I get it. You’re busy and don’t have nearly enough time to prepare 3 separate meals. When you wake up, you’re in a hurry to go to work, so you probably skip breakfast.
Lunch? Takeout or whatever the cafeteria sells is likely what you get almost everyday. Come dinner time, you’re too tired to cook so you either find some place to eat or grab whatever’s left in the fridge.
Not only is this unhealthy but it also costs you a lot of time and money. I know this because I’ve been there.
Enter: Meal prepping. It’s basically cooking big batches of food and portioning them out to make several meals. This way, you save both time and money, eating becomes convenient, and since you control your portions, it’s better for your health and weight, too.
Your pre-cooked meals don’t have to be complex for them to be tasty either. In fact, there’s a bunch of easy, delicious, but also healthy meal prep ideas out there and I believe I’ve listed some of them here. Take a look:
Healthy meal prep ideas for breakfast
1. Overnight oats (15 easy flavorful recipes)
These are exactly what they sound like. You make them the day before, store them in the fridge, and you’re good to go for breakfast.
They’re basically fail proof because they’re so easy to make but besides that, what’s so good about them is that you can store them for up to 5 days which makes them great for meal preps.
You can also eat them straight from the fridge or heat them in the microwave, oven, or pan. They’re great either way.
There are a lot of ways to make overnight oats, too. But, what consistently gives me the best results (and the most variety) is Chocolate Covered Katie’s recipes.
Her base recipe is made of rolled oats, milk and/or yogurt, sweetener, and salt. If you want, you can mix in a fistful of fruit, a couple tablespoons of nut butter, and maybe some chia seeds in there as well.
From this recipe, Chocolate Covered Katie details 15 other ways you can add more flavor — and trust me, they’re all delicious.
2. Breakfast smoothies (7 variations from a very basic recipe)
Oh, so you don’t even have time to eat your pre-made breakfast? How about you just drink it on your way to work? That’s right. With breakfast smoothies, that’s possible. Blend it, put it in a jar, and drink away.
For this, I think Denise from Sweet Peas and Saffron has it down to an art form. Her base recipe is simple: 1 ½ cups of frozen fruit and 1 ½ cups of blending liquid. The blending liquid can be anything you want — almond milk, skimmed milk, coconut water, or even plain water if you’re a running low on supplies.
From this basic recipe, Denise makes 7 other versions that you can easily do at home.
The idea is that you put everything you need minus the blending liquid in a mason jar or any airtight container and store them in the freezer.
In the morning, all you have to do is pour everything inside the jar into a blender (I recommend this one as a cheap option), add your preferred blending liquid, and blend. All that’s left is now is to transfer it back into your mason jar or whatever you want to drink from and that’s it.
3. Banana and chocolate chip oatmeal cups
This recipe from Organize Yourself Skinny is light (only 202 calories per muffin cup), easy to make, delicious, and most of all, healthy. I think this is an awesome meal prep idea particularly for those of you who love sweets. Also, 1 batch of this recipe makes 12 muffins, giving you a few extra pieces for snacks.
Personally, I like making these when I know I have a busy week ahead of me. I just take a piece or 2 out of the freezer, heat it up in the microwave for 2 minutes, and take it with me to work (along with a cup of coffee of course).
If you want, you could even squeeze a bit of maple syrup or honey on top to make it even sweeter.
4. Avocado and egg breakfast meal
The previous meal preps I’ve given you are on the lighter side, so let’s switch it up to something more hearty.
I got this recipe from Damn Delicious and I’ve got to be honest here — I’ve probably made this more times than any other breakfast meal prep I’ve tried.
It uses avocados and eggs (duh) as well as brown rice and greens. The recipe calls for kale but you can easily swap it with broccoli, brussel sprouts, asparagus, or basically any other vegetable.
If you follow the exact measurements in the recipe, you should be able to get 4 servings out of this. Just a tip though, you don’t want to heat the avocados in the microwave so maybe store it in a different container.
5. Breakfast burrito
Here’s another one of my favorite go-to breakfast meal preps. The original recipe is from Linley Richter of Team Fit Foodie and I think it’s an easy way to fit breakfast into your bustling schedule.
The ingredients are pretty basic, too, and can be easily bought in virtually any grocery store.
The recipe makes 10 (yes, 10!) breakfast burritos so you’ve got plenty to go around. You can even have them as a snack if you want.
Hearty lunch meal prep ideas
6. Spicy chicken and sweet potato meal prep
You’ve probably noticed it by now but when I prep my own food, I like them done as effortlessly as possible. That being said, the simplicity of it is one of the things I like about Pinch of Yum’s spicy chicken and sweet potato meal prep recipe (along with its tastiness of course).
