How to do Food Prep for the Week

By blog team member, Kiran. To learn more about Kiran, check out our team page!


I have a love-hate relationship with Sunday. It starts off kinda like this. The kids come down one-by-one as they wake up and come in to see us. As I lay in bed, my brain is already on overload thinking of what the next few hours entail. You see, Sunday is my food prep day for the week, and the benefits are huge, I tell you. There’s no turning back once you try it.

I’m not gonna lie. There is some organization and planning involved. But honestly, I couldn’t make lunches and dinners happen throughout the week if I didn’t do this. If you don’t already have a system in place, I highly recommend it. Yes, it takes some work, but you can absolutely do it. And I’m going to show you how.

How Prep Food for the Week on 100 Days of #RealFood

Planning Meals

I generally gather recipe ideas throughout the week. You know the drill. You see a good recipe on a (ahem) blog that you follow or maybe one catches your eye on Pinterest. Or maybe you prefer cookbooks. Whatever it is, gather your recipes and get a plan together for what you want to make for the week. If you don’t enjoy this part of it or you don’t have time for it, enlisting in a meal plan service is a GREAT way to go. Determine what you need for these recipes and start putting them on a shopping list.

One resource that I’ve found to be beyond helpful when it comes to planning meals is our sponsor Plan to Eat. It’s an online meal planner that uses your recipes (instead of picking the meals for you). So, for all those times when you see something you want to make in an upcoming week or save for the future, you import it into the program. You build your calendar from there – for a week, a month, or whatever works for you. It then creates an automatically generated shopping list for you that you can print or view on your phone. Whether you are uber organized or just aspire to be, this is a perfect planning tool, and luckily all new users can try it out for free for the first 30 days!

Lunches and Snacks

What’s on sale this week at your local store? Or what’s in season that you can find at your local farmer’s market (or grocery store)? Think about what you may want to have for lunches and snacks during the week and add them to your list. Personally speaking, I also take into consideration what my kids have had in recent weeks. They do tend to get tired of the same foods if I buy them week after week. Did you bake homemade raisin bread last week? Change it up and make muffins. Kids muffined out? How about waffles, power balls, or some bars? Vary it up for the best results.

Food Shopping

I do my shopping on Friday or Saturday each week. Years ago, I found myself at the grocery store multiple times throughout the week. It made me nutty! Now I go just once a week, and by the time it’s time to go again, the fridge is bare and looking lonely. This secretly makes me happy, in a weird way. I know that we’ve done our part in finishing up and not wasting food.

And now for the good stuff…Prep Day!

Back to my Sunday mornings. Every Sunday I wash, peel, and cut carrots so that we have carrot sticks throughout the week. I do the same with celery and maybe cucumbers or peppers. I can’t tell you how valuable it is on busy school nights to just open the fridge and have snacks and lunch options available to simply grab and go. Move over pretzels made with white flour – we’ve got a better option than you! I seriously find that my kids are more apt to grab a bag of veggies to snack on vs. grabbing a cutting board and vegetable when hungry. It doesn’t take rocket science, right? A little leg work up front has loads of benefits.

I’ve broken down my Sunday work for you:

Veggies:

  • Peel and cut carrots
  • Wash and cut celery
  • Cut cucumber or bell peppers (or both)
  • Chop vegetables to roast during the week
  • Wash and chop lettuce

Fruit:

  • Cut (in-season) fruit for breakfasts and lunches
  • Wash all apples/pears/etc. so that they are ready for little hands to grab and eat
  • Freeze bananas for use in smoothies or banana ice cream (a fun treat)

Baking/Other:

  • Make bacon for the week (great for salads, sandwiches, or by itself!)
  • Bake one or two items for the week – muffins, granola bars, etc.
  • Make a batch of granola
  • Hard boil eggs

Food Preparation:

  • Make marinade for chicken or other meat (when applicable)
  • Cut chicken if necessary
  • Mix up a salad dressing (when applicable)
  • Make Monday’s meal so that Monday is ready to go

Keep in mind that this is not always the same. Yes, my veggies stay pretty consistent, but the actual food prep part will change according to what I have on the menu for the week. Also, keep in mind that different systems work for different people. Perhaps you work weekends and need to alter days. Or perhaps you don’t have kids and don’t need the quantity that I do. Regardless, a little work ahead of time is definitely worth the effort in my opinion.

