The world of home cooking comes down to two kinds of people: chipper sorts who prep all their meals in advance and live a life of well-labeled, stackable containers, and goofballs who have been known to make three separate grocery store excursions while cooking one simple dinner. (Guess which one I am, and you’ll know why all the cashiers know not just my name, but what I’m cooking on any given evening.)
Even for a member of Team Goofball, it’s hard to argue with the logic behind meal prepping, which promises that you can spend just two hours on the weekend making delicious, healthy meals that will fuel you all week long. But lots of things that make sense in theory don’t always survive that moment-of-truth on Sunday morning when you can’t bear the thought of grocery shopping, chopping and cooking, let alone doing a whole lot of it.
These books promise to get you over those hurdles — with weeks of meal plans, step-by-step schedules and beautifully styled photos of ready-to-go containers, each one filled with something scrumptious that you could have, too— if you would just follow this author’s advice.
How To Know If You Should Do Meal Prepping
Is this the year you finally try it? Here’s a question for you: Consider how busy you are, on a scale from “I wonder if I’m actually in a light coma right now” to “my hair is on fire and my pants might be next.” Now here’s the counterintuitive answer: The closer you are to the flaming-hot side of the equation, the more this meal prep thing might be just the ticket. According to these authors, following their plans will save you time, guaranteed.
“If you ask people what stands in the way of their dietary goals, most of them will say, ‘I don’t have time to cook,’” chef and meal prep cookbook author Robin Asbell told HuffPost. “Whether you’re trying to follow a healthier diet or eat less costly takeout, it’s still hard to walk in the door after a long day at work and make a meal from scratch.” That’s where meal prepping comes in, she said. “Anyone can find the time to work smarter, not harder, and set themselves up for success. In our hurry-up digital age, the idea of carving out space and time to care for yourself and your family, while saving money, is very appealing.”
If you want to prep for your prep by reading prep cookbooks, we’ve prepared several good choices that cover just about every level of expertise and kind of diet.
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Vegan Meal Prep: A 5-Week Plan with 125 Ready-To-Go Recipes by Robin Asbell
Vegan Meal Prep
Prolific cookbook author Robin Asbell makes a good point in her introduction to this book: If you’ve ever eaten in a restaurant, you’ve eaten food that’s been prepped — it’s all been sliced, peeled, precooked and parcooked in advance, just waiting for your order to come in. Her point is that you can start eating like you’re at a restaurant every day, except you’ll be the chef in charge now. This all-vegan lineup of more than 125 recipes will be a handy reference for everyone from hesitant flexitarians to hardcore plant-based eaters. Check out lots of make-ahead items like wraps, smoothies and bowls, as well as plant-only “mac and cheese” with nutty crunch topping, tempeh banh mi and sweet potato chickpea cakes. Get “Vegan Meal Prep: A 5-Week Plan with 125 Ready-To-Go Recipes” for $17.99.
The Ultimate Meal-Prep Cookbook: One Grocery List. A Week of Meals. No Waste. by America’s Test Kitchen
America's Test Kitchen
When the venerable American’s Test Kitchen decides that a trend has enough staying power to warrant a new cookbook, then you know meal prepping is the real deal. You’ll find 25 weekly plans that promise to minimize shopping and kitchen time. Consider making fast work of vegetables and grains during what they call a weekend “power hour” or prepping bulk pantry ingredients in a “pantry power hour.” Recipes include meatballs and lemon orzo with mint and dill, teriyaki stir-fried beef with green beans, herb-poached salmon with cucumber-dill salad and sun-dried tomato and white bean soup with parmesan crisps. Get “The Ultimate Meal-Prep Cookbook: One Grocery List. A Week of Meals. No Waste” for $17.99.
Baby and Toddler Meal Prep Plan: Batch Cook a Week’s Nutritious Meals in Under 2 Hours by Keda Black
Baby and Toddler Meal Prep Plan
The most visually inviting cookbook of the bunch, this book clearly has been written for stressed-out, sleep-deprived parents. The photography evokes a long, soothing Tasty video, all shot from above and all taking mise en place to new levels of organization. This cookbook thinks it all through for you, including shopping lists that have photos of each item, in case all you can manage is to bring the book to the market along with you and point. Black, a French food writer, offers up much more sophisticated choices than the strained beets of typical baby fare. This is more like “bébé” food, with recipes including baba ganoush, ratatouille, sea bream, lamb tagine and tuna niçoise. Get “Baby and Toddler Meal Prep Plan” for $22.99.
