Mise En Place Meal Prep (the Restaurant-Approved Meal Prep Secret Every Home Chef Needs to Know!)

THIS POST MAY CONTAIN AFFILIATE SALES LINKS. PLEASE SEE MY FULL DISCLAIMER POLICY FOR DETAILS.
Time to ditch weekend meal prep marathons (& the sad leftovers that come along with them!). Mise en Place Meal Prep is where it's at! This post will walk you through mise en place, the meal prep secret used in restaurant & professional kitchens, & show you how you can adopt it for seriously easy & fast meal prep. By prepping ingredients & components rather than entire meals, mise en place helps you cook fast & flavorful meals during the week without sacrificing any creativity, versatility, & enjoyment. Game changer!!!
Mise en Place with Zwilling Fresh & Save. Zwilling Fresh & Save containers sit atop a white marble surface, filled with shredded kale, pickled red onions, marinating chicken shawarma, & brown rice. The containers are surrounded by lemon wedges, fresh thyme leaves, garlic, & a small wooden cutting board.

Meal Prep – A Necessary Evil.

Whether you love it or you hate it, I think we can all agree that a little bit of meal prep goes a loooong way in helping get dinner on the table throughout the week.

But in the world of curated Instagram feeds & picture-perfect Pinterest boards, the idea of “meal prep” has somehow grown synonymous with hours-long weekend kitchen marathons dedicated to batch cooking recipes start-to-finish. The result? Eating the same reheated meals over & over again for the rest of the week…whether you’re still craving them or not.

That’s the dilemma of traditional meal prep. What started out as an innocent tactic for making weeknight meals a little bit easier morphed into another checklist on the weekend to do list. If you’re someone who truly enjoys cooking, this traditional meal prep isn’t especially inspiring. It doesn’t allow for much creativity, flexibility, & versatility. Worse yet, if you cook to feed just 1-2 people, traditional meal prep leaves you with a lot of leftovers, & you’re stuck eating them for the rest of the week. It’s kind of underwhelming & not particularly joy-filled.

The good news? There’s a better way. It’s called mise en place.

Wait a minute, what is Mise en Place?

Mise en place is a French culinary term that translates to “everything in its place” (pronunciation: meez-ehn-plahse). A concept that refers to the set up & prep work required for cooking a particular dish, mise en place is at the heart of restaurant kitchens & the professional culinary world. Ever wonder why a restaurant with a really diverse menu can serve up a dish about 10-15 minutes after you order it? The answer is mise en place!

Simply put, chefs mise en place by breaking the dishes on their menus down into smaller components that are prepped to some extent ahead of time. For example, vegetables are cut to the exact size & shape needed for a particular dish, proteins are portioned, sauces are par-cooked, etc. Having all of this prep work completed beforehand allows for quick & efficient cooking.

Mise en Place with Zwilling Fresh & Save. Zwilling Fresh & Save containers sit atop a white marble surface, filled with sliced radishes, shredded kale, & diced mirepoix. The containers are surrounded by fresh carrots, sliced garlic, diced onion, & halved bell pepper.

Now that you know what it is, you’ll see mise en place, in action, everywhere you look. Think about your favorite cooking shows, for example. All of the host’s ingredients are already chopped, measured, perfectly portioned & within arm’s reach. The host can quickly grab them as he or she demonstrates the recipe. Another example? Fast-casual restaurants like Chipotle or Subway. The components of all of their menu items are prepped & organized so all you need to do is point & order. Less than 5 minutes later, you’re devouring your favorite burrito or sandwich. Pretty snappy, huh?

The not-so-secret secret that makes all of these examples work so seamlessly is mise en place. The great news? You can replicate the same principles in your own kitchen to make your weeknight cooking faster, flavorful, & more fun.

The PWWB Approach – Mise en Place for Home Chefs

I’ve been mise en place meal prepping ever since my days working in a corporate office. With a busy schedule & a long commute, I realistically only had 30-45 minutes to get dinner on the table BUT unwinding in the kitchen at the end of the day is one of the ways I practiced self care. The weekend cooking marathons of traditional meal prep never felt particularly joyful or realistic as someone who truly loves to cook. I knew there had to be a better way, & I found the answer in mise en place meal prep.

To practice mise en place at home, simply prep the ingredients &/or a few simple components that you need for a meal. Store them away safely until you are ready to cook or assemble the final dish during the week. It’s as simple as that.

