By Gloria Stoverink
Just hearing the word “meal prep” stirs up intimidating images of perfect rows of black square containers meticulously filled with uniform rows of rice, chicken, and broccoli. I start to sweat just thinking about the hours spent in the kitchen to create 20+ meals for the entire week.
Don’t be mislead, I love the meal prep concept. It saves time, money, and often leads to healthier choices. Truthfully, meal prep does not require that you devote your entire Sunday to cooking up meals (and a mess) to prepare for the entire week. There are also no rules saying you must have the same meal every night of the week!
Here are a few tips for seamless meal prep:
Batch Cook Whole Grains
Pick a universal grain that will work in multiple dishes. This could be a large batch of quinoa, brown rice, whole wheat pasta, or farro. Grains harmonize well with any combination of protein and vegetable making them perfect to cook in bulk.
Choose 2-3 Proteins
Pick 2-3 lean proteins (try one plant-based!) to cook in the oven, on the stove, or grill. This could be as simple as throwing a few chicken breasts into the oven or boiling a bag of dried beans. Don’t add a ton of seasoning at this point so you can transform the same protein into a new flavor every night.
Cut Up Vegetables
Vegetables are best enjoyed when they are freshly cooked, but that doesn’t mean you can’t prepare them! Slice, dice, and chop your go-to vegetables to make it easy to throw them in a pan when you are ready to make a meal. This also makes it accessible if you choose to have a veggie snack or raw salad.
Plan The Extras
Plain grains, protein, and vegetables don’t make for an exciting meal. The “extras” are what prevents you from eating identical food for the next 5 nights. Think about what spices, sauces, or toppings could make your base food exciting. Do you like Mexican meals? Put your pre-cooked food into a tortilla and top with salsa and Greek yogurt. Want an Asian inspired dish? Add soy sauce and a dash of ginger! The possibilities are endless!
This whole process could be done in under an hour. Put your grains into boiling water on the stove, add your protein to a sheet pan into the oven, and slice up your veggies as it all cooks. Put everything in individual containers and store them in the fridge for obvious access. Simple as that and you’re ready to conquer the week!