The Ultimate Meal Prep Guide
I’m so excited to be sharing this Meal Prep Guide with you today because it’s something that’s really changed my life! Meal prep is so important to me and is what keeps my household going during those crazy busy weeks. I love to do this on Sundays to start the week off right. Yes, it takes a bit of time, but setting yourself up for success during the week can make a huge difference in your routine, your time spent cooking dinner each night, and ultimately your overall wellness. When healthy foods are prepped and ready to go, you're much more likely to reach for those healthy foods when hunger strikes and the family needs dinner or a good snack.
Here I’m breaking down the three methods of meal prep with some pro tips to make your weekday menus a success. There are pros and cons to each method, but ultimately it’s important to do what’s best for your schedule and for your family’s needs or eating preferences.
Let’s get prepping!
Beginner Method: Prep Fruits/Vegetables/Sauces
This method is the simplest form of meal prep, and involves washing, checking, and cutting/slicing all of your produce and proteins you’ll need for the week! Making marinated grilled chicken and broccoli for one dinner one night and a stir fry with peppers and onions on another night? Marinate the chicken, wash, check and slice the broccoli, peppers and onions and store in separate bags or plastic containers so everything is ready to go for dinner. Sometimes the prep work can take more time then cooking, so this method eliminates that step completely. Yes, you’ll still have to cook dinner every night, but at least the most time-consuming part of dinner is done ahead of time! This method is best if your family doesn’t care for leftovers!
Ready to give it a try? Here’s a great sauce recipe that can be made ahead and used later in the week. It works great as a marinade, as a base for a salad dressing, or as a veggie dipping sauce.
Spinach Cashew Pesto
Yields 3 cups
1/4 cup cashews
1/4 cup almonds
3 cloves garlic, smashed
2 lemons, juiced
3 ounces baby spinach (1/2 of a standard size bag)
3/4 cup good olive oil
kosher salt to taste
black pepper to taste
Optional Step: Preheat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Arrange cashews and almonds on a sheet pan and roast for eight to 10 minutes until golden brown and toasty. Let cool completely.
In the bowl of a food processor, combine nuts, garlic and lemon juice. Pulse until very finely chopped and the mixture forms a paste. Add spinach and run on high until blended, while streaming in olive oil as it runs. Add a good pinch of salt and pepper to taste and blend again until smooth.
Intermediate Method: Prep Fully Cooked Components
Want to take your meal prep skills to the next level? This next method of meal prep involves cooking meal components that can be mixed and matched to create different meals later in the week. For example, you could make a large pan of roasted mixed vegetables, a batch of steamed rice or roasted potatoes, and a large batch of grilled chicken or fish. You can mix and match these things to create different meals, such as using the rice to make fried rice with leftover chicken, or using the roasted vegetables in a salad for lunch one day. This method is best for those who don’t like to plan out their weekly menus in advance or prefer to make dinner plans on the day of. It provides the most flexibility because it allows you to adjust your menu throughout the week without having to start from scratch.
Ready to give it a try? Try this recipe for my All-Purpose Chicken Sliders! Toss them onto a salad, in a wrap, or just enjoy as a quick protein packed snack during the day. They are so easy and kid-friendly too!
The Easiest All-Purpose Chicken Sliders
Yields 12 to 15 small sliders
1 to 2 pounds ground chicken or turkey
1 cup spinach leaves, finely chopped
2 cloves garlic, finely minced
1 lemon, zested
kosher salt/black pepper, to taste
1 to 2 teaspoons dried herbs or your favorite spices
olive oil, for drizzling
Preheat the oven to 425 degrees Fahrenheit. Line two sheet pans with parchment paper or spray with nonstick spray.
In a large bowl, combine chicken, spinach, garlic, lemon zest, and a big pinch of salt and pepper. Feel free to add any additional seasonings you like. Mix until well combined.
Scoop or spoon mixture onto the sheet pan and press lightly with your hands to flatten. Drizzle sliders with olive oil and roast for 10 to 15 minutes. Flip and roast for another 10 minutes until lightly browned.
Advanced Method: Prep Full Cooked Meals
If you need to be able to grab and go without any work involved, then this method is for you! It might take you a bit longer while prepping, but there won’t be any cooking involved when it’s time to eat since everything is fully cooked and portioned. This method works best if you have to pack a lot of lunches every day, or if you love leftovers and don’t mind eating the same things every day. This method works great for breakfasts, too! Dishes like overnight oats and baked egg frittatas can be made ahead and last for a few days in the fridge. When preparing things like salads, make sure to choose sturdy greens like cabbage and kale that can last for a few days in the fridge without wilting. Invest in a good set of reusable containers and you’re on your way to meal prep success!
Ready to give it a try? Try this recipe for Broccoli Salad with Honey-Mustard Dressing! Feel free to substitute a bag of broccoli slaw for the broccoli florets. Portion it out into containers with a piece of grilled chicken or fish to power your weekday lunches or dinners.
Broccoli Salad with Honey-Mustard Dressing
4 cups broccoli florets or 1 bag broccoli slaw
2 cups kale or baby spinach, roughly chopped
1/2 cup almonds or walnuts, roughly chopped
1/2 cup dried cranberries
1/4 cup red onion, thinly sliced
3 tablespoons honey mustard
3 tablespoons Gefen honey
2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
1/2 cup olive oil
pinch of kosher salt
In the bowl of your food processor, pulse broccoli until finely chopped working in batches if needed. Empty chopped broccoli into a large mixing bowl. Add spinach, nuts, dried cranberries and red onion.
In a small mixing bowl, whisk together honey mustard, honey, vinegar, olive oil, and a pinch of salt until smooth. Pour over salad and toss well. (Salad is best after sitting in the dressing for 15 to 20 minutes so the broccoli can soften.)
Ready to get prepping? Let’s set ourselves up for a successful and healthy week together! Don’t forget to post your photos and tag me @tzimmesandcitrus so I can see your amazing creations!