Realistic Meal Prep Routine

Meal prep veggies- broccoli, carrots, cauliflower, red pepper- on a black counter.

Sundays are not about meal prep.

No day of the week should be. Taking several hours to lock down every breakfast, lunch, and dinner you’re going to eat is not an enjoyable approach to meal planning and doesn’t yield delicious results.

However, a loose guide can be helpful.

When you sleep late on a work day after too-much-fun on a Tuesday and you’ve got to grab some sustenance before rushing out the door, a stocked fridge with a couple of ready-made options will be the hangover cure you never knew you needed.

It all starts with thinking ahead- not about the whole week- just about the next couple of days. For example, if you have time to meal prep on Sunday, think about what you might need until Wednesday.

Breakfast

Overhead shot of a Chocolate Peanut Butter Banana smoothie in a white bowl

A smoothie is a great option for weekday breakfasts because it’s the only food you can eat with no hands.

Take a sip while you put on makeup, do your hair, and sling it back before getting dressed. Easy.

(Here’s my current favorite recipe).

How to meal prep a smoothie

Put all of the ingredients- fruit, protein powder, nuts, seeds, etc.- in a ziplock bag and freeze them.

3 bags of meal prepped smoothies on the counter next to a frozen bag of mango.

In the morning, add your liquid of choice (almond milk, coconut water, OJ, etc.) and the contents of the Ziplock bag to a blender, blend and enjoy.

It takes 2 minutes max, I’ve timed it.

If you don’t like smoothies, try overnight oats, chia seed pudding, or healthy make-ahead muffins or banana bread for other on-the-go options.

Lunch

3 mason jars with meal prep salad on a counter.

A salad is my favorite thing for lunch because it energizes me, keeps me full and it’s easy to switch up.

I generally aim for 2 cups of veggies, 1/2 cup protein, 1/2 cup carbs (sweet potato, quinoa, or a side of crackers), and 1 serving of fats (like half an avocado or hummus) to keep me full until dinner (or until my afternoon snack, let’s be honest).

I’ll also throw in a flavor-packed wild card like kalamata olives, sundried tomatoes, capers, or pickles.

Once you figure out what quantity of veg/protein/carbs keeps you full, just raid your refrigerator for those food groups and throw it all into a tupperware container (or a mason jar, to fit in with the office millennials).

Try arugula with roasted broccoli, leftover chicken, whole wheat penne, and a dollop of hummus. Kale with shredded beets, marinated beans, quinoa, and roasted sunflower seeds. Spinach with roasted asparagus, flaked salmon, sweet potato and avocado. Get crazy.

Start making lunches that you actually look forward to. Sometimes one delicious bite is all you need in the middle of a tough day.

Dinner

Meal prep veggies- broccoli, carrots, cauliflower, red pepper- on a black counter.

If I could give you (and me) one piece of advice about meal prepping, it’s to wash your fruit and vegetables right when you get home from the grocery store.

If something needs to be chopped, do that too. 

Got old produce to cook down or throw out? Get to work.

There’s nothing better than coming home after a long day of work to discover that your farmer’s market haul has been washed, chopped, and sealed in a bag.

Dinner is one step closer.

Now for some ideas…

Overhead view of two bowls of sausage and broccoli pasta with two glasses of white wine.

If you have trouble coming up with dinner ideas in the first place, here’s a simple formula that I use:

  • Plan 3 meals that you know your family will enjoy
  • Choose one or two recipes that you’ve made before and one new one that you dog-eared in Food & Wine last month but haven’t gotten a chance to make
  • However long the magazine says the recipe will take, double it, then realistically think about how much time you have to cook
  • Cook the meals on days you have the most time, and (literally) enjoy the fruits of your labor on busier nights

Of course, this site is full of weeknight-friendly meals that come together in about an hour. I have a few family favorites, like this weeknight chicken, winning pasta, and easy, healing stir-fry.

For now, just start somewhere. What are you going to eat tomorrow?

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3 Comments

  • Reply
    Samantha
    April 30, 2018 at 8:05 am

    thanks!

  • Reply
    Margaret
    July 12, 2019 at 12:34 pm

    Thank you for your words of wisdom Samantha~ I’m energized!

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