Maybe “Meal Prep Must-Haves” is too strong a statement? But for me, these are meal prep must-haves.
Because when I decided to overcome meal prep fears and get my bulk cooking on, I wasn’t very well set up for the task.
Beyond my super humble kitchen, I was just missing many of the tools that make the process easier. Some items here are my own selections, while others were recommended by DJ Foodie in his book, MAKING ENDS MEAT.
[Full disclosure: DJ Foodie is my friend. I consulted with him as he was writing this book, and I also sell it. So, I’m anything but unbiased. That being said, I absolutely AM using and enthusiastically recommending this book.]
Meal Prep Must-Haves: Powerhouse Tools
Chest Freezer – Obviously, you may or may not have access to a freezer, but even a small one can make a tremendous difference (speaking as the owner of a small chest freezer). Whatever freezer options you have, though, clean them out to make room. You’re gonna need it!
My freezer doubles as a workspace in my small kitchen. Double win!
8-Quart Instant Pot – My 8-quarter is big enough to have become a huge help for my meal prep efforts. I can cook over 5 pounds of meat at once in here! Plus meat can still be frozen when you put it in. Just add a few more minutes and you won’t know the difference. Prepping or not, I use this several times a week.
If you are considering an Instant Pot, please know the slow cooker function is useless (at least in my Duo). Instead of slow cooking, I pressure cook and use the “keep warm” function until I’m ready to serve. It has the same basic outcome as slow cooking would, but it actually cooks the food.
And it makes fabulous soups or delightful yogurt. So even though it’s not a great slow cooker, I still consider it one of my meal prep must-haves.
KitchenAid Mixer – Mine is pink, because it needed to coordinate with my hair. But this appliance is exactly what it’s supposed to be: a powerhouse mixer that will last decades.
Now, anybody who has one of these mixers know, the best part of owning one is picking out attachments! I’ve got several.
- Meat Grinder – For MANKING ENDS MEAT slabs!
- Ice Cream Bowl – Who doesn’t want to make their own (low carb) ice cream without a machine?
- Spiralizer – Hello, Zoodles!
- Grater/Slicer – Freshly shredded cheese is the absolute best! And doesn’t have the extra starch added in to keep it from sticking like store-bought.
Vacuum Sealer – The one I got was similar to this–a basic, budget model. You will find a million and one different uses for this besides freezing portions.
I fold a paper towel and stuff it in a bag of salad or slaw and reseal it to keep it fresh longer. You can also reseal pork rinds bags.
I’d hoped it would work with liquids, but I didn’t find any budget models that did that well. I was surprisingly happy with the bag cutter, though. So much quicker and easier than trying to cut straight. I use the bulk bag rolls for savings over pre-cut or name brand bags and the cutter makes it super simple.
This purchase will easily pay for itself by less food waste. And we can all feel good about that!
Meal Prep Must-Haves: Basic Tools
Some of the things I needed were surprisingly basic and, I suppose, obvious. A simple cutting board. A meat thermometer and a digital scale all help.
But I needed a few more things…
Knives – To give you some idea where I started here–my “good knife” had been given to me as a perk for a catering gig in HIGH SCHOOL, y’all.
You know how much easier it is to meal prep when you have sharp knives? Well, I do now. Doh!
So I got myself a few knives. I mean, it doesn’t have to be a rainbow titanium knife set. But it’s so much better if they are…
And don’t forget a nice knife block to put your pretties in…
Deli Containers –My daughter raved about her deli containers, and I just didn’t get it. When DJ also raved about them in MAKING ENDS MEAT, I decided I needed to give them a second look.
Here was my collection right after I started getting deli containers. As time when on, I retired all most all the odd-sized containers and stuck with the deli containers. I did not search out a restaurant supply company for these; they may be more economical that way, though. I just got mine on Amazon.
I ended up getting some 8-oz, 16-oz and 32-oz. I think I probably use the big ones most, but they all get used. Why do people rave about deli containers for food prep?
- Versatility. Temperature resistance means you can microwave or freeze them.
- Reusable. Wash them in the dishwasher, even.
- They don’t leak. Super for those soups that won’t work in your vacuum sealer.
- They stack–and all the lids are the same size!
- Sizes are flexible – 8 oz. is a great size for a dessert. 16 oz. is good for a side or leftovers, and the 32 oz. is the perfect size for a main course for my husband and I.
- They are inexpensive – You can share food about worrying about getting the container back or if one breaks, it’s no big deal.
- When a lid warps a little in the dishwasher and won’t work so well as a lid anymore, I use it as a small plate to feed the cat. He approves.
Burger and Meatball Silicone Molds
I have used and loved the burger molds forever. Each patty is 4 oz. so it’s easy to freeze your meat in serving size, with or without seasoning it first, and have just the perfect amount ready to go for dinner.
I have several burger molds and a couple of the meatball ones, too. Love them!
Meal Prep Must-Haves: Favorite Splurge(s)
So technically, my favorite splurge was something you probably won’t need: a countertop dishwasher. But if you are in a tiny place and you didn’t know about those, well, now you do. They are perfect for one or two people and it’s been a tremendous help for us.
But if we’re talking something most everybody could use? A large, cute bacon grease keeper with a nice mesh strainer inside. I use it all the time!
And here’s another reason to love my grease keeper…10-pounds of irregular bacon from my local Save-A-Lot store.
I love that the box gives us pointers on how to use bacon. Because otherwise, I’d just be confused about what to do with it…Snort!
DJ’s new book, MAKING ENDS MEAT!
This book provided me sorely needed encouragement and confidence to get started, and incredibly helpful guides on what food freezes well, what does not, how to plan and execute a batch cooking session, the ins and outs of meal prep and healthy, AFFORDABLE batch cooking recipes.
Because making it easier, at least for me, has been the most useful of meal prep must-haves of them all!
What are your must-haves for meal prep? Did I miss anything important?
I use my slow cooker function on my Instant Pot all the time. The key is to buy the glass lid. I wish they’d have included it with the Instant Pot because it makes a huge difference. I got mine from Amazon.