Based on the assumption that everyone has a few kitchen basics like a saucepan with a lid, a frying pan, stirring spoons, and spatula – here is a list of kitchen tools that will help your basic meal prep go smoother and faster.
1. A good vegetable knife
I use these knives to chop, slice, dice, shred and julienne most vegetables.
Global G5 Nakiri Vegetable Chopper in 18cm and 14cm.
Victorinox 8cm Cutlery paring knife
2. A vegetable peeler
A Y-peeler will suffice but I grew up using this straight potato peeler and believe me it is the best. This IKEA 365+ VÄRDEFULL peeler is the sharpest I have found.
3. A deep/wide colander
Very useful for rinsing veggies or washing herbs and removing all the grit.
4. Good kitchen scissors
I recently invested in William Whiteley Kitchen Scissors and they are a dream. But most brands will do the trick.
5. A good chopping board
I have a huge rectangular Acacia end grain chopping board. It is sturdy and very easy to clean.
6. Prepping plates
I have a set of 20 Falcon enamel pasta plates left over from when I did the workshops. They are amazing when I want to prep veggies. Each plate is about 24cm wide which makes it easy to portion and lay out and group all the veggies I want to chop. Laying out veggies in their separate plates is one of the first things I do after a market shop. It helps me visualize what I have and plan out the meals at the same time. I also use one plate to collect all the peels and veggie waste (which either ends up in the compost or in the chicken pen).
7. A good food processor
I use a Kitchenaid KFP1333 Food Processor and an Artisan Food Chopper.
8. A High Powered Blender
I use Vitamix or Nutribullet.
9. A Spiralizer
Paderno 3 Blade Spiralizer that I bought at Williams Sonoma
10. A Box grater
I have a simple one I bought at the supermarket.
11. Meal prep Storage
- Glass jars – I use Kilner and Ball Mason.
- Glass containers – I use Glasslock in rectangular and circular shapes
- Plastic containers – Lock & Lock
12.Things I like to do while Meal Prepping
Watch Netflix, Listen to Music on Spotify, Listen to Podcasts.
Basic Veggie Based Lunch Meal Prep
What is it?
This meal prep is strictly prepping the veggies and accompaniments. It is not cooking entire dishes (I’ll be covering that later) which tends to become a full-on cooking session. Pop the quinoa on, process some cauliflower, grate, spriralize and chop some veggies, boil or roast some corn, make a pesto and chutney, whip up some hummus and quickly pickle some onion.
What does it do?
What this meal prep allows me to do is to have options available for literally 5-10 minute after school snacks, pre-dinner hunger pangs, my own work lunches and lunch boxes for school and work. It allows me to eat better, lighter and daily (yep! No more skipped meals because there was nothing to eat!). Reducing rice intake and increasing vegetable intake especially cauliflower has helped me lose 8 kilos in the past 8 months while strengthening my stomach. It also increases the amount of vegetables the boys are eating especially after school. I find they are snacking much more healthier and enjoying it too.
How to do it?
A. Cauliflower Rice (store in lidded air-tight plastic containers with a little square of paper towel/ 3-4 days)
Wash and pat dry cauliflower with a paper towel. Remove the green leaves and woody bits of the stalk attached to the leaves. Break florets into a bowl/plate and try to include as much of the stalk as you can. Place cauliflower florets and stalks in the bowl of a food processor and process as below.
- Coarse – Pulse the food processor 4-5 times to get a coarse version of cauliflower rice. (Used for Cauliflower Fried Rice, Cauliflower Couscous, Cauliflower San Choy Bow, Cauliflower Burgers, Cauliflower Biryani)
- Fine – Process the cauliflower for a minute to get a finer textured cauliflower rice. (Used for Cauliflower Tabbouli, Cauliflower Falafels, Cauliflower Pizza Crust)
B. Quinoa (store in fridge in lidded glass containers / 4-5 days)
Prepare quinoa using the instructions here. When making quinoa, always remember to rinse it several times (to remove the bitter coating on the seeds) and use a 2:3 quinoa to water ratio. White quinoa or a mix of White and Red works best for most recipes.
