We all know how important it is to eat healthy, nourishing meals… but when you’re a mom, student, or working full-time, it can be very difficult or nearly impossible to cook all of your food at home each day. Our friend & Registered Dietitian Stacie of The Real Food Dietitians shares how to weekend meal prep, why we should, and some recipes to try.
Weekend meal prepping… your answer to eating healthy and delicious food all week long.
Designating 2-3 hours on the weekend to prep a variety of foods for the coming week will help to make eating healthy, easy. It’s time well spent and will set you up for a nourishing week ahead.
Meal prepping has been part of my weekend routine for the past several years. A friend of mine, who at the time was preparing for a fitness competition, introduced me to this concept. And while my goal wasn’t to compete in a fitness competition, I liked the idea of having a fridge stocked full of healthy, ready-to-eat foods that I could enjoy during the week or quickly make a meal out of. Foods that would nourish my body and make me feel good from the inside out and would help me resist the temptations of skipping a meal (which I’ve been known to do) or reach for something…maybe not so healthy.
When I first started meal prepping I was a little overwhelmed, but over time I found a groove and a method that worked for me. It’s now something I look forward to and I’m healthier because of it. So if you’re feeling a bit overwhelmed and not sure where to begin, keep reading – I’ve got some tips for you. 🙂
Whether you’re cooking for yourself or a family of 6, you can meal prep! Simply adjust the amount of food you’re preparing and allocate more time if prepping for more people. I promise it’s totally doable and a great way to get your kids involved in the kitchen, too! Just think of how nice it will be to have the bulk of your meals prepared and ready-to-eat during the busy workweek.
I want to inspire you to give a weekend meal prep a try! In this post, I will be sharing with you the perks of meal prepping, steps to a successful meal prep, and three of my favorite meal prep recipes. My goal is to help you feel less overwhelmed with the concept of meal prepping and instead feel excited to find your own meal-prepping groove.
5 Meal-Prepping Perks
- You’ll have a fridge full of ready-to-eat foods for the week ahead. Foods that will nourish your body (and your family’s), fuel your workouts and make the healthy choice the easy choice all week long.
- You’ll save time during the week. No more running to the grocery store to pick up ingredients for that last-minute dinner or spending an hour or two in the kitchen each night preparing a meal. Instead, you can use that time to go for a walk, read a book or whatever it is that you love to do.
- You’ll reduce food waste because you’ll be more aware of what you have on hand and what you need to use up before it reaches its expiration date.
- You’ll save money. Knowing what you have on hand and what you need to use up will avoid doubling up on ingredients or making impulse purchases at the grocery store – as long as you stick to your grocery list. 😉
- You’ll reduce your stress. Knowing that you have a fridge full of healthy foods at your fingertips is simply a good feeling. You’ll always have the answer to the “what’s for dinner” question!
6 Basic Steps to a Successful Meal Prep
- Take inventory and write down what you have on hand. This will help you to reduce food waste and avoid purchasing foods you already have. This is also a good time to throw out any foods that have reached their expiration.
- Make a menu for the week and a grocery list. Once you know what you have on hand it’s time to make your menu. Go with a few tried and true recipes and try some new ones, too! I also recommend prepping at least one freezer-friendly recipe. Double the recipe so that you can enjoy it during the coming week and also have something to stock your freezer with for a future, easy weeknight dinner.
- Shop for groceries. Planning a Sunday meal prep? Then I recommend shopping on Saturday so that the food is as fresh as possible. If it’s the right time of the year, stop by your local farmer’s market for the most fresh and best quality ingredients as well as to support your local farmers and growers.
- Put the groceries away and pre-wash and chop as much produce as you can. This will help your meal prep go much smoother and save you time. I’m all about saving time!
- Clean your kitchen. Before you even begin your meal prep, start with a clean kitchen and be sure that you have plenty of washed containers and lids. Also, clean as you go. This will help to prevent an overwhelming amount of dirty dishes at the end of your prep.
- Turn on the tunes and start cooking! I recommend starting with the items that take the longest. These are typically the foods that have to bake or that are made in a slow cooker.
I hope you found these steps helpful and that you’re able to easily apply them to your weekend meal prep.
If you’re still feeling a little overwhelmed, don’t sweat! Keep it simple and choose just 5 items to prep. I call this a “power-hour meal prep.” Include the 3 delicious and easy recipes I’ve shared below, plus 2 others of your choice. Maybe you bake a couple of sweet potatoes, cook some quinoa, hard boil a dozen eggs, fill mason jars with your favorite overnight oats ingredients, whip up a couple of freestyle salads with what you have on hand, broil wild-caught salmon for an easy protein choice or try a recipe from my blog. The options are endless! Soon you’ll find your own meal prep go-to’s and a method that works for you. Most importantly, have fun with it!
For even more tips, head on over to the The Real Food Dietitians blog where I share my Top 10 Meal Prepping Tips.
