Meal Prep 101: How to Make Lunch Easy, Fast and Delicious

Eating a healthy, balanced lunch every day can be challenging when you’re busy. Meal prepping your lunches for the week ahead saves time and takes the guesswork out of what to eat each day. This beginner’s guide will walk you through everything you need to know to start meal prepping fast, easy and delicious lunches that you can look forward to each day.

Choose Your Meal prep

The first step in meal prep is deciding what you want to eat. Consider your schedule, cooking skills, dietary needs and food preferences when picking recipes.

Some meal prep-friendly lunch ideas include:

  • Salads with protein like chicken, hardboiled eggs or beans
  • Wraps or sandwiches
  • Bowls with grains, protein and veggies
  • Soups or chilis
  • Veggie-loaded pastas or casseroles
  • Burrito bowls

When choosing recipes, opt for ones that use simple ingredients and can be easily made in batches. Pick a variety of meals to add diversity so you don’t get bored.

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Plan Your Meal prep

Once you’ve chosen your recipes, it’s time to think about the prep work involved for each. Make a plan for which items can be prepped ahead of time.

Many meal components can be prepped over the weekend to use throughout the week:

  • Cook proteins like chicken, tuna, eggs or tofu
  • Roast vegetables
  • Cook grains like rice, quinoa or farro
  • Prep veggie slices or dice for easy grabbing
  • Make dressings and sauces

Also take inventory of what you already have on hand and make a grocery list for any missing ingredients. Shop for just a week’s worth of groceries to prevent food waste.

Prep in Batches

When ready to start prepping, work in batches by tackling all of one ingredient or component at once. For example, roast all your vegetables together on one sheet pan. Or cook several pounds of chicken breast to use in different meals.

Working efficiently in batches streamlines the process and saves time. It also allows for better time management if you need to multi-task prepping a few recipes at once.

Store Food Properly

Proper food storage is key for meal prepped lunches to maximize freshness and prevent spoilage. Here are some guidelines:

  • Let foods cool completely before packing into storage containers
  • Use airtight, leak-proof containers and lids
  • Put dressings and sauces into small individual containers to keep other items from getting soggy
  • Label containers with contents and date prepared
  • Refrigerate perishable items right away
  • Freeze meals you won’t eat within 3-4 days

Use quality storage containers designed to be leakproof and suited for freezing if needed. Glass and stainless steel offer longer-lasting and non-toxic options compared to plastic.

Meal prep

Reheat Lunches Gently

The goal when reheating prepped meals is to make sure they get hot enough to kill any bacteria, without overcooking the ingredients. Here are some reheating tips:

  • For refrigerated items, heat gently in the microwave, oven or on stove
  • For frozen meals, allow to fully thaw overnight before reheating
  • Use lower heat and add a splash of water when microwaving to prevent drying out
  • Stir while reheating to distribute heat evenly
  • Avoid reheating in plastic

If you’ll be reheating at work, invest in wide-mouth thermoses or glass food jars that can hold hot foods safely. Stainless steel bento lunch boxes also work well.

Get Into a Routine

The more you meal prep, the faster and easier it becomes. Get into a consistent routine when you have time to prep recipes for the week ahead. Some examples:

  • Sunday afternoons after grocery shopping
  • A few weeknights after dinner
  • One hour before bedtime throughout the week

Determine a prep system and schedule that works for your lifestyle. Sticking to a routine makes the process feel smooth and natural.

Prep for Your Schedule

Your daily schedule will influence what types of meals work best for your lunches. Keep these factors in mind when prepping:

  • If you have early lunches, prep items that hold up well at room temp or reheat quickly. Examples: sandwiches, salads, pastas.
  • For a desk job, pack items that won’t leak if spilled. Burrito bowls or bento boxes work well.
  • If you’ll have access to a fridge and microwave, you can pack more delicate ingredients that need chilling or reheating.
  • For an active job, choose hearty meals that will be satisfying and energizing. Think proteins with complex carbs.
  • If you’ll be out and on-the-go, pack foods that can be eaten cold. Try snacks like veggies and hummus, cheese and crackers.

Prep with your schedule in mind so you have lunches suited for where and when you’ll be eating during busy workdays.

Mix It Up

Variety is the key to avoiding boredom when meal prepping. Try these ideas:

  • Rotate through different proteins, grains and vegetables each week
  • Use different herbs, spices, oils and acids for flavor diversity
  • Change up how you cook and prep ingredients (roast vs. grill vs. marinate)
  • Swap out dressings and sauces to keep flavors interesting
  • Include globally inspired meals for fun new flavors
  • Occasionally eat out or order in on prep days as a treat

Playing around with different flavors and textures will keep you looking forward to eating your prepped lunches.

7 Quick Lunch Ideas You Can Make in 10 Minutes or Less

Be Flexible

It’s unrealistic to expect meal prep to go perfectly every single week. Instead of striving for perfection:

  • Be okay with improvising if you’re missing an ingredient or short on time
  • Modify recipes freely to work with what’s on hand or suit your preferences
  • Don’t force yourself to eat something you don’t love or it’ll feel like a chore
  • Remind yourself that meal prep is meant to make your life easier, not more stressful

Learning as you go and tweaking your methods is part of the process. Stay flexible and have fun discovering what works best for your needs.


Preparing healthy lunches in advance saves you time and mental energy during busy work weeks. With some planning, routine and flexibility, you can make meal prepping work seamlessly for your lifestyle. Use this beginner’s guide to implement the strategies that fit you best. Soon you’ll have fast, easy and delicious lunches ready to grab and go each day!

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