Turn that mountain into a mole hill and simplify your weekly meal prep routine with these helpful tips. We'll have you ready for the week in no time without skipping a beat!

Couple doing weekly meal prep together with rice and broccoli from Shelf Cooking.

Does the thought of meal prepping for the week have you running and hiding in the closet? Well, fear no more! We're breaking down a weekly meal prep routine to show you just how simple and attainable it can be. You don't even have to spend half the day in the kitchen cooking!

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You may be wondering how to get your weekly meal prep done but have no idea where to begin. We've got you covered! We'll walk you through it, step-by-step and give you a fool-proof plan to get you ready for the week ahead as quickly and easily as possible. Let's do this!

Planning for Weekly Meal Prep

Woman writing meal plan for weekly meal prep from Shelf Cooking.

Before you can begin your weekly meal prep routine, you must have a plan! Take the time to plan out every meal for the week. Make sure to include breakfasts, lunches, dinners, AND snacks. It's helpful to keep a running list of family favorite meals on the fridge for quick and easy access.

Still having trouble coming up with delicious meals? Check out this list of creative lunch prep ideas for kids AND adults!

If this is your first time meal prepping, don't be afraid to keep it basic! We are all about cheap and simple here. While it's easy to get swept away by the gourmet meal prep ideas you see all over the internet, that kind of intensive weekly meal prep can get old quick! Don't shoot for the moon and cause burnout—keep it realistic!

Once you have your list of meals and snacks, make a shopping list! Don't forget to shop your own fridge and pantry first so you aren't spending extra dough (literally!) when you don't need to!

Pro Tip: Don't try out more than one new recipe a week. You don't want to be stuck eating things you don't enjoy or be tempted to toss it and spend a bundle eating out!

Enlist a Weekly Meal Prep Helper

Mother and daughter working on meal prep together from Shelf Cooking.

Now that you have groceries in hand and a list of meals to tackle, it's time for one of the most important steps… Enlist a helper! Seriously, you do not want to do this alone, especially if you're a newbie. Weekly meal prep will go soooo much smoother if you have an extra set of hands to help with tasks.

Enlist your spouse, a friend, or even your kids! Seasoned meal preppers often invite friends over for a meal prep party where everyone pitches. This is a great way to get in some oh-so-important friend time while still getting things done!

Your friends aren't into weekly meal prep parties? No problem! Recruit your kids and let them get their hands dirty helping. Not only will it make the weekly meal prep easier for you, it will teach them valuable life skills in the process. Crank up the tunes and make it a family event!

Divvy up the Workload

If you have enough helping hands, divvy up the workload and give each person a job. Put one person in charge of cooking all the meat, one chopping all the fruits and veggies, and one cooking veggies and grains. Try to keep the area clean and tidy by cleaning up as you go! This will cut down on a ton of clean-up time at the end—trust us, it can be a LOT.

If you are meal prepping for the week alone, tackle one task at a time. Begin by cooking all the meat. While the meat is cooking, work on chopping all veggies and fruit. That way, when the meat is done, you can quickly toss on the veggies without a second wasted!

If at any point you find yourself waiting on things to cook, start preparing snacks and kid lunches that don't need to be cooked! Getting these ready ahead of time will still save you time and effort later in the week, even if there isn't any cooking involved.

Storing Your Prepped Goods

Food storage container with sandwich inside for weekly meal prep from Shelf Cooking.

Once you have each element prepped and ready, it's time to dole it out and put it away. There are tons of great options for meal prep containers. For single serving portions for lunches or personal dinners, we love segmented plastic containers. If you are meal prepping family-sized dinners, foil containers are perfect for tossing in the oven to reheat!

For individual portions, make yourself an assembly line of containers and make your way down the line, filling them with one element at a time. For example: add rice to each container, then the roasted veggies, then finally toss on the chicken.

Always let your meals cool a bit before putting the lids on them and sticking them in the fridge. Before you know it, you'll have meals ready for each day of the week!

Weekly Meal Prep for Snacks

Don't overlook the power of meal-prepping snacks while you're planning out your weekly meals. Having easily accessible snacks for both you and your kids will help keep you on track health-wise and in the budget department! While including a snack plan into your grocery budget may seem counterintuitive to saving money, grabbing a pre-portioned snack option can actually cut back on the amount of snacking you and your kids do and save you money in the long run!

Basic Weekly Meal Prep Options

Hands washing an apple in sink for weekly meal prep from Shelf Cooking.

If weekly meal prep still seems too daunting for you, forget prepping complete meals and start with a few basic steps to save you time later in the week.

  • Pre-Wash Fruits Fresh fruit makes a great healthy snack option. Take a little bit of time to wash your fruit and slice it for little fingers as soon as you bring it home. You'll thank yourself later!
  • Chop Veggies – Look at your meal plan for the week and pre-chop your vegetables ahead of time. This simple task can cut down on so much time and mess when it's time to start cooking later in the week.
  • Use Your Slow-Cooker and Instant Pot – Go for big hunks of meat like pork shoulders or cook a whole chicken at once and use the pre-cooked meat in your recipes for the rest of the week!
  • Pack Kid Lunches Ahead of Time – If you do nothing else to meal prep for the week, simply packing your kids' lunches the night before will be a game-changer for you. Seriously, do it!

Whether you're a serious batch-cooker or you're just looking for a way to shave a little time off daily meal preparation, this simple weekly meal prep routine will serve you well. Adapt it to fit your needs and preferences and let it work its meal prep magic! Soon you'll be proudly standing in a kitchen full of yummy food just waiting to be devoured.

Do you have a favorite meal prepping tip? Tell us in the comments below!

Couple preparing food for the week, from Shelf Cooking

Want to see more helpful meal prepping tips? Check out these posts, too!

Now, let's go get to meal prepping!