Meal prepping doesn’t have to be boring! Use this means of planning ahead as a chance to schedule some flavor into your week. I’ve included four different meals all made from one recipe that will take your meal-prepping game to the next level (“How to Meal Prep 2.0,” so to speak). Follow along with me to learn how to meal prep and how to make meal prepping exciting!
What Is Meal Prepping?
Let’s start with the basics. What exactly is meal prepping? It’s the practice of preparing entire meals ahead of schedule so that they’re packed and ready to consume at the chef’s beck and call. It’s particularly popular among professionals, parents, and high school- or college-aged students who are doing it to save time. It’s also a great way to prepare healthy meals all at once so that you can resist the urge to hit up your favorite drive-thru on your lunch break.
Meal prepping is also a helpful way to establish the habit of choosing more nutritious and healthy meal choices for the long haul, as it eliminates the need to make a quick, unplanned, and convenient decision when you’re hungry or exhausted. (That choice is not often a healthy one.)
One major grievance with meal prepping is that it can get boring, and that makes it difficult for people to stick with it. But that doesn’t have to be the case! Use this as an opportunity to try new foods with a wide range of colors, textures, tastes, and nutritional benefits.
How To Meal Prep
You may think that cooking meals for the week ahead will consume a big chunk of your weekend and downtime. While that can be the case, there are enough ways to meal prep so that you aren’t spending your Sunday standing over a hot stove.
There are many different ways to meal prep depending on your personal health goals, schedule, and dietary preferences. The most common include:
- Batch Cooking: Making large batches of one specific recipe that are then divided among single portions to be frozen and consumed over the next few months. (E.g., big-batch soups, chilis, or casseroles)
- Individually Portioned Meals: This entails making one entire meal, then portioning them into smaller meals in individual containers and refrigerated until mealtime. This comes in handy for quick, grab-and-go lunches. (E.g., Typically includes a protein, carb or grain, and veggie. Think sheet pan dinners.)
- Prepared Ingredients: When you do a bunch of chopping, peeling, slicing, and/or roasting in advance and use those prepared ingredients in recipes later on. This helps to cut down on cooking time later in the week.
- Make-Ahead Meals: These are full-cooked individual meals that can be refrigerated and reheated at mealtimes. This method comes in handy for lunches or dinners during a busy week.
These different meal-prepping methods can be mixed and matched depending on your preference and schedule. Start by choosing the most appealing method, then experiment with the others to determine which you like best.
Variety Is Key for Successful Meal Prepping
How does one go about planning four meals for the week all at once and ahead of time that are not all the same? Start by choosing your whole grain. This ingredient serves as the foundation for your meals, and it will be the same in all four dishes. I love wild rice blends because I get several different types of rice all in one convenient package.
I recommend using whole grains because they will keep you fuller longer and are a necessity for take-to-work lunch bowls if you have long days at the office.
Next, choose two or three different types of protein to add variety and texture. For this post, I chose egg, chicken, and shrimp because they all cook super fast and keep the amount of time spent cooking to a minimum. I’ve also made bowls with my Instant Pot Pot Roast and home-cooked pinto beans. It’s all about personal preference and a matter of organization.
If you need to be quick, choose lean proteins like eggs, fish, seafood, chicken breast, turkey breast, or tofu. If you have more time, try beef, chickpeas, beans, lentils, or pork.
Next up in this meal prepping saga is the veggies. This is another prime opportunity to get creative. Choose as many vegetables as you can fit in your containers! The more the better. Use all the colors of the rainbow, especially many green ones. For this example, I chose seven vegetables in total — onion, zucchini, bell pepper, asparagus, cherry tomatoes, peas, carrots, and broccoli.
THIS is how to prepare different bowls all in one go. THIS is how to meal prep 2.0. And these are just a couple of ideas! The sky is your limit.
What Are the Best Containers for Meal Prepping?
This depends hugely on where you are eating your lunch and how you commute (if at all) to the place you’ll have your meal. I work from home and eat at home, so I like to use exclusively glass containers with airtight snap locking lids. They are a very safe material, great for reheating, and last forever.
