When it comes to meal-prepping hacks, if it isn’t quick, easy and simple, it’s not for me. My goal is to be in and out of the kitchen with speed and efficiency so I have more time to pursue the activities I love.
Here are my best tips and favorite recipes to make weekly meal prepping efficient and delicious.
The Right Stuff
10 must-have kitchen tools that make meal prepping a breeze:
- Large frying pan
- Medium sauté pan
- Baking sheet and parchment paper
- Muffin tin and cup liners
- Vegetable spiralizer
- Glass or BPA-free meal storage containers’
- Roasting pan
- Rice cooker
Meal prep time is a breeze when you plan ahead. Keep it simple. Make a list of 3 meals you want to have at your fingertips. Typical on-the-go meals are breakfast and lunch. After a long day in the office, dinner already done is also a blessing.
Choose organic produce as often as possible, healthy proteins, and easy-to-prep complex carb sources (think rice, quinoa and potatoes). I’m also a big fan of low-sodium organic seasonings as an easy way to rev up the flavor of a variety of foods. Flavor Gods (www.flavorgods.com) and RA Seasonings (www.raseasonings.com) are among my current faves.
Plan to spend 2-3 hours, tops, in the kitchen if you’re preparing meals for 3-4 days at a time. If you’re cooking for the full week, plan meals that can be frozen and reheated (grilled chicken, veggies and rice, for example).
On one counter, line up your meal storage containers. I recommend divided containers in order to separate the proteins, veggies and carbs for better and safer storage. On another counter, lay out washed, chopped, and marinated ingredients. Lastly, arrange the pots, pans, cooking utensils you’ll need for the job.
Start with the proteins. Grill, roast, bake, or pan sauté proteins first. Getting this out of the way clears the clutter for Step 2. Refrigerate the cooked proteins as they wait their turn in the assembly line.
Steam, grill, sauté, or roast your vegetables and cook grains or pastas.
Roasted veggies are a no-brainer. Sprinkle with your favorite seasonings and toss with a tablespoon of avocado oil or olive oil. Pop in the oven at 375 degrees until tender, but not mushy. This is a great way to get all of your veggies done at once without messing up a bunch of pans.
Simultaneously, get a batch of brown rice, quinoa or pasta started in your rice cooker or on the stovetop.
Arrange the prepped food assembly line style and fill your containers. If you are planning for some of your meals to be around for the entire week, store 3-4 days’ worth in the fridge and freeze the rest.
Here are some of my favorite easy-to-assemble recipes.
Most Eggs-cellent Cups
What’s cool about these babies is you can swap out the add-ins for any veggie combo you prefer. Just keep the base ham-and-egg intact and enjoy.
- Thin-sliced, lower-sodium ham
- Asparagus tips and cherry tomatoes, chopped
- Sea salt and ground black pepper
- Chopped herbs of choice, such as scallions, basil, oregano, cilantro
- Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
- Coat standard-sized muffin pan with avocado oil
- Line each cup with 1 slice ham
- Break whole egg into each cup
- Top with asparagus, tomatoes and herbs of choice
- Sprinkle with salt and pepper to taste.
- Bake for 18-20 minutes, or until egg whites are set
- For food prep, cover tightly and store refrigerated up to 3 days
Avocado Baked Eggs
Jonesing for healthy protein and fats? Look no further than this extremely easy combo. Top with fresh salsa for an added kick. This one makes for a great mid-morning or late-afternoon snack option.
- 1 Avocado
- 2 whole eggs
- ½ lemon, squeezed
- Sea salt and pepper
- Chopped scallions
- Fresh salsa (optional)
- Preheat the oven to 425°F.
- Cut avocado in half and gently spoon out a portion of the fruit, leaving ~1/2-inch of avocado lining the inside of the peel.
- Place avocado halves onto a parchment- or foil-lined baking sheet. Another option is to place the avocado half into a ceramic baking ramekin coated with oil.
- Break an egg into each avocado half. If the whites spill over, just clean the sides.
- Sprinkle with lemon juice, salt, and pepper.
- Bake for 10 minutes or until the yolks set.
- Top with chopped scallions to serve
- (Optional) Top each avocado with 1 tablespoon fresh salsa
Crockpot Asian Chicken
Nothing’s easier than putting it in a crockpot and forgetting about it for a few hours. This is a staple in my fridge and super healthy when paired with rice or served as lettuce wraps.
- 3 large bone-in, skinless chicken breasts (2 ½ – 3 pounds total)
- ½ cup honey
- Coconut aminos, ½ cup
- ¼ cup blackberry jam
- Hoisin sauce, ¼ cup
- 1 tablespoon avocado oil
- 3 cloves garlic, minced
- ½ cup diced onion
- ¼ teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
- 1 tablespoon cornstarch
- Scallions, sliced for garnish
- Sesame seeds for garnish
- Arrange chicken breasts in bottom of crockpot
- In medium bowl, whisk together honey, coconut aminos, blackberry jam, hoisin sauce, avocado oil, garlic, onion and red pepper flakes. Pour over chicken. Cover and cook on low for 4-5 hours or until the chicken is fully cooked.
- Remove chicken from crockpot, saving the liquids. On a cutting board, use two forks to shred the chicken. Place shredded chicken into a large bowl and set aside.
- In a small bowl, whisk cornstarch and 3 tablespoons cold water to make a slurry.
- Transfer the liquids from the crockpot into a saucepan on medium-high. Heat and whisk in the cornstarch slurry. Bring the sauce to a boil and cook until it reduces and has thickened. Pour over the chicken, tossing to combine.
- Serve topped with sliced scallions and sesame seeds
Mason Jar Salads
These carry-along salads could not be easier. The trick is in the layering to ensure you don’t end up with a soggy mess.
- Dressing goes first. As an option, carry the dressing in a small, separate container so as not to risk a soggy salad.
- Next, add layers of your favorite salad toppings, starting the with bulkier items first, such as beans and diced chicken.
- Layer on additional toppings, such as diced bell peppers, diced tomatoes, broccoli florets, carrots, sunflower seeds, etc.
- Finally top off the jar with leaf lettuce, spinach, chopped kale or your favorite greens.
- Cover and chill.
- Simply dump the salad out of the jar onto a plate or salad bowl when ready to eat.
There’s a very cool recipe book that I recommend called Mason Jar Salads and More: 50 Layered Lunches to Grab and Go by Julia Mirabella that has some amazing ideas (https://www.amazon.com/Mason-Jar-Salads-More-Layered/dp/1612432891).