How to Meal Prep for a Week in One Afternoon
Taking an afternoon to make meal preparations for the upcoming week can save you a lot of time and help you make healthier eating choices. By setting aside a few hours on Sunday, you will be able to enjoy fresh and balanced meals any day of the week.
There are a few things you should do before you start prepping meals. The first is making sure you have a well-stocked pantry full of oils and seasonings that can easily spice up any basic ingredients to make a quick dinner. Keep items such as olive oil, soy sauce or tamari, your favorite hot sauce, grains (such as quinoa, farro and rice), whole wheat pasta, canned tomatoes, vinegars (balsamic, apple cider, rice, and red-wine are all great choices), nut butters, garlic, onions, citrus fruit, canned beans, and salt & pepper. Having most or all of these items on hand will allow you to quickly make a salad dressing or throw together a grain dish with the fresh fruits and vegetables you have on hand.
Another important thing to have if you plan on doing meal prep is a good set of containers. Make sure they seal well (to avoid spillage during transport to work) and are able to be used in the microwave if you plan on reheating your meals. We like glass containers, as most of them can be put into the oven, microwave, and dishwasher, plus they tend to not pick up stains or odors from food.
Making a meal plan for the week before you go to the grocery store is a great way to avoid over-buying or having to make multiple trips to the store throughout the week. Make a detailed list of what you need for each meal and stick to that list, this will keep you on budget and on track at the grocery store.
If you have your pantry well stocked, your containers ready to go, and your plan is written down, you’re almost ready to start meal prepping. The next step is grocery shopping. When grocery shopping, stick to the perimeter of the store, where they typically put fruits, vegetables, meat, and dairy products. That means avoiding the aisles upon aisles of processed food as much as possible.
Remember to stick to your list and meal plan so you stay on budget and do not end up with food you do not need or won’t use during the week. It is a good idea not to go grocery shopping when you are hungry, as this will tempt you to purchase snacks.
In general, Sunday afternoon is the best day to meal prep for the week so you will not be too rushed. Doing some prep work on the weekend will make after-school or work meals easier and it will be less tempting to reach for the phone to place an order for delivery. A good way to do it if you do not want to prep for the whole week at once is to prep on Sunday for Monday through Wednesday and on Wednesday night, you can do another prep session for Thursday and Friday.
Some of the staples you should prepare every week are grains, roasted vegetables, chopped hearty greens, chopped vegetables, hummus, and grab-and-go breakfasts.
Making a large pot of grains (think quinoa, farro, or brown rice) sets you up for meals all through the week. You can easily add them to a salad for lunch, use them as a base for a curry dish, or add them to a vegetable stir-fry.
Roasting vegetables is a great way to easily prepare a lot of vegetables without a lot of effort while still getting tons of flavor. You can dice sweet potatoes, carrots, and broccoli to be added to a grain bowl or a salad. Simply toss cut vegetables with olive, salt, and pepper. Wrap beets in tin foil and roast them for a delicious salad topping or a great snack when sprinkled with salt.
You can chop hearty greens, such as kale, in the beginning of the week to add to soups or as a base for salads. They are sturdy enough to keep in the refrigerator for a few days, even after being chopped.
Chopped vegetables make a great snack when you are craving something crunchy. Carrots, celery, bell peppers, and cucumbers are all great choices and if you have them prepped in your refrigerator you are more likely to reach for them than the salty snack hiding in the back of your pantry.
You’ll likely want something to go with all those freshly chopped vegetables, hummus is an easy and quick accompaniment. All you need is a can of chickpeas, some tahini, lemon juice, and the spices or flavors you want to add. You can use any flavors you want to customize your hummus and switch it up.
Overnight oats and healthy breakfast cookies are perfect for getting you out of the door in the morning. You can mix up a big batch of overnight oats on Sunday, portioning them into individual jars and putting them in the refrigerator. If you need something that you can eat on the go, breakfast cookies are a great option, you can add oats, fruit, nuts, and seeds to keep you full. Just make sure you are not filling them with sugary ingredients, such as sweetened dried fruit or chocolate. Another bonus of breakfast cookies, you can make a large batch and freeze them in individual servings so they last longer.
Soups make a great lunch, but sometimes eating the same soup for five meals gets a little repetitive. When you make a large pot of soup, freeze a few portions so when you need to switch up your meals or really don’t have time to throw a meal together you can simply take a portion from the freezer and warm it up in a pot on the stove.
Prepping for your weekday meals is a great way to make sure you are able to enjoy healthy meals all week. Even if you do not have a whole afternoon to prepare all of these ingredients, taking the time to do just a few will save you time later in the week. Sometimes all it takes choose a healthy, homemade meal instead of take-out is having the prep work done ahead of time.