meal prep for beginners

Hello, friends. This post is for my brother, and anyone else who is new to meal prep, planning, and maybe even cooking. Today’s post is really taking it back to basics. If you already do a decent amount of cooking but need some guidance then check out my meal planning post here.

For my less seasoned friends... whether you enjoy cooking or not, the reality is sometimes you need to suck it up and just do it. Cooking food at home means better health, more energy, life skills, maybe impressing a partner, and more money in your pocket at the end of the week. You need to figure out why you’re getting started so you can build this habit. Trust me, being able to feed yourself is an important habit. The why is what helps you do the tasks even when you don’t really want to.


getting started

Okay, so you’ve decided you either want or need to get a bit savvy in the kitchen. First, you need to make sure you have the proper kitchen tools. Find cooking tools for fairly cheap at Target, Walmart, and Amazon. These are the basic items I recommend:

  • Baking sheets. If you only have one, bigger is better.

  • 9x13 baking dish. Glass or ceramic; if it comes with a lid that is even better.

  • One frying pan

  • One high sided skillet with a lid.

  • Stove spatulas, at least 2.

  • Tongs. Choose something with rubber so you can use it on hot items.

  • Large spoon for stirring on the stove

  • 2 cutting boards. You need one for meat and one for vegetables, getting 2 colors can help.

  • 1 good large knife and 1 paring knife.

  • 1 large mixing bowl

  • One pot

  • Cooking thermometer. This will help you get the hang of cooking meat.

  • Aluminum foil. For lining baking sheets.

  • Cleaning spray like 409 for cleaning the counters/disinfecting counters after handling raw meat.

You will also need staple items including salt and pepper, butter, and olive oil. You can expand your spices and kitchen tools as you go. Check out my post here on freezer staples to help you start stocking your kitchen, and my meal planning tips for some inspiration.

make a plan

Now it’s time to cook. If you don’t have much experience cooking for yourself or cooking a variety of things, dont worry. Google is your friend! You can easily find recipes for EVERYTHING online and there are plenty of Youtube videos on how to cut, wash, prepare any and all foods. Plus, don’t underestimate the value of any cooking savvy friends you have.

I recommend making a list of your week and writing down your plans for each meal. Writing out what meals you will need to provide yourself and what meals will be eaten out can help you decide how much food you need for the week. You will need to grocery shop at least once a week to help hold yourself accountable. You can keep leftovers for 3-5 days, so make a lot of whatever you choose to cook. Sure, It can get boring to eat the same thing three days in a row, but it's worth it when you don't need to cook every night. Not every meal is amazing, and that is okay.

meal ideas

My brother requested some ideas for easy meals. Here are some ideas that require minimal prep and should help you mix and match foods. Remember, each meal should include a starchy carb (grains like pasta or rice or a starchy veg like potatoes), a vegetable, a protein, and a source of fat. I hope these start to give you some inspiration. 

  1. 2 chicken sausage (or nitrate free hot dogs) + Pasta of choice (whole grain or plant based preferred) + broccoli (steam in the bag frozen veg of your choice) + olive oil and parm cheese

  2. Grilled cheese with ham + roasted brussel sprouts or sautéed zucchini

  3. Tuna salad sandwich with lettuce + piece of fruit

  4. Roasted chicken or fish + brown rice (try boil in the bag or minute cups) + sauteed spinach with plenty of olive oil

  5. Pulled pork or chicken with BBQ sauce + roasted potatoes (fresh or frozen) + green beans

  6. Salsa chicken (bake chicken with salsa) + rice + beans (rinse and drain can) + corn + cheese

  7. Quesadilla + salad

  8. Rotisserie chicken (already cooked sold in deli section at the grocery store) + frozen veg with butter + sweet potato (roast several at a time!)

  9. Pasta with marinara sauce, cooked ground beef seasoned with salt, pepper, oregano, with spinach cooked in

  10. Breakfast for dinner: Omelet with veggies and a side of shredded hashbrowns (get them frozen)

Do you have other meal prep or planning questions? Interest in a sample shopping list? Let me know, I'm here to help!