I love looking at meal prep ideas and inspiration on Pinterest, but I’ve found that most of the recipes out there aren’t very practical. Too many ingredients, too much storage required, too time-consuming – all for a week of lunches! So, I’m sharing my own practical meal prep tips. Practical doesn’t have to mean boring!
Today, I want to share the things I do to plan dinners for the week, prep and pack my lunches and breakfasts and make grocery shopping a painless experience. (As painless as possible, anyway.)
1 – Pick a few recipes you can always choose from.
Instead of trying for variety, I recommend sticking with a few recipes that you know you like and can easily whip up for your breakfasts and lunches. I experiment a little more on dinner, but even so, I like to keep it simple unless I’m cooking for a crowd or a special occasion.
For breakfast, I always make some variation of an egg muffin. These are easy (10 eggs, any sort of fillings, mixed and baked at 350 degrees for 18-20 minutes!) to make. For lunches, I stick with leftovers of some of my favorite go-to dinners, like roasted chicken and vegetables (whatever is in season!); chili mac; and stuffed peppers.
2 – Always have backup dinners and lunches ready.
Best laid plans, right? I always recommend having backup dinners and lunches in your fridge or freezer, so you resist the urge to eat out when you had planned to eat at home. (I love eating out, and we definitely make room for eating out in our budgets, but sometimes… it just takes so much time!)
So, when you forgot to dethaw your chicken or you got home later than you wanted, have something quick that you can whip up. Trader Joe’s is my favorite for this – I love their orange chicken and various frozen bags of pasta. Perfect quick dinners! And for lunch, keep freezer meals or easy salad ingredients in your fridge. I love Healthy Choice Steamers and Blake’s chicken pot pies.
3 – Keep the ingredients for your favorites in stock at all time.
The definition of practical meal prep: Buy the ingredients for your favorite meals in bulk! I always keep pasta, mozzarella, pesto, pasta sauce and more in the pantry and fridge, because they are staples in most of my recipes. I never buy one box of pasta at the store, especially if they’re on sale.
Think about your favorite recipes and keep a list of those staples. Whether you grocery shop online or in the store, you’ll eventually get used to always grabbing those items.
4 – Always have leftovers.
I always, always, always recommend cooking in big batches, especially over the weekends! Having a trustworthy crockpot is invaluable for this.
In the winter, I love to do big pots of soup or chili, which make great dinners for a full week. In warmer months, we have a few go-to pasta dishes, and of course, the perennial stuffed peppers.
If you plan ahead and have enough leftovers, you can usually get through a full week