I’d love to hear how you save yourself some time with food prep!

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92 thoughts on “How to do Food Prep for the Week”

  1. This information is WONDERFUL! I make lunch for my granddaughter and she is allergic to almost everything. The YumBox is a godsend. She is excited everyday to see what is in there, but I was running out of ideas, until now. THANKS SO MUCH!!!!!!

  2. How do you store the beg you have prepped so that on Friday its still ok to use? Same with cucumber and carrots. Dont they dry out?

    1. Amy Taylor (comment moderator)

      Hi there. These are Kiran’s comments from a previous page:
      “Definitely use water. In all honesty, my veggies mostly last up to 4 days and then I “may need to cut another small bag of carrots – or even resort to the baby ones if time is an issue. But water will help out, for sure.
      If you look at the pic above – you can see water around the celery. I’d fill it close to the top with water. Then for something like carrots, I put them in the giant Ziplock and submerge them in water, too. HTH!”

  3. A friend of mine told me that the specials for the week at the grocery store are from Friday to Thursday. Since we get the flyer for the following week on Wednesday, he shops Thursday (for last week’s specials) and Friday (for the coming week’s specials) Smart!

    I plan menus for the whole week: breakfast, lunch, snack and dinner. The menu is on the fridge all week. Since we are not big eaters and get full pretty easily, each meal has a main focus: grains are eaten for breakfast, protein at lunch, fruit for snack, vegetables for dinner. We have adopted Mark Bitman’s VA6 (vegan after 6)

    The pantry has jars of nuts, seeds and dried fruits that are easily accessible to accompany snacks.

    Sometimes I will prep, marinate and freeze enough meat for the whole month! I use empty individual milk bags (food grade plastic) as freezer bags: they are very sturdy and work well with a cheap electric sealer (I paid mine $6.99 at Value Village)

    To make Sundays more fun, a glass of red wine, and my favorite radio show! At times, I get help in the kitchen since it is important for me to pass along cooking skills. My efforts have paid off since my son can pick a recipe from a book or the internet, line up all the ingredients on the counter and cook!

    We are rarely out of an ingredient: I have 4 spice racks: Indian spices, Herbs, Baking spices, and Miscelleneous (dry mustard, onion powder, etc.) Need peanut oil? Got it. Need red curry paste? Got it. Worcesshire… whorschshire… that sauce? Got it.

    My time savers: a rice cooker and a crock pot.

      1. My philosophy is that, just like a painter cannot paint without paint brushes and paint, a cook cannot cook without proper cookware and ingredients.

        Since I am older, I have had 30 years of adult life to collect kitchen tools that I use regularly! The garlic press I prefer, spatulas, muffin tins, wok, blender, hand-mixer, mixing bowls, mandoline, grater, etc. If it doesn’t work well, out it goes!

        No obstacles to cooking!

        I have donated kitchen items which I never used, that were part of a ‘fantasy of me’: a juicer, a pasta maker, angel cake pan, any preserve equipment. It is just not me. I don’t bake, I’m not a fan of dough and starches put me to sleep.

  4. I put chicken in crockpot and shred once cooked for several recipes during the week. I do the same with beef roast. Both freeze well also. I roast a huge batch of veggies and they keep for 3-4 days. I also try to put together some kind of casserole to heat Monday after work.

  5. Any recommendation for cutting down the amount of dishes to wash. I love the concept of meal prep and try practice it as much as I can but the dishes just seem to multiple every night. I swear I could do a load in the dishwasher of just tupperware.

  6. I love these tips, however my struggle is my work schedule. I work 7 off and 7 on, meaning I am at work for 7 days without going home. We have to bring our own food for 7 days and I work in a rural area so there are no grocery stores nearby, only two gas station/convenient stores. It’s been a challenge so far switching to whole foods but I am determined. It’s also a challenge helping my hubby do whole foods during the week I am gone. The info and resources here, on the blog and on Facebook have been very helpful and I just bought the book so hopefully I will eventually have the hang of it.

