The Best Meal Prep Cookbooks for Make-Ahead Eats

The Ultimate Meal Prep Cookbook is our winner

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The Spruce Eats / Lecia Landis

The Spruce Eats Top Picks

We chose "The Ultimate Meal Prep Cookbook" as our top pick because minimal ingredients are needed (there's a max of 12), cook time is limited to 45 minutes, and there are options for freezer meals. Beginners can count on "Quick Prep Paleo."

The concept of meal prepping is simple: Cook a bunch of food or prep loads of ingredients early in the week all at once to minimize the time you'll need to spend in the kitchen later. It can even be a helpful strategy in reducing food waste and sticking to your budget. But, like many things in life, it’s easier said than done. Meal prepping takes planning (this is not the time for improv cooking), and it certainly seems the trend has increased in popularity in recent years due to busier lives. Fortunately, there is no shortage of cookbooks to help guide newbies and seasoned meal preppers to ensure they’re getting the most out of their meal prep efforts.

Here are the best meal prep cookbooks to help streamline breakfast, lunch, dinner, and dessert for the week ahead.

Best Overall: The Ultimate Meal Prep Cookbook: One Grocery List. A Week of Meals. No Waste.

The Ultimate Meal-Prep Cookbook: One Grocery List. A Week of Meals. No Waste.

Amazon

What We Like
  • Minimal ingredients needed

  • Freezer meal options

What We Don't Like
  • No table of contents

It’s no surprise that America’s Test Kitchen has expertise to share when it comes to meal prepping. Its new release boasts 25 weekly plans—plenty to keep meals from feeling redundant. Keeping budget in mind, the weekly grocery lists provided have a maximum of 12 items, and active cook time is limited to 45 minutes, so you’ll be in and out of the kitchen relatively quickly.

For weeks when you can't visit the grocery store, there's an entire chapter devoted to pantry meals. And if your pantry isn’t as robust as it should be, the cookbook's introduction includes tips on safe food storage, reheating, ingredient prep, and equipment necessities. Recipes including herb-poached salmon with cucumber-dill salad as well as sun-dried tomato and white bean soup with parmesan crisps keep dinner exciting.

Number of Recipes: 100+ | Pages: 336 | Date Published: 2021

Best New Release: Fridge Love: Organize Your Refrigerator for a Healthier, Happier Life—With 100 Recipes

Fridge Love: Organize Your Refrigerator for a Healthier, Happier Life—With 100 Recipes

Amazon

What We Like
  • Allergen-friendly meals

  • Shopping guides

What We Don't Like
  • Not as many photos as other cookbooks

Hello Nutritarian blogger Kristen Hong breaks down how to organize your way to meal prep success in her debut cookbook. Eco- and budget-conscious home cooks will appreciate Hong’s advice on how to minimize one’s food waste and grocery bill. Additional useful info includes fridge setup, cleaning, and setting suggestions right in the introduction before transitioning to meal prep, plus food storage tips via simple instructions and as full-color photos. The last section of the book is a roundup of her go-to plant-based recipes, such as Greek salad jars, chipotle red lentil soup, and make-your-own condiments.

Number of Recipes: 100+ | Pages: 352 | Date Published: 2022

Best for Beginners: Quick Prep Paleo

Quick Prep Paleo: Simple Whole-Food Meals with 5 to 15 Minutes of Hands-On Time

Amazon

What We Like
  • Pictures with almost all recipes

  • Affordable

What We Don't Like
  • Does not include desserts

Prioritizing home-cooked meals over takeout is a more realistic goal once this cookbook is in hand. All of the recipes, once prepped, take only five to 15 minutes to make. This minimalist hands-on approach allows “the oven, stove, slow cooker or Instant Pot [to] do all the work while you enjoy extra free time at home,” according to the author and Mary’s Whole Life blogger Mary Smith. Even recipes typically associated with longer cook times can be done quickly, such as cheeseburger bowls, Mexican breakfast lasagna, “better-for-you” Mississippi pot roast, and asparagus and mushroom Risotto.

Number of Recipes: 75 | Pages: 176 | Date Published: 2020

Best for Families: Good Housekeeping Easy Meal Prep: The Ultimate Playbook for Make-Ahead Meals

Good Housekeeping Easy Meal Prep: The Ultimate Playbook for Make-Ahead Meals

Amazon

What We Like
  • Multi-week meal plans

  • DIY Baby food

What We Don't Like
  • E-book version difficult to use

The experts at Good Housekeeping have a new release focusing on meal prep, and we love how comprehensive it is, covering everything from “batch cooking and freeze-ahead meals to ready-to-serve dinners and grab-and-go breakfasts and lunches.” With over 100 recipes and four weeks of meal plans, there’s something for everyone in your family.