C. Zucchini Noodles (store in lidded air-tight plastic containers with a little square of paper towel / 3-4 days)
Wash and pat fry zucchinis with a paper towel. Choose zucchinis that are longer and thicker to get really long noodles with a nice green peel. Trim the ends of the zucchini and prepare them in the two ways below
- Spiralize some using a spiralizer. Use kitchen scissors to give them a chop once or twice so they are not super long and easier to eat. (Used in soups or noodle dishes, Veggie pastas)
- Grate some zucchinis using the box grater. (Used in Zucchini Sweetcorn Fritters, Zucchini Slice, Zucchini Bread)
D. Carrot Sticks (store in glass or plastic wide mouth jars / 2 days)
I find peeled and chopped carrots to be a great after school snack with hummus or any kind of homemade dip (the kids can help themselves to them whenever they need). I also find it great to munch on mid-morning when I feel a bit hungry. I only chop two or three carrots as I want to use them up in a day or to. Storing them in water in a jar helps them from drying out. They only keep well in the water for 1-2 days after which the water strips them of their flavour, so be mindful of that.
E. Pickled Red Onions (store in fridge in glass jar / 1-2 months)
These are the quickest pickle to make at home and add a wonderful crunch to your meals (salads, Buddha bowls, curry bowls, sandwiches, wraps) instantly. They are also full of gut-health boosting nutrients and great to have in the fridge. They take 5 minutes to make and 30 minutes to be fully ready.
RECIPE // Pickled Red Onion
2 red onions, peeled and sliced and cut into ½ cm rings
1 teaspoon raw sugar
1 teaspoon sea salt flakes
¾ cup rice wine vinegar
4 sprigs of thyme
½ teaspoon red chilli flakes (optional)
Place onion rings in a small bowl. Pour boiling water over the onion. Make sure onions are covered. Drain after 2 minutes.
Place sugar, salt, vinegar, peppercorns, thyme and chilli (if using) in a jar and mix well. Add onion pressing down the rings in the liquid. Pop the lid of the jar on. Place in fridge. Ready to eat in 30 minutes. Will keep for 1-2 months in the fridge.
F. Pestos, Dips, Chutneys (store in fridge in jars / up to a week for most and up to a month for harissa)
I like to make one or two pestos or dips every week. It is amazing what a difference adding a huge spoonful of pesto does to a lunch bowl that you have put together in 5 minutes. Instant deliciousness and wow factor! My favourite is a Green Chutney that I have been making since I was in high school (so probably definitely more than 2000 times). I could eat this on everything but it is really good for Indian inspired meals, this Harissa is gorgeous on Mediterranean inspired meals and this Vegan Basil Pesto is gorgeous for that extra kick of flavour no matter what you are eating.
RECIPE // Spicy Thai Pesto
1/4 cup (40g) raw peanuts
1/2 cup coriander leaves
1/2 cup basil leaves
1 teaspoon red chilli flakes
juice and finely grated zest of 1 lime
1 garlic clove
2.5cm piece of ginger
2 teaspoons vegan fish sauce
1 1/2 tablespoons brown sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/3 cup (80ml) olive oil
Place all ingredients in the bowl of a food processor and blend until smooth.
G. Hummus (store in fridge in a lidded glass bow/ 6-7 days)
Hummus is - pardon my analogy but like comfortable supportive underwear. It holds everything together, makes you feel good and is the ultimate backup. I have a bowl of hummus ready to go every week. It usually doesn’t last past the first two-three days and is a miracle worker in lunch bowls and lunch boxes adding a boost of protein. Great to snack on with carrot sticks and amazing to smear on a plate and top with roast veggies. Make this basic version and add variations of spinach, roasted red capsicum, beetroot, sweet potato or turmeric for a different coloured hummus every single time.
