Steamed broccoli and baked chicken in plastic containers with an apple on the side. That’s meal prep, right? Wrong. Well, it can be, but sometimes you live to eat, and other times you eat to live. We tend to live by the first statement. Meal prep can be fun, it makes your life so much easier and healthier throughout your week. Plus, it will prevent you from spending your entire income on eating out, wasting food (because we all have those impulsive shopping moments at the grocery store) and keep you from blowing your healthy intentions on laziness. Here are our top 10 tips on meal prep and how to set your week up for success and only spend a few hours doing it:
Brew a cup of coffee/tea, grab your iPad or laptop and plop yourself down on the couch. This is where the real fun begins: Pinterest is my secret weapon for getting inspired for menu items. Pin to your heart’s content and select from your meal boards each week. Write out the menu, start your grocery list and be sure to leave room for those days you realistically won’t be eating at home or will have enough leftovers to make up another meal (throw an egg on pretty much any leftover meal and call it a day!).
If you’re trying to clean up your diet and fuel your workouts in the best way possible, salad jars are the absolute best way to go. They’re extremely transportable, they keep the ingredients fresh and they’re beautiful. Because beautiful food is important, ok? Start by ordering these wide mouth quart sized Ball jars. Layer the dressing first, then veggies, fruit, cheeses, quinoa, nuts, seeds, and top with the lettuce of your choice. Throw all 5 days of salad jars in your fridge and you’re ready to go! My current favorite salad jar is the Caprese (balsamic dressing, grape tomatoes, baby mozzarella balls, sliced bell pepper, shredded basil, walnuts and spinach.
Seriously, do it. Grab a can of chickpeas, rinse them in a colander, pat them dry and layer them onto a foil-lined baking sheet. Drizzle them in EVOO, salt and pepper, turmeric, garlic powder, cumin, paprika…heck! Add whatever flavors you want. (Here’s a list of 20 different ways to roast chickpeas…the possibilities are endless!) Roast them in the oven at 415 degrees for about 15 minutes. Check on them, if you want them crispier, keep them in a little longer. I like to eat these in my salads as “croutons”, as a topper for a Buddha bowl (think quinoa, avocado, roasted broccoli and roasted chickpeas with a little pesto drizzle) or by popping them in my mouth as a snack. Pro Tip: keep them in an air tight jar and place them in your fridge for fresh keeping throughout the week.
It’s no secret I’m obsessed with veggie noodles of all kinds. Have you seen #TakeMyMoneyTuesday!? On lazy days, I buy Veggie Noodle Co. Now that I was gifted a spiralizer attachment to my Kitchen Aid Mixer (thanks husband—seriously the most romantic anniversary gift), I can save some money by making my own “noodles”. To prep for the week, spiralize zucchini, sweet potatoes and whatever else you feel like. Place them in a container for fresh keeping. You can really go several different ways with these—Italian (with a homemade Bolognese) or Asian (healthified Pad Thai) or just plain delicious (with other roasted veggies + meat of choice).
5.Chop fresh fruit/veggies.
If you want to set yourself up for success, have freshly chopped carrots, celery, snap peas, bell peppers or whatever raw veggie you prefer. I like to dip them into hummus or just eat a handful when I’m cooking dinner and feel like I’m about to eat my arm off. Raw veggies do NOT sound appealing sometimes when you’re starving, but you’d be surprised how much they do fill you up just the right amount. Wash and chop your favorite fruits and place them into little Ziploc bags to take to work as a snack. My point is this: whether you chop them yourself or not (hey, Trader Joe’s!), keep them at eye level in your fridge so you’re not tempted to eat something not as a great for you.
Choose veggies that are in season, drizzle in EVOO and salt and pepper and roast them up in the oven at 400 degrees. You can throw these into your salads, repurpose them into a soup, or just use them in a bowl with your grain and your meat. I love roasting broccoli, carrots and sweet potatoes.
7.Frozen quinoa/brown rice.
I love to meal prep, but I don’t love spending hours and hours in the kitchen. To cut some time out of the equation, I like to buy frozen quinoa or frozen brown rice from Trader Joe’s. Yes, it’s more expensive this way, but it’s portioned out and you just throw it in the microwave for a few minutes and have perfectly fluffy rice and quinoa.
The easiest thing to do here (in my opinion) is marinate a few breasts of chicken in dressing in plastic bags and grill it for the week or sautee ground turkey and season it with whatever you’d like. Both are versatile lean meats that go great with pretty much everything.
Buy their Green Goddess dressing and you’ll find yourself craving a good crunchy green salad. Sounds wack, but you’ll thank me later.
10.Protein bites / cut up Perfect Bars.
My favorite way to curb my chocolate/sugar addiction: protein bites or Perfect Bars. Protein bites can be whipped up easily. I like to use Juice Plus Complete protein powder (plant based) and something close to this recipe, but most of the time I leave the rolled oats out. If I am short on time, I’ll buy Perfect Bars (ohmygahhhh have you tried the dark chocolate chip peanut butter with sea salt?!) and chop them into four pieces and place in a Ziploc bag and back into the fridge. This helps me control myself around those little chewy pieces of heaven. Both the protein bites and the Perfect Bars are perfect for right before a run, at night when you’re craving a bowl of ice cream, or during the afternoon slump. Or as breakfast with a banana! You can’t go wrong with these.
This is essential to meal prep especially if you’ll be toting your meals to work. If you have the luxury of eating from home for lunch, you can pretty much ignore this. I used to work from home and I’d just keep the roasted veggies in one big container, the raw veggies in another and so on. I’d then craft my meals from those big containers. If you’re bringing lunch to work everyday, besides wide mouth jars, we love these reusable bags instead of Ziplocs and these little containers for hummus or salad dressing, and the insulated bag from Whole Foods ($5) for easy toting.