Plan a week-long menu
crazystocker/Shutterstock Meal prep doesn’t mean you need to eat the same meal for five days straight. Choose staples from each food group—one grain, one or two proteins, and a variety of veggies, then use the same ingredients all week with different flavor combinations. “I try to think about using those same ingredients as a breakfast dish, in a cold application for lunch, and then dinner,” says Phillips. For example, if you make a big batch of quinoa, you can treat it as you would oatmeal for your morning meal, scoop it on top of a salad for lunch, and pair it with a protein and some roasted veggies for dinner. Explore new flavor combos by trying out different mixed spice blends (Pereg offers everything from curry to BBQ to Cajun), which takes the guesswork out of it. Need more ideas? Check out these delicious quinoa recipes.
Photographee.eu/Shutterstock Even though the bulk of your meal prep will probably be done when you have the most spare time on the weekend, set an alarm on your phone to remind yourself to do a mini lunch prep session as soon as you get home from work using all the food you prepped ahead of time. Build a salad that won’t wilt in your FoodSaver container—pour dressing on the bottom and layer fresh veggies and a protein on top. Or, try Rubbermaid’s new balance Meal Kit; designed by registered dietician nutritionist Marisa Moore, RDN, it has perfectly portioned units to make sure you get the proper amount of each type of food group. “Many of my clients have a hard time maintaining a diet or deciding how much they need to eat. This is a good visual and starting place,” she says. The kit also comes with a booklet of Moore-crafted-and-approved recipes you can use for meal prep inspiration.
Don’t overthink things
Shutterstock If you’re new to home cooking or meal prep, it can seem daunting to visualize a week’s worth of meals all at once. “When anybody is just starting the process of cooking, I always say it takes practice and nobody got to be a great cook on their first try,” says Phillips. Don’t add extra stress to the task by worrying about messing things up, just start out with simple dishes first. “Learn to cook brown rice with a little salt and butter or olive oil. Learn to boil noodles properly or sauté onions right. Once you get those basics down, you’ll be all good and feel more confident.” Focus on choosing your food staples and then look for easy recipes to transform them. Take even more of the pressure off by stocking your pantry and fridge with items you can add to your prepped food in a pinch, like Three Bridges kale or basil pesto, Botticelli or Rao’s pasta sauce, and Just Dressing by Hampton Creek. You can also keep pre-made pizza crust (try Caulipower, made with cauliflower and a good way to sneak extra nutrients into your diet) on hand–just top with your prepped veggies and protein and you can have a quick and fun meal on the table in minutes.