Everyone can benefit from meal prep, the practice of preparing ingredients and meals in advance to make mealtimes easier. But shift workers in particular can benefit from meal prep. It’s a great way to eat healthy, save money, and avoid the mental stress of having to figure out what to eat.
If you’re a shift worker and haven’t yet gotten into meal prep, then jump in this summer! Here are some tips to get you started.
Table of Contents
- How Summer Meal Prep Helps Shift Workers Thrive
- Easy Summer Meal Prep Ideas
- 5 Sources for Awesome Meal Prep Recipes
- Tips for Meal Prep Success
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How Summer Meal Prep Helps Shift Workers Thrive
Shift workers face unique challenges, like schedules that don’t match up with the rest of the family, making sharing meals difficult (if not impossible). Plus, long, exhausting, and stressful shifts make it tempting to grab some unhealthy fast food after work rather than cooking something from scratch at home.
But eating well is exactly what you need to thrive, both at work and at home, and that’s where meal prep comes in. While bad diets can harm your cognition and overall health, eating well improves your mood, health and longevity, and productivity. Meal prep saves you money, too, since preparing food at home is cheaper than eating out. When you meal prep, you know you have something healthy, delicious, and ready to eat waiting for you, which makes it easier to make good choices in the moment.
In short, meal prep is awesome. Convinced yet? Hope so! Let’s jump into summer meal prep!
Easy Summer Meal Prep Ideas
Meal prep is all about planning ahead. What makes summer meal prep different is the incredible abundance of fresh, delicious produce that can be incorporated into your dishes. Summertime is also when people seek lighter meals, like salads, wraps, bowls, cold noodles, and fresh fruit rather than stick-to-your-ribs meals like beef stew and mac n’ cheese.
With that in mind, here are some summer meal prep ideas that can be prepared in advance and are quick to make, nutritious, and delicious:
Overnight chia pudding. If chia seeds are new to you as a breakfast food, think of them like oats, but more low-carb friendly. Chia pudding is an easy make-ahead breakfast because it requires only mixing three ingredients together (2 tablespoons of chia seeds, ½ cup of liquid like milk or a dairy-free alternative, and a sweetener like honey or agave) and leaving them in the fridge overnight. Chia pudding makes a great neutral base to add to – try fresh summer berries, chopped nuts, or coconut. (And get more ideas for flavor combos here.)
Greek pasta salad. Cold pasta makes a filling base for a summer salad with fresh veggies. Cook and cool the pasta or noodle of your choice, then mix in some sliced veggies (like fresh tomatoes, cucumbers, and red onion), crumbled feta, and a simple vinaigrette.
Burrito bowl. This is a great way to use leftovers, and you can make substitutions as needed. Layer rice, a protein like shredded chicken or pork, fresh corn (or canned, to save time), beans, and salsa in a container. (Tip: Keep salsa in a separate, smaller container if you want to remove it and heat up the rest for a warm meal.)
Healthy snack box. Meal prep doesn’t require a recipe; it’s really about making food decisions and preparations in advance. So put together some healthy items to make a great snack, like hard-boiled eggs, individually packaged cheese, multi-grain crackers, a packet of almond butter, and an apple. Simply increase the amount to turn this from a snack box into a meal.
As you can see from the examples above, meal prep doesn’t have to involve hours in the kitchen on Sunday preparing for the whole week. It can just be planning ahead to have some meals and snacks ready so that when you’re hungry, you have something healthy to hand.
Find more inspiration and step-by-step recipes below.
5 Sources for Awesome Meal Prep Recipes
These five foodie blogs all feature great recipes and advice so you can meal prep like a pro!
Budget Bytes shares budget-friendly recipes so you can make and enjoy delicious, healthy meals without breaking the bank. Its budget-friendly meal prep section has a wide selection of recipes plus a Meal Prep 101 guide for newbies.
Sweet Peas and Saffron has recipes to cut down on time, money, and stress. Find over 400 meal prep recipes and advice on meal prepping to help you plan ahead.
Meal Prep Sunday’s slogan is “Happiness is a fully meal prepped fridge,” so you know they’re serious about meal-prepping! Find vegetarian, vegan, and meat-based recipes for breakfast, lunch, and dinner, plus advice on where to begin with meal prep.
Meal Prep on Fleek is all about meal prep, with tons of tips and resources, meal plans, and, of course, plenty of recipes! This blog also has a comprehensive macros calculator to help you build your meals around your macro ratios.
The Lean Green Bean is run by a Registered Dietician who shares healthy, nutritious recipes that aren’t complicated or expensive. She also shares tips to help you up your meal prep game.
Tips for Successful Summer Meal Prep
Go with grains over greens. Salads are a summertime staple, but common leaves like spinach and arugula tend to wilt when prepared too far in advance. So choose grains like chickpeas, farro, or barley as a base when packing a meal that needs to hold up for hours before eating. If you do want greens, choose a hearty one like kale.
Master sauces and dressings. A basic recipe like chicken and veggies over brown rice tastes totally different if it’s paired with Ranch, red pesto, or a miso dressing. Try out several different sauces, dressings, and dips until you find some you love, then batch-make them and freeze them in individual portions so you can easily add personality to your dishes. (Find a slew of delectable healthy sauces to try out here.)
Use your freezer. Double or triple a recipe while making it and stash the extra portion(s) in the freezer for the future. You can do the same with individual ingredients like cut-up veggies.
Get containers to make meal prep easier, especially if you plan on bringing some meals to work.
- Glass storage containers are great for home but not ideal for commuting due to their weight; they can go in the freezer and most are microwave safe (check to make sure!)
- Disposable plastic sandwich bags work for some items and freeze well but are not microwave safe
- Plastic containers are lightweight, which makes them great for commuting, and are freezer safe, too; and while many brands are microwave safe, leeching is a concern
- Reusable silicone containers like Zip Top are freezer-safe, microwave-safe, and can be used for prep, storage, and serving
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Use coolers and insulated bags to keep your meals fresh and cool during the summer when taking them to work.
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As a shift worker, you’ve got enough on your plate already – don’t let meal planning be another source of stress! Make meal prep a part of your life starting this summer and you’ll see how much easier it is to eat well for less.