My husband, however, commutes by bike to work, so he packs his lunch in stainless steel containers that are totally leak-proof, an ultra-safe material, pretty much indestructible, and less heavy than glass.
You can also use plastic Tupperware, but make sure that it’s BPA free and dishwasher safe. The last thing you want after meal prepping is a week’s worth of dirty dishes that need to be hand-washed!
And it helps to have a well-insulated lunchbox that can hold an ice pack, especially when your prepped meals feature meat. Go ahead and freeze the ice packs ahead of time and pack the day’s prepped meal inside the lunchbox so all you have to do the morning of is grab it and go!
How Long Do the Prepped Meals Last?
You might have noticed that most meal prep recipes are only made for 4 days. There is an important reason for this. It’s not like Friday is a cheat day. (As badly as we might wish!) It’s because most ingredients last only 3-4 days in the refrigerator — especially all the proteins, be it an animal protein or plant-based. I’ve eaten both on the 5th day without a problem, but it’s honestly unnecessarily risky.
Veggies are a little easier once they’ve been cooked. Some raw veggies have a harder time keeping fresh, like baby spinach or lettuce for example. It all depends on how fresh they were when you bought them. I’ve had heads of lettuce in the fridge for over a week in perfect conditions. Others, however, started being sad after only two days.
Find out when your supermarket gets its produce, and go shopping that day to ensure you have the freshest meal prepping ingredients. Or go to the market and small butcher in the first place to get the freshest foods. Fresh ingredients are key to successful meal prepping!
Key Ingredients for These Meal-Prepped Dishes
- 1 – 1.25 cups Wild Blend Rice + water as instructed on the packaging depending on if you cook on stovetop or pressure cooker
- Dry Seasonings: sea salt, freshly ground black pepper, poultry seasoning, red pepper flakes,
- Veggies: 1/2 small red onion, 1 small zucchini, 1 small yellow bell pepper, 10 asparagus, 6 large cherry tomatoes, 1-2 spring onions, 2 cloves garlic, 1 tsp grated fresh ginger, 1 large carrot, 1 cup broccoli florets, and 1/2 cup frozen peas
- Protein: 2 chicken breasts, 2 large eggs, and 7-8 large shrimp
- Avocado Oil (or another flavorless oil with a high smoke point)
- 3-4 Tbsp soy sauce
- 1-2 tsp sesame seed oil
How To Make These Meal-Prepped Dishes (detailed)
Prep the Whole Grains: Cook the wild rice blend either as instructed on the package or in the Instant Pot by adding the same amount of water and a teaspoon of salt and setting it to 28 minutes on high pressure. Then, let the pressure release naturally.
Prep the Veggies: Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Peel and finely slice the carrot. Wash, dry, and cut broccoli florets into small pieces. Peel and dice the red onion. Wash, dry, and dice the zucchini, bell pepper, and asparagus. Wash and dry the cherry tomatoes. Place the vegetables on a baking sheet, drizzle with avocado oil, and sprinkle with sea salt, pepper, poultry seasoning, and red pepper flakes
Prepare the Proteins: Rinse and dry the shrimps with paper towels. Set aside. Dice the chicken breasts, place them on the baking sheet, and drizzle with avocado oil, and sprinkle them with the same spices you used on the veggies. Mix with your hands, and then distribute the chicken in one layer with space in between each chicken piece to ensure even cooking. Crack 2 eggs into a glass or small bowl and whisk until well-combined.
Bake: Roast both the veggies and chicken for 12-15 minutes.
Make Your Veggie and Wild Rice Stir Fry: Heat a skillet over medium heat. Wash, dry, and finely chop the white parts of the spring onions; peel and crush the garlic; and peel and grate the ginger. Then, add a drizzle of avocado oil to the hot skillet and add chopped spring onion, crushed garlic, and grated ginger to the skillet. Sauté for about 1 minute. Next, add about 2/3 of the cooked Wild Blend Rice, the sliced carrot, and the broccoli florets. Stir fry until vegetables are vibrant in color. Add the peas, soy sauce, and sesame oil and keep stirring until well combined and the peas defrosted. Remove half of the rice stir-fry and add to one of your four lunch containers.
