Cook Smarter, Not Harder: A Chef’s Tips For Better Meal Prep

According to classically trained Chef and marathon runner Latoya Shauntay Snell, you don't have to be a “Top Chef” to meal prep.

Three jars of meal prepped food
Photo by Ella Olsson

In today’s fast-paced world, every minute counts. This is exactly why meal prep has emerged as the ultimate game-changer for busy individuals who want to live a healthier lifestyle.  

If you’re unfamiliar with what meal prepping is, let us clue you in. Meal prepping is when you cook or prepare meals that will last you at least a week. It’s up to the person’s preference if they want to prep meals for breakfast, lunch, dinner, or all three. 

It’s more than just a strategy for the diet-conscious or the time-pressed. It’s a powerful tool that can transform your relationship with food, finances, and fitness. Meal preparation gives you the chance to save time and money, particularly for those who have a hectic schedule. 

If you think you need chef skills, no worries. According to classically trained Chef and marathon runner Latoya Shauntay Snell, you don’t have to be a “Top Chef” to meal prep.

“Any chef will tell you that cooking is a blend of culinary application, technique, and consistency,” Snell tells BrownStyle Magazine. “Don’t be afraid to be a beginner and start with simple items.”

Keep scrolling to read our expert’s tips and tricks to meal prepping with ease.

Latoya Shauntay Snell

Meet The Expert

Latoya Shauntay Snell

Chef & Marathon Runner

How To Get Started Meal Prepping

For starters, Snell advises that you pick one day weekly or biweekly to purchase your fresh ingredients at your favorite grocery store. You can also use a food delivery service, which will bring all of the kitchen staples you need to make cost-effective, versatile meals at home.

Classically trained Chef and marathon runner Latoya Shauntay Snell
Photo by W. Eric Snell, Sr. (

Snell suggests that you figure out a rhythm in your kitchen by creating a menu and placing the appliances that you will need on a nearby counter. “I like to keep a well-oiled cast iron pan and nonstick pan nearby. I also have my stock pots and simmer pans close,” she shares.

Creating Food You Love

To prevent boredom, Snell advises that you try to make two to three main dishes that you can swap out throughout the week. “During the Fall/Winter months consider preparing and portioning soups, chilis, and stews into quart containers,” she tells us. “I might also make a casserole dish like a two-meat baked ziti or pesto chicken lasagna as a standalone dish.”

She also recommends making at least one dish that consists of poultry, fish, or meat.

Depending on your dietary restrictions and preferences, Snell recommends being mindful of your main dishes. “If you’re vegan and/or vegetarian, you may want an abundance of vegetables in season. Not only do they tend to be cheaper, but the quality might be at its best and it’s easier to find in most supermarkets.”

Keeping It Fresh In The Kitchen

Woman in green shirt chopping bell peppers
Photo by

Meal prepping in the Fall is the opportune time to take advantage of being experimental with root vegetables, hearty greens like kale, cabbage, and broccoli, and experimenting with fruits like pears and apples. “These Fall fruits and vegetables are typically loaded with antioxidants, vitamins, and minerals. They are super helpful for the immune system during the chilly months ahead,” Snell reminds us.


  • Chop and dice vegetables and starches a few days in advance.
  • Don’t overcook your vegetables.
  • Use leftover vegetables for other dishes. Throw them into a freezer bag or container and use them as needed.

Snell also believes that the Fall is the best time to perfect making pies, signature soups, and one-pot dishes.

For those who favor marinated foods or wish to enhance flavors with ingredients that require a great deal of chopping and peeling, a pressure or slow cooker is useful. After a long workday, using these tools for one or two days will help you stay on schedule and provide you more time to be with family or get some much needed “me” time.

Purchasing kitchen staples with a high shelf life like oils, vinegar, rice, dry pasta, and seasonings are also helpful to your meal-prepping goals. According to Snell, these ingredients add variety to your meals and can be used at any given time. “Don’t forget to factor in how many times you are available and willing to go grocery shopping, as well as how much space you have in your kitchen to store items, especially bulky purchases,” says Snell. 

How Much It Costs To Meal Prep

Meal prepped food in containers
Photo by Ella Olsson

Wondering how much you will spend for a week’s worth of meals? It can vary for many reasons that include location, how many people you’re feeding, if special considerations like allergies or gluten intolerances need to be factored in, and your accessibility to fresh, canned, or frozen items. 

The USDA Food Plans: Monthly Cost of Food Reports for September 2023 estimates that a woman between the ages of 19-50 years of age with a moderate budget should spend at least $74 a week. 

As food costs continue to climb, Snell says it is important to shop within reason of your budget. “Be deliberate in writing down a grocery list,” Snell suggests. “Most times when we enter the supermarket, the most important items are on the outskirts, impulse items are conveniently by the register, and the center of the supermarket is a mixture of dried goods or junk food. Going in with a plan is helpful for someone on a budget or super health-conscious.”

In addition, buying items that are within the season and pairing them with shelf-friendly staples like bottled sauces, canned goods, and rice can help stretch out meals throughout the week. 

“If you’re able to access a farmer’s market, buy ‘ugly produce’ or consider frozen and canned items,” Snell recommends. “You may get the best quantity for your buck.

Snells’ Shelf Staples

  • A variety of seasonings
  • A variety of oils, vinegar, and sauces
  • Red and Yukon gold potatoes
  • A handful of sweet potatoes
  • Fresh vegetables 
  • Onions and garlic
  • Half and half milk
  • Eggs
  • Three different types of cheeses
  • Pie crusts for desserts or quiche

Finding Your Meal Prep Rhythm

Overall, life is not supposed to be stressful. Avoid the headaches and hassle by getting into a regular rhythm of cooking in batches once or twice weekly. 

Snell encourages you to remain curious and experiment with new ideas and don’t be afraid to borrow a recipe—or two. “Breathe through the process— everyone makes mistakes. That is how the best signature dishes are created,” she reveals.

“Create a kitchen soundtrack on your Spotify or listen to a good audiobook while you move,” Snell advises. “Don’t be afraid to recruit your family members and friends to roll up their sleeves and make it a fun, wholesome experience.”

Heather Elitou is the Senior Managing Editor at BrownStyle Magazine, where her expertise has led to the publication's success. A devoted mother of three brilliant young women and a loving wife, she finds joy in nurturing her family. Beyond her professional and family life, Heather enjoys savoring the delights of a well-crafted cheese board. She is also known for her love of soulful conversations about living a soft life.