  7. Thanks for tips, Kiran! My weekly prep looks similar, but I also have a I-don’t-have-time-to-prep plan for really busy times. You know– the times when everything hits the fan! I hard-boil eggs, make 5 or 6 overnight oat jars and I put together a salad bowl (like salad jars). This way I have a few healthy snacks on hand or items I can pull together to create a healthier meal.

  8. I would like to hear ideas from people who observe Sunday as a day of worship and rest. I try to devote as much of Sunday as possible to those so that I have that sense of margin and recharging for the week ahead, However, Monday comes and I don’t have all this type of good prep done, which really sounds great.

    1. I’m in the same boat and I’m trying to figure out a system that works for us. I stay at home so it works for me to do food prep on Monday. But maybe Saturday would work?? im trying to plan meals that have rollover ingredients and just overall keep it simple.

      1. I’d do Saturday, and then just make frozen pizza on Friday when the fresh prepped food is used up. ;)

    2. It has been working for me to come up with a menu plan on Friday from Sat. to Sat. (This was hard at first to come up with a full weeks menu plan, but once I did the wheels started turning and I found myself coming up with meals for the following week.) Then I shop on Friday or Sat.morning. Put a meal in the crock pot Sat. night for Sunday. I keep the menu planner on my fridge, and just prep what I need to the night before and it is usually minimal. I try to plan the meals using fresh produce in the beginning of the week too. Now I can focus on the importance of the Sabbath day with out the thought in the back of my mind what’s for dinner?! There are some great tips in the article that I will apply to my prepping.

  9. Thank you for the wonderful tips! I’m trying to get better about prepping more on Sundays! One thing I do is portion applesauce and plain yogurt w/ your berry sauce in to small jars each week and put them on low shelf in the fridge. This makes for easy snacks for my kids, and I also use them in lunch boxes or at dinner time if we’re in a pinch!

  10. I would go crazy (and hungry!) without my weekly food prep. It may not be a glamorous process, but I always feel very accomplished and organised once it’s all done. Love all these tips, I need to add some of the baking ideas into my routine and I would feel even more awesome during the rest of the week when it came to snacktime!
    Good tip in the comments for adding water to the zip lock bags, it only takes a little water coverage in there to keep them crisp and fabulous all week long :)

  11. Doesn’t your veggies and fruit turn brown mid week?when I cut up bell peppers they don’t hold well. By Thursday they are soggy. What do you do for these things. I prefer my veggies and fruit crunchy.

    Thanks for the tips!

      1. Is that true for the cucumbers too? I do this for carrots, but my cucumbers tend to get slimy. I hadn’t thought of water for them though.

  12. I just finished doing this, and boy am I exhausted! Next week I will have to start earlier in the day. Thanks for the advice.

  13. I like to make a batch of steel cut oats to re-heat for breakfasts throughout the week. I also make a batch of soup and freeze it in 1 cup portions. That way it thaws quicker, and is easy to grab for lunches. Often when I buy ground beef or turkey, I’ll assemble it into burgers, taco meat, meatballs, meatloaf, etc. and freeze it for later.

  14. Thanks there are some great ideas here. Never used Plan to Eat but will give it a try. I use a meal planner from Saymmm it’s free.

  15. I would love to know what cut carrots look like after a few days. If I peel and cut a carrot the wrap it in cling film to serve for dinner, I find a few hours later it has a dry, white look.

      1. The problem is, then some of the nutrients, especially vitamin C, get leeched out into the water. That’s why I rarely prep many veggies ahead. Cut, but refrigerated out of water veggies get mushy or dried out faster.

  16. I make things in advance like home made cream of mushroom or chicken soup, and stick them in the freezer. I pick a soup, like chicken noodle or vegetable soup, and make a huge pot of it for lunches for the week. My husband loves the ready-made jar salads, so I make a set of those for him to have for lunches also. We have recently begun to try and get away from all things canned or processed, although I’ve been avoiding a lot of it for years now. My meal prep day is all about preparing in advance the things that I used to get canned so that the meals themselves don’t take any longer that usual to cook. Thanks for the tips Lisa! I have been reading your blog for a few years now and find many things super helpful!

