Meal prepping is gaining popularity as the healthier, cheaper alternative to preparing daily lunches or going out to eat. Many people have found success with setting up their meals for the week on Sunday night, saying it helps them eat less, frees up their energy to make other decisions, and is much easier on the wallet. But after a while, even the most experienced meal preppers can get bored and need a little inspiration. In case you need to inject a little life into your tired routine, we’ve compiled some fresh recipe ideas that are sure to shake things up.
Breakfast Prep Ideas
Planning out your breakfasts in some form is a no-brainer! Whether you struggle to find an appetite in the morning or the time to get a few items together when you’re rushing around, having a fridge full of conveniently pre-packed breakfast superfoods to start your day off right is a genius life hack that will save you tons of time and give you those much-needed boosts of energy throughout your morning.
Fill individual containers with ingredients for breakfast smoothies on Sundays and pour the contents into your blender in the mornings instead of having to gather and portion out the ingredients at the beginning of every day. For smoothies you’ve got two options for preparation: 1) You can set aside the dry ingredients in resealable bags ahead of time, then measure and add the liquid ingredients the morning of, or 2) You can measure and portion out the liquids in containers ahead of time as well if you’re used to especially hectic mornings and you want to keep everything as easy as humanly possible while you’re heading out the door.
- Whether it’s the middle of winter and you’re hoping to forget that fact, or it’s summer and you’re looking for that beachy pick-me-up, a Pina Colada Smoothie is a refreshing, simple recipe with a tropical flair.
- The combination of two breakfast staples, try out a Coffee-Banana Smoothie, but we warned – for this meal prep recipe you’ll need a couple of ice trays.
- A Raspberry Mango Smoothie is a great option for those who chase that sweet, fruity kick first thing in the morning. This recipe is dairy-free and sugar-free.
Overnight Oat Packs
Versatile and very customizable, mix together oats, nuts, seeds, and/or whatever fruits you’d like to create healthy, portable oat-based combinations. Mason jars are a popular container, but plasticware works just as well depending on how much layering you’d like to do.
- For those who find they have a sweet tooth first thing in the morning, consider trying out Peanut Butter Overnight Oats. Gluten-free, vegan, and naturally sweetened, these require no baking or heat.
- An underappreciated combination, grapes and nuts are delightfully complementary! Overnight Oats with Grapes and Almonds is an adventurous recipe, but just remember that it keeps for only 3-4 days in the fridge.
- A twist on your morning blueberry muffin, Blueberry Muffin Batter Overnight Oats are another no-heat gem. This hearty breakfast pack is high in protein and very filling.
On-The-Go Yogurt Jars
Similar in concept to the oat packs, pre-portioned containers of yogurt are endlessly customizable and perfect for eating during your commute or at your desk. One of the fun things about meal prepping yogurts is that you can mix up the recipes differently for every day, planning blueberries for one day and strawberries for the next. Yogurt is a great food to start your day – it’s high in nutrients and protein, and great for maintaining bone health.
- If you want a really fun take on yogurt, look no further than Peanut Butter and Jelly Greek Yogurt Parfait. A simple recipe full of protein and nostalgia, this is a perfect way to really mix up your morning with that salty and sweet balance PB+J sandwiches are famous for.
- A more muffin-inspired set of flavors, Apple Cinnamon Greek Yogurt Parfait elegantly combines fresh fruit and the contrasting taste of cinnamon. Naturally sweetened with honey and applesauce, this is a fall-inspired breakfast idea that tastes great year-round.
- One of the easiest to make on the list, Blueberry Lemon Yogurt Parfait is refreshing and flavorful. Substitute the blueberries for raspberries, strawberries, or blackberries and try out different berry-lemon combinations for different days of the week.
Lunch Prep Ideas
You’ll notice big changes in the amount of time, money, and energy you’ll save when you pre-plan your lunches for the week on Sunday night. If you’ve ever struggled with portion control in the past, you’ll come to notice that pre-portioned containers can work wonders for your diet. Often by the time lunch rolls around, our eyes are bigger than our stomach and we end up tossing food in the trash or eating past the point we’re full. It’s important to make lunches you’ll actually be excited to eat midway through the day, so find a plan that works for you. Here are some ideas for clever twists on your everyday lunch staples:
A lunchtime classic, salads are a great meal prep option. Not only is making large batches of salad super fun, but you have the opportunity to change up your lunch a bit each day with different proteins. Remember to bring the dressing in a separate container on the side so your salad base doesn’t get soggy!
- A salad with a bit of everything, Barley Salad with Grilled Corn and Blueberries has a healthy base, some sweet notes and crunchy texture, as well as that necessary helping of cheese you might be craving at midday.
- This vegan Quinoa Avocado Salad with Pineapple recipe is also gluten free! A powerhouse of superfoods, this salad is summery, energizing, and as zesty as you want to make it.
- If you’re looking for a salad that perfectly balances sweet and crunchy, the Apple Pecan and Feta Salad with Honey Apple Dressing is a gem. This one is gluten-free and can be made vegan by substituting for vegan feta cheese.
