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Meal prep was one of those healthy-eating buzz phrases we always heard about but never fully understood. Until we tried Whole30, that is. In that program, meal prep (along with a pretty strong resolve) is a major key to success. Having done it ourself, we now present you with our seven tips to achieving meal prep greatness.

RELATED: 15 Things to Know if You’re Doing Whole30

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Plan Everything...

Being organized is crucial to your success. That means deciding what you want to eat for an entire week, buying all of the necessary groceries and setting aside a few hours for cooking. (Sunday afternoons are pretty popular.) Some people like to write out their schedules by hand, but we’re partial to Google Docs, where you can plan out your meals (and snacks), type out your grocery list and save links to recipes you’re dying to try. Google Docs also lets you share your spreadsheet with others—say, that pal from work who’s envious of your routine.

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...Including a Backup

You made a big batch of chicken piccata over the weekend, and it was great for the first few nights. Cut to Thursday, and you’re not sure if you can look at another plateful. That’s when having a backup plan comes in handy. Keep ingredients on hand for another super-simple meal you can whip up in case you really don’t want to eat the meal you prepped.

RELATED: 30 Whole30 Meals You Can Make in 30 Minutes

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Keep a Pinterest Board for Inspiration

We don’t know if you’ve perused Pinterest recently, but it’s basically a meal planner’s heaven. Between healthy recipes (that salmon and pepper salad, though) and tips for clean eating, it’s an amazing tool. Depending on how organized you are, you can create different boards for different meals, as well as recipes you’ve tried and want to try. (Or, if you’re like us, you can dump any recipe that looks good into a totally disorganized board that also has makeup inspiration and books you want to read.)

RELATED: How to Eat Healthy for Less Than $20 a Week

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Keep Everything Fresh

You’re all set to eat your favorite salad, when you open your container and realize the lettuce has wilted into a disgusting mush. Ughhhh. To avoid spoiling, you have a few options. First, you can make your salad in a mason jar, as illustrated above. By putting the dressing at the bottom of the jar, followed by heftier veggies and topping it all off with lettuce, you reduce the risk of a soggy end result. (Just give it a shake right before you’re ready to eat to distribute the dressing.) Or, if you’re using a plastic container, line it with paper towels, which will absorb moisture and keep your food looking and tasting fresh.

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Take Shortcuts

By which we mean, there’s no shame in buying pre-shredded Brussels sprouts. Meal prep takes a lot of time and energy, so if you can swing buying pre-cut veggies or already-spiralized zoodles, by all means do it. Just because you aren’t risking life and limb thinly slicing Brussels sprouts on a mandolin doesn’t make your meal prep effort any less commendable.

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Clean As You Go

Meal prepping is a pretty time-consuming endeavor, and the cleanup is even worse. That’s why we recommend tidying up while you’re cooking. Washing dishes while waiting for a pot of turkey chili to cook means you won’t have to face a giant pile of dishes when all you want to do is dig into a bowl of chili—or take a much-deserved nap.

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Stick to Your Grocery List

You had the best intentions of buying only the things you needed, but then, faced with a candy aisle that seemed personally tailored to your sugary preferences, you caved and bought some. When you’re trying to stick to a healthy-eating plan, temptation is everywhere, but we promise you it’s not worth it. So turn your head the other way, buy your chicken, veggies and quinoa and feel super proud of yourself.

RELATED: 6 Ways to Save Even More Money at Trader Joe’s

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