I’m a big fan of the phrase “set yourself up for success”, and meal prep is one of those self-care habits that really can make or break a busy week.
Benefits of meal prepping
Meal prepping is a way to have a plan in place for the week. It also encourages you to take stock of what you have on hand to help you reduce your food waste by using up items that you already have.
Food waste aside, these easy meal prep ideas will save you time later and help you eat healthier, so you feel great all week. Meal prep does not need to be a daunting task, either. These 5 easy meal prep necessities are meant to help you with the week-to-week routine – a few simple things that can be accomplished in 1 hour or less.
Choosing just two or three of these meal prep necessities at a time can make a difference! These ideas are customizable and can easily be modified based on what you have on hand at home.
5 easy meal prep ideas
1. Meal Prep Salad
Start with 1-2 whole heads or bunches of whatever looks good at the grocery store – napa cabbage, romaine lettuce, red leaf or green leaf lettuce, kale…you name it!
Use a salad spinner (such as this Oxo) to clean whatever greens you chose. Once clean, use the salad spinner (minus the strainer) to build your salad and ultimately use to store in the fridge.
Chop your favorite salad-topping veggies – this is a good time to check out your vegetable drawer and use up some things that you have. Some great vegetables to choose for meal prep salads include bell peppers, radishes, shredded carrots, slivered red onion, and grape tomatoes.
A basic meal prep salad like this is a great base to build on. Top with a packet of tuna, smoked salmon, hard boiled eggs, cheese, and/or nuts, and pair it with your dressing of choice and you have a delicious healthy dish!
2. Hard boiled eggs
9 minutes in some simmering water, followed by a dunk in an ice bath, and you have yourself the start to a simple breakfast, a protein-packed snack, or a salad topper. Store them in the fridge still in their shell for up to 5 days until you are ready to enjoy. Some ideas on how to use meal prep hard boiled eggs:
- Cut in half, sprinkle with every-thing bagel seasoning. Pair with whole fruit, and you have a small breakfast
- By themselves with a drizzle of sriracha or your favorite hot sauce for a protein packed snack
- Sliced on top of avocado toast for a small lunch or breakfast
- Mix with mayo and seasonings for a dreamy egg salad (KFN)
- Slice and throw on top of your meal prep salad
A This Green Bean favorite!
Protein packed, good source of healthy carbohydrates and fiber – beans top the list for versatile, prep-ahead foods. Bonus – beans also happen to be smart economically speaking as well. Healthy, delicious, and cheap – what else could you ask for? Whether you opt for canned beans or dry beans, either option is a winner!
Hot tip: If you are in to heirloom produce or unique foods – take a visit to Rancho Gordo and be prepared to develop a bean obsession!
Plain beans out of the can or a simple batch of cooked pot beans can be fine additions to salads or grain bowls. If you want to go a step further to develop more flavor, try marinating, adding in some seasonings, or mashing for more variety.
Turn a simple bean into a fancy side dish or a more palatable addition to your meal, check out some of the following recipes:
- Hummus (KFN) – Use as a dip for raw veggies, add to a salad, or use as a spread on toast or a sandwich.
- Lentil Salad (Rancho Gordo) – a great starter recipe if you have never had green lentils before.
- Marinated Royal Coronas (Rancho Gordo) – this recipe is fantastic, and can be used with any of your favorite white beans – great northerns, navy, cassoulet, or royal coronas are all great beans for this.
4. Steel cut oatmeal
For those that need a hearty breakfast, steel cut oats are a fantastic option to prep ahead! Try this recipe by Cookie & Kate: Perfect Steel Cut Oats. Double the recipe and portion out into individual containers. Makes for an easy to grab breakfast for the whole family.
Add your toppers right away, or later when about to enjoy.
Favorite Oatmeal toppers:
- Sliced banana + walnuts + Honey
- Date Syrup (or Maple Syrup) + Pecans
- Raspberries + Sliced almonds
- Dark chocolate chips + Sliced banana
- Dried cherries + Sliced Almonds
- Cinnamon + Brown Sugar + Apple slices
- Blueberries + Sliced Almonds + Coconut
5. Cooked Whole Grains
A simple meal prep item such as a batch of cooked whole grains can have countless uses throughout the week. Make up 4-8 servings and keep in your refrigerator for easy to grab whole grains all week.
This can be a great opportunity to try some new grains! Don’t just limit yourself to rice. Try these other fantastic whole grain options:
- Wild Rice
- Whole wheat pasta
Try these whole grain recipes to help you use up your whole grains:
- Salad topper
- Grain bowls
- Grain salad (try this Farro & Kale Grain Salad – KFN)
- Throw into soups