If just the thought of meal prepping for the week makes you shed a thousand tears, I get it. I mean, really, who wants to spend time peeling sweet potatoes and prepping grains when they could be at brunch, washing pancakes down with mimosas and forgetting about the Sunday scaries? No one. But sometimes, we’ve got to do things we don’t want to do because they’re good for us: go to the dentist, call your great aunt Sally at least once a week, meal prep.
But good news, friends: With some of these tried-and-true meal-prep shortcuts, backed by healthy-eating pros, you’ll have time for mimosas AND time to set yourself up for a week of healthy meals. Cry happy tears now and thank us later.
6 Meal-Prepping Shortcuts Healthy-Eating Pros Swear By
1) Create your plan of attack.
Think of meal-prepping like a road-trip: It’s going to take some time no matter what, but if you plan your route ahead of time, you’ll avoid getting lost, having a screaming match with your S.O. about directions, and generally just wasting a bunch of time that could’ve been spent getting to the finish line, if only you’d planned ahead. My point: A little planning on the front end saves you a LOT of time in the grand scheme of things.
As Jessica Baumgardner of Health Coach Philly says, “Take 15 minutes to assess your food situation. Sit down with a piece of paper, write Monday through Sunday on it and plan some meals. Even write down nights you are going order takeout or go to dinner. This helps set expectations for the week, your grocery trip and the amount you will have to prep. And if you really don’t want to spend all Sunday prepping, make those dinners quick and easy: stir-fries, Greek salads and rice bowls are three examples.”
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2) Splurge on the pre-cut veggies.
Yep, you’ve officially been given permission to reach for the oh-so-luxurious pre-cut veggies. (Insert more tears of joy here.) As Melissa Bailey of Two Hungry Work Wives says, “While they are more expensive, they save a ton of time in the kitchen. And I would rather spend $10 on a pack of pre-cut veggies that will last for a whole week of lunches than spend $10 a day eating lunch out.” Preach, sister. Liz Smith, the other half of Two Hungry Work Wives, is a fan of another aisle known to make lives easier: the frozen aisle. “I like to stock up on frozen veggies, like broccoli, because you can add them to anything—stir-fry, Buddha bowls, etc.—or they make an easy, healthy side,” she notes.
3) If you do NOTHING else, cook some whole grains.
Even if you do nothing else, quickly whipping up some grains (quinoa takes like 15 minutes start to finish, people) sets you up to have plenty of fast and healthy meals for the week, as long as you’ve got some fruit and veggies in the fridge. As Baumgardner says, “Just having this ready makes any meal possible. Breakfast? Add almond milk, fruit and coconut. Lunch? Add roasted veggies and crisp greens with dressing. Dinner? Add whatever you have around for an easy stir-fry—spinach, frozen broccoli, an egg, tamari, a hint of BBQ sauce, some salsa and avocado for the Baumgardner special.”
4) Don’t be afraid to turn the heat up.
Roasting a ton of veggies—broccoli, cauliflower, mushrooms, sweet potatoes, and so on—on high heat for around 20 minutes is my ultimate meal-prep shortcut, and I feel validated now that it gets the dietitian seal of approval. As Smith says, “I’m also a huge fan of buying a ton of veggies and roasting them on high heat! I do that every week and then just add them to bowls or use as a side.” So even if you just do that and make some grains, you can have your meal prep done in under an hour. Easy!
5) Have an arsenal of one-pot recipes at the ready.
A one-pot recipe is the cute jumpsuit of food: It’s there to help you adult, even at your laziest. (Who hasn’t opted for a jumpsuit in lieu of the energy to actually, um, put together an outfit?) As Bailey says, “I am a huge fan of one-pot meals, where you can just throw everything in and let it simmer while you go about your day. These usually take less than an hour to prep and also freeze well for later on.” See? The jumpsuit of food.
Emily Benton of Simplex Health points out that the crock-pot is a tool for one-pot recipes that you should not ignore. “I’ve been using the crockpot to make plain chicken instead of boiling it for a full batch of chicken salad or salad toppers and it is life changing, if you eat meat. All dinners are just made in 20 minutes or less!”
6) Be smart about your smoothies.
If don’t live under a rock, you’re likely well aware that smoothie bowl life is alive and well. So, it’s not surprising that a big chunk of the dietitians and health coaches I asked to share their shortcuts mentioned tricks to get their smoothie ready as fast as possible. As Jessica Procini of Escape Emotional Eating says, “I make smoothies once a week, quadrupling the recipe, and store them in the fridge in glass Ball jars with a screw-top. Simply give a good shake before you sip.” Smith says, “I like to put all my smoothie ingredients—except liquids, of course—in a plastic baggie in the freezer. Then all I have to do is dump in the blender, add almond milk and blend.”
As an added bonus, this breakfast shortcut can do the environment some good, too. As Caroline Ginolfi of Plant-Based Blonde says, “For me meal prep isn’t just about using the fresh food I bought on my weekend grocery trip. It’s about reducing food waste and extending the life of food that is starting to go bad. At the end of the week, if I have leftover fruits like bananas, mango pineapple, or veggies like squash, avocado, zucchini, I will chop them up, place on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper and freeze them. Once frozen I put them into a container and store them in the freezer for use in smoothies, soups, etc.”