Meal Prep 101
Published Feb 02, 2017•Updated Dec 06, 2022
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Prepping meals for a family can feel like a lot of work. But it doesn’t have to be! Follow these simple steps, Meal Prep 101, to stock your fridge for a week of meals in under an hour.
At our house, an hour of meal planning / prep is all we need to transform a crazy week into a smooth ride. As I learned fast after becoming a mom, nothing escalates the craziness quite as fast as a hungry toddler. (Well….except for two hungry toddlers.) Follow these simple steps to prep the top types of foods that will make your week a breeze.
Meal planning doesn’t have to take a ton of time or planning. In fact, most weeks, I use the same formula to prep meals. With these items in the fridge, we can talk ourselves out of picking up pizza or eating out because we know we are only a few minutes away from a healthy meal at home.
The Food for Meal Prep
Most weeks, I stick to this list. Sometimes I’ll throw in a few extra items that I know we’ll need for dinners, but I find that having these seven things on hand can get us through many breakfasts, lunches and dinners without any extra planning needed.
1. Baked Goods.
Like Whole Wheat Pancakes, 4-Ingredient Chocolate Peanut Butter Oat Bars, or Weeknight Banana Bread. Aim for breakfast items that can be served room temp or reheated in the toaster (like pancakes, waffles, or muffins). I also love to make a healthy-ish treat that I can add to lunch boxes for the kids.
2. Hard Boiled Eggs
3. Sliced Vegetable Sticks
These come in handy for lunch boxes for the kids or for my lunches and snacks. On busy work days, it’s so handy for me to run down to the kitchen and spend 5 minutes making a plate of hard boiled eggs, veggies, hummus, and whole grain crackers.
4. Cooked pasta, rice, or grains
This week it’s cheese tortellini. Since it’s already cooked, it’s easy to add to soup, toss with store-bought pesto, or put in lunches with no sauce (it’s great finger food for little hands!). Quinoa, farro, brown rice, or orzo pasta are all favorites in this category.
A vegetable-packed soup is one of the best things to have in the fridge at the start of the week. It’s great for dinner in a pinch with a loaf of crusty bread on the side. Or perfect for healthy, nutritious lunches. The one shown below includes Italian sausage and kale (add the tortellini right before serving). Other favorites are butternut squash, potato soup, lentil soup, or chili. (Butternut is super easy if you buy pre-cubed squash from the produce or freezer section.)
6. Berries (or other sliced fruit)
Berries will store best if they’re unwashed until shortly before serving. However, I do like to wash and dry a small batch to use early in the week – like over oatmeal on Monday morning.
7. Sauce / Salad Dressing
I try to make something that can be used on salads, tossed with pasta or whole grains and used as a dipping sauce for vegetable sticks. Thai Peanut Sauce (shown below), roasted red pepper dip, or avocado crema are always winners.
One Hour of Meal Prep = Many Meals
When I meal prep for the week, it goes something like this. I turn on a podcast or a show on Netflix, pull everything out of the fridge and go to work. If I use a few shortcuts, like a mix for muffins and do a simple pureed soup, I can be done in under an hour. If I make everything from scratch, it can take 90 minutes.
- Preheat the oven and boil water for eggs / grains.
- Mix baked goods and pop in the oven.
- Cook grains and boil eggs.
- Slice vegetable sticks (finely chop half the sticks if making a vegetable soup).
- Cook soup.
- While soup simmers, slice fruit (if applicable).
- Make sauce / salad dressing.
I like knowing that I’m only one Gilmore Girls episode away from a week of prepped meals.
The most exciting part of this whole meal prep thing? Those items turn into SO many meals! Here’s what a couple days might look like with meal prep:
Breakfast – Oatmeal Muffins + Berries
Lunch – Egg Salad Sandwiches + Vegetable Sticks with Peanut Sauce for Dipping
Snack – Chocolate Peanut Butter Oat Bars
Dinner – Vegetable Soup with Tortellini
Breakfast – Mixed Berries over yogurt + toast
Lunch – Green Salad with Sliced Eggs, Chopped Vegetables + Oat Bars
Snack – Oatmeal Muffins
Dinner – Thai Peanut Pasta (stir-fried vegetables tossed with cooked pasta and peanut sauce)