RECIPE // Green Goddess Hummus
1 can (400g) chickpeas
1/4 cup tahini
3 roasted garlic cloves
½ cup baby spinach
½ cup rocket (arugula)
1 tablespoon chopped spring onion
1 ½ tablespoons lemon juice
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1/4 cup (60ml) aquafaba (chickpea soaking liquid from the can)
1/4 cup (60ml) warm water + 2-3 tablespoons extra
1/2 teaspoon sea salt flakes
Process all ingredients (except extra water) in a small food processor until smooth. If too thick add extra water (1 tablespoon at a time) until desired consistency reached.
H. Savoury Raw Sauces (store in fridge in glass jars for up to 5 days)
Savoury raw sauces require no cooking. They are quickly put together by blending a few ingredients in a blender or food processor. They are excellent for drizzling generously over salads, quinoa bowls, fritters or dipping roast veggies in. I make at least one or two of these per week - some favourites include Turmeric Tahini Sauce and Sour Cashew Cream Sauce.
I. Shredded + Chopped Cabbage (store in fridge in lidded glass or plastic containers / 4-5 days)
The fastest meal prep item which will reward you with even faster fried rice, stir-fries and okonomiyakis. Thinly slice cabbage for one container and finely chop cabbage for another container.
J. Spring Onion (store in fridge in lidded glass/steel containers / 7 days)
Chopped spring onion will keep in the fridge for a week or even more, much longer than the whole stalks which will start drying out. Spring onion is a great flavour booster and gut promoting vegetable. It adds that burst of green especially if you are low on herbs.
K. Boiled Sweetcorn (store in fridge / 4-5 days)
I like to buy Sweetcorn at the markets when I know it has come from a small farm and not commercially produced. It is richer in colour and sweeter too. Remove the husks of the corn and place the cob in a large saucepan of boiling water. Add ½ teaspoon ground turmeric and cover and cook for 8-10 minutes. Remove from the saucepan and allow to cool. Either store whole in the fridge by wrapping in foil or use a sharp knife/sweetcorn peeler to remove the kernels in a lidded glass bowl.
PRACTICAL USES OF THIS MEAL PREP
Besides all the recipe links I gave in the preparation above, here are some quick meal ideas that I turn to time and time again. Wherever I feel like I need to add protein, I’ll opt for some quick pan-roasted tofu or salmon or a poached egg (who am I kidding? … scrambled or fried really). Sometimes, I will add everything I have prepped in a bowl with whatever else I have on hand and call it a Buddha Bowl. It’s hip, people!
Meal 1 (Will make 2 serves)
Coarse Cauliflower Rice + Chopped Cabbage + Spring Onion + Carrot Sticks
Make this 5-Minute Cauliflower Fried Rice.
Meal 2 (Will make 2 serves)
Spiralized Zucchini Noodles + Thai Pesto + Spring Onion
Make this Spicy Thai Zucchini Noodles in 10 minutes (my favourite!).
Meal 3 (Will make 2 serves)
Grated Zucchini + Sweetcorn Kernels + Spring Onion
Make a version of these Zucchini Fritters and serve on Hummus with salad greens.
Meal 4 (Will serve 2)
Quinoa + Pickled Onion + Pesto
Roast sweet potato with garlic and cinnamon OR Steam a fish fillet with soy sauce and Shiaoxing Wine and serve with all of the above
Meal 5 (Will serve 2)
Shredded Cabbage + Quinoa + Green Chutney + Pickled Onion
Make this Keralan Cabbage Stir Fry, Poach or Fry an egg and serve with the above.
Meal 6 (Will serve 2)
Spiralized Zucchini + Corn Kernels + Shredded Cabbage + Savoury Sauce + Spring Onion
Make this Zucchini And Corn Coleslaw using this Turmeric Tahini Sauce recipe. Such a healthy twist! Bulk up protein with chickpeas or smoked salmon.
