How to Shop Once, Cook Once and Eat Clean for an Entire Week

We know that when we eat better, we feel better. We understand that eating well means we have more energy, are less moody, and have a better night’s sleep. But we still catch ourselves making poor decisions when it comes to our health more often than we’d like. In spite of our best intentions when it comes to eating healthy, life gets busy and at the end of a stressful day, the last thing we want to do is saute kale and wait for brown rice to cook. So, knowing that we will be busy, stressed out, and short for time, how do we still manage to fuel our bodies with the nutrients we need to function at our best?

Two words: Meal prep.

Meal prep is my biggest secret to consistently eating clean and feeling awesome. With meal prep, you can shop once, cook once, and eat clean all week. If you dedicate just three hours at the start of the week to meal prep you can avoid the kitchen for the rest. Sounds unbelievable, right? But it’s not. In fact, anyone can do it and I’m going to show you how in five simple steps.

Step One: Make a meal plan

Source: Blueberry Muffin Bowl via Half Baked Harvest

This is probably the most crucial part. Getting your meal plan right takes a bit of brainpower, but it is a fun puzzle to put together. I recommend planning your meals five days at a time, usually Monday to Friday. Map them out in a chart or table then stick it on the fridge. Since you will be cooking everything at once, try to choose recipes that use a variety of cooking methods like the slow cooker, stove top, oven, and raw.

When selecting recipes, choose recipes that:

  • are simple and quick. Minimal ingredients and minimal steps. Choose recipes that take 30 minutes or less, otherwise you will be in the kitchen all day.
  • make you excited to eat clean.
  • are freezer friendly.
  • make multiple servings so you can eat them multiple times throughout the week (and maybe even the next week).

Here’s a sample of what my meal plan might look like for the workweek:

photo 1 - meal plan example .png

As you can see, I kept the snacks super simple so that I can divide them into snack-sized baggies as part of my prep. I focused on just two breakfast recipes, which do not require cooking and can be prepared in advance. I’m making a no-bake chickpea salad, a crockpot recipe, a simple skillet dish, and an oven baked recipe, which all prepare enough for 4 servings. Any leftovers, I will freeze and add to my meal plan for next week.

Step Two: Gather storage containers

Source: Grilled Chicken Veggie Bowls via Picky Palate

You won’t get very far with meal prep if you don’t have the correct food storage containers! So look at your plan and figure out what you will need to pack everything to-go style. Think different sized mason jars, Tupperware containers, and Ziplock baggies. Dollar stores are affordable and always have a good selection of food storage solutions.

Step Three: Grocery shop

Source: Korean Barbecue Bowl via Oh My Veggies

Now that you have your meal plan decided, you can make your grocery list. I recommend dividing your list into these categories (so you can breeze through the store in no time):

  • Fruits
  • Veggies
  • Meats, fish, bread and cheese
  • Nuts, seeds and spices
  • Condiments and oils
  • Cold
  • Frozen

I organize my lists this way because this is how most grocery stores are set up. So when I walk in, I’ll hit the fruits and veggies first and work my way through, ending in the freezer section.

Step Four: Meal prep and storage

Source: Healthy Slaw via Cookie and Kate

Now for the fun part. Meal prep! Make sure you have storage containers with lids handy and place them on a clean table. Grab a coffee (or maybe a glass of wine), turn on some music or your favorite podcast and let’s get to it!

Start with the recipes that take the longest time to make. Once you have them going, move onto another. Leave the easier recipes until the end. For example, I’ll get my crockpot recipe started first, pop the lasagna into the oven, and then move onto the stove top recipe while the others cook to be efficient.

Divide recipes into storage containers as you go and once everything has cooled, pop on the lids and store in the most appropriate place—usually the fridge, freezer, or pantry. I like to set reminders in my calendar for the nights I need to thaw things out on the next day.

Step Five: Eat clean and feel awesome!

Source: Salmon Fajita Salad via Half Baked Harvest

There you have it! Shop once, cook once, and eat clean for the entire week. Yes, it takes a bit of extra work up front but trust me, it is so worth it. Meal prep will save you a ton of time, money, and keep you on track throughout the week. When you start doing this week after week, it will eventually become ingrained in your lifestyle—and that’s the best part!

