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Easy Meal Prep Ideas for Simple, Hearty Meals

Here are four tips on effective meal prepping and a few easy recipes for breakfast, lunch and dinner.

two glass containers on a counter filled with rice, veggies and chicken
Make sure you're using good containers to seal your food when you meal prep. 
wmaster890/ Getty Images

Meal prepping takes the stress out of cooking when you have a long to-do list or are too tired to chef up a meal after a long day. If you plan and shop smart, you can make healthy, hearty, ready-to-go meals that last all week. 

It might seem overwhelming to prepare a week's worth of meals in one or two sittings, but you'll be thanking yourself when you have home-cooked meals waiting for you in the fridge rather than bland, store-bought microwave dinners. 

The tips and recipes below help simplify the process and get you the most out of your meal prepping. 

For more tips on healthy eating, here are the best foods for glowing, healthy skin and the best foods to promote better mental health

How to meal prep 

Plan two to three dinners 

Health Tips logo

Refer to your favorite place to get recipes. I love Pinterest, like every other mom and millennial. The goal is to choose recipes that yield two or more portions so you can divide them into a couple of meals. My typical go-to for a meal, and what many agree to be a balanced meal, is:

  • Protein -- can be animal sourced, like chicken, beef or fish, or it could be plant-based, like tofu or seitan.
  • Vegetables, especially leafy greens.
  • Carbohydrates such as quinoa, beans, lentils and sweet potatoes.
  • Healthy fats such as avocado and olive oil.

Grocery shop 

Make a list of the ingredients you need to complete your meal prep dishes. Feel free to make two stops if it means it'll save you money. I like Trader Joe's for its name-brand specials like teriyaki chicken and cauliflower gnocchi, but I'll get produce, snacks and dairy products from other wallet-friendly grocery stores.

Alternatively, you can skip the lines at the grocery store and use a meal delivery service. They'll ship ready-to-go meals of your choosing or prepared, fresh ingredients so you can quickly put together a tasty meal. 

Prep ingredients 

Prepping: The moment everything comes together. You have a few options when it comes to prepping your meals:

  • Batch cook everything at once and store in the fridge or freezer for quick meals that only require reheating.
  • Prep the ingredients of your dish and store them away so everything is prepared for you to make a meal.

Pro tip: On the day you plan to cook your meals, use an Instant Pot or similar tool that can do the work for you and slow-cook your food. 

Properly store  

Store your dinners in glass containers, air-tight zip lock bags or Tupperware. According to the Mayo Clinic, cooked food can safely be eaten three to four days after it's made if stored in the refrigerator. If you plan to eat your meals later than that, store it in the freezer to get a longer shelf life. 

Healthy meal prep recipes 

Breakfast

  • Breakfast muffin cups: Use your muffin tray to make egg and turkey bacon muffins that are easy to make and eat on the go. 
  • Overnight oats: I didn't like oatmeal until I made overnight oats. They're a great source of protein and an easy, no-cook way of making oatmeal. Add any of your favorite fruits to make them even more nutrient-rich and flavorful. 
  • Smoothies: Combine different fruit combinations in ziplock bags and store in the freezer so you can easily use them to quickly prepare a healthy smoothie in the morning for breakfast. 

Lunch

  • Honey sesame chicken bowl: Combine rice, broccoli (or other vegetables) and chicken marinated with honey, soy sauce and sesame oil for a delicious, balanced meal that includes protein, carbohydrates and other key nutrients. 
  • Bagel box: If you can't warm up a meal, you can always prepare a good bagel box including craft cream cheese, tomatoes, cucumber and a boiled egg. 
  • Chicken pasta salad: Make a hearty and healthy lunch with boiled pasta, chicken, spinach and a creamy dressing. 

Dinner

  • Beef and spinach lo mein: There's nothing like a good stir fry for dinner. This recipe calls for some of my favorite ingredients like garlic, onion, spinach and water chestnuts. 
  • Freezer burritos: Cook ground beef, onion, salsa and other appetizing ingredients in a large skillet and use the mix to fill tortillas. Roll them into burritos and pop them in the freezer -- they'll last a month (if you can keep from eating them before then). 
  • Crockpot barbacoa pork: Slow cook a pork butt or roast all day with garlic, cilantro and other ingredients for a juicy and easy meal-prepped dinner. 

The information contained in this article is for educational and informational purposes only and is not intended as health or medical advice. Always consult a physician or other qualified health provider regarding any questions you may have about a medical condition or health objectives.