Like salads, pasta offers some variety as different proteins or veggies can be added to alter the tastes slightly from day to day. One word of caution – when meal prepping, watch out for heavy cheese sauces, since they tend to reheat unevenly and chunkily.
- Try out this Spaghetti with Oven Roasted Broccoli recipe for a pretty straightforward introduction to meal prepping pasta. (The broccoli can be substituted for another side if desired.) This sauce can also be made more or less spicy depending on your preferences.
- An oil-based pasta, Pea and Pesto Pasta is meatless, light, and springy. Alternate including additions of protein every other weekday if you feel like changing it up.
- On the more complicated end of the spectrum, Chicken Enchilada Pasta is heavy on ingredients and makes for a unique, dense lunch. The best part? This pasta is made using only one pot, which means less dishes to clean!
Wraps, Tacos, and Burritos
For dishes that are filling and easy to make in large batches, consider compiling the contents of wrap-style sandwiches and having those ready to go with you in the mornings. Make a note that you’ll probably want to transport your tortilla, taco shell, bread, etc. in a second container so they don’t get soggy.
- Perfect for popping in the freezer and grabbing whenever you’re in a pinch, Chicken and Black Bean Freezer Burritos are easy to prepare and microwave to warm and edible after only about a minute.
- Combine your appreciation for tacos with the convenience of a solid wrap by making large batches of Taco Wraps. Either construct all your wraps on Sunday night and store, or portion out the meat and fillings into smaller containers to take with you throughout the week.
- Love your greens but also love spice? Spicy Lettuce Wraps can be made with turkey or chicken and however much spice you can handle. Remember if you want to keep your lettuce crisp, you can store it in a container separate from the wrap filling, or transport the whole meal in a container with divided compartments to keep them apart.
Dinner Prep Ideas
Dinner is a tricky meal to predict, since it’s hard to know exactly how you’ll feel at the end of the day. The good news is that meal prepping makes you less likely to order takeout when you get home and you’re exhausted, since you know in the back of your mind it’s faster to defrost a pre-prepared meal in the kitchen than to order in (no matter how quick they deliver). Unlike with breakfast and lunch, dinner tends to be less rushed, so you have more time to build upon meals. For dinner, you can meal prep entire dishes and stow them away, or just make large batches of main entrees and decide on which sides to pair them with later on.
A dinnertime staple, chicken can be prepared many different ways and take on all kinds of flavors and textures. It can also be frozen after it’s cooked – a big win for meal preppers everywhere. If you get bored of meals easily, chicken is extremely versatile and great for experimenting. There are tons of different, interesting chicken recipes out there, but here are just a few to get you inspired.
- Get home and have that urge to just order a pizza? Scrap that and defrost your Pizza Chicken Breast. Top it with whatever pizza toppings you can see going with chicken breast (maybe even more chicken on top?), and pair it with a side for a great gluten-free twist on pizza flavors.
- Recipes like Teriyaki Chicken Stir Fry are awesome for meal prep because they incorporate various food groups and tastes. When frozen, this meal can have real longevity as both dinners and occasional lunches.
- Instead of making a set of plain chicken breasts that you may not look forward to eating down the line, try stuffing chicken breasts with cheese or vegetables before cooking. Something like a Caprese Stuffed Chicken offers a flavorful, filling source of lean protein.
Excellent for dinner prep if you’re a seafood lover, fish and shellfish will give you something to look forward to at the end of the day. Keep in mind that fish shouldn’t be eaten after four days in the fridge, but can be preserved when frozen.
- Salmon fans (and those just looking to get their omega-3s) can try out Sweet Chili Salmon, which tastes great even if you’re not normally a fish person. This recipe is one of the more difficult on the list, but is full of unique tastes and zest.
- For a prepared meal that’s elegant and colorful, a shrimp medley like a Shrimp Vegetable Skillet is a great choice. Low on carbs and gluten-free, this dish can be made in one big pan and takes less than half an hour to make.
- For those who may struggle with whitefish, Baked Lemon Garlic Cod would be good to make in bulk. Pair with a side like brown rice, quinoa, barley (or your choice) for a complete meal.
Famous for how many they’re able to feed, casseroles are ideal for dinner prepping for yourself throughout the week or dividing up among family members over a couple of days. Remember that casseroles will last much longer when kept frozen, so be sure to plan accordingly.
- For a hearty and filling casserole that tastes great, a Spinach Artichoke Quinoa Casserole is perfect for those who want to get in their daily servings of veggies without having to taste them. This dish refrigerates for three days, or can be frozen up to three months.
- Sure to be a family favorite, the Cheeseburger Casserole is thick, meaty, and cheesy. Feel free to add extra burger-inspired toppings on top to make it your own.
- A fantastic recipe for those who have cut out meat altogether or are trying to cut down, Vegetarian Shepherd’s Pie replaces ground beef with lentils and mushrooms for that meaty texture – and it works surprisingly well!