and you aren’t held up timewise.
Investing in a set of cheap bowls to divvy up your ingredients can keep you organized and save you a lot of hassle in the long run as you cook multiple things at once.
If you’re doing any stovetop cooking at all, you’ll need some pots and pans. Your collection doesn’t have to be too extensive, but you should have bigger versions of your pots and pans to accommodate for large batch cooking.
Some basics we recommend include:
- a large sauté pan
- a cast-iron skillet
- a saucepan
- a stew pot or Dutch oven
These are the basics, although you may need more depending on the complexity of your recipes.
Some recipes will likely ask you to throw something in the oven, so it’s important to have a couple pieces of ovenproof bakeware handy. For these, most recipes can be done with just:
- A baking sheet
- A 9×13 baking dish
- Casserole dish
Again, this may vary depending on the complexity of your recipe, so make sure to read your recipes before you start prepping to ensure you have everything you need.
- Cooking utensils
Lastly, you’ll need a couple of tools and utensils to prep and cook your food. Some basic essentials include:
- Wooden spoons
- Vegetable peeler
- Measuring spoons
These cookware essentials should take you through the majority of your meal prep cooking! We also recommend having a game plan in mind before you start cooking. Read all of your recipes for the week thoroughly so you know what needs to be stove-cooked and what goes in the oven, and plan accordingly.
If you live in the Los Angeles area the thought of getting kitchen equipment and cooking tools wrangled up still leaves you feeling overwhelmed, it might be worth considering a meal prep delivery service like My Healthy Penguin instead! The only thing you’ll need to do in the kitchen is know how to work a microwave.