If Meal Prepping Were a Contest, You'd Use These 43 Hacks, Tips, and Recipes to Win!
"If you fail to plan, you plan to fail." Ever hear that saying? If weight loss is your goal, this couldn't be more true. Planning ahead is key in making sure you have healthy, portioned-out meals and ready-to-go snacks to stay on track. Basically, meal prep could be the key to your success. We've rounded up the tastiest, most creative meal-prep hacks to save you both time and money, but to also keep delicious foods in your life to keep mealtime boredom at bay.
Step One: Plan Your Meals
Before you head to the grocery store, you need a plan, which will actually save you time from wandering the aisles, trying to decide what to make for the week. If you're new to meal prepping, maybe you just want to plan out dinners. Or maybe you're going full force into meal prepping and you know what you're going to eat for breakfast, lunch, and snacks, too. After you plan, make a shopping list and hit the grocery store so you have everything ready by Monday.
Make One-Portion Smoothie Packs
The hurdle of having to prepare you protein- and fiber-packed smoothie can make you want to skip it for a scone. So prep all the fruits and greens you use in your smoothies and freeze individual DIY smoothie packs. It not only makes a fast breakfast even faster, but it ensures you stick to a portion-perfect calorie amount.
Make Slow-Cooker Oatmeal
Steel cut oats are lower on the glycemic index than quick or rolled oats, which means they'll stabilize your blood sugar levels and keep you feeling full longer. They take over 40 minutes to cook though, so make a batch of this pumpkin pie overnight steel cut oatmeal and it'll be ready for you first thing in the morning. Store leftovers in separate glass containers so you can quickly warm them up all week.
If you're a fan of steel-cut oatmeal for keeping you full all morning long, this freezer hack is a huge time-saver. Just make a big batch on the stove, and freeze smaller portions using a muffin tin. Pop the little oatmeal pucks into a freezer bag and a week of healthy, fiber-full breakfasts is ready.
Freeze All Kinds of Grains
Don't stop at oatmeal! You can cook up other grains such as quinoa, rice, millet, and barley and freeze those, too. You can even combine two or more grains, and it's a great, quick way to get some protein and fiber into your meal without having to spend 20 minutes cooking them up each time.
Prep Overnight Oat Packs
How do you make the quickest breakfast even quicker? Prep your entire week of overnight oats all at once.
Set Up Your Snacks With Protein Balls
To prevent mindless snacking between meals, pre-make a batch of protein balls to keep in your fridge or gym bag. Try these delicious recipes:
Freeze Pureed Veggies
Not just for baby food, freeze pureed veggies like green beans, butternut squash, and carrots and add them to soups, smoothies, and sauces to increase the fiber and other nutrients.
Prep Your Own Salad Bar
Here's a salad hack that will make those dinner salads happen. Wash and cut all your favorite veggies, then store them in closed mason jars. Each night, take out the six or so jars and you've got a DIY salad bar.
Freeze Your Greens
Tired of tossing greens week after week? This ice-cube hack is a must. Pick up some BPA-free ice-cube trays or baby-food trays, and buy a variety of greens. You can puree them separately in a food processor or blender, or puree them together, adding a little water to yield a smooth consistency. Pour the puree into the little wells, attach the lids, and freeze them. When you're ready to make your smoothie, just grab a few and throw them in your blender — it's a great time-saver. You can also freeze greens as is in baggies — just be sure to wash and reuse them.
Pack (Crisp) Salads For a Full Week
Don't have time to cut up a salad every single night? Here's a way to make all the salads you need for your workweek at once.
Freeze Pureed Beans
Puree a can of beans, freeze the puree, and use these magical frozen bean cubes in anything you can think of. Add one to your bowl of oatmeal, throw a few in the blender when whipping up your kale smoothie, or mix them into pasta sauce, soups, or cooked whole grains. One cube is 26 calories, and offers 1.3 grams of fiber and 1.6 grams of protein, but won't affect the taste of the dish.
Pre-Cut Your Veggies
All that meal planning won't do you any good if you don't actually follow through. One way to make each dinner happen is to get a head start on the prep. Cut up veggies you'll be using for all your recipes, like sweet potatoes, cauliflower, and squash for roasting, or carrots, celery, and onion for soups.
Make Bite-Size Desserts
If you know you have a sweet tooth, indulging it can satisfy cravings and prevent you from binge-eating on an entire pint of ice cream later. Make a batch of a healthy dessert like these no-bake vegan brownies, so you can grab one and be done.
Freeze Cookie Dough
If you love to bake but know you can't just stop at one cookie, whip up your cookie dough and freeze the batter into ice-cube trays. That way you can pop out one or two, bake those in your toaster oven, and you'll indulge a little without the temptation to keep reaching for more.
