Meal prep is a great way to reach your diet goals without spending too much time on cooking. When you meal prep like a pro, your results will exceed all your expectations. Meal prep gurus often make the process look like it’s the easiest thing and every one can effortlessly do it. Beginners think that 2 hours on Sunday is enough to cook everything they need for a week.

Although meal prep isn’t hard, the whole process can be overwhelming for both beginners and veterans. Not only meal prep can take an entire Sunday evening, but when done wrong, it can turn you off it, leaving you ordering fast food every day.

Meal prep is easy when you have a plan. Try doing it without a plan and you’re likely to get forgotten vegetables, mismanages fruits and a bunch of foods that you can’t mix and match. Before you start meal prep in the kitchen, make sure to check these tips and tricks to successful meal prep.

Set your goals

Beginning meal prep is the easiest when you have a good motivation. Think about things that you want to achieve. Maybe you don’t want to experience sugar cravings anymore or try to stay on a healthy diet longer or get in a better shape. Maybe you’re sick and tired of spending a lot of time in the kitchen and looking for affordable alternatives.

I like making my food choices ahead of time and don’t worry about meals during busy days. It helps me avoid impulsive food choices and decisions. If I have something delicious waiting for me at home, I can say no to fast foods.

Choose a day

One of the most important things to plan is when you have time for meal prep. Usually, it’s Saturday or Sunday because most of us don’t have work, children are at home and you can ask other family members to help you if you need it.

Many experienced meal preppers choose Wednesday as their main day and Sunday as an additional day because it allows them to save even more time. Splitting meal prep in two days can be easier, but if you’re a beginner, choose only one day. You don’t need to prepare meals for the whole week and can start with only three meals. You can even use a calendar to map out your plans. You can use your phone or a physical calendar; just choose what works best for you.

Get strategic about when you eat and make a grocery list

While you’re creating your grocery list, you should remember the shelf life of foods before cooking them. 6 days chicken breast is nothing like a fresh chicken breast. Roasted vegetables and baked potatoes can be kept for about 5 days depending on humidity and temperatures, while some foods taste much better when eaten sooner. Chicken is only good for 3 or 4 days. You can always go to your local grocery store to get more vegetables, fruits, herbs, and meat you need or just put everything in a freezer, then thaw and cook when you want.

Double the ingredients

If you want to make meals for the whole day, you should pick recipes that make huge batches or double the ones that you like. Even if a recipe is for one person or one day, doubling the ingredients will let you cook it on Sunday and eat throughout a week. Before you go grocery shopping, calculate your foods. As a rule of thumb, you should double big items like proteins and fats and produce, then adjust smaller ingredients like seasonings and spices. And when you cook, you usually shouldn’t double the time. Check this recipe out for a big crowd that you can meal prep quickly.

Mix everything up

If you don’t like eating the same meal for a couple of days in a row, you should plan on making several different dishes that you can mix-and-match during the week. With a bit of creativity and effort, you can enjoy several types of meals every day. By making different sauces and using different spices, already cooked chicken and veggies can be Mexican fajitas on Monday, Asian stir-fry on Tuesday and Italian cacciatore on Wednesday. For a quick meal prep idea, try this soy chorizo recipe.

Buy the right containers and gadgets

Shortcuts are key to successful meal planning. There are many kitchen gadgets that you can use to speed up your process. There are cutting boards with storage and mini choppers that do slicing and dicing automatically, just make sure you get the gadgets that you need. And the last thing you want is to prepare all your food and have no place to put it. When you have cute containers, or at least enough containers to store your food, you will get more motivated. And matching containers are easier to store because they need less space.

Chop Less

If you have time, you can practice your knife skills and chop everything into equal cubes or slices. But if you only have 1 or 2 hours to get everything cooked and packed, omit this part. Onions can be sliced instead of chopped for sauces and soups. If you must do it, just throw them in the food processor. 10 to 30 seconds is usually enough to finely chop everything.

You can toss the garlic in the food processor too, or just use a press. Most vegetables can be steamed or roasted in large pieces (such as cauliflower, carrots, broccoli rabe) and with several swipes of the knife, you’re ready. Don’t fuss over little details. If you don’t have time to make everything perfect, just get it done quickly.

Start small

If you’re just a beginner, you can feel overwhelmed by shopping for many products at once. A good idea might be to start small and focus on meal prepping one or two meals a week. When you’re comfortable with that, you can add one meal every week and sooner or later you will be meal planning everything like a pro.

Taking meal prep slowly makes the process less stressful and more productive because you’ll enjoy the process and the results. When something is fun, you’re more likely to stay motivated and follow your plan. This way, meal prep can stay with you long term.

If you don’t know where to start, breakfast is usually the easiest meal. There are many meal prep breakfast ideas, and since it’s the one that we usually don’t have time for, it helps to start out a day nourished. Check this recipe out for an incredibly easy meal prep breakfast.

Meal planning and prepping is easy when you stick to a system. When you get used to it, you will feel that you don’t even have a plan. You will meal prep on a weekly basis and tackle chaos that is thrown at you.