3 Meal Prep Recipes to Try Now
Curry Chicken Cashew Salad
Cool and creamy chicken salad gets a little exotic with the addition of antioxidant-rich curry powder, crisp vegetables, sweet apples and crunchy cashews. This is one of my favorite meal-prep recipes! When cooking the chicken, make extras for an easy protein addition to any meal or you can also use rotisserie chicken from your grocery store’s deli.
Prep time: 15 minutes
Makes 4-6 servings
- ½ cup mayonnaise (Stacie’s favorite is Primal Kitchen Avocado Oil Mayo) or plain yogurt
- 2 tsp. curry powder
- ½ lime, juiced
- 2 Tbsp. fresh cilantro (optional)
- ¼ tsp. salt
- 2 cups cooked chicken, diced
- 1 small apple, diced
- 1 medium celery rib, finely diced
- 3 Tbsp. red onion, finely diced
- ¼ cup cashews, roughly chopped
- For topping: Green onions, shredded cabbage, shredded carrots (optional)
- In a medium bowl, mix together the mayonnaise, curry powder, lime juice, cilantro and salt.
- Next add the cooked chicken, diced apple, celery, and onions and mix until well combined.
- Fold in the cashews.
- Serve in a lettuce wrap, on a bed of greens, or on cucumber slices. Top with green onions, shredded cabbage, shredded carrots or additional cashews if desired.
This recipe is dairy-free, paleo-friendly, gluten-free and can be made vegan-friendly by using a vegan mayo and garbanzo beans in place of the chicken.
Perfectly roasted veggies make for an easy reheat-and-eat side dish or a tasty addition to scrambled eggs, omelets, simple stir-frys or even served cold on a salad. This is a recipe I include with every meal prep. It’s the perfect way to use up veggies that are about to go bad and you can easily change up this dish by using different veggies and herbs.
Prep: 15 min
Cook: 20 min
Total: 35 min
Makes 4-6 servings
- 3 medium carrots, peeled and cut into sticks
- 4 cups Brussels sprouts, halved or quartered
- 2 cups green beans, ends trimmed and cut in half
- 1 bell pepper, sliced
- ½ medium red onion, sliced
- ¼ cup avocado oil or olive oil (Stacie’s favorite is Primal Kitchen Avocado Oil)
- 2-3 garlic cloves, minced (may substitute 1 tsp. garlic powder)
- ¼ cup fresh herbs of choice (oregano, basil, thyme, rosemary, sage, etc.) or 2 tsp. dried herbs
- ½ tsp. sea salt
- ¼ tsp. black pepper
- Preheat oven to 400ºF. Line sheet pan with parchment paper if you wish.
- In a large bowl or directly on the pan, toss all of the ingredients together.
- Roast in oven for 18-20 minutes or until vegetables are slightly caramelized and tender. Toss vegetables halfway through roasting time.
This recipe is dairy-free, egg-free, paleo-friendly, vegan-friendly and gluten-free.
Chocolate Chip Coconut Cashew Protein Bites
These protein bites are the perfect blend of fats, proteins and carbs. They’re a little sweet and a little salty – the best combo! They make for a tasty snack, quick pre-workout fuel or a healthy treat. Protein bites are all the rage right now and you can find thousands of recipes on Pinterest. Feel free to use your favorite protein powder in this recipe or omit it altogether and replace with flax meal.
Prep: 20 min
Makes 18 protein bites
- 1½ cups raw cashews (may substitute any nut of choice)
- 8-9 pitted dates
- ½ cup unsweetened coconut flakes (additional for rolling – optional)
- ¼ cup protein powder of choice (may substitute flax meal)
- 2 Tbsp. nut butter (almond butter, cashew butter, etc.)
- 1 Tbsp. chia seeds
- 1 Tbsp. hemp hearts
- 3 Tbsp. almond milk or water
- 1 tsp. pure vanilla extract
- ? cup mini-chocolate chips (Stacie’s favorite is Enjoy Life)
- Place all of the ingredients, except for the chocolate chips, into a high-power food processor.
- Process for about 4-5 minutes (this time will vary depending on food processor) or until ingredients start coming together. You know the dough is processed enough when it starts sticking to the sides. Once this occurs, scrape the sides once and process for 20 seconds longer. Test dough with hands to see if dough will form a ball. Continue to process until you are able to form a ball.
- Add chocolate chips and process for just a few seconds.
- With hands, firmly and with pressure, form the dough into small balls. If you wish, roll bites in coconut flakes.
- Store in a sealed container in the refrigerator for up to 2 weeks or freeze for up to 3 months.
This recipe is dairy-free, egg-free, paleo-friendly, vegan-friendly and gluten-free.
STACIE IS WEARING THE POWERVITA MESH SALUTATION 7/8 ANKLE TIGHT, THE MESH INVERSION TANK, AND THE PETAL BLOCK FULLY FOCUSED BRA.
Photos via Sparkling Image Designs.