With mise en place, you will…

  • SAVE TIME. With all of your prep work out of the way, you can work faster & more efficiently in the kitchen. It creates so much more time to relax & enjoy the night, & it makes cooking a whole lot more fun!
  • ENJOY VARIETY & FLEXIBILITY. By mixing & matching a few pre-prepped staple ingredients, gone are the days of reheating the same thing night after night!
  • WASTE LESS. Organized storage containers in your fridge allow you to see exactly what ingredients you have on hand. You’ll be less likely to ditch your meal plan & call for takeout.

If this all feels pretty abstract, rest assured that it’s actually quite simple in practice. So far we’ve walked through the theory behind mise en place meal prep, & next we will dive into the framework – aka how to meal prep with mise en place in your kitchen.

Realistic Meal Prep for Home Chefs

The PWWB Mise en Place Meal Prep framework is designed to be FLEXIBLE & CUSTOMIZABLE because meal planning & meal prepping are inherently personal & evolving.

Sometimes you have a busy week & don’t have much time to prep – I encourage you to do the bare minimum to set yourself up for dinnertime success. Other times you might want to tackle a fun, challenging recipe or kitchen project – enjoy your time in the kitchen doing just that! Make sure your meal prep strategy works for you & your unique needs (not the other way around!). Take whatever you need or whatever feels helpful from this framework & feel free to leave the rest behind.

Personally, I focus my mise en place meal prep on 5 key areas:

  1. Grains – Cook a batch of grains for the week.
  2. Veggies – Chop & prep veggies for the week.
  3. Sauces – Mix up sauces, condiments & marinades for the week.
  4. Proteins – Prep proteins for the week.
  5. Bonuses – Time, energy, & motivation permitting, work on a couple of totally optional bonuses for the week, like making a batch of cookie dough, mixing up some homemade hummus, or working on a recipe that’s more of a project.

Useful Equipment – the Best Food Storage Containers for Mise en Place Meal Prep:

One of the most important things you can do to set yourself up for success with meal prepping is investing in a high-quality food storage system. After all, if you’re going to spend 1-2 hours prepping the ingredients you will need during the week, you’re going to need to make sure they stay totally fresh until you put them to use, right? Otherwise it’s all just a giant waste of time, money, & effort.

I’ve had the pleasure of using Fresh & Save, Zwilling’s storage system of vacuum sealed containers & bags, for the past couple of months & I am obsessed. One of the main benefits of using vacuum sealed storage is it pulls all of the air out of the containers, which keeps your food fresher longer – up to 5 times longer, in fact!

You can choose between glass or BPA-free plastic containers, which stack beautifully in the fridge. Plus, Fresh & Save also has BPA-free vacuum bags, which I love using for marinating. & unlike the clunky vacuum seal systems I’ve used in the past, Fresh & Save utilizes a sleek handheld vacuum pump that’s easy to charge & store. I’m seriously obsessed & you will be too!

Check out this 7-piece Starter Set, which includes everything you’ll need to get started. And just ’cause we love ya – you can use the code PWWB at checkout for a FREE Vacuum Seal Lunch Box! (Valid January 30, 2021 – March 31, 2021).

How to Meal Prep with Mise en Place – the PWWB Framework

Zwilling Fresh & Save containers sit atop a kitchen counter. 3 containers are stacked on each other. In the foreground, a fourth Fresh & Save container filled with pickled red onions & a wood cutting board topped with the Zwilling vacuum seal hand pump, some garlic & fresh herbs. In the background, a subway tile back splash & a wood cutting board.

#1 – Prep grains for the week.

No matter what, I always try to cook a batch or two of grains at the beginning of the week. Not only do cooked grains store wonderfully, they’re also so versatile that you can put them to use in a variety of different ways throughout the week.

Mise en Place with Zwilling Fresh & Save. Zwilling Fresh & Save containers sit atop a white marble surface, filled with cooked quinoa & brown rice. The containers are surrounded by measuring cups with grain blends & a bowl of fresh parsley.

Examples:

Use trusty ol’ brown rice as a quick & easy side dish during the week or make something a little more special for burrito bowls another night. If it’s still in the fridge by the end of the week, transform it into a quick fried rice! The options are seriously endless.

Same goes for quinoa (use it to make a quick quinoa salad!), farro (add it to any bowl or salad for a satisfying bite!), wild rice (awesome in grain bowls & soup), & so on…

A kind of major bonus? Cooking grains is a nearly inactive prep job. Get a pot or two going & multitask with the next item on your mise en place meal prep list while the grains cook.

#2 – Chop & prep veggies for the week.

The other thing I always mise en place meal prep are the fruits, veggies, & greens that I plan to use in recipes throughout the week. Chopping veggies is often the primary task that contributes to a recipe’s active prep time. Getting the veggies prepped in advance means you can pull them out of the fridge & get cooking right away at meal time! (This is seriously such a dinnertime lifesaver at the PWWB house!)