When I make it, it usually takes me an hour but more than half that time is spent hands off.
You’ll need a couple of pounds of chicken breasts, your choice of spicy seasoning (I use store-bought cajun but feel free to experiment), sweet potatoes, broccolinis, and of course, salt, pepper, and a bit of olive oil.
Put the seasoned chicken, sweet potatoes, and broccolinis in separate sheet pans, put them in the oven, and portion them out into separate containers when cooked and store in the fridge when they’ve all cooled down to room temperature. For even more healthy fat, add a few slices of avocado to your meal after reheating.
7. Roasted chicken and veggies
This healthy meal prep idea is similar to the previous recipe in the sense where it gives you a complete meal loaded with protein, carbohydrates, and healthy fats. Likewise, this recipe by Gimme Delicious also uses chicken and broccolinis.
However, the difference is that instead of sweet potatoes, you’ll be eating rice; Instead of spicy seasoning, you’ll be using italian seasoning; And instead of avocados, you’ll have onions, plum tomatoes, and zucchini.
Personally, I think this recipe is slightly more complicated because it uses more ingredients but it’s a nice change of pace nonetheless. Also, the cooking method is pretty much the same — season the chicken and the veggies, cook them in the oven, and evenly distribute into equal portions.
8. Honey sriracha glazed meatballs
When I was younger, I loved ketchup. Now that I’m older, I put sriracha in almost everything. The spiciness, sweetness, and somewhat garlicky flavor of the sauce, to me, just makes everything better — including meatballs!
Having said that, I think Eat Yourself Skinny’s honey sriracha glazed meatballs recipe is mind blowing. Both the sauce and the meatballs are easy to make with ingredients that you can find in any grocery store.
9. Creamy tomato and spinach pasta
Budget Byte’s creamy tomato and spinach pasta might be the quickest and most affordable recipes I’ve tried to meal prep, so I highly recommend it if you have limited time, money, or cooking experience.
The ingredients can easily be bought in any grocery, too. You might even have them in your pantry right now.
This recipe is great alone and you can totally have it as your meal prep but I like having a side of garlic bread when I make this. If you want to give it more protein, I find store bought rotisserie chicken works just fine.
10. Baked salmon and vegetables (2 ways)
Getting tired of chicken and pasta? Try these salmon recipes for a change!
Tasty has 2 easy salmon recipes — balsamic soy and garlic paprika — and I think they’re both amazing. Also, salmon is an excellent source of healthy omega-3 fatty acids and protein, so it’s nutritious, too. Plus, the recipe also comes with carrots, green beans, asparagus, and yellow squash which gets you a healthy dose of vegetables.
You can only store this in the fridge for up to 3 days though, so make sure to keep some of it in the freezer.
Light and healthy meal prep recipes for dinner
Before we move on, let me just say that the lunch meal prep ideas above are perfectly fine to have for dinner. Just cook up a bigger batch.
However, I personally like my dinner lighter than my lunch because I mostly don’t need a lot of calories at night. After eating, I’m likely headed straight to the bedroom to watch Netflix, read a good book, or snuggle with my wife and dogs until I turn the lights off and go to sleep.
If your night usually goes like mine, then these healthy meal prep idea should work wonders:
11. Turkey tacos
For Ambitious Kitchen’s turkey tacos, you have 2 options: use your stove top or a slow cooker. I mostly use the stove top because it’s quicker but if I need to be somewhere else, the slow cooker gives me more than enough time.
The slow cooker I use is Crock-Pot’s 6-Quart Cook & Carry Programmable Slow Cooker but if you have a different brand/model at home, that’s perfectly fine.
The ingredients for this recipe are also pretty basic. All you’re going to need to get from the store are turkey, onion, garlic, olive oil, tomato sauce, a few common seasonings, cheese, lettuce, jalapenos, and of course, tortillas.
12. Mediterranean pasta salad
Like most anything that’s Mediterranean, this pasta salad is made with tasty fruits and vegetables.
Specifically with Gimme Some Oven’s recipe, you’ll be using cucumber, cherry tomatoes, olives, and red onion. Along with feta cheese, your choice of pasta, and the lemon-herb vinaigrette (that the recipe also teaches you how to make), all these amazing flavors come to life in a light but satisfying dinner that you’ll be able to enjoy night after night.
13. Sheet pan shrimp fajitas
In this recipe, you’re going to be cooking everything using a single sheet pan and it’ll only take you about 20-30 minutes. So, I think it’s definitely beginner-friendly and one that you can do on a busy Sunday.
I’m following Number 2 Pencil’s recipe because aside from the obvious shrimp and tortillas, this meal is packed with healthy vegetables and peppers.
