My Meal Prep Guide
Over the past few months, I have seen so many food bloggers post about how cost and time efficient meal prepping is. But, not going to lie, during the busy school year, I felt that carving out a few hours on a Sunday to prep veggies just couldn't save me that much time during the school week. However, because I have a bit more free time this summer (and I’m no also longer able to simply grab my lunch in the cafeteria), I decided to give prepping my meals for the week a shot.
Essentially, meal prepping is just pre-cooking a bunch of veggies and other foods that can be incorporated in your meals throughout the week. Yes this big, weekly cooking sesh may take a few hours, but I discovered that it is so much less time consuming (and honestly just more realistic) than individually making each meal throughout your week. Plus, knowing that I have a fridge full of pre-made food has encouraged me to not eat out as much, especially when I'm just getting take-out for myself. And, if this isn't already evident, it makes eating healthy so much easier. So, whether you are trying to save money by not eating out as much or you are simply trying to expedite the amount of time it takes you to cook a meal during the busy workweek, I hope that these meal prep ideas will make healthy eating a little easier.
Probably the most important (and often skipped) part of preparing meals for a week is planning. Before you even turn on an oven, ask yourself a few questions:
- About how many times will I be eating at home this week?
- What are some foods that I already have in my pantry that need to be cooked?
- How many people will I be cooking for?
- What foods are available seasonally? (These will often be less expensive.)
- What are some food items that can be used in a versatile way? (Example: good as side dishes, bowl toppers, breakfast dishes etc.)
Once you have that assessed your needs for the week, you are then ready to start figuring out your dishes and writing your grocery list.
The Meal Prep Formula
In order to ensure that we were covering all our bases for meal prepping, my friend Caroline and I did a bit of research as far as what to make in preparing a week of meals. Basically, we determined that there was a general formula of components that can be varied from week to week.
- Main Protein: smoked/roasted salmon, other fish, chicken, veggie burger patty, tofu, tempeh
- Veggies: brocolli, mushrooms, spinach, peppers, roasted carrots, brussels sprouts, cauliflower, sweet potatoes, roasted tomato, etc.
- Grain/Bowl Base: quinoa, rice, farro, pasta, zucchini noodles, cauliflower rice
- Snacks/Dips: very versitile; we made avocado hummus, crunchy chickpeas, and chia jam
- Dressing/ sauce (optional): cashew based dressings (although they only last up to 3 days), vinegrettes, tomato sauce, pesto sauce
So, using those guidelines, my friend Caroline and I pre-made beet burger patties (pictured below), brussels sprouts, roasted sweet potatoes, sauteed mushrooms, quinoa, avocado hummus, crunchy chickpeas, chia jam, and a spicy cashew ranch. So, here are the recipes for each item during this go-around along with my tips and suggested amounts to make!
Total Time: 1 hour (20 min prep; 30 minutes refridgerate; 10 minutes cook)
Veggie burgers are a great thing to add to your list of meals to prep as they are not only delicious in their patty form, but they are also great as salad or bowl toppers. Although these beet burgers were amazing with the ingredients below, you can always sub out the beets for any combo of veggies in order to use up whatever is in your fridge! This recipe, only really requiring a pan and a food processor (or blender), could not be easier or more versatile. Enjoy!
- Red onion (about half, diced)
- 2 gloves garlic
- 2 cups cut beets
- 1 cup cooked quinoa
- 1 small mashed avocado
- 1 cup black beans
- 1/2 cup lentils (or just use 1/2 cup more of black beans)
- 1/2 cup ground oats
- oil for cooking
- 3 teaspoons of spices (I used oregano, crushed red pepper, Tony's, pepper, cumin, and paprika)
- Cook the beets in a large pan over medium heat and slowly add in the chopped onion. Add salt throughout this process and cook until the beets are soft.
- In that same pan, add in the beans and the lentils. Cook for a couple more minutes until the onions are clear.