Recipes include call-out icons to make it super clear which ingredients pull double-duty (meaning they need to be prepped for that recipe, as well as the secondary recipe you'll need in the future). For example, to make Butternut Squash and White Bean Soup, the recipe calls for you to use one-quarter of the prepped squash for this soup and reserve the remainder for the butternut mole enchiladas you’ll make later in the week.

As a bonus, this book includes cooking and storage tips, and there are also vegan, keto, and gluten-free recipes provided.

Number of Recipes: 100+ | Pages: 224 | Date Published: 2021

Best for Couples: Meal Prep for Two: 8 Weekly Plans & 75 Recipes to Get Healthier Together

Meal Prep for Two: 8 Weekly Plans & 75 Recipes to Get Healthier Together

Amazon

What We Like
  • Budget-friendly

  • Has snack-specific recipes

What We Don't Like
  • No kid-friendly specific meals

Meal prepping is all about planning, but who wants to plan meals for four, six, or eight when you’re in a smaller household of just two? This cookbook is the perfect solution, with eight weekly plans (75 recipes) tailored for two. The book includes helpful “budget hacks,” step-by-step meal prep instructions, and detailed shopping lists, as well as storage tips and nutritional information. You’ll keep coming back to this book after tasting recipes such as the zucchini cheddar scones and sheet pan ratatouille with roasted salmon.

Number of Recipes: 75 | Pages: 190 | Date Published: 2019

Best for Plant-Based Diets: Plant-Based Meal Prep: Simple, Make-Ahead Recipes for Vegan, Gluten-free, Comfort Food

Plant-Based Meal Prep: Simple, Make-Ahead Recipes for Vegan, Gluten-free, Comfort Food

Amazon

What We Like
  • Flexible recipes

  • Action plan for prep newbies

What We Don't Like
  • Every ingredient is obtainable outside the U.S.

Whether you're interested in plant-based meals because you are vegetarian or vegan or you simply want to eat less meat, it doesn’t mean you have to sacrifice tasty food. Recipes like mac and cheese, creamy pasta with broccoli, and lentil and black bean nachos will ensure you’re not sacrificing craveable, satisfying favorites.

This book of over 60 recipes covers breakfasts, mains, snacks, and desserts, as well as labeled recipes that are soy-free, grain-free, and paleo-friendly for those following more specific diets. Nutritional information is provided for every recipe, and a helpful introduction covers the benefits of plant-based eating, basic plant-based definitions and tips, a pantry and equipment checklist, and plenty more.

Number of Recipes: Over 60 | Pages: 224 | Date Published: 2019

Best Gluten-Free: Cook Once, Eat All Week: 26 Weeks of Gluten-Free, Affordable Meal Prep to Preserve Your Time & Sanity

Cook Once, Eat All Week: 26 Weeks of Gluten-Free, Affordable Meal Prep to Preserve Your Time & Sanity

Amazon

What We Like
  • Many photos

  • Portion sizes can easily be altered

What We Don't Like
  • Mostly meat-based meals

For those following gluten-free diets, rest assured you, too, can meal prep efficiently, thanks to this popular cookbook. A comprehensive collection of 26 weeks of meals (including mouthwatering sloppy joe stuffed potatoes, spinach pesto spaghetti squash boats, and chicken bacon ranch casserole) will ensure you have plenty of recipes to choose from so meals will never get redundant. A thorough introduction section explains the meal prep methodology, storage best practices, pantry stocking tips, ingredient swap ideas, and more.

Number of Recipes: 100+ | Pages: 400 | Date Published: 2019

Best for the Keto Diet: Keto Meal Prep Cookbook for Beginners: 600 Easy, Simple & Basic Ketogenic Diet Recipes

Keto Meal Prep Cookbook for Beginners: 600 Easy, Simple & Basic Ketogenic Diet Recipes

Amazon

What We Like
  • Inexpensive book

  • Recipes organized by protein source

What We Don't Like
  • No photos included

Whether you’re new to the keto diet or consider yourself a pro, this massive collection of 600 recipes will ensure you’re constantly trying new dishes and will keep mealtime exciting. The book includes a 21-day meal plan to get you into a routine. It also includes all the keto basics a beginner should learn, such as the benefits, tips, and which foods should be eaten versus avoided.

If you’re apprehensive about starting the keto diet and meal prepping on top of that, rest assured this cookbook will be a trusted guide. Recipes like Brie-stuffed meatballs, cheesy salmon dip, and Belgian waffles will make the keto diet feel like no diet at all.

