Meal prepping is key to staying on top of your family’s meals, especially when you’re a busy mom.
If you’re like me, you don’t want your kitchen cabinets and drawers full of gadgets that only have one use. When I started out on my cooking journey, I wanted to stick to kitchen basics that could be used for most of my cooking and baking.
Here are the absolute essentials that I use every week to make my meal prep easier. Whether you’re just starting out or you’re a seasoned pro, these tools can help make your life a little easier in the kitchen!
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1. Quality Knives
If you’re using the wrong knife, food prep can be slow going and unpleasant.
Every kitchen needs a sharp knife that does most of the chopping and slicing and a good quality carving knife.
These are my two favorites:
Favorite All Purpose Knife
Wüsthof Santoku Knife
This Japanese-style knife is so versatile. It can handle everything from chopping to slicing to dicing to mincing meat, vegetables, fruits, and bread. I have two Santoku knives and one chef’s knife, but I use the Wüsthof Classic 7-Inch Hollow Edge Santoku Knife for everything. It’s really all you need.
Keep it sharp and it will last forever. I’ve had the same one for 20 years.
Favorite Carving Knife
Mercer Genesis 10-inch Granton Carving Knife
A sharp carving knife has one job: cutting and deboning meat. The Mercer Genesis Collection 10-Inch Granton Carving Knife is a quality knife that’s made carving our holiday turkeys much easier.
2. Cutting Board
If you’re going to invest in a good cutting board, you want one that will last for years and isn’t hard on your knives.
John Boos Blocks are the most durable wood-cutting boards. The boards are also reversible, with both sides usable as cutting surfaces.
These are heavy cutting boards, and the larger the board, the heavier it is. So, if you go with a larger size, make sure you have the space to store it on the counter or where it’s easily accessible.
I have Boos Blocks in two different sizes:
Favorite Everyday Wood Cutting Board
John Boos Block
18 x 12″
The John Boos Block Reversible Cutting Board, 18 Inches x 12 Inches x 1.5 Inches is the best size for everyday meal prep. One side has a juice groove for carving meat. And this size is small enough to fit in the cabinet for easy storage.
Favorite Large Wood Cutting Board
John Boos Block
20 x 15″
The John Boos Block Maple Wood Edge Grain Reversible Cutting Board, 20 Inches x 15 Inches x 1.5 Inches is large enough to chop a lot of vegetables at once. And it’s the perfect size for rolling out dough and making cut-out cookies.
3. Debbie Meyer GreenBags
Fresh fruits and vegetables are a delicious and healthy part of a balanced diet, but they don’t last long.
Sometimes you probably end up with more fruits and vegetables than you can eat in a few days, leading to wasted food and money.
Favorite Fruit & Vegetable Storage Bags
Debbie Meyer GreenBags
Debbie Meyer GreenBags helps your fresh fruits and vegetables last longer than just putting them in regular produce bags or food prep containers. This means you can buy more at once, which saves you time and money.
I use GreenBags to store vegetables from the grocery store or the Farmer’s market. The bags can be reused up to 10 times, so a package of 20 bags usually lasts a few months.
4. OXO Good Grips Large Salad Spinner
No one wants soggy lettuce, and storing wet lettuce after washing speeds up deterioration. A salad spinner helps you quickly wash and dry lettuce before serving it, and it won’t be soggy.
Favorite Salad Spinner
OXO Salad Spinner
The OXO Good Grips Large Salad Spinner has a pump mechanism and brake button to make it easy to spin your salad ingredients dry. This spinner stands out because the non-slip ring and wide base keep the bowl steady on the countertop while chopping.
And the clear bowl makes a nice serving bowl, so you’ll have fewer dishes to wash later. It’s also easy to clean, and the soft, non-slip knob locks down for easy storage.
Ease of cleaning and storage are two important factors I consider before buying a kitchen gadget.
5. Measuring Cups and Spoons
Measuring Cups (dry ingredients)
Stainless Steel Measuring Cups
A good set of measuring cups is essential for any kitchen, but not all sets include additional measurements.
When you’re baking, the measurements need to be exact. RSVP International Endurance Stainless Steel Measuring Cups includes 1-cup, 1/2-cup, 1/3-cup, 1/4-cup cups, and 2/3-cup, 3/4-cup, and 1/8-cup sizes.
These measuring cups are permanently stamped with the capacity, so you’ll never have to worry about the stamp fading like they do on plastic measuring cups.
My set has lasted more than 15 years, and they’re as good as new. But, if you need replacements or additional measuring cups, they sell them individually.
