Meal prep doesn't have to be time consuming! Learn about my foolproof method for easy meal prep and planning to save time, money and stress.
Meal Prepping for the Week
As a full-time blogger, food photographer and entrepreneur, I'm never really off the clock. Something always needs to be done and I'm often working from sunrise to sunset. I couldn't get half the things on my to-do list accomplished without proper sleep, nutritionally dense meals and a little bit of movement each day. As a fellow busy person, you can probably relate to the rat race and recognize that a healthy lifestyle plays a huge part in your success.
Meal planning is a lifesaver when it comes to living a healthy (but busy life). When you meal prep for the week ahead, you'll be saving time, money and stress so you can focus on work or everyday life. I've found that prepping breakfast and lunch for the work week ahead of time in bulk saves me a ton of time. But don't think that you have to spend a few hours or a whole day in the kitchen. My simple recipes will help you cook delicious food you love and get it all whipped up in a hurry (check out my Clean Eating Meal Prep Recipes or my entire recipe archive to start!)
Benefits of Meal Prepping
Meal Prep Saves Money
You don't need to worry about spending all your money on takeout or stopping after work to grab something when you've got freezer meals or prepped food at home. The average cost per meal is SO MUCH CHEAPER because you're making your meals in bulk and you're repurposing different ingredients for multiple recipes.
Meal Prep Reduces Food Waste
This is a big one for me. When I was first learning to cook, I just kind of bought groceries on a whim and a lot of my produce would go bad or I'd forget about meat in the freezer. I think one of the best parts of meal prep and planning is being able to have a dual purpose for ingredients. Learning to make meals that use the same ingredients for multiple recipes helps you cut down on food waste because you know exactly what's in the fridge and how it's going to be used.
Meal Prep Saves You Time
Saving time is sometimes just as important as saving money! I know I honestly can't take time out of my busy day to make a big meal or even a sandwich. It's go-go-go, and whether you're working from home, out of an office or even on the road, life is so much easier when you've already got a packed lunch. What's even better is when your lunches for the week took just 45 minutes to make on a Sunday or on a weeknight after work. Making your meals in bulk is such a time saver and will keep you feeling satisfied and energized so you can focus on doing what you do best: kicking ass at work!
Meal Planning Reduces Stress
I know when I first started working and wasn't able to eat at home, I was really stressed out thinking about having to go grocery shopping and making meals. The last thing I wanted to do after a long day was to come home and make a ton of food. I also wasn't making enough money to justify buying any meals out, so I had to rely on home cooked meals. Trust me when I say from experience that having all your breakfasts and lunches ready at the beginning of the week is a life saver and allows you to free up mental space and energy during the week so that you can focus on getting things done. No last minute scrambles to get dinner on the table either.
Meal Prep Breakfast:
I usually have the same thing for breakfast almost every week (usually a make-ahead egg white crustless quiche), and it's something that I prepare in advance because I HATE cooking in the morning. Given my love-hate relationship with breakfast, I like to have it made in advance or least have it be something that's super easy to throw together in 5 minutes. Here are a few of my favourite breakfast ideas:
- Instant oatmeal with berries or chopped up apples and cinnamon
- Freezer-friendly breakfast taquitos
- Whole-wheat English muffin with peanut butter and sliced banana
- Make-ahead mini breakfast pizzas
- Scrambled (or hard-boiled) eggs with cheese and spinach
- Overnight Oats Jars
- Freezer-friendly protein pancakes
- Make ahead egg white crustless quiche with mixed veggies (usually spinach and red pepper)
- Granola yogurt parfait
Meal Prep Lunch
When it comes to lunches, I definitely have a few main go-tos but I also really like to switch it up and try new things. I'll often create my lunches in bulk at the beginning of the week in the form of meal prep bowls or grab and go mason jars and then count on using dinner leftovers for lunch at least 1-2 days out of the week. Here are a few of my favourite lunches I end up cycling through on a regular basis:
- Instant Noodle Soup Jars
- Some sort of pasta meal prep
- Coconut mango chicken meal prep bowls
- Sweet chili chicken meal prep bowls
- Lettuce wraps with leftover protein from dinner
- Kale & quinoa bowls or salads
- Chickpea salad
- Sheet pan recipes
Meal Prep Dinner
Dinner is another meal of the day that I have a love-hate relationship with. It's my favourite meal of the day, so I have high expectations for it – no salads or sandwiches for me. I need a piping hot bowl of something with a ton of flavour to enjoy while I kick back and relax because it's the one time of day I can really unwind.