Do you do weekly meal prep? What are your favorite make ahead recipes, storage containers, and meal prep tips? Let us know in the comments below!

  • These are great tips. I think I’d miss cooking throughout the week if I were to do it all in one day. But I could definitely try a meal plan in general. By Thursday, I’m usually not very creative and will always fall back on an old standard. Thanks for a fun article!

    http://www.thebusinessofblooming.com

    • Agreed. I used to always be reaching for take out by the end of the week. That is why meal planning has been such a great habit to develop since it forces you to stay on track! Thanks for reading 🙂

  • Jenna Laedtke

    Would love if you shared the recipes that you had on your weekly plan!

    • Lindseyann

      Agree!

      • Check out the recipes and meal plans on ThatCleanLife.com! 🙂

  • Erica

    I’d love more examples of different varieties on sample meal plans and where I can find the recipes – that would take out even more thinking on my end lol

  • Erica

    I’d love more examples of different varieties on sample meal plans and where I can find the recipes – that would take out even more thinking on my end lol

    • Check out the recipes and meal plans on ThatCleanLife.com!

  • Ali

    This would be amazing if you could share your recipes!!!

    • Some of the recipes and meal plans are up on ThatCleanLife.com 🙂

  • Cara Lindeman

    This is so super helpful! Thank you!

  • LL

    Would love to see this with recipes included for the meal plan! I try meal prepping, except dinner which I’ll typically make on the day of, once I’m home. It does make it easier while I’m about and about though. I’m tempted to challenge myself for meal prepping all meals now!

    • Yay! Let us know if you give it a try. It takes a bit of brain power, but it is definitely doable!

  • These are great tips- especially lunch and dinner. I don’t meal plan AT ALL, i just sorta wing it, but its then also why I end up buying lunch and making poor choices like queso dip 😉

    • Hehe 😉 I used to resort to the same thing. Meal planning was a game-changer for me!

  • These are indeed good tips, although I’m pretty sure I could not prepare all that food in three hours, no matter how many of my own fast-cooking tips I employed in addition to yours. I’m just not that fast. But yes, planning and shopping for a week and preparing a number of foods and dishes ahead–definitely the best way to eat nutritious, delicious, home-cooked meals all week long.

    One thing I do to help speed up the cooking, especially on week nights, is to chop a whole onion (or any vegetable) even if my recipe calls for only half an onion. Refrigerate the other half, and it’s ready for omelettes or wraps or anything else I might need onion for in the next few days.

    • Love this! It’s always nice to open the fridge and have ingredients all prepped and ready to go.

  • I have a funny story about meal prep. I buy basically the same groceries every week and eat the same thing everyday. One of my daily ingredients is broccoli, I toss it in to every meal I make. So it basically took me a year to realize what a time saver it would be to chop up my broccoli so that it’s ready to go! I started doing this with other veggies as well.

    • Love this! Just prepping your veggies in advance is a huge time saver. I also eat mostly the same things every week. I know what I love and It ends up saving me a lot of time because I’m never left wondering what to cook 🙂

  • I am all about meal prep on Sundays. I need to get better at it though – I’ve been using Sundays for getting ahead with blogging, my freelance work, etc. But, I’m thinking setting a time when I actually need to take a break from the computer/camera and get to cooking will be super helpful. Thank you for the inspiration, Abigail!

  • Marie Hickman

    This is something I have done weekly for about a year now, freezing as much as possible. My biggest time saver has been an electric pressure cooker – two, in fact, with an extra liner. Takes one-third the time, especially for legumes and rice.

  • Awesome post, would love more of these!!

  • Sarita

    Loved your article! I will be starting a 21-day challenge on May 2 (officially; I’ve already started incorporating some ideas of the challenge in my daily life). I was wondering how in the world am I going to be able to prep every night with all of what I have to do on a daily basis. Well, this is it. I’m going to plan my meals later today; go shopping Saturday and start prepping. And on Sunday, I’ll do my cooking. I also had to comment because my little girl’s, a brown Tabby, middle name is Abigail. Thank you so much for such a great article and motivation.

  • Sarah

    Any chance you can share the recipes that are mentioned in the sample meal prep above?