- Let the vegetables in the pan cool for a couple of minutes and then add it to a food processor (or blender) along with all of the other ingredients and spices.
- Mix all of the ingredients together in the food processor for a few minutes until the mixture is well combined but still thick. Be careful not to over-mix the ingredients into a "hummus-like" texture because the patties will not stay together as well.
- Once the mixture is the desired texture, form it into small balls and set it in the fridge for at least 30 minutes. If the mixture is too thin, stick it in the fridge for 30 minutes then form the balls afterwards. If it is too thick, blend it some more or add some more oil to the mixture. The mixture can be left in your fridge, ready to cook, for several days.
- After the patties have been set in the fridge for at least 30 minutes, they should hold together well enough to put them on the stove. Oil a pan over medium heat (it can even be the same on that you cooked the beets on before) and place the patty on it, flipping after a couple of minutes. Continue cooking until both sides are slightly charred.
Total Time: 35 min (Soak time: 30 min; Cook Time: 5 min)
Inspired by Lee From America's spicy cashew sauce, this ranch is great for veggie dipping or drizzling over salads or bowls. The cayenne gives it a bit of a kick, but it can easily be made less spicy by adding other dried herbs instead. It will begin to thicken over time and may only last for 3-4 days so you may need to remake midweek.
- 1/2 cup cashews (raw and unsalted)
- 1/2 cup water
- 1/4 cup olive oil
- 1 glove garlic
- lemon juice from half a lemon
- about 3/4 tsp of seasoning and spices: salt + cayenne and/or herbs (depending on how spicy you want it)
- Soak the cashews in boiling water for about half an hour (optional but makes it easier to blend and gives sauce better consistency).
- In a blender, blend all ingredients until creamy.
Cook Time: 5 min
Oh man, this recipe is the easiest, tastiest thing ever and will for sure be my "go to" summer dip. Perfect dish to whip up for any summer gathering as well! As far meal prep goes, it will only be fresh for about 3-4 days so you may have to make up another batch mid-week. (But it only takes around 5 minutes to make!) Don’t worry if it starts browning within the first couple of days, it will still taste the same.
- 1 large avocado
- 1 can of chickpeas
- 1-2 tsp olive/avocado oil
- seasoning (crushed red pepper, Tony's, paprika, salt; to taste)
1.) Mix all the ingredients in a food processor or blender until smooth. Stir around a few times and remix if needed. Enjoy with carrots and pita or as a topper for a veggie bowl!!
Cook time: 35 min (Prep time: 5 min, Cook time: ~30 min)
Inspired by That Vegan Swimmer's recipe, these crunchy chickpeas are seriously addictive. Though it sounds so weird, the almond butter actually gives these babies the perfect coating for them to get as crispy as you'd like. Hope you enjoy this healthy summer snack & salad topper! I'd recommend doubling this recipe if you are a snacker because just one batch of these chickpeas will be gone in the blink of an eye once you try them. :)
- 1 can chickpeas
- 1 tbs almond butter
- 2 tsp spices (paprika, black pepper, and Italian seasoning)
- Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.
- Ensure that the canned chickpeas are as dry as possible after being washed.
- Place the almond butter and chickpeas into a bowl and use your hands to coat the chickpeas evenly with the almond butter.
- Add the spices to the mixture ensuring each chickpea is evenly spiced.
- Place the coated chickpeas on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper and place in the oven for 20-30 minutes until the chickpeas reach your desired level of crunchiness. About midway through, the cooking process, roll the chickpeas around on the tray with a spoon so that they will be evenly cooked.
I am officially never buying store-bought jam again. This recipe makes the thickest naturally sweet jam ever with absolutely no preservatives. It is the perfect this to put on top of toast, yogurt, or oatmeal. Although it won’t last more than a week because it does not contain preservatives, a small batch such as the one below will most definitely be gone by then. Hope this jam improves your PB&J game!
