“What’s for dinner?” Having to not only figure out but cook meals for yourself or the whole family every day is an ongoing challenge. That’s where meal prep comes in. The easy meal prep ideas, tips, and recipes below will make your life easier.
Meal prep simplifies your life by concentrating most of your cooking efforts into one day. Just spend some time prepping ingredients in bulk, and making meals is a breeze for the rest of the week.
Below, find easy, healthy meal prep recipes for breakfast, lunch, and dinner.
Tools You Need for Easy Meal Prep
These items will make meal prep easier:
- Zippable plastic food storage bags in different sizes
- Glass food containers (including jars) in different sizes
- Small plastic containers with lids for dips, dressings, and sauces
- Disposable aluminum casserole pans
Breakfast Meal Prep Made Easy
Many people skip breakfast because they don’t have time to eat. If this is you, no more excuses! These three meal prep breakfast ideas make breakfast time fast and easy.
1. Pre-package and freeze smoothie ingredients
Prep ingredients for smoothies in a batch, individually package in a resealable plastic bag or glass container, and freeze. Pull one out to thaw in the fridge overnight for a faster breakfast the next morning.
Get 14 smoothie freezer pack recipes from A Sweet Pea Chef
2. Make breakfast while you sleep (overnight oats)
Overnight oats are having a moment right now because they’re easy, nutritious, and delicious!
- Try these 7 overnight oats recipes from Thriving Home
3. Stash portable breakfast burritos in the freezer
For a fast breakfast you can take on the go, try these protein-packed, freezer-friendly breakfast burritos that need just a minute in the microwave.
- Find the breakfast burritos recipe at The Lunchbox Ladies
Lunch Meal Prep Made Easy
Two in three millennials skip lunch to get ahead at work, a 2019 study1 found. But a little planning and prepping ahead means you can eat a filling, healthy lunch – without leaving your desk.
4. Bring lunch to work in a glass jar
Glass jars are ideal for eating soups, salads, and snacks at your desk. How about making homemade instant noodles? Just add hot water for a delicious treat. (You can eat at your desk if you must, but maybe give yourself a break now and then?)
- Try the homemade cup-of-noodles recipe Sweet Peas and Saffron
5. Leave the lettuce; take the grains
Salads are a healthy option for lunch, but lettuce leaves can go limp and soggy when prepped too far in advance. Instead, use grains and sturdy vegetables as your salad base, and keep dressings on the side until it’s time to eat.
- Try this roasted vegetable and quinoa salad from Budget Bytes
6. Chop and freeze veggies in batches
Chop a lot of veggies at once and freeze so you don’t face time-consuming veggie prep at mealtime. It makes putting together a healthy lunchtime bowl like the one below a snap. Bonus tip: Skip veggies with a high water content like tomatoes since they don’t freeze well.
- Try this spicy shrimp veggie bowl from Tipps in the Kitchen
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7. Batch cook eggs in the oven
Hard cook a dozen eggs in the oven in a muffin tin and you’ve got an egg-cellent quick snack and ingredient for lunchtime sandwiches, salads, and more. One hard-boiled egg (or the oven-cooked equivalent) packs six grams of protein!
- Learn how to make hard “boiled” eggs in the oven on Family Fresh Meals
- Then get some egg-spiration (sorry) with these 15 hard-boiled egg recipes from Natasha’s Kitchen
Dinner Meal Prep Made Easy
The average American household spends $2,3752 on eating out every year. Grabbing takeout is easier than cooking from scratch, but it’s also more expensive and less healthy. Try these tips below for easier, healthier, and cheaper weeknight dinners at home.
8. Freeze assembled casseroles in disposable aluminum pans
An oven-ready frozen meal like the chicken parmesan casserole below is a lifesaver on busy weeknights. Use lightweight, disposable pans from the grocery store to stash pre-assembled dishes for the future; an 8×8 is the perfect size for a family of four.
- Get oven-ready casserole recipes from Make-Ahead Meal Mom
9. One chicken, multiple meals
Roast one chicken when you have time (or grab one of Costco’s famous rotisserie chickens if you don’t) and you have meat for multiple meals throughout the week.
- Get 31 chicken recipes from Don’t Waste the Crumbs
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10. Use the slow cooker for tonight and the future
Try a twofer. Make a freezer-friendly dish like chili in the slow cooker, and you’ve got dinner ready for tonight with leftovers to freeze and reheat another day.
- Try this slow cooker beef chili recipe from Dinner Then Dessert
11. Freeze meat in marinades
Batch-make marinades, then freeze individual servings of meat in the marinade in a zipped plastic baggie or glass container.
- Find ten healthy chicken marinade recipes on Cook at Home Mom
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Easy Meal Prep Ideas = Healthier Eating
Meal prep doesn’t just make life easier and save money; it’s also healthier for you and your family. You control the quality and quantity of the ingredients going into every dish and the portion size, too. If you haven’t yet, it’s time to board the meal prep train!