The Healthy Meal Prep Instant Pot Cookbook: No-Fuss Recipes for Nutritious, Ready-to-Go Meals by Carrie Forrest
The Healthy Meal Prep Instant Pot Cookbook
If you’ve already gone ahead and bought yourself that kitchen darling known by fans just as “the IP,” then you may have quickly run out of things to do with it after that first batch of chili. This book offers a number of recipe ideas that will allow you to batch prep in advance. There are tips for getting the most from the appliance, but there are no weekly plans, shopping lists or step-by-step instructions. That makes this book a good choice for someone who is experienced at prepping but new to the world of IP, as they’re sure to appreciate the super-speedy recipes for things like cooking a whole chicken, grains and beans in record time. Get “The Healthy Meal Prep Instant Pot Cookbook” for $14.99.
Damn Delicious Meal Prep: 115 Easy Recipes for Low-Calorie, High-Energy Living by Chungah Rhee
Damn Delicious Meal Prep
The woman behind the Damn Delicious
blog found that meal prepping helped her get healthier, save time and lose weight — all while enjoying foods like pumpkin doughnuts, burrito bowls, breakfast croissant sandwiches and Mason jar lasagna. She offers up shopping lists and brief meal plans around the themes of kale, rainbow veggies, Mexican and Asian, and she swears by the way the built-in portion control of prepped meals can make it easier to eat more nutritiously. She also suggests getting friends in on your new meal planning commitment by setting up regular Sunday prep sessions as a group activity (she mentions mimosas). Get “Damn Delicious Meal Prep” for $23.70.
The Visual Guide to Easy Meal Prep: Save Time and Eat Healthy with over 75 Recipes by Erin Romeo
The Visual Guide To Easy Meal Prep
Sharp may be the Meal Prep Queen, but Erin Romeo is known as @foodprepprincess
on Instagram, so let the royal prep-jousting commence. This book offers up four different menu plans to follow: low-carb, gluten-free, vegetarian and dairy-free. Recipes include chicken and bacon club wraps, falafel bowls and fish tacos. She touts meal planning as a way to regain hours in your day, eliminate the need to multitask as you prepare meals and to be more present with the people around you. Get “The Visual Guide to Easy Meal Prep” for $7.26.
The Everything Plant-Based Meal Prep Cookbook by Diane K. Smith
The Everything Plant-Based Meal Prep Cookbook
This book promises to help you create a plant-based diet that fills all your nutritional needs, with ways to mix and match ingredients so that food waste is reduced. There’s a two-week meal plan that includes breakfasts, lunches, dinners, snack and desserts, and recipes include black bean meatloaf, sheet pan ratatouille with creamy polenta, jackfruit enchiladas with green sauce and avocado brownies. Get “The Everything Plant-Based Meal Prep Cookbook” for $18.79.
Meal Prep In An Instant by Becca Ludlum
Meal Prep In An Instant
Beautifully designed and loaded with tons of helpful photos, this book would be a great first-step choice for someone with an Instant Pot, a desire to prep meals and the need for some gentle hand-holding. Written by the creator of the My Crazy Good Life
blog, this informative book includes seven weekly meal plans, each with four primary recipes, three alternate recipes and one dessert. There are quick swaps for dairy-free and vegetarian options, too. Recipes include IP takes on carne asada street taco bowls, easy lava cake bites, southwest egg roll in a bowl and spicy white chicken chili. Get Meal Prep In An Instant” for $9.79.
Plant-Based Meal Prep: Simple, Make-ahead Recipes for Vegan, Gluten-free, Comfort Food by Stephanie Tornatore and Adam Bannon
Plant-Based Meal Prep
The wife-and-husband duo behind this book have a YouTube channel devoted to plant-based eating and meal prep, and they bring that experience to bear in this colorful, well-designed book. Not only are all the recipes vegan, they’re also gluten-free. There are options for soy-free, grain-free and nut-free variations throughout. Recipes include loaded baked potatoes, yellow fried rice, creamy pasta with broccoli, fettuccine alfredo and raw healing pesto. Get “Plant-Based Meal Prep” for $16.84.