Food prepping is a real lifesaver for busy weeks, which come to think of it, seems to be every week. I always notice a distinct difference in how well the work week goes depending on whether or not I’ve prepped anything ahead.
It doesn’t have to be much, but just a few things prepped ahead keeps our household running much more smoothly. It’s also great for keeping us on track with healthier eating habits.
I usually don’t prep too much ahead in the way of dinners, mostly just breakfasts, lunches, and snacks. Some weeks all I can manage is a snack to put in the freezer, and it’s definitely still helpful even though it’s not much. In this case something is infinitely better than nothing!
So first off… how does meal prepping work?
The basic principle is make something -anything- ahead of time to have a healthy meal ready to eat.
To get more detailed, (the semi-short version is at the end) I also like to prep things that I’d call building blocks rather than whole meals. For instance in the photos, you’ll see roasted cubes of sweet potato. I love putting these with eggs, salsa, and avocado for a quick version of my Paleo Power Breakfast.
I do best with some protein in the morning, but the combination that best powers me up for the day is protein + carbs + healthy fats. However, there’s no way I’m going to be roasting sweet potato on a normal workday, so having it already done helps me make the type of breakfast that keeps me feeling my best during the day!
Healthy snacks are a must around our house for those times when you might not need a whole meal, just a little something to tide you over. My husband starts work super early in the morning, (7:00am) and they don’t take lunch until 1:00pm, so I try and send him a snack of some sort for around 10:00am. He has an active job, so it’s a little too long to go without food between his 6:30am breakfast and a 1:00pm lunch. He really loves my Flourless Chocolate Peanut Butter Muffins, and another favorite is my Maple Cinnamon Granola that I sometimes make into Fruit and Yogurt Cups with Granola for him to take along.
I don’t burn nearly as many calories as he does during an average work day, so the cut up veggies are for me. They’re awesome for when I’m feeling like munching, but I don’t actually need food. It’s hard working around food all day long without wanting to eat it, so veggies are super helpful for me in maintaining my weight.
Since our days start so early, (5:30am) I’m not really in the mood to be making a full scale breakfast and packing lunches every morning. So I do my best to be prepared ahead because there’s nothing worse than racing around trying to get it together when your brain still hasn’t turned on! I make Mason Salad Jars often because it’s a great way to get lots of veggies in throughout the day. Homemade soups are another great way to eat your veggies. When I’m not feeling super hungry, I’ll just dip some cut up veggies in homemade guacamole for a snack that keeps me energized and clear headed until dinner.
Another thing I love to do for lunches is to pack some leftovers from dinner for his lunch the next day. That makes it super easy because you’re not having to make something separate, and it’s a good way to breakup not having a salad jar/soup every day.
For breakfasts I love making frittatas, (I’m making this Asparagus Fontina Frittata a lot right now) or my Italian Sausage Egg Bake. I even make that egg bake whenever we’re traveling, whether it’s a road trip and we’ll eat it for the first couple of days. Or if we’re flying somewhere and have an early morning, we take pre-made egg bake on the road for a healthy start.
I also make it for pretty much every single adventure weekend when we’re in the mountains camping. It sounds good in theory to have freshly cooked bacon and eggs in the woods, but I don’t do it very often because then you have to cleanup. Better just to make breakfast once and have it for days without the every day cleanup, (even when you’re at home with hot running water).
Finally a full breakdown of this particular prep week and exactly what’s in the photos:
- From the top left there’s Mason Salad Jars with sliced strawberries, cucumbers, red onion topped with spinach. The dressing is the balsamic from my recipe for Spinach Salad with Pomegranates. Berries don’t last as long in salad jars, I only keep mine for 2-3 days, so if you want salads all week long, try using drier ingredients like whole cherry tomatoes and chopped carrots.
- Moving clockwise, next is my Homemade Chicken Zucchini Noodle Soup. I love making a huge batch of soup about once a month, keeping some in the fridge for the week, and freezing the rest to use throughout the month. I usually freeze it without the zucchini noodles and add those whenever I decided to defrost a package.
- Then there’s the roasted sweet potato cubes. You can make these by cubing up sweet potatoes, tossing them with a little olive oil, and seasoning with sea salt before roasting at 450ºF until tender with caramelized edges. These are awesome to go along with breakfasts like my Paleo Power Breakfast (I use jarred salsa instead of the Pico de Gallo during the work week).
- Sometimes I do prep 1 dinner ahead and the next container on the far right hand side of the photo is my Honey Garlic Sheet Pan Stir Fry. I like to eat this within the first couple of days, because broccoli never tastes as good the longer is sits.
- In the bottom right corner, I have a container of cut up veggies that I like to snack on during my recipe testing days at the beginning of the week.
- On the bottom left hand side are my Flourless Chocolate Peanut Butter Muffins. A batch of these makes 12, so I can make one batch that lasts 2-3 weeks in the freezer. We both work 4 ten hour days, so I usually send him 4 snacks per week, which neither one of us really needs on the other 3 days a week. So batches of snacks last for a while in our house. The Maple Cinnamon Granola pictured in the middle usually lasts 4-6 weeks per batch, but if we’re camping a lot on the weekends, we blow through it pretty fast!
- And finally in the middle there’s some Homemade Guacamole pictured which is usually my lunch with some cut veggies on the first couple days of the week. Since I recipe test at the beginning of the week, I’m often too full for a real lunch after tasting everything, that veggies and guacamole works well for me. The best way to keep guacamole for more than 1 day is to pack it into an airtight container, lay a bit of plastic wrap on the surface, then cover it with a lid and place it in the fridge. Another great hack is to just buy guacamole cups from the store when you know your week is going to be extra crazy!
Hopefully you’ll find this rundown on some of our food prepping helpful! We prep more or less depending on the week, the busier it’s going to be, the more I like to have prepped ahead. But often I barely manage to prep breakfasts and snacks, and then I just pack a bit of dinner ahead for the next day’s lunch. I’m working on showing more of the combos we prep from week to week, so let me know what questions you might have about food prepping, or if you’d like to see more about food prepping.