Busy folks often shy away from meal prepping. They think it’s too much planning or hard work or they don’t want to eat the same meal every day—all valid points. Or for some of us, we just don’t get around to it. Even though we understand that meal prepping saves time, energy and money in the long run, when faced with a hectic schedule, kids, and other balancing acts, meal prep takes the back burner (pun intended).
Fret not! Even for non-planners, there are versatile and easy staples that you can prep ahead of time that will translate to a variety of meals and snacks.
Try the following meal prep hacks for different nutritious meals each day, including vegetarian options for non-meat-eaters, that the whole family will enjoy — even your pickiest eaters.
While it might seem trivial, containers make a difference when it comes to both storing prepped food, as well as your motivation to meal prep. If you’re already burnt out, digging through a messy cabinet for 10 minutes to find the correct lid will make you lose interest in meal prepping very quickly. Get your container game in check before you start cooking or chopping.
Pro Tip: If you don’t already own a set of intact/matching containers, check out this list of the best-selling options on Amazon.
Mass chopping different types of vegetables is the key to nutrient-rich and balanced meals. Wash, cut, and store your family’s preferred vegetables and then use them for meals and snacks. For example, here’s a day’s worth of meals using prepped veggies;
Pro Tip: While chopping might be stress-relieving or a pastime for some, not everyone enjoys it. If you’re not a fan, buy a chopping device or gadget to make your life easier.
The key here is to choose a protein that can be used in multiple dishes, then grill a bunch of it. Go easy on seasoning, as you’ll want to adapt depending on the style of the meal. As a budget bonus—bulk or large packages of meat are often cheaper or discounted at the grocery store.
Use grilled proteins in wraps or sandwiches for lunch, or tossed into a quick pasta dish for dinner. For another dinner option, try made-to-order quesadillas. You’ll just need tortillas, chopped veggies, protein, shredded cheese, and toppings of your choice—great for those picky eaters.
For those who don’t have year-round grill access, you can also bake or pan-cook your meat. The goal is to have cooked proteins that are easy to reheat and repurpose into any type of meal.
Vegetarian Option: Grill or pan roast a batch of mixed veggies to substitute. Use hearty vegetables (think brussel sprouts, squashes, green beans, root veggies, etc.) and cook them slightly al-dente so that they reheat well, no one enjoys mushy vegetables.
The crockpot might be the original meal-prepping tool, your Mom probably used it, and it’s still just as useful today. Crockpot pulled meat can spice up your protein options. Whether it’s chicken, pork, or beef—put in your favorite sauce/ingredients and let it slow roast until you can easily pull it apart with a fork. While barbeque sauces are a classic, as an alternative try buffalo pulled chicken. Simply cover your chicken breasts with hot sauce and add a little butter.
Heat up pulled meats in the office-kitchen and throw on a roll or wrap for a tasty sandwich at lunch. You can also have a make-your-own pizza night with the kiddos! Naan bread works well as a personal-sized crust, sprinkle on your pulled meat as a base, add a few cut up veggies and sprinkle with cheese, bake until cooked through.
Vegetarian Option: Opt for a big batch of slow-cooked beans, this super simple recipe only requires five ingredients!
Rice or ancient grains are an excellent foundation for many meals but take anywhere from 30-50 minutes to make. Luckily, it keeps well in the fridge, so maximize your time and make a big batch that can be available for the week’s meals.
Rice or grains are a nice addition to beef up a cold salad for lunch. For dinners, doctor it up with spices or a sauce for a tasty side dish.
Did you know cold cooked rice actually makes better fried rice Just add your prepped veggies, soy sauce, and an egg for a quick and delish one-pan meal.
Pro Tip: To mix it up your grain options try Farro, it’s high in fiber and packed with protein. Like other types of rice and grains, it can be used in different dishes. It’s nutty flavor makes it especially tasty with olive oil or Mediterranean-inspired ingredients.
Even the best meal preppers still need pre-packaged, easy-to-grab snacks and food. Especially on those mornings you’re running late, items like greek yogurt, bananas, trail mix, and Perfect Bars are necessary to have around.
Pro Tip: Perfect Bars now offer Perfect Kids, child-sized portions that are great as part of breakfast, lunch or an on-the-go snack!
Meal prepping doesn’t need to take up your entire Sunday or be a chore that you dread. Follow the above steps to prepare staple items—you’ll save time, money, and still have a variety of well-balanced meals.
Your future self will thank you when you don’t have to make a frazzled last-minute trip to the grocery store or order takeout, again.