I think that when people think of “meal prepping”, it conjures up counters piled up with disposable tins of freezer lasagnas & slow-cooker meals.
While you can totally do that, I think what’s easier and more fun is having essentials ready to go, and coming up with meals as you go through the week. I really don’t want lasagna every day of the week, and I don’t want to risk weeks of meals going bad in my freezer because I got sick of them. Similarly, you can end up with really dried out, wilted meals if you’re creating lots of finished meals up front.
Our method involves preparing the heartiest parts of meals and adding in fresh ingredients when you’re about to eat - so it saves you time, but doesn’t lack in flavor or excitement.
chopped fruit & veg
If you want to save money & packaging, buy whole foods and prep them yourself. It takes a little more time, but we just do all of this prep on a Sunday afternoon while watching cooking shows so it makes it a pretty fun time. For these, you can wash, peel, slice, and chop up fresh foods for snacking however you wish - like carrots, celery, bell pepper, berries, cauliflower, etc. Bonus - even if you don’t use them for snacking, you can use them in cooking meals. I don’t do an entire week of these at once (especially not the more fragile ingredients), but they’re not hard to do every couple of days.
potato & root vegetables
Basically, we’ll pre-cook any vegetable that takes a ton of time to cook, that way we don’t have to wait an hour for dinner to be done when we come home after a long day. These vegetables (like beets, carrots, squash, etc.) also act as a hearty, nutritious addition to any meal, and really fill you up!
grains & legumes
Whether it’s rice, barley, quinoa, split peas, or black beans, we love making up a couple containers of these to add into meals throughout the week. We also have quick-reference guides to cooking grains & cooking legumes to help you out in the kitchen if you need it!
cashew cheese & non-dairy milk
I think it was Isa Chandra Moskowitz who coined the phrase “Always Be Soaking” - we always have some almonds or cashews or dates soaking in the fridge, to make really creamy cashew cheese/cream or some almond milk.
Sometimes we buy hummus, other times we make it from scratch. Either way, we always have it around because it makes for easy healthy snacking & a great sandwich/wrap spread.
Chia pudding is super simple to make as you shake things together and let it set in the fridge overnight, and you’ve got a week’s worth of breakfasts ready to go. You could do overnight oats or tapioca pudding instead, if you’re not into chia.
Frozen banana can be used to make an amazing vegan ice cream or be the basis of any number of vegan smoothies or milkshakes. We buy big bunches, slice them and freeze them for months of sweet treats!
Thin-slice some tofu or tempeh and marinate it for really flavorful sandwiches or rice bowls. Since these need some time to get fully flavored, we always have some marinating in the fridge.
We make big batches of this quick dough because we can use it for pizzas, calzones, pot pies, buns, and more. Pair it with roasted vegetables or curries or pretty much any food for an instant meal. It freezes really well, too!
One or two baked things is a really nice way to round out a week of food. It could be muffins, cookies, banana bread, or frozen treats - it’s just fun to have something quick to grab when you want something sweet or comforting.
lemon water & iced tea
These are a snap to make, and you can refill them throughout the week. We keep a big decanter filled with either for something to drink besides plain water.
roasted garlic paste
Instead of chopping & cooking garlic for every meal of the week, we cut off the top of a head of garlic and wrap it in tinfoil with a little oil, then roast it until soft & golden brown on the inside. Then we squeeze out all the garlic and mash it and store it in a little jar, to add tons of flavor to every meal without any work involved.
tofu scramble, taco filling, or roasted veggies
These are the only “meals” you might traditionally see prepped in our kitchen, because they can be used and reused in so many dinners & breakfasts. Eat them on their own, add some rice in, wrap them in tortillas, put them on pizzas, stuff them in squash and roast them.
In addition to these, we also have a few choice ingredients that make up the base of many meals - so we always keep them in our pantry. This list includes carrots, onions, garlic, celery, greens, and lemons/citrus. You can see more of our pantry essentials here!
When you put these basics together and maybe add some spices and fresh vegetables, you can have an amazing dinner within 15 minutes every night of the week. Along with meal planning, this helps us so much in cooking nutritious, super flavorful meals every single day.
What other foods do you always have ready in your kitchen? Let us know in the comments!