    1. Kiran Dodeja Smith

      Love using my freezer, too. It’s great to make a big batch of stock, cream of mushroom soup, as you mentioned, and other soups, too. Glad that you found this helpful, but sounds like you already have a good system in place! :)
      ~Kiran

  17. Does anyone pre shred cheese? I buy block cheese from costco and it is a pain to have to get food processor out and shred cheese every time I need shredded cheese. But I recently shredded a lot and put in ziploc bag in fridge for few days and it started to have a different taste and smell to it. What do you do ???

    1. Carrie, I do the same thing! Buy a block from Costco and shred part of it for eggs, pizza, pasta, etc, and leave a bit for slicing. Or you can shred all of it. I put it in a ziploc in the freezer and it stays fresh! You can pull out what you need for the snack/meal and it thaws/melts just fine.

  18. i wish i was so well organised as you. how do you find the time ? maybe you should do a post about how to get your life organised enough so you can prep all your food on a sunday lol .

  19. As above, how do you package fruits and vegetables after being cut so they stay ‘fresh’? I always find they look a little sad and not so appealing after two days or so.

    1. I actually put my cut up carrots and torn up lettuce (never cut with a knife) into a container of water and put in the fridge. This keeps them cold and crisp! I haven’t tried it with other vegetables. I read somewhere that cutting lettuce with a knife activated the spoilage immediately. Have had no problems with tearing by hand.

  20. Hi, Don’t fruits and veggies start to lose their “goodness” from the moment they’re cut. I always thought so which is ay I only cut things when needed but would save a lot of time if this was not the case :))

  21. My Sunday prep looks very similar to yours. I agree, it can be overwhelming, but it is a sanity-saver for busy weeknights. Whenever possible, I start this process on Saturday night by prepping a 9 x 13 pan of either baked oatmeal or an egg bake. It makes for an easy brunch on Sunday, and the leftovers are great for grab-n-go breakfast options early in the week.

  22. I like salad-in-a-jar for my weekly salads. A quart salad will feed my family as a side for dinners and a pint is perfect for my own lunch salads. (Plus I love the colorful jars in the fridge!)

  23. This is awesome. I mean I knew basically what needed to be done, but lists always get me motivated! I read and am now trying, putting a sponge in the veg drawer. It draws moisture away and has kept it fresher longer. I also have been keeping certain things separate, mostly fruits away from veg because of the gas released.

  24. Great info! Thanks for sharing. This is something I do regularly and have learned to create many shortcuts for!! I actually shop during the week online and have groceries delivered or pick/up – so I meal plan around that and use what’s in season. I also keep to a list of “types” of meals I prepare such as soup/salad, pasta ( I eat GF, so veggies are my noodles), taco or wraps (I love to put stuff in lettuce tacos or wraps or on nachos), roasted or grilled meat/veg, and bbq (cooked in power pressure cooker/grilled), etc. Repeating those “types” of meals over and over never gets boring when the ingredients change, but it keeps the prep to be mostly the same. Another helpful planning tip is to find recipes that use the same ingredients – so you’ll use items up (like a particular herb), or be able to re-purpose items. For instance – using leftover grilled veggies in the blender w/ chicken stock to make a quick soup or placing leftover grilled steak on a salad another night with different flavors. Or using cilantro in a Mexican dish for one night and an Asian dish for another to make sure you use it all. Chopping items like onions, celery, carrots, garlic ahead – I know I’m going to use those in just about everything, so they are ready to go – AND I save the peels from all of the veg and put it into a giant stock pot to make stock – or freeze for a stock making session at a later time. I also will cook multiple large pots of soup at the same time, then freeze into 2 portion containers to take out on a night for a week I might not have time to prep for. Thanks again for all of your info.

  25. I work full time, go to law school at night and try to get to the gym 2 to 3 times per week, so if I don’t cook on Sunday I am in trouble. I usually cook a couple chicken breasts which I can either eat with rice or potatoes and vegetables or chop up and throw in salad. I steam a big pot of vegetables and make either rice or roasted potatoes. I will also make turkey burger patties, chili or soup. I package up everything in containers so my meals are ready to grab out of the fridge. I just joined the mini pledge and I am looking forward to some new food ideas.

