Here is exactly how I prepped my breakfasts, lunches, dinners, and snacks for nearly this entire week in just 90 minutes (not including grocery shopping or all of the cleanup). This is just one example of how to get yourself set up with food for the week – it’s not a meal plan, so I deliberately left off quantities and unnecessary details. (I also eat things like bananas, cottage cheese, and protein shakes that don’t need to be prepped in advance, so use this as a meal prep strategy guide but not an eating plan, please!)
What I made:
- Gingerbread oatmeal breakfast bars ($2, gluten-free oats from Trader Joes)
- Cinnamon apples with coconut oil ($3, from Trader Joes)
- Smoothies (mango-berry, blueberry-banana $5, frozen fruit from Trader Joes)
- Herbed chicken salad ($8, organic chicken from HEB)
- Baked sweet potatoes ($4, organic sweet potatoes from Trader Joes)
- Crustless quiches ($6, organic eggs and organic frozen spinach from Trader Joes)
- Plantains ($1 from HEB)
- Brown rice ($4, sprouted brown rice from HEB)
- Green beans ($6, organic frozen green beans from Trader Joes)
- Baked tofu ($9, organic high-protein tofu from Trader Joes)
- “Creamed” spinach ($6, organic frozen spinach from Trader Joes)
- Pan-roasted carrots ($2, organic carrots from Trader Joes)
- Chia pudding ($1, seeds from HEB bulk)
- Guacamole ($2, avocados from HEB)
- Grapes (ok, no real prep needed…but I did wash and dry them to save time later in the week and not let them wither in the crisper) ($2, organic grapes from Sprouts)
Total: $61 for 20 meals and 10 snacks
How to get it all cooked in 90 minutes:
Get out everything that you’ll be cooking so that you don’t forget anything or realize partway through that you’re missing something important. Heat the oven to 350.
Wash sweet potatoes and place them on a baking sheet in the oven to bake.
Put boneless, skinless chicken breasts in a saucepan filled with water to start poaching. Bring to a boil, then reduce to a simmer.
Start the rice (add rice and water to a pot, season, bring to a boil, reduce to simmer…).
In a greased glass baking dish, mix together oats (1 serving per day) and anything else that’s going in your bars. (I added spices, including cinnamon, ginger, and turmeric, and a little bit of molasses.) Add water to just cover, then put the bars in the oven to bake.
In another glass baking dish, whisk together your tofu sauce (I used apple cider vinegar, liquid aminos, and olive oil). Portion the tofu, place it in the sauce, and put the dish in the oven to bake.
Whisk together the eggs, egg whites, and herbs for the quiches – to save time later on portioning, I whisked each serving together separately. Add frozen spinach to greased baking dishes (I used mini pie plates, but muffin tins or even just a single glass dish or pie pan work, too), then pour eggs over top. Place in the oven to bake.
Heat a skillet with a bit of coconut oil. Peel and slice the plantains, then start them cooking in the hot oil.
Separately, wash and dice the apples. Place them in a saucepan with coconut oil and cinnamon, and cook over medium-low heat.
Stir the chia seeds into your liquid (I used lemon-ginger tea with a little coconut milk) and allow to sit.
Check everything that’s in the oven – it should all need at least 20 more minutes.
Flip the chicken breasts and allow them to finish poaching.
Turn the plantains.
Set out the containers for your meals.
Remove the plantains from the heat and portion them out.
Using the same pan, put a batch of green beans on to saute (I did mine with lemon and a hit of liquid aminos) – I use frozen green beans, so mine are already washed and mostly trimmed.
Remove the rice from the heat and allow to finish cooking, covered.
Portion out the green beans and put on another batch (your number of batches will depend on your portions and on the size of your skillet).
Stir the apples and, probably, remove them from the heat.
Stir the chia pudding.
Blend the fruit (and whatever else you’re using) to make your smoothies. I start with fruit that’s already frozen – even if it’s fruit I previously froze myself – to save prep time. Portion out your blended smoothies and store them in the freezer (leave a gap in your containers to allow the smoothie to expand when it freezes); you can defrost them an hour or 2 before you’re ready to drink them.
Go ahead and wash the blender now.
Portion out the second batch of green beans and put on another batch.
Fluff the rice, then portion it out.
The chicken is probably done poaching, so remove it from the heat, put the cooked chicken in a bowl, and shred it using two forks.
The egg muffins are probably done cooking, so remove them from the oven and set them aside to cool. If you need to cook a second batch (depends on your servings and your pans), do it now.
Stir the chia pudding. It’s probably done, so go ahead and put a lid on it before refrigerating.
Portion out the third batch of green beans.
In the same skillet, saute the first batch of spinach (I use frozen spinach, so the prep work is already done…).
Season your shredded chicken to complete the chicken salad; portion it out.
The oatmeal bars are probably baked, so remove them from the oven and set them aside to cool.
If the sweet potatoes are fully baked, remove them from the oven, too.
Stir the cooked spinach into some cottage cheese; season and portion.
Put the second batch of spinach on to saute.
Cover the cooled apples and refrigerate.
The tofu is probably getting golden, so remove it from the oven, set it aside to cool, and turn off the oven.
The egg muffins/quiches are probably cool, so cover and store them. (I froze mine individually, but you do you.)
Stir the cooked spinach into some cottage cheese; season and portion.
Put the third batch of spinach on to saute.
Cut the cooled oatmeal bars into portions, cover, and refrigerate. (Package them individually if you like.)
The sweet potatoes are probably cool enough to handle, so peel them if desired and portion them out.
Stir the last batch of cooked spinach into some cottage cheese; season and portion.
In the same pan, heat olive oil to roast the carrots. Wash, peel, and trim the carrots; roast on medium-high heat.
The tofu is probably cool enough to package, so portion it out.
Most of your containers are probably complete at this point, so put lids on them.
Stir the carrots.
Mash and season avocado to kill time and make sure you don’t forget to eat it. Wash and store the grapes for the same reason.
Stir the carrots one last time, then remove them from the heat and portion them out.
Put lids on the rest of your containers and tetris them into the fridge.
Put the few cooking dishes you dirtied in the sink or, if you’re fancy, right into the dishwasher.
Strategic meal prep takeaways:
- Assess what you’re cooking and start with the thing(s) that will take the longest. (They are usually meat and/or things that go in the oven.)
- Use frozen veggies to cut down on prep time – I only had to wash and peel 2 out of the 4 vegetables I prepped for the week.
- As things finish cooking, portion them out and store them as soon as possible. This allows you to reuse cooking tools and finish your meals faster.
- Cook things that don’t require a lot of hands-on time – you can supplement these staples with more exciting dishes later in the week if needed, because you’ll have plenty of time on your hands since you’re not cooking much more this week.
- You do not have to do your meal prep on Sunday! I usually do mine mid-week instead of on the weekend, because it’s fast enough to finish it all on a weeknight. Do what works for you.