If you’re new to meal prep as a way of life, making sure you have the right meal prep containers is an important place to start. But once you’re in the swing of things with meal prepping, you’ll want to up your game with kitchen gadgets and small appliances that make things a little easier — and a little more exciting.
We asked two meal prep experts, Allyson Spungin, a nutrition coach and certified personal trainer, and Talia Koren, a meal prep expert and founder of Workweek Lunch, for the tools they swear by for meal prepping.
Cuisinart Knife Set ($19.99; amazon.com)
Before you invest in kitchen gadgets that cost money and take up valuable space in your kitchen, make sure you’re happy with the basics — good knives, cutting boards that work for you and a colander set for draining and rinsing canned goods, herbs and vegetables.
Every meal prep expert we spoke to emphasized the importance of good knives to meal prep. If your knives are junky, plan to start from scratch and invest in a basic knife set, like this colorful six-knife set from Cuisinart.
Dexas Flexible Cutting Boards, Set of 4 ($11.99; amazon.com)
Heavy plastic and wood cutting boards have their place in the kitchen, but when it comes to meal prep, it’s also worth having a set of lightweight, flexible cutting mats on hand. When you’re chopping a lot of different things all at once, being able to quickly shuffle through multiple cutting boards without having to stop and wash them in between slicing the tomatoes and chopping the basil is a game changer.
Prepworks Steel Colanders ($12.99; amazon.com)
Small acts like opening, draining and rinsing canned beans to toss in a salad or grain bowl can save time and energy when you need to pull lunch or dinner together quickly. Investing in a nesting colander set allows you to drain and wash more than one type of food at once without having to stop to wash during prep.
Etekcity Food Scale ($8.99, originally $13.99; amazon.com)
If training or weight loss goals are driving your meal prep efforts, a food scale is an invaluable tool. Spungin, who uses meal prep to augment her strength training efforts, says, “I love my electronic food scale because it’s helpful when measuring out portion sizes for my weekly meals and recipes.”
Spiralizer Vegetable Slicer ($24.97, originally $27.99; amazon.com)
Spungin swears by a specialty tool to mix up meal prep and keep things from getting boring, saying, “I love my veggie spiralizer to turn zucchini, sweet potatoes, butternut squash and other root vegetables into noodle-like textures. I combine these lower-carb noodles with regular noodles for more bang for your buck!”
Trio Peeler Set ($11.99; amazon.com)
Vegetable peelers fall into the “basics” category, but a set that allows you to do more than remove the skin from a potato can really elevate your meal prep. This set of three includes a straight peeler, a large peeler that can be used to shred or slice and a julienne peeler for finer jobs.
Microplane Grater ($15.99; amazon.com)
A basic truth of meal prep is that things can get very boring very quickly. But a microplane can add zest to boring meals — literally. Use this tool to grate lemon, lime and orange peel to add a ton of flavor to dishes, dressings and sauces; for quickly grating hard cheeses like Parmesan over salads, soups or pastas; or for making quick work of grating big flavor-adders like garlic and ginger for use in a variety of dishes.
Cuisinart Mini Food Processor ($35.95; amazon.com)
Both Koren and Spungin recommend investing in a mini food processor to help add options to your meal prep routine. Spungin loves her mini food processor for homemade hummus, pesto and salsas, and Koren uses hers for sauces and spreads.
GE Immersion Blender ($69; amazon.com)
“The immersion blender is awesome, as it takes up very little space and it’s perfect for making soups and sauces,” Spungin says. If your kitchen is one that’s short on space, look for an immersion blender with a chopping jar attachment, which can take the place of a stand-alone mini food processor.
Nish Salad Chopper ($14.98, originally $19.98; amazon.com)
While most meal prep experts will steer you away from uni-tasker gadgets, there are times when a very specific gadget has its place in your kitchen. These are some of the best, and most ingenious, single-taskers we found.
The simple act of chopping a salad can make all the difference in the world when it comes to getting your greens in — and enjoying them! But chopping each individual item can be a real chore, and a real mess. This salad chopper, which allows you to cut everything all at once, right in the bowl, solves that problem.
Goodful Herb Scissors ($14.99; amazon.com)
Another problem common to meal prep and chopping is this: Chopping herbs is kind of the worst! If you often find yourself frustrated while chopping basil, parsley, cilantro and other fresh herbs but don’t want to forgo the wonderful flavor they add to your food, a pair of herb scissors will be a lifesaver for you.
Oxo Good Grips Salad Dressing Shaker ($14.40; amazon.com)
According to the experts we spoke to, switching up dressings and sauces is the key to keeping from falling into a meal planning rut. Instead of buying expensive and often unhealthy store-bought salad dressings, try to get into the habit of making your own. This dressing and sauce keeper makes things easy by including measurements on the outside of the bottle, allowing you to mix ingredients right in the container.
Baggy Rack Holder for Food Prep, 4-Pack ($6.99; amazon.com)
If zipper bags are your food storage containers of choice, you know that filling them — especially when it comes to very liquidy foods like chili or stews — can be a real mess. These baggy holders solve that problem, and allow you to create a packaging assembly line of sorts that will make getting food from pot to storage container much easier.