I recently moved into an apartment and was faced with the task of cooking for myself. While I was excited about the thought of finally having a kitchen and not being forced to eat dining hall food every day, I was a little nervous about have enough time to cook and was also dreading the idea of having to cook dinner for myself after a long day (some nights I don't get home until around 10 pm). Then I discovered how to meal prep and haven't had to worry about cooking since.

Basically meal prepping is when you cook a bunch of food to last you an entire week. You can store it in containers and take it with you so you never have to skip a meal or pay a ridiculous amount of money for a crappy salad again.

It's also great if you're trying to eat healthier.  Since I've started meal prepping, I've learned a few things that will hopefully keep you from making the same mistakes I did. 

1. Set aside time.

apple, juice, cider
Karen Nolan

Meal prepping can take a few hours or even an entire afternoon depending on how much you're cooking. The best thing to do is set aside a few hours to prep and cook everything all at once, that way you won't have to worry about it later. 

2. Invest in a solid set of containers.

pizza, coffee, beer, tea, soup
Karen Nolan

Trust me on this. Nothing is worse than spending a ton of time cooking only to realize you have one container to put it all in and it's definitely too small.

Buy a set of containers that are all the same size that way you can divide your food up so you have a container for every day of the week. 

3. Plan everything beforehand.

Karen Nolan

Figure out exactly what you're going to make and how much you'll need for the week (or however long you're prepping for). It's so much easier to have everything figured out ahead of time and will save you a lot of time and energy in the long run.  

#SpoonTip: Make sure you pick a recipe you know you'll like since you'll be eating it a lot. 

4. Make a grocery list and stick to it.

Karen Nolan

Once you've figured out what you're making for the week, you'll need to go buy everything (duh). Try really hard to only buy what you need, especially if you're buying produce, since you don't want it to go bad from sitting around. Not only does this prevent stuff from rotting in your fridge but it saves you money and who doesn't want that?

5. Try making mason jar salads.

dairy product, milk, vegetable
Karen Nolan

Okay yeah. Mason jars will make you look like a total hipster, but believe me when I say they are hella convenient for storing food, especially salads. Check these recipes out for inspiration.

6. Pick simple snacks.

apple, caramel apple, sweet
Karen Nolan

I'm one of those people who always has snacks in my bag. If you're going to add snacks to your meal prep, pick something easy like a piece of fruit or a granola bar. It will save you time, but also keep you from starving in the middle of a three hour lab. 

7. Don't overdo it.

salad, cheese, salt
Karen Nolan

Seriously though. If you've never tried meal prepping before don't try to make breakfast, lunch, and dinner for an entire week. You'll go crazy. Instead figure out when you're busiest and make meals based around that.

Maybe you never have time for lunch, or you don't want to cook dinner after a long day. If that's the case try making a week of lunches or dinners.  

8. Think about freshness.

vegetable, pepper, chili
Karen Nolan

Think about it. If you cook enough food on Sunday to last you until Friday, it's going to be sitting in your fridge for almost an entire week. Check expiration dates, and pick recipes that won't taste gross after a couple of days in your fridge. 

Even though meal prepping can take up a ton of time, it's great if you have a busy schedule and are short on cash.