What is a meal prep Sunday?
I am a big fan of easy meal prep. In fact, I am all about the #mealprepsunday. I may be in a committed relationship with the kitchen and love creating new and delicious recipes, but I meal prep because it helps make the work week go so much more smoothly. Even if you’re not the biggest fan of cooking, taking some time at the beginning of the week for food prep is well worth it. It can help you save money, but it also ensures you have nutritious and home cooked meals ready to grab and go for the week.
But what about those who are sitting there saying, meal prep food is SO boring. I hear you. But I’m not eating chicken breast, broccoli, and brown rice every day for weeks on end. I’m making something different every week, and it’s something that I get excited about! It may also be unrealistic to cook 5 different lunches each week (your grocery bill would be a little crazy). I aim for 1-2 tasty recipes to get me through the week.
So here are some of my tips for easy meal prep
Start with the vessel…
Your container is important! I get a little weird about microwaving plastic, maybe that’s just me. So start with a good set of microwave-safe containers (pyrex or something similar is a great option). Be sure to also pick up a variety of mason jars. These are great for soups (no spillage!) and salads (I’m obsessed with mason jar salads).
Second step to easy meal prep
You need the recipe…
I’m a fan of perusing Pinterest for ideas. I’ll search things like “meal prep recipes” and scroll through the options to get some inspiration. You can also check out our recipe index for ideas or ask your dietitian about our Mayhem to Mealtime meal planning program! I’m usually meal prepping for 2 people so I either pick one recipe and double it, or pick two recipes so that we can get some variety throughout the week.
The type of recipe you choose is important. It’s best to pick something that’s really going to keep through the week. Keep in mind the type of protein as well. Seafood should really be eaten within 1-2 days of cooking. If you’re set on having some shrimp or salmon for lunch, include that for Monday and Tuesday lunches, and pick up another protein for the rest of the week.
Need some easy meal prep ideas?
Here are a few of my go-to meal ideas!
Mason Jar Salads:
All the ingredients, including the dressing, are packed neatly into a mason jar. The way you layer the ingredients helps keep the lettuce and softer foods from getting soggy. The tight seal of the jar keeps everything nice and fresh!
If you need something easy to throw together, this is your meal! Heat up a little oil in a big pan, cook your meat and set aside. Add the veggies and cook until slightly softened. Add back the protein, whatever starch you want, and your sauce, and stir until combined. Done!
There are a few different ways you can make a veggie lasagna. One of favorite ways is to grill up zucchini, squash, and eggplant and use instead of the noodles. It reminds me of my grandpa’s eggplant parmesan (layers of fried eggplant, stacked with sauce and cheesy goodness).
I’ve done quite a bit of experimenting with stuffed peppers. Cheeseburger peppers, buffalo chicken peppers, and traditional stuffed peppers have all made appearances on my meal plan.
- Jack-O-Lantern Stuffed Peppers (cute for Halloween, but tasty any other time of year!)
- Vegan Stuffed Peppers
- Low FODMAP Stuffed Peppers
I don’t even use a recipe for this one…After baking potatoes or sweet potatoes until tender, I just scoop out the insides and place in a bowl. Mash until smooth and then mix in whatever ingredients you’d like! My favorite combos are seasoned (and cooked) taco meat/onions/cheddar or spinach/chickpeas/gruyere. Stuff the mixture back into the potato skins, sprinkle with cheese, and bake until cheese is melted.
Soups and Chili:
These are pretty much self explanatory. Make up a bit pot of anything, and package it for the week. The best part about soups and chili is that they just get better with time, as all the flavors mingle together.
Hit the store before your meal prep Sunday…
You can’t meal prep without groceries. Save money by taking inventory of your fridge and pantry before you leave to avoid doubling up on ingredients. If shopping and cooking in one day seems overwhelming, split it up! Run to the store on Saturday, and save an hour or 2 on Sunday for cooking. Check out my blog on tips for navigating the grocery store here.
Finally, set aside time to cook your meals! Sometimes we go shopping with good intentions, but then when Sunday comes, the meal prep just doesn’t happen. Don’t let your efforts go to waste! Make your meal prep a priority on Sunday, leaving more time throughout the rest of the week to focus on everything else!
If you need help creating a meal plan to reach your nutrition goals and would like to meet with a Registered Dietitian, please call (301) 474-2499 to make an appointment today!
Blog updated January 2020
An award winning recipe developer, Dietitian Kaitlin’s mission is to empower others to reach their health goals by encouraging them to get back into the kitchen. Co-author of Nourished: 10 Ingredients to Happy, Healthy Eating and Cooking with Diabetes.