If you're into protein in the morning to sustain your energy and always seem to be running out of eggs, this freezer hack is for you. Just scramble a dozen eggs, freeze them in muffin cups, and they'll stay good up to six months.
Prep and Portion Fresh Snacks
We tend to reach for chips and crackers because they're easy and right there. Make fresh fruits and veggies just as easily accessible by washing, cutting, and storing them in containers at eye-level in your fridge.
Make a Huge Pot of Beans
Cook a big batch of dry beans in a pot or the slow-cooker to use for lunchtime salads, or for soups or burritos for the week's dinners. Store in the fridge or freeze smaller portions for later.
Prep 1-Pan Meals
Add protein and veggies to a sheet pan, roast, and lunch is done! Or you can prep uncooked one-pan meals and store them in the fridge to roast later that week. Here are some ideas:
Create Soup Packs
Prep ingredients for your favorite soup and freeze for later! These are great for cooking on the stove or in the slow-cooker.
Prep Lasagna and Have Lunch For the Week
Whether you prep it to make later in the week, or bake it for a week of lunches, make lasagna a healthy option by using tofu instead of ricotta and adding spinach and roasted veggies.
Slow Cook Some Spaghetti Squash
If you love using spaghetti squash in place of pasta, cook a whole squash in your slow-cooker to use for the week.
Prep a Week of Buddha Bowls
If it feels too chilly for cold salads, make a week of Buddha bowls. Hearty and satisfying with so many textures and flavors, these Buddha bowls come together in one hour. Your taste buds will delight in roasted sweet potatoes, baked tofu, sautéed spiced chickpeas, steamed broccoli, red peppers, kale, and quinoa. Topped with an easy-to-make creamy peanut sauce, lunch is going to be so awesome!
Prep Your Salad Toppings
If you prefer keeping your leafy greens super crisp and fresh, just prep and pack a week of salad toppings without the lettuce.
Bored with oatmeal? Cook up some quinoa! This recipe for slow-cooker apple pie quinoa makes a week's worth of breakfast all at once. You can also add to your salads or for a quick side for dinner.
Breakfast Up With Banana Bread
Create Curry For the Week
Get excited for savory sweet curry at lunch time. You can make a big batch of this sweet potato chickpea curry in your slow-cooker, and cook a big pot of grains to enjoy with it. Lunch for the week will take less than an hour!
Bake Some Breakfast Bars
Ever crave cookies for breakfast? Then make a batch of these chewy oatmeal protein bars. A 176-calorie square offers 8.4 grams of hunger-satiating protein.
Massage Your Kale Ahead of Time
Who has time to massage kale for their dinner salads every single night? Save time by massaging a big bowl on Sunday, and store it in an airtight glass container in the fridge. It'll stay fresh all week.
Make a Quinoa Egg Bake
Pair eggs with whole grains for a filling breakfast, and prepare a quinoa egg bake ahead of time. Microwave a piece while brewing your coffee, and you'll have a hot breakfast served in minutes.
Create Veggie Plates
Is eating more veggies a goal? Prep five days of veggie bowls, so you can use them for lunch or dinner. These have massaged kale, steamed green beans and broccoli, and roasted sweet potato.
Freeze Ripe Bananas For Smoothies
Peel, slice, and freeze bananas in freezer-safe baggies so they're ready for protein smoothies in the morning. You can also throw them in your oatmeal.
Make Your Own Protein Bars
If you love the ease of grabbing a protein bar, but you don't want to pay tons of money per bar and don't love some of the odd ingredients you find in them, make a big batch of your own. These chocolate almond protein bars are vegan, gluten-free, and offer almost 13 grams of protein per 166-calorie bar.
Make Protein Muffins
For a quick breakfast, whip up a batch of these lemon blueberry protein muffins. For just 300 calories, two muffins offers 12 grams of protein and almost five grams of fiber. You can freeze some to have later in the month, too.
Pre-Measure You Own Pancake Mix
Bisquick, as the name suggests, might be quick, but it's not the healthiest. DIY your own healthy pancake mix using whole wheat flour for added fiber. You can even add protein powder to your jar. Save even more time by making and freezing pancakes to warm up in seconds.
If you tend to overeat snacks like nuts, tortilla chips, pretzels, trail mix, or dried fruit, the calories can add up if you're not paying attention. Measure out portions in little containers or baggies so you can grab them during the week.
Create an Egg Casserole
Take 20 minutes for prep the night before, set your slow cooker to low while you sleep, and wake up to the smell of eggs and bacon cooking in the kitchen. Store the rest of the servings in the fridge in separate containers so breakfast is easy to grab the next morning, re-heat, and enjoy.
Make a Quinoa Bake
For a twist on oatmeal, cooked quinoa offers more protein. Make a quinoa breakfast bake before bed, and you can eat a square warmed up with a dollop of yogurt. Save the rest and re-heat throughout the week.