If you’re like many of us here at ClassPass, a good part of Sunday is spent preparing meals for the week ahead. Sometimes these are component parts—baked sweet potatoes, boiled eggs, chopped salad ingredients—and sometimes these are big batches of curries or soup to be divided up across the days.
If you’re new to meal prepping, the entire proposition can seem daunting. Planning for, shopping and cooking everything for the week in one go?
While it is an investment of time in the short term, over the week, you’ll save hours in the kitchen, have fewer dishes to do and save money. When your delicious food is already ready and waiting for you, the temptation to splurge on Postmates or to spend $14 on a burrito at lunchtime fades away.
Plus, planning and prepping ahead can help you balance your nutrition, as it paints a clearer, more thoughtful picture of your food intake and allows you to see if you’re missing any key elements.
Whether you’re planning to assemble macro bowls of chickpeas, brown rice and roasted veggies all week or are looking to whip up a few main dishes, here are some essentials to have on hand to make the process fun, easy and quick.
A grocery list and meal plan outline
One thing that is integral to efficient meal planning is having a plan. If you’re not already using your phone to track your grocery needs, now might be a good time to start. The Reminders app or Notes can be great places to store this information, as you can easily update as you run out of things or as recipe inspiration strikes.
If you’re looking to go a little more in-depth and (gasp!) use a pen and paper to write out your plan, check out Erin Condren’s meal planning notebook. It allows you to plan for weekday meals, big events and list all of your groceries in one place. Plus, it’s adorable.
Tip: Don’t forget to check the pantry and crisper for what you already have on hand before you start to plan and shop. This cuts down on waste and saves you money.
You will use them for just about everything. Kuhn Rikon’s line of beautiful (sharp!) knives come with perfectly fitted blade covers to keep them working well and prevent injuries when you reach into the cutlery drawer. Invest in a few, such as a paring knife, a chef’s knife and serrated knife, to cover your bases.
Whether you’re slicing filets or veggies, a cutting board of both good quality and good quantity will make a huge difference in your prep time. This BergHOFF model has silicone edges to prevent it from sliding all over the place, so you can work quicker and more safely. The expansive space lets you work on a few different items at the same time, ideal if they’re going into the same soup pot or oven together.
Measuring cups and spoons
Especially if you’re embarking on big batch recipes, measuring your ingredients accurately (and doubling or tripling for scale) is key. We love these classic Pyrex glass measuring cups, which pour liquid ingredients beautifully and stack to conserve space. For dry ingredients, we’re fans of Kitchen Aid’s stainless steel version. And we couldn’t help but share this adorable stacking mason jar set from Uncommon Goods, too. SO CUTE.
When it comes to spoons, do yourself a favor and find a set that attaches for compact storage but separates for use. We like these magnetic spoons from OXO.
Spices and oils
Avoiding flavor monotony is key for your meal planning. Keep things interesting by keeping a variety of spices on hand. Essentials include salt, pepper, garlic powder, cumin, chili powder, oregano, parsley and thyme. If you’re not sure where to start, try this sampler set from Chef’s Daughter.
A couple of different oils for different purposes will serve you well, too. Keep extra virgin olive oil, coconut oil, a neutral seed oil like safflower and another of your choice—like butter, ghee or avocado oil—to use across all of your cooking and baking prep.
A set of pots with lids
Seems pretty straightforward, but you’ll likely need a few pots and lids for your week of meals. There’s something very satisfying about putting on a pot of rice, a pot of soup and a pot of tomato sauce and just letting them do their thing while you work on another cooking task. Calphalon’s starter line also includes sautéing pans, which you may need for proteins or batches of stir-fry.
A watched pot never boils, but an active slow cooker will make your meals for the week whether you’re home to stare at it or not. Save yourself some time and a ton of dishes with this handy countertop appliance. It’s great for stews and soups, braising meat or making burritos. Go old-school fabulous with this Crock-Pot brand cooker.
Chances are, you’re going to be baking or roasting something (we suggest sweet potatoes and squash), so arm yourself with heavy-duty baking sheets to make the job super easy. Crate and Barrel has some beautiful baking sheets that last for years. Pro tip: Measure your oven’s width before you commit to buying.
Non-stick silicone baking mat
With all of that roasting comes a lot of cleanups and a lot of aluminum foil in the trash. Do the planet a favor and invest in some reusable silicone baking mats, often called Silpats. They’re easy to clean, prevent sticking and can be used for most recipes, including cookies if your meal prep plan features those.
Good storage containers, preferably glass
It goes without saying, but having quality containers to preserve the fruits of your labor is key. Opt for glass instead of plastic. It lasts longer, won’t break down, takes heat well and won’t change the flavor of your food. We love this set from Glasslock. Look for a few options in different sizes. Larger will be great for big batches of cooked veggies or grains, while smaller will be handy for sauces you make ahead.
Glass might be a bit heavy to lug back and forth to work, so opt for a set of BPA-free plastic containers to tote things to and fro. IKEA’s JAMKA line is versatile, long-lasting and dishwasher-safe.