All you need to do is combine all your ingredients (including the seasoning and olive oil) in a large bowl, evenly spread them on a sheet pan sprayed with non-stick cooking spray, and cook them inside your oven. Once done, evenly distribute everything in your tortillas.
Meal prepping tips and tricks
When you’re still new to meal prepping, checking out recipes you might enjoy is just a small part.
If you’re not prepared, this task can actually be stressful. And, as an advocate for healthy eating habits, I want to make this as easy as possible for you so you’re more likely to stick to it.
Having said that, here are a few meal prepping tips and tricks that I learned along the way:
Plan your meals ahead
What I mean by this is to pick out the food you want to have for the rest of the week. This way, you can take note of the recipes and grab all the necessary ingredients and cookware you need.
Also, I recommend starting with 2-3 recipes. I know eating the same type of food over and over can be tiresome but when you’re not used to cooking big batches yet, focusing your attention on fewer recipes helps keep the stress to a minimum.
This brings us to the next tip.
Find recipes that you won’t get tired of
The concept is simple: the more times you repeat a recipe, the easier it gets over time.
So, I recommend finding a set of go-to recipes that you know you’re still going to enjoy even after you have done it over and over.
For example, one of my go-to breakfast meal preps are breakfast burritos and because I’ve made them so many times before, I know exactly what I need to get at the grocery store and I know exactly how to cook it even without the recipe.
Don’t cook too much food
As a general rule, remember that you can only safely store food in the refrigerator for about 3-4 days. Anything you plan to keep longer than that needs to go to the freezer. Otherwise, you risk food poisoning.
This is exactly why I only meal prep for Mondays through Fridays (5 days). I store my Monday-Wednesday food in the fridge and everything else goes to the freezer.
Come Wednesday and Thursday night, I take a batch of food out of the freezer and put it in the fridge to thaw while I sleep. The next morning, my meals are ready to reheat in the oven or microwave.
Now, I’ve seen people meal prep for 7 days and it works for them. If that’s what works for you, go ahead. BUT — and I can’t stress this enough — never store food that you won’t eat within 3 or 4 days in the fridge. Put ‘em in the freezer for safety.
Stick to a schedule
Here’s what a typical week looks like for me:
I work weekdays and spend Saturdays with family and friends. Sunday morning, I do my chores and finish before noon. I then go out to buy whatever groceries I need and grab some lunch.
I get home around 2:30PM, rest a bit, and start meal prepping at 4PM. Depending on the recipes, I usually finish cooking and storing everything around 6PM (sometimes 7PM if I’m feeling sluggish).
This is what works for me and sticking to this schedule helps ensure that I have time for work, social life, and of course, myself and my nutrition.
If you want to be able to consistently stick to your meal preps, I highly recommend taking the time to figure out a schedule that you can follow.
Use glass containers
When shopping for food containers, I generally have 3 rules I follow:
- It has to be microwavable. It’s obvious but, yeah. You’re going to be reheating food for at least 3 or 4 days so this is a must.
- It shouldn’t change how your food tastes. The truth is that there’s almost always a difference between how fresh and stored food tastes like but you’re going to want a container that retains as much of the food’s original texture and flavor. Meals are simply more satisfying this way.
- It should be healthy. What I mean is that it shouldn’t release any chemicals that may be harmful to you after reheating.
Glass containers generally tick all of these boxes which is largely why I highly recommend them over plastic. Plus, I think glass is more classy-looking and it’s less likely to stain over time.
I use M MCIRCO glass meal prep containers which I ordered from Amazon. I chose this because I like how each container has 2 separate compartments but, really, any brand works just fine.
Also, I use mason jars mostly to store overnight oats and smoothies for breakfast. Not only do they look cool, they’re functional, too.
Now, if you’re fixed on using plastic, that’s fine. Just make sure what you get is BPA-free.
Multitasking vs. Monotasking (single-tasking)
This is something you need to figure out for yourself.
Personally, my parents taught me how to cook at a young age so when I started meal prepping, I had little trouble cooking 2 or 3 recipes at a time.
However, if you’re still new to this, I recommend focusing your attention on finishing 1 recipe before moving on to the next. This helps minimize errors when you’re cooking and, in turn, helps make sure that the end result is as tasty as you can possibly make it.
This no doubt takes significantly more time but if you’re going to be eating the same food for the entire week, might as well make it taste good, right?
The point I’m trying to make is just go at your own pace. If you feel like you can multitask, go ahead. But if not, there’s absolutely no shame in prepping your meals 1 at a time. After all, cooking isn’t supposed to be stressful.
To end this, let me just say that cooking and eating are supposed to be enjoyable. My hope is that with these healthy meal prep ideas, you not only get to save time and money, but also eat tasty meals that you know you had fun making.
If this helped at all, do tell your friends about us!