Mise en Place with Zwilling Fresh & Save. Zwilling Fresh & Save containers sit atop a white marble surface, filled with sliced radishes, shredded kale, & diced mirepoix. The containers are surrounded by fresh carrots, sliced garlic, diced onion, & halved bell pepper.

Examples:

  • Slicing & dicing up versatile base veggies like onions, carrots, celery or bell pepper ahead of time puts you about 2 minutes away from cooking your favorite soups, stews, sauces, stir fries, & sheet pan meals. Chop up the exact veggies that your meal plan calls for or pick & choose the go-to veggies that you always find yourself reaching for throughout the week. I honestly use both approaches, depending on how well I’ve meal planned or how much flexibility I’d like to have during the week.
  • The beginning of the week is also a great time to break down heartier veggies like cauliflower, broccoli, Brussels sprouts, or winter squash. These hearty veggies may take a little bit more time to prep, but they store wonderfully so if you have leftovers at the end of the week you can build them into your meal plan for the following week.
  • Lastly, wash & slice your favorite greens. Chopped greens are great for a quick salad, of course, but they can also be used for so much more than that! Shredded kale is awesome in smoothies & soups, shredded cabbage is great to keep on hand for a quick slaw or stir fry, & so on. I guarantee that if they’re already prepped & ready to go, you are 100% more likely to add greens to your meals throughout the week.

Bonus: Roast or grill a big batch of veggies! One of my favorite meal prep secrets is keeping a big batch of roasted or grilled veggies in my fridge. They make for an awesome easy add-on for salads & bowls, & they also stand alone as a grab-&-go side dish. Plus, this is another nearly inactive prep job. Get a pan or two going & multitask with the next item on your mise en place meal prep list while the veggies roast.

#3 – Mix up sauces, condiments & marinades.

Depending what’s on your weekly menu, your mise en place meal prep session is a great time to mix up a marinade you need or whip up sauces & condiments that you like to keep on hand.

Mise en Place with Zwilling Fresh & Save. Zwilling Fresh & Save containers sit atop a white marble surface, filled with marinating chicken shawarma, Greek yogurt marinade, & fresh pesto. The containers are surrounded by fresh basil, lemon zest, garlic cloves & lemon wedges.

Examples:

  • Marinades – Prepping marinades ahead of time is one of my favorite mise en place meal prep secrets. Marinating adds so much time to even the quickest recipes. Getting a marinade ready in advance is a major time saver. Keep them stored in an airtight container in the refrigerator. When you need to begin marinating, all you have to do is toss your prepped marinade with the protein. So easy!
  • Versatile sauces & condiments – Quick sauces & condiments are also great to prep at the beginning of the week. They store well & you can use them on a specific dish or as a flavor boosting condiment throughout the week. I like keeping a jar of homemade pesto, chimichurri, or cashew crema in my fridge at all times. They are versatile flavor bombs that you can serve with just about anything for a big punch of flavor.
  • Salad dressing & vinaigrettes – The beginning of the week is a great time to prep a jar of your favorite salad dressing. They store beautifully & taste better than store-bought (without the added preservatives & junk, too!).

#4 – Prep proteins for the week.

The last thing to consider as you mise en place meal prep is protein. Evaluate what proteins make an appearance in your plan for the week & whether you need to do any prep work to get them ready for your meals.

Mise en Place with Zwilling Fresh & Save. Zwilling Fresh & Save containers sit atop a white marble surface, filled with marinating chicken shawarma, shredded chicken breast, & marinating beer brats. The containers are surrounded by sliced onions & a bowl of fresh parsley.

Examples:

  • The simplest protein prep you can do is defrosting meat! If you’re one to keep a well-stocked freezer, this is a great time to transfer what you need for the week to the refrigerator. Slowly thawing in a cold environment is the safest way to thaw out protein. (Plus, is there anything worse than trying to defrost a big hunk of meat at dinnertime?!) Note: Be sure to reference a Cold Food Storage Chart for guidance on safe storage!
  • Slicing, dicing, chopping, & shredding proteins ahead of time puts you about 2 minutes away from cooking your favorite stews, stir fries, & sheet pan meals. Dice up pork for a quick stir fry, slice up chicken breasts for fajitas, or break down a large roast for a delicious braised meal. The beginning of the week is also a great time to shred up rotisserie chicken for a quick & healthy add-on for bowls & salads.
  • Prep & form things like homemade burger patties & meatballs. Prepping them ahead of time means that at dinnertime, all you have to do is cook them off – pretty easy!
  • Marinate proteins – Marinating adds so much time to even the quickest recipes. Get your proteins marinating in advance for a major weeknight dinner timesaver. Note: Some recipes can handle longer marination times, while others are best with a quick marinade. Be sure to adhere to a specific recipe’s suggested marinating time.

