Whether you want to save money by taking your lunch to the office or you just never have enough time during the week to cook dinner, meal prepping can save time, help you shop smarter, make your money go further and help you eat healthier.
Ask any dedicated meal prepper and they’ll tell you the most important part of meal prep is the planning. Allyson Spungin, a certified personal trainer, nutrition coach and nationally qualified NPC competitor, says, “Have a plan! Map out your meals and snack ideas before grocery shopping or ordering online.” Jessica Woo, who calls herself the Bento Box Lunch Queen, agrees. “Routine is everything,” she says.
Part of having that plan and creating a routine that works for you is investing in a set of meal prep containers for food storage that works for your needs. We spoke to meal prep experts about their favorite meal prep containers, along with other tips and tricks to turn you into a meal prep pro.
Glass meal prep containers
C Crest Glass Meal Prep Containers, 10-Pack ($37.99, originally $42.49; amazon.com)
Glass containers like these are helpful if you prefer to quickly see what’s inside. However, these aren’t partitioned, so they’re best suited for things like pasta or casseroles that are served individually. When storing prepared foods, Woo says you should “keep your warm items and cold items in separate containers so it’s easier to reheat your warm items.”
Prep Naturals Glass Meal Prep Containers, Set of 5 ($48.99; amazon.com)
Experts agree on the importance of planning, but there are different approaches to meal prep and they stress that it isn’t a one-size-fits-all proposition. “I encourage people to think of meal prep as an act of self-care versus a means of sticking to rigid food rules,” Cara Harbstreet, a registered dietitian who focuses on intuitive eating, says. “One helpful trick I learned was to think of my meals as an assembly line rather than individual, fully prepared meals,” Harbstreet says. The assembly line approach provides more options and flexibility.
Ball Wide-Mouth Mason Jars, 4-Pack ($17.99; amazon.com)
“Glass Mason jars are my favorite fridge food storage containers,” says Kristen Hong, who documents her beautifully organized and meal-prepped fridges on Instagram. “The clear glass helps you easily see what you have available in the fridge, and the jars are stackable so you maximize vertical space.” She uses the 16-ounce size for storing homemade dips and sauces, fresh herbs and chopped produce for use in what she calls her “in-fridge salad bar.”
Ball Mason Jars, 2-Pack ($11.95; amazon.com)
Another thing about Mason jars Hong loves is that they come in a variety of sizes, so you can amass a collection that works for a lot of different food storage needs. She uses 32-ounce Mason jars for storing homemade soups and prepared salads, as well as for pantry storage. “This size Mason jar also works very well for dry pantry storage for dried beans and grains,” Hong says.
Plastic meal prep containers
Vremi Silicone Collapsible Food Storage Containers, Set of 4 ($18.97; amazon.com)
Collapsible meal prep containers are helpful for when you finish your food but don’t want the bowl to take up too much space on the way home or in your cabinets. These leakproof containers are freezer-safe and a good choice for people with limited space.
Rubbermaid FreshWorks Produce Savers, Set of 2 ($23.97; amazon.com)
Produce that’s gone off in the refrigerator is a frustrating part of meal prep; these produce storage containers help to keep expensive fruits and veggies fresher for longer.
Oxo Good Grips Salad Container ($18.99; macys.com)
Salads can be a pain to meal prep, since you typically don’t want to combine all the ingredients until you’re ready to eat. Try out this leakproof round container for your next meal prep, which even features a plate and dressing cup for a takeout-worthy salad.
Signora Ware Condiment Cups Containers With Lids, Set of 6 ($9.69; amazon.com)
One problem with salads is that if you dress them too long before eating, they’ll turn into a sad, soggy mess. These leakproof, BPA-free plastic condiment containers are perfect for storing salad dressings and sauces separate from your meal until you’re ready to eat.
Stasher Silicone Reusable Storage Bags, Set of 4 ($54.99; amazon.com)
Spungin offers one last piece of advice for those who are new to meal prepping: “Don’t. Get. Hungry!” She stresses the importance of keeping nutritious snacks on hand, which can help to prevent poor food choices made out of hunger. Buying snacks in bulk and storing individual portions in eco-friendly Stasher silicone storage bags will save money and cut down on packaging waste.
Divided meal prep containers
Ez Prepa Meal Prep Containers, 20-Pack ($18.69, originally $29.99; amazon.com)
These three-compartment plastic containers are great for someone who is getting into meal prepping because you can portion out your meals, microwave them, then throw the container in the dishwasher once you’re done.
GreenLunch 3-in-1 Stainless Steel Bento Box ($31.89, originally $34.89; amazon.com)
A stainless steel bento box like this one is good for your wallet and the environment. The eco-friendly food storage container comes with three removable compartments that you can swap around to plan your meal exactly how you want it.
Bentgo Fresh 3-Compartment Meal Prep Container ($39.99, originally $49.99; amazon.com)
We have our eyes on this BPA-free plastic set from Bentgo, not only because the containers are adorable, but they also include an optional divider to create a fourth compartment. Customization is key for meal prep containers that will last you from week to week.
