18 healthy + fast recipes, meal prep for beginners

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Easy, fast, and healthy meal prep recipes that you can cook in 30 minutes or less


What is meal prep?

Meal Prep is short for “Meal preparation”, this means planning and preparing meals ahead of time.

You can meal prep in many ways, for example, you could select to prep one of your daily meals a few days in advance for the whole week, or you could plan your whole month and freeze the meals that you will not eat in the next 2 days.

The level of preparation depends on your overall goal.


The benefits of meal planning

You might be thinking about meal prep as just a way to save time, or maybe you want to prepare healthier meals and avoid ordering take-out when you are too tired!

Want to get organized and save money by shopping for groceries in a smarter way.

Or maybe you just want to save money on food! So many times we buy things that are not really in line with what we end up cooking and even if it’s just a couple of tomatoes that go bad, we can save so much by having a plan when we go grocery shopping.

For most people, the reason they start is one of a combination of the scenarios I mentioned above.

Meal prep can be so beneficial from an organization, budget and time aspects.

But no matter why you are starting, it’s important that you keep your goal in mind when selecting your menu, there are many easy but not os healthy options, or maybe it’s very healthy, but it will take you hours to cook.

Finding balance when you look for menu ideas is very important, that is why I am listing times as well as carb count if available for all the recipes at the end of this post!

And remember to pint this for later if there’s a tip or recipe you like!


[ Picture and recipe by 40 aprons]



How to meal plan

The very first thing you will need is to have a solid plan of attack, whether you want to save money, time, eat healthier, or all of them.

  1. You will need to plan your menu, write down everything that you are going to have for every meal (breakfast, lunch, dinner & snacks) Check out the list of recipes at the end for ideas.
  2. Make a list all of the ingredients and amounts you will need for each meal.
  3. Go to the grocery store and get all your ingredients. Tip: Try to buy bulk when possible to save money!
  4. Set aside a day (or two at the beginning) to get all of your cooking done. Tip: if you make meals for more than 3 days ahead, freeze the rest and set on the refrigerator to defrost the day before!

I know that at the beginning, this whole planning can seem super intimidating, but don’t give up!! After you get the hang of the times and try different recipes, select your favorites and learn how to make them faster.
You will wonder why you waited so long to get started!


Meal planning tips for beginners

  1. Make a plan and stick to it! – No matter the reason you are starting to meal plan after you get into the routine, don’t stop or take long breaks, that will make getting back into the rhythm a lot harder.
  2. Use what you have – If you don’t have containers especially for meal prep, use mason jars! They are budget-friendly, and you can get them in many sizes to accommodate salads, big full meals or shacks.
  3. Multitask – Cook things in batches whenever possible, roasting veggies, as well as your proteins in a large baking sheet, will save not only time but also gas!
  4. Don’t meal prep too many meals at once – I know I mentioned that you could freeze meals if you prep for more than 2-3 days ahead, but not all food freezes equally. Proteins like chicken, turkey, and beef will hold up well to freezing. Many vegetables can be frozen, but veggies with high water content, such as zucchini and lettuce, do not freeze well. Same goes for Pasta, but since we are trying to get rid of past, that is not an issue 🙂
  5. Use the equipment that will save you time – I go into detail later on, but the Instant Pot has been such a game-changer for our house, the fact that we can go from frozen chicken to a served meal in 20 minutes is just amazing! – Be smart with the tools you use to save as much time and energy as possible.



RELATED: Looking to supplement your healthy eating with some exercising? Check out this post about Peloton alternatives: A budget-friendly alternative for bike & equipment



Save time with the $5 Meal plan

Want to make your meal planning even easier? Subscribe to Erin’s program to get a perfectly planned meal plan delivered in your inbox each month! 

We’ve been subscribed for over a year now and I love to have a folder with these printable pages as options when I don’t feel like planning or I am too tired. I also like to highlight my favorite recipes and I usually score them along with my husband so we know if you want to give them another run later on.

the five dollar plan
Try the $5 dollar meal plan and get a printable every month with the recipes, shopping list, and instructions in your inbox! We’ve tried their Paleo meal planning option as well and loved it! Try it for FREE for 14 days!  


Meal planning basic tools

When it comes to Meal planning, you can definitely start with what you have at home. No expensive gadget is necessary to get you started other than a plan, cook with the utensils, container, and gadgets you have at home.

Once you have saved by only purchasing the food you actually eat, you can upgrade and buy containers that are better quality (like the ones I recommend below) Or maybe you need a bigger cookie sheet for your oven, so you can batch bake your veggies and proteins.

Like I mention below, the Instapot was definitely a game changer for us when it comes to saving time. So let’s review them in detail:


Glass containers

I’ve been slowly changing all of our plastic containers (and pretty much anything else) and anything that has plastic to glass, I started with my boy’s bottles a few years ago, and I’ve been so happy about it.