I hope you enjoyed the first basic meal prep session here at Cook Republic and found some new ideas and inspiration for healthier weekly meals. I would love to hear what you think in the comments below. Please feel free to ask any questions or provide your feedback. I am writing up more meal prep sessions - Better Breakfasts, Fast Dinners, Weekly Meal Preps Covering Breakfast To Dinner, Vegan Meal Prep etc.. if you have any special requests, please let me know. Big love! x
Came to this post via Pinterest and loved how you have explained everything. I am a big fan of meal prep these days and always looking for ideas 🙂 Your post surely gave me some. Thank you, Sneh!
Wow, I've been looking for something like this for a long time. Excellent post. Thanks so much for sharing this in such a well-organized and practical way. <3
Thanks Anne! Glad you found this useful. x
I’m a full time broke uni student who always scarcely have any money (post-bills) left for food—I also live alone. With all the stress of life I’ve discovered that cooking actually de-stresses me and I’ve come to take it up as a sort of hobby, or rather, a sort of meditation(?) where I’m enforcing myself to be more aware of ingredients and how they play a crucial role in bringing out flavours (who knew garlic could actually turn a dish alive!) and also the health benefits (this in turn has helped me do a whole turnover in my diet).
I just wanna say, though it’s still a new concept to me and my progresses are still very small—I’m still scared/sceptical about my cooking abilities and learning it all on my own, your vegan/vegetarian recipes are really aspiring! To be at the level that you are would be such an accomplishment for me.
I just would like to ask, for a new cooking beginner like myself, what vegan/vegetarian recipe would you recommend, that wouldn’t scare/overwhelm me too much? 🙂
Hi Denisa, Thank you for your lovely comment and questions. I am sorry it took me a while to get back to you. It is amazing that you find cooking to be a salve to the stress of everyday life. It is not only nourishing for the body but for the soul too, isn't it? I totally understand the trepidation of delving deeper and deeper into cooking especially when you are starting out (I was like that too!) but it will only keep getting better as you go on and gain more confidence in your kitchen skills and knowhow. To answer your question, here are some tips you might find helpful.
1. Make sure you are stocking up on some basic spices. It is amazing (just like garlic) what a simple sprinkling of spices can do to even chopped and sliced veggies. Ground Cumin is my go to spice. It will instantly give your dish a Mexican or Indian or even Middle Eastern flavour depending on the ingredients used. Some other things to save you time (and money) - dried garlic flakes, dried onion flakes, dried red chilli flakes, dried herbs and a good Vege Stock powder. With just these things, you can whip up a nourishing meal in minutes. For eg, canned black beans (rinsed and drained) tossed with some cumin, dried garlic, dried chilli flakes, salt and lime can become a fantastic base for a bowl meal. Top it with sliced avo or fried egg, some sliced cucumber and greens and you have lunch/dinner sorted.
2. Daals are cheap and very easy to cook. They also stretch over 2-3 meals. You can thin them to drink as soup or cook them to be thick and enjoyed atop roast veggies or rice. They are high in protein too.
3. If you have access to an oven, then these chuck-everything-in-a-pan and bake dishes are perfect.
4. Simple stir fry dishes like these .. almost like frying an egg, very easy
5. Make rice or quinoa. It stores nicely in fridge (2 days for rice)/ (4-5 days for quinoa). Make a pesto a week (you can then top this on anything). Then make a simple daal (like the ones I mentioned above) or roast veggies (cauliflower, carrot, onion). Top these on the rice or quinoa and enjoy with that pesto. Even if you keep cooking these basic things every week with just that odd change of ingredient, you will find yourself eating a lot of variety and getting better at it too.
6. I don't know if you are based in Australia but in those big supermarts (like Kmart here in Australia) you can buy a cheap blender/small processor and a rice cooker for $20 each. Best investment ever. You will be able to cook rice and quinoa easily in that. You can even make porridge in that. And the blender/processor will be great for smoothies, sauces and pestos to help you eat better. When I first moved into my first rental after finishing uni (I was 23 and had nothing but a bag of clothes and books with me) a cheap blender and rice cooker were the first things I bought for my rental kitchen.
Good luck with all your cooking and feel free to write if you have any more questions! x