Number of Recipes: 600 | Pages: 219 | Date Published: 2019

Best for Kids' Lunches: Little Bento: 32 Irresistible Bento Box Lunches for Kids

Little Bento: 32 Irresistible Bento Box Lunches for Kids

Amazon

What We Like
  • Bento container options

  • Simple sauce recipes

What We Don't Like
  • Strictly ideas for lunch

Bento boxes have become the cool new brown bag, the perfect vessel for kids’ lunches with small, separated compartments to keep lunch fun, organized, and portion-controlled. This book includes over 100 bento recipes and 32 photos of already assembled boxes, so you’ll be inspired to go beyond the standard PB&J, and your kids will be more excited for lunchtime than ever before. It also includes a weekly meal planning worksheet, along with ingredient lists to help you prepare food safely for kids with allergies or food sensitivities.

Organized by season, this creative organizational structure will ensure you’re eating the best produce for the time of year. The introduction includes packing tips and explains the history of bento boxes and their variations. Best of all? These plans don’t just have to be for kids’ lunches; with recipes like herbed parmesan popcorn and crispy chicken strips, adults will certainly enjoy these meals, too—so feel free to meal-prep using this bento inspiration for office lunches, as well.

Number of Recipes: 100+ | Pages: 178 | Date Published: 2016

Final Verdict

If you’re looking for a well-rounded meal prep cookbook that has plenty of recipes from which to choose and offers a detailed meal plan for several weeks, you can’t go wrong with "The Ultimate Meal-Prep Cookbook." If you’re a beginner, we recommend Mary Smith’s "Quick Prep Paleo." You'll have everything you need at your fingertips to become a well-informed and effective meal prepper.

What to Look for When Buying a Meal Prep Plan Cookbook

Diet

There are many meal prep plan cookbooks, so take the time to peruse and select one that best fits your dietary preferences, including any allergy sensitivities. There are meal prep plan cookbooks specifically for vegetarians and vegans, and those following keto or gluten-free diets, etc. 

Amount of Recipes

A meal prep plan cookbook should offer enough recipes and weekly plans for delicious and versatile meals that you and your family will enjoy.

Photography and Text

It is wonderful to see bright, colorful photos that depict how the end result of the recipe should look like. And step-by-step imagery is helpful for both novices and experts who are making a recipe for the first time. In addition, the size and clarity of the font typeface should be legible and easy for you to read.

Helpful Additions 

Cookbooks that provide additional information such as storage tips, shopping lists, ingredient substitutions, equipment needed, a glossary of cooking terms, measurement conversions, special tags on recipes, and nutrition information are good to have at your fingertips, especially when you're cooking and are out of an ingredient.

FAQs

What is meal prep?

Simply put, it's preparing your meals for the week ahead of time. This allows you to have meals ready to go and helps keep you on track with properly sized portions and diet goals.

How do you start meal prepping?

Meal preps include planning and organizing the meals you will eat for the week, chopping and cooking up the ingredients you'll need, and finding recipes that use all, or some, of the same ingredients. Make sure you have airtight food containers on hand to hold everything you've prepared.

How often do you meal prep?

Some people find it easier to meal prep one day on the weekend, while others prefer to split it up and do one on the weekend and one on a weeknight. It is all up to your schedule and preference. 

Why Trust The Spruce Eats?

Alyssa Langer is a licensed registered dietitian and cookbook enthusiast herself, collecting dozens over the years and turning to them for inspiration, whether it’s a time-consuming weekend baking project or just a quick Monday night dinner. Having worked in the cookbook publishing world in the past, she knows what it takes to create a quality book that delivers something new and exciting to readers—particularly in an increasingly online world.

Rachel Werner is a culinary writer who has been profiling farmers, chefs, and food-based businesses for nine years. Her food photography and recipes are also featured in content she creates for a variety of regional and national publications, such as TOPS News, The Gourmet Insider, and Fabulous Wisconsin. See examples of Rachel’s work behind the camera capturing shots of plant-based eats on Instagram @trulyplanted.

Updated by
Sharon Lockley
Sharon Lockley
Sharon Lockley has over 20 years of experience as an editor and writer and has been contributing to The Spruce Eats since 2019.
Learn about The Spruce Eats' Editorial Process
Additional reporting by
Rachel Werner
rachel werner

Rachel Werner is a writer and author whose work has appeared in Fabulous Wisconsin, Entrepreneurial Chef, and the book "Wisconsin Cocktails."

Learn about The Spruce Eats' Editorial Process
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