  26. Sounds a lot like my Sunday. It’s the only way I can manage to work full time and ensure our family eats healthy home cooked meals all week. Plus I love it because I know I’m setting us up for success all week.

  27. I haven’t yet tried your method, but I like the sound of it. I cook some for 2 other adults who are trying to eat healthy food. I like cooking enough chicken or other meat for 2-3 meals. We might have chicken and brocoli for dinner, but I cook extra meat to use in a dinner salad later, or a chicken sandwich. Same with cooking brown rice or barley. The roast beef one day can be made into a beef barley soup, and the barley can be cooked separately and divided before adding into the soup. Using “Better than Bouillon” base adds great flavor. Having basic fresh stuff ahead of time helps me be successful, and I am learning to make the menu around that. Thanks for your blog; I plan to check out more of it!

  28. I prep veggies and salad dressing for 3 days at a time…that covers the weekend and Monday when I have worked the weekend. Then I do baking on one of my days off mid week…I have a weird rotating schedule and work 12 hour shifts, so when I am at work there is healthy food in the fridge and freezer. I feel better going off to work knowing the salad ingredients are there, because then she (my daughter) will eat them. I do prepare other things so there are healthy left overs or quick to fix things in the fridge or freezer when I am not home to make healthy meals

      1. Wash them in a bowl or sink of water with a little white vinegar – like a tsp for a bowl or a tbsp for a sink. Your fruits and veggies will last longer than unwashed.

    1. I wash my fruits and veggies in water with a few drops of Young Living essential oil, then lay them on paper towels to dry, and have so much less waste than I did prior to this.

      1. Sorry, I meant to say…I use lemon. My produce lasts longer, especially berries and tomatoes.

    2. I wash my fresh fruits and tomatoes and allow them to drip dry or use a paper towel to dry them; whatever I have time for. I then line one of those blue lid ziploc containers (or any other lidded container) with a paper towel and place my fruit or tomatoes inside and place another paper towel over the top and press the lid on. This never fails. My fruits do not go bad. I’ve had times when I didn’t plan well and two weeks later I find my tomatoes as fresh and firm as the day I packed them. This works for celery and carrots too.

  29. My prep looks similar. It’s kind of a drag. A ton of work you know.

    I find that not everything keeps, so I find myself doing extra mid-week also. I eat a lot of salad, so I wash greens at least 2x a week.

    Also have to add making hummus to that list!!

    I also admit I started letting my school aged child get the (healthy) school lunch. Fewer veg to prep.

    1. Marcia I would love to see your recipe for the hummus! I finally really got over myself and tried hummus a couple mo the back and fell in love with it but I wouldn’t mind making it at home

    1. Kiran Dodeja Smith

      Great! Hope it’s helpful.
      I use Pyrex for some. I love that you can see into it in the fridge and it keeps it organized. For others, I honestly use large Ziploc bags. I know, I know; it’s not environmentally friendly, but I’m just being honest.

      1. Kiran Dodeja Smith

        LOL – I have been known to wash and reuse them! My husband thinks I’m a bit nutty, but you will often find them drying in my kitchen:).

  30. Cori Waldschmidt

    I take it one more step and make little baggies of the veggies and other snacks. This allows my kids to grab a fruit, a veggie, a snack and a protein for school quickly.

  31. Rebekah Sherwood

    I love these ideas! I don’t even have kids yet, but these tips are helpful for my husband and me as well. Thanks so much for sharing!

  32. Your blog is incredible! I have used your posts over and over again and recommended your blog to so many friends. Thank you for what you do and the quality of the information you share. Happy New Year to you and yours! Thank you.

  33. Once a week grocery shopping/meal prep is one of my goals for this year, so this was super helpful! I have found myself rushing through the grocery store at 5pm or staring blankly into my fridge trying to figure out a school lunch far too often! Thank you!

    1. Kiran Dodeja Smith

      This honestly is a life saver for lunches. Having food on hand to throw in is invaluable. Let us know if you try it!

