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If you’re thinking about meal prepping, you may also be thinking about the best meal prep tools. And if you’re not – you should be.
That’s because meal prepping, at its core, is about making your life easier. And if you don’t have tools to simplify the process, you’re working harder, not smarter.
What is meal prepping?
Meal prepping, or meal preparation, is the process of cooking and storing what you want to eat in advance of when you need it. Used by those trying to watch what they eat or learn to eat the right foods (such as is done in macro counting, “keto” diets and paleo), it can also be a really useful tool if all you want is to make the mornings a little easier.
Meal prepping can help you get ready for work faster, send the kids out the door to school with less frustration and even free up time during the day to do stuff you actually enjoy, like heading outside instead of cooking dinner.
What to know about meal prep
Also known as batch cooking, meal prepping usually involves cooking enough food for the week in one go, then storing it in the fridge or freezer for later divided by portion or meal. When you’re ready to eat you simply grab what you need and go.
You don’t have to prep an entire meal if you don’t want to. Even slicing veggies for the later in the week or prepping portions of recipes can be a huge time saver later. Why waste time getting out all the tools, chopping and then cleaning up the mess night after night if you can do all the work and mess at once and store the food for later?
The best meal prep tools
While being organized enough to know what ingredients you need for the week and what you need to prepare is the obvious first step for meal prepping, having the right tools handy can be a make or break factor. After all, if meal prepping causes you more stress than it saves, what’s the point?
I’ve tried a ton of different meal prep tools over my years, starting when I first tried the Whole30. I went through a stage where I didn’t really have any tools at all but still did meal prep.
And then I started buying things to make life easier. Some of them claimed to be time savers but really weren’t (I’m looking at you George Foreman Grill). Some of them take up a lot of space but maybe don’t get the use they should to justify me having them (that would be you, Kitchen Aide mixer when a handheld mixer would be just fine).
But others are just … well, perfect. Here’s my must-haves.
1. Food processor. This is going to be the most expensive thing I recommend — and I swear everything else is far more affordable. When it comes to meal prepping, this is a workhorse. Shredding a ton of cheese? Done. Pureeing a zillion tomatoes? Finished. Shredding cabbage – voila! The possibilities are limitless. I have a Cuisinart – a wedding gift – and it’s one of my most favorite items even all these years later.
2. Silicon baking cups. I’ve tried silicon baking mats and muffin tins, but thought both were harder to use than they were worth. The baking cups? WORTH IT. Gone are the days of using paper and they don’t need to be oiled. I put them in a traditional muffin tin, fill them with whatever I’m cooking (egg cups, anyone?) and call it good. When my food is cooled, I peel them off and given them a gentle hand cleaning, then set them out to dry – no elbow grease required.
3. Immersion blender. I love homemade veggie soup, but hate the mess of pouring hot liquid into a blender. Immersion blender equals problem solved. These come in varying power levels, but I have never had a problem with the cheap one I bought years ago. Immerse, blend, clean, next.
4. Veggie chopper. This was the very first meal prep tool I bought. Gone are my days of dicing onions, peppers or even apples. I simply quarter them, stick them here and press done. BAM. Diced. Cleaning is easy as long as you don’t lose the tool it comes with designed to remove all of the food pieces from between the “teeth.”
5. Instant pot. Is it a rice cooker? Slow cooker? Pressure cooker? It’s ALL of them – and I use it at least once a day year round, no exaggeration. I love it so much I’ve considered buying two. I batch prep rice, potatoes, soup, roast, shredded chicken, oatmeal … you get the picture. While you’re at it, make sure to get a silicone steam basket it for it, too. I don’t know why I suffered for two years before grabbing one, but I did. It makes fishing lose food out of the pot worlds easier and the whole thing easier to clean.
6. Air fryer. I was on the fence about buying one of these as a meal prep tool but so far am glad I did. I use it primarily to dry roast veggies much faster than I could in the oven. It also makes them crispy on all sides. I typically do not use any oil at all. I also have made the juiciest chicken breasts in it, another easy meal prep item. My only qualm is that I can’t cook as much in it as I typically do in the oven, but if I’m in a big hurry I can also double up, cooking some in the oven and the rest in the air fryer.
What are your favorite meal prep tools? Leave your recommendations in the comments!
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