Make Your Egg Fried Rice: Move the other half still in the skillet all to one side and add two whisked eggs to the empty side of the skillet and scramble there. Then mix with the rice/veggies, and — once well combined — serve into one of your lunch containers.
Cook the Shrimp: Add a splash of avocado oil to your dirty pan, and cook shrimps for about 1 minute per side or until strong orange. Add a splash of soy sauce during the last 30 seconds of cooking time. Then add the cooked shrimps to the lunch container with the rice stir-fry that has NO egg.
Prep Chicken Bowls: Divide the remaining 1/3 of rice still in your pot between the two empty lunch containers, add half the chicken to one container and the other half to the other container. Add roasted red onion, zucchini, and bell pepper to one rice/chicken bowl and roasted asparagus and cherry tomatoes to the other.
Store: Place prepped meals in containers in the refrigerator for up to 4 days. Eat cold or reheat the day you’ll eat it. Enjoy!
More Meal Prepping Recipes To Try
If you enjoyed these dishes, then you’ll love my other meal prepping recipes:
- Fail-Proof Instant Pot Chili
- Thai Chicken Curry Meal Prep Bowls
- Vegetarian Meal Prep Bowls
- Maple Dijon Chicken Meal Prep Bowls
- Teriyaki Chicken Meal Prep Bowls
How to Meal Prep 2.0
- 1.25 cups wild rice blend
- 1.25 cups water – or as instructed on the packaging if cooking on the stove
- 1/2 small red onion, diced
- 1 small zucchini, diced
- 1 small yellow bell pepper, diced
- 10 asparagus
- 6 large cherry tomatoes
- 10 oz chicken breast, cubed
- sea salt
- black pepper
- 1 Tbsp poultry seasoning
- 2 tsp red pepper flakes
- 2 Tbsp avocado oil – (or other flavorless high smoke point oil)
- 1-2 spring onions, sliced
- 2 cloves garlic, crushed
- 1 tsp grated fresh ginger, grated
- 1 large carrot, julienned
- 1 cup small broccoli florets
- 1/2 cup frozen peas
- 3-4 Tbsp soy sauce
- 1-2 tsp sesame seed oil
- 2 large eggs, whisked
- 7-8 large shrimps
Cook wild rice blend as instructed on the package or in the Instant Pot for 28 minutes on high pressure plus full natural pressure release.
Preheat the oven to 400 F.
Add diced red onion, diced bell pepper, diced zucchini, asparagus, cherry tomatoes, and chicken to a large baking sheet. Drizzle with avocado oil and season with sea salt, pepper, poultry seasoning, and red pepper flakes and use your hands to mix in well.
Roast the vegetables and chicken for 12-15 minutes. SET AN ALARM (!!!)
In the meantime, (if rice is finished cooking), heat a skillet over medium heat.
Add a drizzle of avocado oil to the hot skillet, then add chopped spring onion, crushed garlic, and grated ginger to the skillet and sauté for about 1 minute. Then add about 2/3 of the cooked wild rice blend, the julienned carrot, and broccoli florets and stir fry until vegetables become vibrant in color.
Add frozen peas, soy sauce and sesame seed and keep stirring until well combined and the peas defrosted.
Remove half of the rice stir-fry and add to one of our lunch containers.
Move the other half still remaining in the skillet all to one side and add whisked eggs to the empty side of the skillet and scramble there, then mix with the rice/veggies, and once well-combined serve into one of your lunch containers.
Return the pan to the heat and fry paper-towel-dried shrimp for one minute per side in a little avocado oil and season with sea salt and pepper while in the pan.
Divide the remaining 1/3 of rice still in your pot between the two empty lunch containers, add half of the chicken to one container and the other half to the other container. Add roasted red onion, zucchini and bell pepper to one rice/chicken bowl and roasted asparagus and cherry tomatoes to the other.
Store in the refrigerator for up to 4 days. Eat either cold or reheat the day you’ll eat it.