  34. I found that cutting veggies nightly was to difficult (blame the arthritis flareups) so I started to buy the big bags of onion at Costco and chop the entire bag in the food processor. I then freeze them in about 1 cup portions – ready whenever I need finely chopped onion! I then make wonderful broth with all the skins. I even shredded carrots but I found that I prefer to used them diced instead of shredded.

  35. I started meal prepping a few years ago – consistently breakfast and lunches but I’m getting better at planning out dinners!

    On Sundays, I make my menu [if I haven’t already] and shopping list and then I head for the store early enough that I miss the crowd. Then I spend about an hour to an hour and half prepping all my breakfasts [which various but is usually some form of carb, like muffins, and fruit, though sometimes I’ll do yogurt with fruit], and lunches. I make a big batch of soup for myself every week that becomes my daily lunch [and lunch/dinner for that day!] that I put up in mason jars because it seems to keep it fresher longer and is easier to take to work. Then I prep any snacks [putting them in individual baggies so it’s easier to take to work. I also make my husband’s lunch, though sometimes he’ll make it on his own.

    When I’m being mindful, I make a weekly list for our dinners so whoever gets home first can start that night’s dish. Since we get home late, I always try to make weekday dinners easy with pre-prepped ingredients, like hamburgers or tacos. I’m more elaborate on the weekends.

  36. How long d the veggies last already chopped up? What about cut fruit? And, when you hard boil eggs, do you keep them too? My littles are too little to peel the eggs themselves, so I’ve considered hard-boiling and peeling someeggs for them, but I don’t know how long hard boiled eggs last if they are peeled already.

    How do you handle portions? I have one who really struggles with quantity of food. If I made snacks more available, I’m afraid that she would eat snacks all day and never eat dinner. How do you handle that? Is it a problem if its healthy foods? Do you limit how many snacks you put out at a time or anything?

    1. Kiran Dodeja Smith

      Hi TG~
      Let me see if I can answer some of your questions:
      Hard boiled eggs … I make them but don’t peel them. I will peel them for my littlest one the night before if he’s taking one in his lunch, or his teacher assists if need be. I don’t think I’d peel them and let them sit for a few days, but that’s me.
      Portions: We really don’t have them *out* all of the time, but I truly don’t ever care if my kids want to grab a piece of fruit or veggies. I also suggest nuts if it’s in-between meals, and of course they have a snack (that they pack) at school and they have an after-school snack. The way I look at it, if they don’t eat as much dinner as they may have eaten otherwise because they ate too many fruits and veggies, well so be it. Again – my opinion!

    2. My thought is that snacking on carrots, cucumbers, hard boiled eggs, etc is WAAAAY better than skipping meals or eating junk. So, go for it. I’ve also found that if I prep my breakfast & lunches, and do the chopping for dinner, I’m much less likely to nibble as I go. Its been a WONDERFUL change.

    3. Most veggies will keep for a 4-5 days. Hard boiled eggs in the shell are good in the fridge for a week. Not sure about unpeeled. When my kids were little I had healthy snacks available whenever they wanted it. As long as the snacks are good for them there is not reason to limit them. I had one child who rarely snacked and was on the heavier side for awhile (he’s now a beanpole at 18) and the other who never stops eating and is rail thin. When I do buy treats I have always put them into portion sized baggies. Much less chance of overeating.

  37. One of my goals this year is to meal prep more. I usually get lazy to do it (it seems like a lot of work), but it is rewarding when you eat better and when you’re hungry and you can have some food ready to eat. I did some meal planning a few weeks ago, but I ended up stopping. Time to start again! Thanks for the advice!

    1. I store carrots and celery submerged in water. Fruits lasts for a good few days; I have 4 kids though so it doesn’t have much of a chance of lasting longer than that.

    2. I too am curious how long they last… Some veggies only seem to last a few days when cut up. (Maybe it’s how I store them?)

      1. Kiran Dodeja Smith

        Definitely use water. In all honesty, my veggies mostly last up to 4 days and then I may need to cut another small bag of carrots – or even resort to the baby ones if time is an issue. But water will help out, for sure.

      2. Kiran Dodeja Smith

        If you look at the pic above – you can see water around the celery. I’d fill it close to the top with water. Then for something like carrots, I put them in the giant Ziplock and submerge them in water, too. HTH!

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