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Meal Prep Like a Pro With These Recipes

Published:
January 1, 2024
January 1, 2024
Learn how to meal prep like a pro here.

Some say success is when preparation meets opportunity, but I’d like to think meal planning is actually where preparation meets opportunity. In the hustle and bustle of work, family, school, extracurriculars, and adult pressures, making time to cook is sometimes impossible. 

Being a type A person, it might seem as though meal planning would come naturally. The lists, the planning, the executing would make any control-type personality feel at ease. But it wasn’t until I completely botched a week’s worth of meals due to a lack of planning that I decided things had to be different. I had to get my meal-planning life together, not only for my wallet’s sake, but for my stress level as well. The constant question of “What’s for dinner?” followed by the unknown felt burdensome after a long day of decision-making.

It dawned on me that if I spent a Saturday morning writing out the week and planning our meals accordingly, I could then pick up the groceries and make the meals assigned to those specific days. And not only did I color code my list, but I also divided the list based on the departments of the grocery store (that’s where my type A life came into play). And surprisingly, this system worked, minus the occasional grocery store run for a missing ingredient, the idea of planning and following through, saving both time and money, felt like an accomplishment. 

So before you grab that elaborate recipe or decide to order from the takeout menu, start by making a loose plan for your meals throughout the week. Write out the groceries needed and go forth on your meal prep journey. With a bit of advanced planning and some staples in the pantry, making breakfast, lunch, or dinner during the week will be quite possible. Check out some of our best tips and tricks to making mealtime a success. 

The pantry staples

Keeping basic pantry staples on hand is one of the best ways to prepare for a week’s worth of meals. And the freezer is a great place to stock — from frozen fruit to frozen rice, breakfast foods, and leftovers in between, frozen meals can take the stress out of last-minute preparations. Additionally, pantry goods, such as pasta, pancake mix, canned beans, and spices like cumin, salt, pepper, and dried oregano are also great to have in case of a cooking emergency. 

The plan

Using the weekend for prep is a great way to ensure you have all the ingredients and groceries needed. By sitting down and mapping out the menu for breakfast, lunch, and dinner each day, you will take the guesswork out of the question: what are we eating? Having a plan also keeps takeout at bay and puts money back into your wallet. 

Let’s prep…breakfast

Mornings are tough for many of us. Make breakfast easier with blogger Lauren Allen’s no-bake granola bars that can be prepped well before the morning rush. 

Ingredients: 

  • 2 and ¼ cup of quick cooking oats
  • 1 and ½ cups of crispy rice cereal (think Rice Krispies)
  • 2 tablespoons of ground flaxseed (optional)
  • 6 tablespoons of butter
  • ⅓ cup of honey
  • ¾ cup of packed light brown sugar
  • 1 teaspoon of vanilla extract
  • ½ cup of mini chocolate chips (or other add-ins like cranberries, m&m’s, raisins, etc) 

Instructions: 

  1. Using an 8 or 9 inch pan, line with parchment paper, allowing some paper to hang over the edge. 
  2. In a large mixing bowl, stir together the oats, rice krispies cereal, and flaxseed.
  3. Then, in a microwave-safe bowl, add the butter, brown sugar, and honey. Heat on high power for 1 minute. Remove the mixture from the microwave, and stir until the butter has melted. Return to the microwave again, heating on high power for 1½ minutes. 
  4. Carefully remove the bowl from the microwave, and stir in the vanilla. Then, pour the oats mixture over the butter mixture, and stir until combined. Gently stir in the chocolate chips.
  5. Pour the mixture into the pan lined with parchment paper, and press the mixture into the pan. 
  6. Place another piece of parchment paper or wax paper over the top of the bars, and press firmly to flatten the mixture. This is a very important step and will help the bars from crumbling when cut. 
  7. Sprinkle more chocolate chips on top, and again press them gently into the bars. 
  8. Place the pan in the refrigerator for about 1 to 2 hours. Then, once chilled, bars can be removed from the pan by pulling up on the parchment paper. 
  9. Cut the bars and store them in an air-tight container in the fridge or at room temperature for up to 7 days. 
Lunch 

Chicken salad is the quintessential lunchtime sandwich, easily made from a rotisserie chicken with whatever pantry staples are on hand and optimal to prepare on the weekend for weekday lunches. 

Ingredients: 

  • 1 rotisserie chicken
  • ⅓ cup of mayonnaise (more or less depending on taste)
  • 1 tablespoon of Dijon mustard (optional)
  • ¼ teaspoon of pepper
  • Add-ins: walnuts, grapes, cranberries, apples, or chopped celery
  • Crusty bread or sub rolls 

Instructions: 

  1. Pull apart rotisserie chicken, and place chicken into a bowl. 
  2. Mix in the mayonnaise, mustard if using, and stir to combine.
  3. Add in seasoning, such as pepper. 
  4. Then, sprinkle in add-ins and mix to combine.
  5. Store chicken salad in an air-tight container in the refrigerator for 3-5 days. 
Dinner

Who doesn’t love a mozzarella stuffed meatball? Liz Adam’s lazy meatball recipe is not only delicious, but perfect to throw into a weeknight pasta situation or even a sub roll before little league practice.

Ingredients:

  • 1 pound of ground beef (or ground turkey)
  • 2 tablespoons of pesto
  • 1 egg
  • ¼ cup of panko
  • ¼ cup of grated parmesan cheese
  • 1 teaspoon of oregano
  • Mini mozzarella balls
  • Salt and pepper

Instructions:

  1. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit.
  2. In a medium bowl, combine the ground beef, pesto, egg, panko, parmesan, oregano, and a sprinkle of salt and pepper. 
  3. Roll the mixture into even balls and then using your finger, poke a hole into the meatball and stuff with a mini ball of mozzarella cheese. Close the hole with the rest of the meatball or extra meat mixture if needed. 
  4. Bake in the oven for 25 minutes. 

These meatballs can be made ahead of time, refrigerated, and reheated for the next day, or you can freeze the meatballs to keep them for a later dinner option. 

Preparing for the week ahead doesn’t have to be stressful when it comes to meal planning! Making a big batch of your favorite lunch or freezing leftovers for a weeknight dinner are simple ways to put a meal on the table without sacrificing taste or time.

Creators:
Lauren Lawson
Published:
January 1, 2024
January 1, 2024
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