Bonus: Roast or grill chicken. One of my favorite meal prep secrets is keeping a few pieces of roasted or grilled chicken in my fridge. It’s an awesome add-on for salads & bowls. Plus, this is another nearly inactive prep job. You can multitask with other items on your mise en place list while the chicken cooks. Pretty simple!

#5 – Bonuses!

Lastly (& totally optionally!), layer a couple of bonuses into your mise en place sessions. Again, the spirit of this approach to meal prep is to provide you with as much flexibility & customizability as you need. If you have time & energy to take on a couple of extra tasks because they’ll make you happy or they’ll make your life easier during the week…go for it!

Mise en Place with Zwilling Fresh & Save. Zwilling Fresh & Save containers sit atop a white marble surface, filled with cooked white beans, pickled red onions. There is a plate of cookie dough & a bowl of fresh parsley on the surface, as well.

Examples:

  • Breakfast & lunch prepHard boil some eggs or prep a batch of your favorite breakfast burritos for easy grab & go breakfasts during the week. Similarly, make a hearty quinoa salad that stores well for a healthy lunch to enjoy all week long.
  • Kitchen projects – Since you’re in the kitchen already, mise en place is also a great time to work on a recipe that’s a little more like a fun project you’ve wanted to try. It could be as simple as making homemade hummus or cooking a pot of beans. Maybe you’ve always wanted to try making bolognese. Or, maybe you have your eye on a more involved recipe with lots of inactive time, like braised Kālua pork or slow roasted soup. If you have the time & energy, why not go for it?!
  • & most importantly, don’t forget about dessert! Yes, you can meal prep desserts, too! I like to always have cookie dough balls & bliss bites prepped in my freezer for when my sweet tooth flares up.

Putting it into action – Meal Prep Mise en Place examples

This section walks you through some of PWWB’s most popular weeknight recipes & how I personally approach meal prepping them to keep dinners fun, quick, & delicious during the week. This is a great starting point if you want to give mise en place meal prep a try in your own kitchen.

How to mise en place entrée salads & bowls:

A good entrée salad or bowl has many different components that offer different flavors & textures. This makes eating these healthy dishes more enjoyable…but prepping them is a different story! Mise en place totally changes the game, though. Some examples:

  • Veggie Shawarma Bowls (10-Minute Meal Prep)
    • Veggie mise en place: Chop 1 small head cauliflower into bite-sized florets. Dice 1 sweet potato into 1/2-inch cubes. Store in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 5 days.
    • Sauce mise en place: Prep the shawarma seasoning according to Recipe Directions. Store in an airtight container on your spice rack for up to 1 week.
    • At dinnertime, toss together the veggies with the spice blend & roast. While the veggies roast, whip up a quick tahini sauce & any other toppings you’d like for your bowls. Pretty easy!
  • Falafel-ish Quinoa Salad (20-Minute Meal Prep)
    • Grains mise en place: Cook 1/2 cup quinoa according to package directions. Store in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 1 week.
    • Veggie mise en place: Finely dice a cucumber & red onion. Halve or quarter some cherry tomatoes. Store in separate airtight containers in the refrigerator for up to 3 days. 
    • Sauce mise en place: Prep the lemony dressing according to Recipe Directions & store in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 1 week. 
    • At dinnertime, finely chop up some fresh herbs & toss everything together. Simple!

How to mise en place pasta recipes:

For so many of us, pasta dishes are a weeknight staple. When I think about my mise en place meal prep for a pasta dish, I look at what veggies I can chop up ahead of time to make my pasta dinners come together even quicker. Some examples:

  • Spicy Italian Sausage & Peppers Pasta (5-Minute Meal Prep)
    • Veggie mise en place: Deseed & dice 1 bell pepper. Peel & dice 1 large yellow onion. Store in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 5 days.
    • At dinnertime, simply boil the pasta & cook up the spicy Italian sausage & peppers sauce. Pretty simple, only 1 pot & 1 pan needed!
  • Lemony Basil Creamy Vegan Pasta (15-Minute Meal Prep)
    • Veggie mise en place: Chop 1 small head broccoli into bite-sized florets. Deseed & dice 1 bell pepper. Peel & dice 1 yellow onion. Slice 3 ounces of sun-dried tomatoes. Store in separate airtight containers in the refrigerator for up to 5 days.
    • Sauce mise en place: Blend up the lemony basil sauce. Store in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 1 week.
    • At dinnertime, simply boil the pasta & sauté all the veggies. Again, pretty simple. You only need 1 pot & 1 pan!