But I also want dinner ready quickly, and I don't always have it planned out. When in a rush, freezer meals or something done in the slow cooker is helpful, but I also love 30-minute one pot meals or sheet pan dinners that come together at the last minute with ingredients you already have on hand in the cupboard or fridge. Here are some of my go-to dinner recipes:
- One pot meals, like this healthy hamburger helper
- Slow cooker recipes, like this African peanut stew or lentil dal
- Freezer meals, like this big batch lasagna I store in the freezer in individual squares
- 30-Minute dinners, like this margherita stuffed chicken
- Skillet meals, like this Italian chicken
Meal Prep Snacks
Some people like to plan out their snacks in advance but I'm more a fly-by-the-seat-of-my-pants kinda gal when it comes to snacking. BUT, I will say that the snacks I try to keep on hand in the house are healthy options that I can access in a hurry. I have a high-quality whey protein for after workouts, and I try to have other high-protein, low-calorie snacks around too. Sometimes I'll also make homemade granola bars or energy bites if I'm looking for something a little sweet. Here are my go-tos:
- Hard-boiled eggs
- Energy Bites
- Homemade protein bars
- Protein powder
- Beef jerky (low for a lower-sodium, high-quality version; or you can make your own)
- Veggies & hummus
- Fruits and nut butters (I'm a sucker for apples and peanut butter)
- Homemade green smoothies (no yogurt, just fruit/veggies like spinach, celery, apple, lemon, ginger, etc)
- Nuts like almonds, cashews, walnuts, pumpkin seeds, etc
- Spiced popcorn
- Low-sugar, dairy-free fudgsicles
- Veggie chips
Meal Prep Tips
- Keep it simple. If you just don't think you can plan out three meals a day, that's okay. Try planning dinner for each meal of the week, and make enough so that there are leftovers for lunches all week long. From there, you can keep a good inventory of snacks and simple breakfast ideas until you find recipes you're comfortable with and know you love.
- Use the same ingredients more than once. This is hands down the best way to reduce food waste. Use those carrots for two or three different recipes; and no, you probably don't need to include eggplant in that recipe when you like red peppers or zucchini better, so make ingredient swaps work for you where you can. Buy fresh ingredients you know you'll use in a variety of recipes.
- Prepare ingredients ahead of time. Know that you're making quinoa bowls later in the week? Make the quinoa or other grains ahead of time, or cook chicken in the oven or boil it to make pulled chicken for later in the work week. It helps to have some components of a recipe prepared ahead of time.
- Keep a well-stocked pantry and spice drawer. This is another huge one for me. I ALWAYS make sure I have a ton of spices on hand so I can just add a little bit here and there, and I also make sure my pantry/fridge is stocked with staples like butter, olive oil, onions, garlic, crushed tomatoes, bouillon cubes, coconut milk, pickles, hot sauce, mustard, vinegars…you name it, I've got it. It makes life so much easier when you go to make a recipe and see you've already got most items on hand.
- Keep a well-stocked freezer. This brings me to my second point: have a ton of meat in your freezer. I personally like to buy in bulk when meat goes on sale, and I have a ton of variety on hand, everything from turkey sausages to ground beef, shrimp and scallops. And of course, a bottomless supply of boneless, skinless chicken breasts. It may be expensive to stock up all at once but if you have all of these items on hand you're less likely to buy food out because you KNOW you have a ton of options to satisfy any cravings you have! And that can be cheaper in the long run!
- Go easy on yourself. Sometimes life happens, and that's okay. Your meal plan is meant to help you stay organized and take a look at your week at a glance, not to rigidly lock you in – there will be some days you just don't want to cook, and that's okay. Being prepared helps get you back on track again the next day though!
Weekly Calendar and Shopping List
Lucky for you, I have a FREE WEEKLY CALENDAR & SHOPPING LIST (along with a bunch of other meal prep resources) for you to download to keep yourself organized – you'll get them when you sign up for my 5-day meal prep challenge!
The one you'll download on Day 3 of the Challenge is the one I use when meal planning and meal prepping each week, and it helps me stick to my routine and stream-lines the planning process.
I like to be able to also see when I'm going out in advance. That way, I can plan my meals around my schedule, and write down what I already have on hand in my fridge and pantry BEFORE I go grocery shopping. It helps to reduce food waste and prevents wasting money spent on buying the same thing twice. This meal calendar is definitely a lifesaver!
My Fave Meal Prep Tools
- Glass meal prep bowls are so great for microwaving and reheating your food safely.
- Mason jars are perfect for salads since they keep lettuce separated from dressings.
- Salad containers are another awesome option for keeping your greens and proteins separated so nothing gets soggy.
- My Rice Cooker saves me so much time in the meal prep process because I can cook my grains ahead of time.
- These Bento box containers are perfect for packing snacks and lunches together!
- Restock your freezer with grass-fed beef and poultry from Butcher Box – and for a limited time get two free ribeyes and bacon!