You know that meal prepping involves stocking up on groceries to make all the items on your menu. But before you hit the supermarket, you'll want to gather some essential equipment.
Meal prepping is all about maxing out your time in the kitchen. So it makes sense to have the basic tools and appliances that'll help you get the job done as efficiently (and deliciously) as possible. Here's exactly what to buy for meal prep.
The 13 Meal Prep Tools You Need
From batch-cooking quinoa to chopping veggies for a stir-fry, stock up on these essential staples to streamline your meal prep efforts tremendously. While you can shop around to find similar items, these are our top picks.
1. Meal Prep App
A digital organizer can make mapping out several days' worth of breakfasts, lunches and dinners feel more manageable, especially in the beginning. "A meal plan journal or app can help you prepare for the week, making your menu and grocery list," nutrition expert Rachel Fine, RD, tells LIVESTRONG.com
2. Knife Set
You don't need a million knives to cook your meals — just a few sharp, sturdy blades. A good knife set should have a large chef's knife for chopping, dicing and slicing, as well as a paring knife for smaller jobs (like segmenting citrus fruits). You'll also want a serrated knife for slicing through bread or thick-skinned veggies like tomatoes or peppers, along with a pair of machine-washable kitchen shears.
3. Cutting Boards
If you don't already have a dedicated chopping surface in your kitchen, now's the time to get one. Cutting boards made from non-porous plastic are easy to wash in the dishwasher, and they won't dull your knives. To avoid cross-contamination, get a multi-pack and reserve one board for fruits and veggies and a separate one for meat and poultry.
"It might be helpful to get cutting boards of different colors to help you separate tasks while separating raw, fresh and cooked foods to avoid cross-contamination," says Bonnie-Taub Dix, RDN, creator of BetterThanDieting.com.
Pick cutting boards that have a lip around the edge to catch rogue bits and crumbs.
4. Measuring Cups and Spoons
Measuring your ingredients helps you get a recipe right — and ensures that the nutritional information in your app matches up with the final result. Opt for a set of cups and spoons made from simple stainless steel, which is easy to wash and won't run the risk of melting in the dishwasher.
5. Mixing Bowls
A nested set in various sizes means you always have a bowl ready for whatever you might be making. Again, go for bowls made of simple stainless steel: It's lightweight, durable and you can toss the bowls straight in the dishwasher when you're done with them.
6. Sheet Pans
Basic aluminum sheet pans are a must for roasting or baking everything from proteins to vegetables to big batches of granola. Larger pans are always better than smaller ones since they allow you to bake more at once without crowding your pan. To max out your productivity, keep at least two pans on hand.
7. Silicone Baking Cups
These reusable, nonstick cups make whipping up muffins along with individual quiches, frittatas or meat loaves super easy. "They work well for portioning out snacks like nuts or crackers," Fine says. Go for standard-size cups — they're more versatile than mini or jumbo ones.
8. Baking Pans
For maximum versatility, get a nonstick set with several different sizes. Use loaf pans for quick loaves of bread and meatloaf, round pans for frittatas and quiches (or hey, cake!) and square or rectangular pans for casseroles and baked oatmeal.
9. Food Scale
Planning on measuring that big batch of chili out into individual portions? A food scale is the most precise tool for the job, helping to ensure that each serving has the same amount of macros and calories. And if you're trying to lose weight, that's key!
10. Food Processor
The food processor is the best tool for whipping up dips, sauces and dressings fast. Plus, you can use the interchangeable blade discs to grate or slice vegetables or cheese without breaking a sweat. A nine-cup model is big enough for most tasks, but won't take over your entire counter.
11. High-Speed Blender
Yup, they're handy to have even if you've got a food processor on hand. A high-speed blender is the best tool for making super creamy smoothies, soups or sauces, says nutrition expert Andres Ayesta, RD. That's especially true if you're incorporating ingredients that can get grainy, like nuts or seeds.
12. Slow Cooker
The slow cooker is the easiest way to make hearty soups, stews, chilis, or braises. (Just toss the ingredients in, turn it on, and go do something else!) Plus, using it to make slow-cooking dishes frees up your stovetop for other tasks like searing or sautéing.
13. Electric Griddle
Sure, you could cook whole-wheat pancakes or turkey burgers a few at a time in your trusty nonstick skillet. But a large, flat electric griddle means you can churn out an entire batch at once, says Ayesta. And that can add up to major time savings.