Measuring Cups (wet ingredients)
Pyrex Measuring Cup
The Pyrex 1-Cup Measuring Cup is the best tool for measuring liquid volume–wet ingredients such as milk or oil. Pyrex measuring cups come in a variety of sizes, and some have covers so you can measure, mix and store ingredients right in the cup.
You’ll need the one-cup measurement for most cooking and baking. But the Pyrex 2-cup glass measuring cup comes in handy when you’re measuring large volumes of liquid. That way you won’t have to remeasure as you cook.
It’s also good to have a few extra Pyrex cups so you can measure all the ingredients before you start cooking.
Stainless Steel Measuring Spoons
These stainless steel measuring spoons are great for the same reasons as the stainless steel measuring cups. There’s a greater variety of sizes, and the measurements don’t wear off the handle.
I recommend having 2 sets of stainless steel measuring spoons, so you don’t have to wash and dry them while you’re cooking and baking. Use one for dry ingredients (herbs and spices) and one for wet ingredients (vanilla extract, honey, maple syrup).
6. Pyrex Glass Storage Container Set
It’s tough to keep track of all the different types of plastics and which are safe to use for food storage. Some plastics can leach harmful chemicals into your food, and others can’t be microwaved or put in the dishwasher.
Glass containers are my favorite way to store leftovers. And you can reheat food right in the container.
Favorite Food Storage Containers
Pyrex Simply Store 18-pc Containers
Pyrex Simply Store 18-Pc Glass Food Storage Containers are a great alternative to plastic. These glass containers are durable and can be microwaved and put in the dishwasher.
Another plus is they don’t absorb food smells, flavors, or stains, so they stay clean. For example, certain foods, such as fruit, take on the odor and taste of the food lingering in plastic containers.
7. Food Processor
Depending on how much you cook, you may not get much use out of some small appliances. So, I only included the appliance that has many uses and I use all the time.
Favorite Food Processor
Cuisinart Food Processor
The Cuisinart Elemental 8-Cup Food Processor is a good option if you want a low-priced food processor that can puree and chop–jobs a blender isn’t built for. I use it to make pesto, puree fruit and even to make pie dough (it’s much easier than cutting butter by hand). And, the Cuisinart food processor is easy to clean, which is something I look for in all small appliances.
I had the Cuisinart Pro Classic 7-cup Food Processor for over 20 years before buying the Elemental model for the larger bowl capacity. This motor doesn’t quit, so you’ll have this appliance for years. If the blade gets dull, you can order another one. It costs slightly more than the Cuisinart Elemental but it’s built to last.
8. Mixing Bowls
Favorite Mixing Bowls
Stainless Steel Mixing Bowl Set
This stainless steel mixing bowl set can hold 1.5 quarts, 2 quarts, 2.5 quarts, 3.5 quarts, and 7 quarts of volume (plus, each bowl has a line inside that shows you how much it can hold to avoid spills!).
The deep bowl is great for whisking eggs, mixing dessert, baking batters, cake dough, tossing salads, and marinating. Plus, the flat silicone base keeps the bowls from slipping while mixing, beating, and whipping!
The large bowl is perfect for proofing yeast dough.
9. White Flour Sack Towels
You’re trying to cook dinner, and you’re running through paper towels, trying to dry vegetables. Reusable lint-free towels are a huge help with washing and prepping fruits and vegetables.
Favorite Food Prep Hack
Flour Sack Towels
These Flour Sack Kitchen Towels are perfect for absorbing extra moisture from lettuce (after spinning) and washed vegetables. They’re made of 100% cotton and are lint-free, so you don’t have to worry about transferring lint to your food.
Set the towels on the counter as you clean and prep fruit and vegetables. They’re also helpful for chopped vegetables overnight. Just bundle up the veggies and put them right in the crisper drawer.
10. Mason Jars
Favorite Containers for Dry & Wet Ingredients
Ball Mason Jars
Ball Wide Mouth Mason Jars are big enough to easily fill and use. Also, because of the big opening, cleaning and disinfecting is easy, so you can reuse it over and over.
These are great for storing homemade tomato sauces, broth, salad dressings, pesto, and even dry pantry ingredients like dry beans and nuts.
I use the 8 oz Ball mason jars for homemade salad dressings and herb and spice mixes.
Wrap It Up
You don’t need a lot of kitchen gadgets that you only use once a year.
All you need for efficient meal prep are quality essentials that get the job done. These must-have kitchen tools will streamline your cooking process and make weekly meal prep much more manageable.
About Jennifer Messineo, MS, RD
I’m a food loving Registered Dietitian. I help families plan meals, reduce food waste and save money on food!