Total time 10 min (Cook time: 5 min, Cooling time: 5 min)
- 2 cups chopped, fresh fruit (the one pictured is strawberries and blackberries)
- 2 tbs chia seeds
- Dash of honey or maple
- Place the berries in a small pot, heated on the burner over medium heat.
- Continue to stir the berries in the pot until they become a soft, jam-like texture.
- Once the berries are a desired texture, turn off the burner and slowly pour in the chia seeds, stirring them in as you add.
- Add honey/maple if desired and stir.
- Let the mixture sit about 5 minutes so that the chia seeds can thicken the mixture. After this, you are ready to spread it on toast or set it in the fridge for later!
Roasted/sauteed veggies often aren't as self-explanatory as one would think. So here's the basics for how we cooked these - they turned out great!
- lice about 4-5 shiitake mushroom caps (or more if you really like mushrooms)
- Warm a skillet over medium heat and drizzle with avocado oil. Add the mushrooms.
- Season with salt, black pepper, and some herbs, stirring occasionally until the mushrooms are slightly limp.
- Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
- Warm a washed sweet potato in the microwave for about 1 minute so that it is a little softer.
- Cut the sweet potato into either spears or cubes. (I usually just leave the skin on.)
- Put the potatoes in a bowl and coat them in a little avocado oil, Tony's seasoning, salt, pepper, crushed red pepper, and oregano.
- Set them in the oven on a baking sheet. Cook for 20-30 minutes in the oven until they are as crispy as you'd like them. Flip them midway through.
- Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
- Cut brussels sprouts in half and put them on baking sheet. Drizzle with salt, pepper, and avocado oil.
- Cook the brussels sprouts for around 20-30 minutes until they are soft and as crispy as you'd like them.
After prepping all of this food, the next question is: so what can I do with all of it? Now, this is where the fun comes in. I'll admit, if you just eat the same bowl or the same veggie plate all week, this whole meal prep thing could get a little boring. But, if you get a little creative with it throughout the week, maybe supplementing the prepped food with some other ingredients, it can be the best thing ever. Here are some combos that can be made with the components that I prepped:
- Beet Tacos: beet burger patty (crumbled) + shiitake mushrooms + avo hummus on a taco shell or lettuce wrap drizzled with cashew sauce
- The Everything Bowl: sweet potatoes + mushrooms + brussels sprouts + avo hummus + chickpeas + beet burger or other protein over a bed of quinoa drizzled with cashew sauce
- The Ultimate Breakfast: plain greek yogurt + chia jam + granola (optional) and sweet potatoes + sunnyside up egg on top
- Toast Snack: 2 pieces of toast:
- 1 toast + chia jam + almond butter + sliced banana (optional)
- 1 toast + avocado hummus + shiitake mushrooms + sprouts or spinach
- Pizza Night: pizza crust (Simple Mills makes a good GF one) + any sauce + cheese (honestly optional if you put enough veggies on it) topped with brussels sprouts + sweet potato + shiitake mushrooms + drizzled with cashew sauce
- Wrap/Burrito: tortilla + avo hummus + sweet potatoes + beet burger patty + cheese (optional) + cashew sauce + spinach (for wrap) or quinoa (for burrito); warm folded wrap/burrito on stove top for a few minutes
- Salad: spinach/kale + chickpeas + beet patty (crumbled) + avocado hummus + drizzled cashew sauce
- Classic Burger: bun (Little Northern Bakehouse makes a great GF bun) + beet burger + cashew sauce + skiitake mushrooms + tomato + spinach
- Appetizer: crunchy chickpeas and avo hummus + carrots + pita bread
So, as you can tell, there are a ton of easy things you can do with these meal prepped ingredients - no need to be an experienced chef. Feel free to experiment and throw together dishes based on what you have in your kitchen as there are so many ways to eat these simple prepped foods.
I hope this post gives you a good place to start if you are thinking about adding a once a week meal prep to your schedule. I’m sure it will make your weeknights and packed lunches much easier when you have most of the meals already prepared. I'll try to put my meal preps on my Instagram story each week if you need more ideas. Enjoy!