[ Picture by from Valerie’s Kitchen ]

So, of course, my number one recommendation would be to start with glass containers and here is why:

  1. They are better for the environment, the life of plastic containers is way shorter than glass containers. The glass container can be washed and re-used and they are also more stable when exposed to extreme temperatures.
  2. Glass doesn’t hold smell or get stained with strongly pigmented foods like beets.
  3. Chemical free! Even though the technology used now on BPA-free plastic container is good, it’s always better to just be safe.
  4. You can see what’s inside easily, and they are microwave and dishwasher safe.

My favorite ones are this one’s because it’s split into two container areas, I sometimes don’t like different parts of my meals to mix, I know, I am weird!

The only CON of glass is that is not portable friendly if are transporting your meal and don’t have a padded carrier it can be dangerous and also heavier to carry glass, and for those cases, here are my plastic recommendations below.


Plastic containers

Like I mentioned before, plastic container while not very environmentally friendly if used as disposable containers, they are light and safe to transport. Here are some of my favorites!

These little containers are super handy for when you add dressing or any other juice that you don’t want to mix until you are ready to eat your meal. I love them!


Instant Pot

A few months ago we purchased an Instant Pot, and I am not sure why we waited this long!
Since the main idea behind meal planning is to save time and eat healthier, I would 100% recommend to it to save you on cooking time.


Swaps to make recipes low carb

While I do my best to include only low carb recipes for you, sometimes it could be that you run into a recipe or already have a recipe that you love!

There are many ways to make them healthier just by swapping one or more ingredients! Below you can find some of the most used and popular swaps:

  • Swap rice with cauliflower rice
  • Swap pasta with zucchini noodles, spaghetti squash or with cauliflower and lentil pasta
  • You can also swap potatoes with cauliflower in most uses, it makes an excellent replacement for ‘mashed potatoes’
  • Flour tortillas can be swapped with lettuce or with Coconut wraps
  • Replace lasagna pasta with Zucchini slices
  • You can always replace potato chips with Plantain chips


RELATED – Check out this post about 15 delicious spiralizer veggie pasta recipes


Meal planning recipes

Now the fun and eye-candy part finally begins! Below you can find my favorite healthy recipes to make your meal prep a breeze, just click on the titles or the credit link to be redirected to the original recipe!

1- Shrimp burrito bowl

[ Picture by Gimme Delicious, get the recipe HERE ]



2- Honey sesame chicken bowls

[ Picture by Sweet Peas and Saffron, get the recipe HERE ]



3- Thai peanut chicken bowl

[ Picture by from Valerie’s kitchen, get the recipe HERE ]



4- Chicken Shawarma

[ Picture by the Forked Spoon, get the recipe HERE ]



5- Skinny bang bang zucchini noodles

[ Picture by Kirbie Cravings, get the recipe HERE ]



6- Roasted chicken and veggies

[ Picture by Gimme Delicious, get the recipe HERE]



7- Lemon roasted salmon

[ Pictures by Little Spice Jar, get the recipe HERE ]



8- Greek healthy meal prep

[ Picture by 40 aprons, get the recipe HERE ]



9- Sweet potato Buddha bowl with orange sesame dressing

[ Picture by Ambitious Kitchen, get the recipe HERE ]



10- Steak cobb salad meal prep

[ Picture by Damn Delicious, get the recipe HERE ]



11- Curried chickpea bowls

[ Picture by Eating Bird Food, get the recipe HERE ]



12- Vegetarian quinoa burrito bowl

[ Picture by Simply Quinoa, get the recipe HERE ]



13- Thai Basil Turkey bowls

[ Picture by Lexi’s Clean Kitchen, get the recipe HERE ]



14- Orange chicken lettuce wraps

[ Picture by Little Spice Jar, get the recipe HERE ]



15- Buffalo chicken ranch

[ Picture by 40 Aprons, get the recipe HERE ]



16- Teriyaki Chicken and Broccoli

[ Picture by Gimme Delicious, get the recipe HERE ]



17- Thai chicken wrap box

[ Picture by Gimme Delicious, get the recipe HERE ]



18- Tex-Mex chicken bowl

[ Picture by from Valerie’s Kitchen, get the recipe HERE ]


RECOMMENDED: 17 Keto Desserts – Easy Low Carb And Sugar-Fee



Don’t forget to pin this post if you want to save it for later! Here are some pins to help you with that!



I hope this post helps you get started with meal planning and if you have a favorite recipe that I should try or another tip that has been personally helpful in your journey please share with me in the comments below!

Happy cooking!

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Joy Kelley

Joy Kelley

I am a Lettering artist & creative blogger at HowJoyful.com - I love decorating, lemon pie & tea. I am always creating something, whether that involves lettering, sewing, crafting, or power tools. I am the mom of three little tornados that are always up for an adventure and along with my amazing husband we created this place to share our family detours. Check out my Instagram account here.

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