How to mise en place Soup, Chili, & Stew Recipes:

I make a pot of soup at least once a week during the fall & winter months. It’s the perfect satisfying & comforting cold-weather dinner, & leftovers make for the easiest lunch to reheat throughout the week. When I think about my mise en place meal prep for a soup or stew recipe, I look at what veggies I can chop up ahead of time so I can start cooking my soup faster. Some examples:

  • PWWB Best-Ever Hearty Minestrone Soup (10-Minute Meal Prep)
    • Veggie mise en place: Peel & dice 2 medium carrots & 1 large yellow onion. Dice 2 ribs of celery. Halve 1 head of garlic crosswise. Tie 1 sprig rosemary, 8-10 leaves sage & 8-10 sprigs thyme with a piece of butcher twine. Store in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 5 days.
    • At dinnertime, simply get cookin’! Pretty easy.
  • Damn Good Vegan Lentil Soup (20-Minute Meal Prep)
    • Veggie mise en place: Peel & dice 3 medium carrots & 1 large yellow onion. Dice 1-2 ribs of celery. Peel, deseed & dice 1 small butternut squash into 1/2-inch cubes. Store in separate airtight containers in the refrigerator for up to 5 days.
    • At dinnertime, simply get cookin’! Pretty easy.

How to mise en place for Taco Night:

Taco night is another weeknight staple at my house. When I think about my mise en place meal prep for a taco recipe, I think about what I can do to get the protein prepped to cook & have some toppings ready to go in my fridge. Some examples:

  • Roasted Veggie Tacos (20-Minute Meal Prep)
    • Veggie mise en place: Chop 1 small head cauliflower into bite-sized florets. Dice 1 sweet potato into 1/2-inch cubes. Store in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 5 days.
    • Sauce mise en place: Prep the chipotle lime crema according to Recipe Directions & store in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 1 week. Prep the taco spice blend according to Recipe Directions and store in an airtight container on your spice rack for up to 1 week.
    • At dinnertime, simply season & roast the veggies & prep your other taco fixings.
  • Chicken Carnitas (10-Minute Meal Prep)
    • Veggie mise en place: Thinly slice 1/2 yellow onion & store in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 5 days.
    • Sauce mise en place: Prep the carnitas marinade according to Recipe Directions. Store in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 5 days.
    • At dinnertime, simply toss the chicken into the marinade & bake. While the chicken bakes, prep your favorite taco fixings. Easy!

How to Mise en Place PWWB recipes

To keep things as easy as possible for you, all of the weeknight recipes you’ll find here on PWWB have Meal Prep Tips built right into the Recipe Notes. These 10-Minute, 15-Minute or 20-Minute Meal Prep callouts are there to identify ingredients or recipe steps you can mise en place in advance, helping you save both time & sanity once dinnertime rolls around.

Below is an example from our Sheet Pan Chicken Carnitas. You’ll notice the exact steps to mise en place this recipe are already laid out for you! Easy!

Watch how I mise en place meal prep on Instagram + a discount code!

For a behind-the-scenes peek of mise en place in my kitchen, hop over to Instagram! I’m taking you through a step-by-step process to show you how I mise en place a weekly meal plan.

Reminder: Don’t forget to check out Zwilling’s Fresh & Save 7-piece Starter Set (& the other Fresh & Save products!). Use the code PWWB at checkout for a FREE Vacuum Seal Lunch Box! (Valid January 30, 2021 – March 31, 2021).

Jess standing at her kitchen counter holding 3 Zwilling Fresh & Save containers filled with rice, sliced cucumbers, onions & peppers. The containers sit atop a wood cutting board, next to a knife & some bowls filled with chopped veggies.

Follow along with Plays Well With Butter on Instagram, Facebook, & Pinterest for more easy, modern recipes & fun!

Hi there, I'm Jess!

If there’s 1 thing to know about me, it’s this: I am head-over-heels in love with food. I’m on a mission to make weeknight cooking flavorful, fast, & fun for other foodies, & PWWB is where I share foolproof recipes that deliver major flavor with minimal effort. Other true loves: pretty shoes, puppies, Grey’s Anatomy, & my cozy kitchen in Minneapolis, MN.

Topics

Sign up for our newsletter

Leave a Rating & Comment

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.