For anyone juggling a busy schedule (read: all of us), meal prepping can be a lifesaver during the week. When your refrigerator is stocked with grab-and-go, healthy meals, it’s one less thing you have to worry about as you’re rushing out the door in the morning. But if the thought of being cooped up in your kitchen for an entire Sunday fills you with dread, rest assured, that’s not required. Meal prepping doesn’t have to take long, and really, it shouldn’t since the whole point of it is to save you time. In fact, there are plenty of ways to make it easier for you, so you can whip up a week’s worth of meals in the time it would take you to cook a single dinner. Today, I’m sharing my go-to hacks for getting the most out of meal prep.
Pick Three to Four Different Vegetables
Lay them out on a few sheet pans and sprinkle them with salt, pepper and your favorite herbs and spices (I love garlic powder, rosemary and thyme) plus a drizzle of olive oil. Roast everything in the oven at 400 degrees for 20 to 30 minutes. Some of my favorite vegetables to roast are Brussels sprouts, broccoli, asparagus and sweet potatoes. No time to wash and chop everything? On days when I’m especially pressed for time, I’ll buy frozen, chopped vegetables and simply scatter everything on the sheet pan and add an extra minute or two to the roasting time.
Pick Two to Three Different Proteins
I’ll usually buy a family-sized pack of boneless, skinless chicken breasts, ground turkey breast or shrimp. I’ll also fill out my protein options with canned chickpeas for added convenience. Prep the chicken breasts the same way you do the vegetables with olive oil, salt, pepper, herbs and spices, then place them on a sheet pan and stick them in the oven to roast with the vegetables for about 20 minutes. While everything is roasting, sauté the ground turkey breast or shrimp in a pan on the stovetop with olive oil, salt and pepper. Rinse and drain the chickpeas, then either store them directly in a container in the fridge or toss them on top of the vegetables once they have about 10 minutes left on the timer to get the chickpeas nice and crispy.
Pick One or Two Different Grains
My favorites are chickpea pasta and quinoa. I’ll make one big batch of quinoa to use as a base for some of my meals throughout the week. To make it, measure out one to two cups of dry quinoa and add it to a sauce pan, then add about double that amount in water and bring to a boil. Once it boils, cover it and lower the heat to let it simmer for about 15 minutes. Fluff with a fork, and you’re done! Want an even easier approach? Pick up a few pre-made pouches of quinoa from the grocery store that you can just pop in the microwave for a few minutes to steam.
Mix and Match
Once your vegetables, protein and grains are done, the real fun begins. I like to have different sauces and condiments on hand – including hummus, guacamole, Sriracha, tamari and tomato sauce – to make each meal unique, as well as plenty of fresh fruit to grab for snacks in between meals. Other add-ons can be leafy greens for salads, chopped nuts, dried cranberries, or pesto. Get creative! Breakfast one day could be scrambled eggs with asparagus and a cup of berries, lunch could be a kale salad topped with chicken breast, sweet potato, dried cranberries and walnuts, snacks could be an apple with almond butter or baby carrots with guacamole, and dinner could be chickpea pasta with sautéed shrimp, broccoli and tomato sauce.
This meal prep process gives you the freedom to build all your meals ahead of time for true grab-and-go convenience throughout the week, or keep everything packaged separately so you can easily combine a few ingredients in the morning depending on what you’re craving each day. It's all about whatever works for you and your schedule!