Bulk meal prep containers
Rubbermaid 42-Piece Press & Lock Food Storage Set ($41.49; amazon.com)
Having a variety of different sized containers is always convenient. Opt for this set of 42 from Rubbermaid, made with lids that snap onto the base so that you won’t lose them.
Keeping meal-size portions in the freezer can also help to keep boredom at bay. Kevin Curry, the founder of FitMenCook, says, “The No. 1 tip I have for people who are new to meal prepping is that it does NOT have to be boring. Boring recipes make it much more challenging to stick to a meal prepping routine.”
Rubbermaid Easy Find Vented Lids Food Storage Containers, Set of 21 ($26.97; amazon.com)
This set of storage containers features a built-in lid vent to avoid excessive splatter in the microwave while warming up your food.
Rubbermaid Brilliance Food Storage Containers, Set of 10 ($17.99; amazon.com)
Cooking in bulk and using these BPA-free, leakproof meal prep containers to store food will allow you to assemble meals throughout the week with ease. “I pick a couple of protein sources like chicken and shrimp, carb sources like rice and sweet potatoes [and] have fats on hand like olive oil and avocados to combine for meals,” Spungin says.
Meal prep freezer containers
Rubbermaid Brilliance BPA-Free Food Storage Containers, Set of 5 ($27.65, originally $34.99; amazon.com)
These versatile freezer containers have got it all: They’re microwave-, dishwasher- and freezer-safe and the leakproof, BPA-free snap-on lids have built-in vents that allow you to microwave food with the lid on to prevent messy splatters.
Oxo Good Grips 4-Cup Glass Round Food Storage Container ($12.95; amazon.com)
These leakproof and freezer-safe round glass containers are perfect for storing homemade soups and stews in the freezer. This line of BPA-free food storage containers comes in sizes from 1 cup to 8 cups, and the lids are interchangeable, so you can build a set that works for your exact needs.
Rubbermaid Easy Find Lids Square 3-Cup Food Storage Containers, set of 4 ($19.99; amazon.com)
If your household is small, these freezer-safe containers are perfect for storing meals that are preportioned for one or two people.
Disposable meal prep containers
GladWare Everyday Use Medium Rectangle Storage Containers ($6.99; amazon.com)
The GladWare line is among the best disposable storage containers you’ll find; the brand gets high marks for its leakproof lids. The low price means you won’t worry about throwing this food storage container away and, unlike other disposable containers, these are freezer-, microwave- and dishwasher-safe.
Freshware Meal Prep Containers, Set of 50 ($19.49; amazon.com)
Restaurant-style food containers are another good option for when you need a disposable meal prep container. This set of 50 containers is BPA-free, stackable and microwave-, dishwasher- and freezer-safe.
Plastic Deli Food Storage Containers With Airtight Lids ($21.99 for a set of 48; amazon.com)
Deli-style containers are another great versatile food storage option that you’ll be OK giving or throwing away because of the low, low price. These round containers, which also come in an 8-ounce size that’s perfect for transporting snacks or dressings, are leakproof and airtight. And, because they’re BPA-free, they are microwave-, freezer- and dishwasher-safe.
10 meal prep accessories
The experts we spoke to offered some of their favorite tips, tricks and products for successful meal prep. They advise that you start small and stay flexible as you incorporate this new habit, since you’ll learn as you go. “Take note of what works and keep at it,” Spungin says of learning how to prepare meals in a way that works for you.
Tumbleweeds ‘What’s for Dinner?’ Weekly Magnetic Meal Planning Pad ($11.95; amazon.com)
This planning pad makes meal prep simple. Featuring a tear-off shopping list and space for weekly meal planning, this pad sticks right onto your fridge to keep you on track.
Spungin designates one day for cooking and, to make it less stressful, suggests scheduling meal prep for a day when you don’t have several other things to do. “Not a leftovers person? Pick two prep days,” she says. “For instance, Sunday for the first part of the week and Wednesday for the second half.”
Woo builds her meal prep into her existing schedule. “I like to meal prep when I am already cooking dinner or lunch,” she says. “Cook as if you are cooking for seven people and you can freeze individual meals,” which can be defrosted for a quick lunch or dinner.
‘Damn Delicious Meal Prep: 115 Easy Recipes for Low-Calorie, High-Energy Living’ by Chungah Rhee (starting at $15.99; amazon.com)
Don’t let anyone tell you that meal prep can’t be delicious. Grab this book by author Chungah Rhee for some inspiration for your upcoming meals from breakfast to comfort foods.
‘Cook Once, Eat All Week’ by Cassy Joy Garcia (starting at $9.99; amazon.com)
The idea of cooking all your meals at once can be pretty intimidating. Author Cassy Joy Garcia wants to help out with that in this book that offers guidance on how to make batch cooking simple.
Granite Stone Diamond Blue Pots and Pans 5-Piece Set ($39.99, originally $49.99; amazon.com)
All of the experts stressed the importance of keeping your kitchen stocked with the essentials of successful cooking. Spungin suggests investing in basic cookware, storage containers, measuring tools, spices and cooking oils. “That way all you need is the food,” Curry adds. “And don’t forget a quality cutting board and chef’s knife!” Check out our picks for the best kitchen knife sets and best cutting board if you’re in