Meal Prepping Tips that Will Bring More Joy (and Less Sad Desk Lunches)
A few healthy meal prep ideas and tips that won’t leave you looking at your lunch with sadness and won’t keep you in the kitchen for hours.
We’re always looking to do better. Whether it’s learning and iterating on products like our POP Containers or finding a fool-proof technique for making cauliflower pizza crust, we like to look for new solutions.
We’ve talked a lot about meal prepping, especially around the start of the new year. There are obvious reasons to meal prep: you save money, it’s typically healthier, and it keeps you prepared for the week. But, we’ve come to realize there are some downsides, and mainly it’s eating the same thing over and over and over again.
In the middle of a workday, there’s nothing quite as sad as opening up a lunch that doesn’t excite you. So, this year we wanted to put an end to that sadness and make meal prep better.
While in the past meal prepping meant filling rows and rows of food storage containers with the same dish, this year we’re approaching meal prep a bit differently. We still want it to be healthy and easy, but also exciting! And tasty! And keep you on your toes! And most of all, not feel like a chore.
So here is how we’re looking at meal prep:
Don’t make such a big batch!
Sure, stocking your freezer with a few go-to meals is nice and we support that, but don’t fall for just doubling and tripling a whole recipe. Be strategic about the types of ingredients you’re making big batches of. Will you want to eat the same stew for 5 days in a row? Probably not. Our rule is to make enough for two meals for everyone in your household. So that can be a dinner and lunch the next day or two dinners in a row. After the second time you’ve had the dish, you’re done. You don’t have to eat it again!
Stock the staples (and nothing else)
We like to keep a few things on hand at all times that way you can always make a filling, healthy meal. But really, it’s just a few because we don’t want this to be overwhelming. We want it to be easy:
- Canned chickpeas
- Canned beans (pinto or black)
- Canned crushed tomatoes
Supplement with Vegetables
Each week, go to the grocery store and load the cart with fresh vegetables. To make things even easier, just buy what’s in season. For winter, here’s what we’re grabbing:
- Winter squash – butternut, delicata, acorn
- Brussels sprouts
And Supplement with Protein
We also buy a protein at the beginning of the week. You can have your pick, but really stick to one or two, or else the fridge (and your mental space) will get crowded:
- Ground beef or turkey
Try poaching your protein for a quick, tasty results.
Cook a Little Bit Each Night
The benefit of traditional meal prepping is you’re doing everything all at once – that might be 2, 3, 4 hours of work – and then the rest of the week you’re just reheating. While that process might seem tempting, our method is doing a tiny bit of work each night. That work might be roasting the vegetables, hardboiling an egg and washing the kale. Or cooking quinoa, sauteing vegetables and shrimp. That’s it. No more than 30 minutes. But the food will taste fresher, homier, and not like an unrecognizable mush.
The fun part
You might be thinking this all sounds so bland and boring. Here is where it gets good: Each night experiment by adding additional spices, fresh herbs, dressings and sauces. For example, adding this Lemon-Tahini Dressing will turn a basic chicken breast, quinoa, kale bowl into something packed with flavor. Bonus that the dressing lasts in the fridge for up to one week, so you can cycle through a few different dishes throughout the week. No. more. sadness.
Don’t be hard on yourself
There can be pressure to have beautiful dinners every night or a fridge stocked with meals ready to go, but that’s not easy and it’s tiring. Do what you have time for and makes you excited to eat.
These are just some ideas to get you started with eating healthy, and still thinking ahead and meal prepping. Feel free to deviate. Maybe introduce one new item a week, but only if you want.
Looking to also simplify breakfasts? Try these healthy overnight oat recipes to make mornings a little easier too. What tips do you have for making balanced meals? Tell us in the comments below.