How to Be a Meal-Prep Ninja

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Meal prep

By Gabi Conti

Meal prep. Just those two words together sound intimidating, don’t they?

Every Sunday morning we tell ourselves, we’re going to do it this week. We’re not going to buy lunch every day and order takeout every night. We’re going to save money and make fresh, healthy meals at home by shopping and cooking lots of good stuff in advance.

But then, Sunday night rolls around and something else always comes up (darn you, American Idol!). The whole idea of meal prepping just sounds like… too much.

No more: With a little planning and multi-tasking, a solid playlist and a little over an hour of your Sunday, you can do some simple meal prep that will hook you up for the work week. Follow this easy plan and you’ll have five days’ worth of delicious, healthy, budget-friendly meals, that will keep you satisfied and eating clean.

Step 1: Create a menu

Start by making a menu of all your meals for the week in a Google Doc. Add in meals you know you’ll be eating out so you plan for the right amount and don’t end up wasting food.

Here’s a sample plan.

MONDAY

BREAKFAST​:

Cinnamon​ ​Pear​ ​Oatmeal

Cinnamon Pear Oatmeal

Ingredients

  • 1 cup of oats
  • 2 pears cored and cut into cubes
  • 1 tablespoon of coconut sugar
  • 1 teaspoon of ground cinnamon
  • Sprinkle of salt
  • Handful of pecans
  • Handful of pomegranate seeds
  • About 2 cups of filtered water

Directions

  1. In a saucepan place pears, coconut sugar, and cinnamon and cover with filtered water and turn up to medium heat
  2. Bring pear mixture to a simmer, then cover for 5 minutes
  3. Add oats, salt and a little more water so the oats and mixture are covered
  4. Simmer over low heat for 10 minutes, stir every few minutes
  5. When ready top with pecans, pomegranate seeds, cinnamon and coconut sugar. If it’s a little dry add almond milk or even some vanilla protein powder if eating after a workout

LUNCH:

Tuna Salad

Tuna Nicoise​ ​Salad

Ingredients

  • 1 can of tuna fish packed in olive oil
  • 1/2 shallot, minced
  • 1⁄3 cup of chopped parsley
  • 2 tablespoons of capers
  • The juice of 1 lemon
  • 1 tablespoon of balsamic vinegar
  • Salt and pepper to taste

Directions

  1. Mix all ingredients together

DINNER:​ ​Braised Lentils topped with Baked Salmon and a side of Roasted Asparagus

​Braised Lentils topped with Baked Salmon and a side of Roasted Asparagus

Baked Salmon

​Braised Lentils topped with Baked Salmon and a side of Roasted Asparagus

Ingredients

  • 2 salmon filets
  • 1⁄4 cup of olive oil or olive oil spray
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • 1 lined baking sheet

Directions

  1. Preheat the oven to 450 degrees or put in salmon when you turn the chicken up to 450
  2. Clean the salmon then lightly coat the filets with olive oil, salt and pepper and place on a lined baking sheet
  3. Bake for 10-12 minutes, checking to make sure the salmon isn’t raw

Braised​ ​Lentils

​Braised Lentils topped with Baked Salmon and a side of Roasted Asparagus

Ingredients

  • 1 cup of green lentils
  • 2 cups of chicken or vegetable broth
  • 1 container of Mirepoix (chopped carrots, onion and celery, most grocery stores sell this prep chopped, huge time saver!) or 2 cups equal parts chopped carrots, onions and celery
  • 1 tablespoon of Olive Oil
  • 2 garlic cloves minced
  • 2 cups of vegetable or chicken stock
  • 2 tablespoons of chopped parsley
  • 2 tablespoons of balsamic vinegar
  • Salt and Pepper to taste

Directions

  1. Bring lentils and broth to a boil, then turn the heat down to low, simmer and cover the lentils for 15-20 minutes, until they’re cooked but still have a bite
  2. Heat up the olive oil on a large pan on medium heat
  3. Add the mirepoix, mixing around with a wooden spoon until the vegetables start to sweat (about 3-5 minutes)
  4. Add the garlic until fragrant (about 1 minute)
  5. Add the lentils, then add another cup of broth
  6. Turn the heat up to high until the lentil mixture comes to a boil, then turn down to simmer and cover. Stir every now and then until the stock is absorbed (about 15-20 minutes)
  7. Once ready, turn off the heat and add parsley and balsamic then season with salt and pepper

TUESDAY

BREAKFAST:

​Green​ ​Smoothie

Green Smoothie

Ingredients

  • 1 banana, chunked
  • 1 cup of frozen pineapple
  • 1 cup of tightly packed spinach
  • 1 tablespoon of ground turmeric
  • 1 tablespoon of ground ginger
  • 1 scoop of vanilla protein powder (I like this one) https://www.traderjoes.com/fearless-flyer/article/3490
  • 1 1⁄2 cups of coconut water

Directions

  1. Blend all ingredients until smooth

LUNCH:

​Quinoa​ ​Burrito​ ​Bowl​ ​with​ ​Chicken

Quinoa Fajita Burrito Bowl with Roasted Chicken

Ingredients

  • 1 shredded breast of​ ​Roasted​ ​Chicken​ ​you​ ​prepped​ ​Sunday​ ​(recipe​ ​above)
  • 1 cup of Cooked​ ​Quinoa​ ​you​ ​prepped​ ​Sunday​ ​(recipe​ ​above)
  • 1⁄2 cup of Roasted​ ​Peppers​ ​and​ ​Onions​ ​(recipe​ ​above)
  • 1⁄2 can of black beans drained
  • 1⁄2 an avocado
  • 1 tablespoon of salsa of your choice
  • 1 tablespoon of chopped cilantro
  • 2 tablespoons of olive oil
  • Juice of one lime
  • Salt and pepper to taste

Directions

  1. In a bowl place the quinoa, then top with chicken, peppers and onions, black beans, avocado, and salsa
  2. Whisk together olive oil, cilantro, lime juice and salt and pepper, and drizzle on top of bowl

DINNER:

​Bibimbap​ ​Bowl

Roasted Salmon Bibimbap Bowl

Ingredients

  • 1 cup​ ​of​ ​quinoa​ ​you​ ​prepped​ ​Sunday​ ​(recipe​ ​above)
  • 1 tablespoon of grated ginger
  • 2 tablespoons of tamari
  • 1 tablespoons of olive oil
  • 1⁄2 cup of shitaki mushrooms
  • 1 bok choy blub
  • 1 chopped shallot
  • 1⁄2 cup of kimchi
  • 1 roasted​ ​salmon​ ​filet​ ​you​ ​prepped​ ​Sunday​ ​(recipe​ ​above)​ ​flaked
  • 1 hard​ ​boiled​ ​egg​ you​ ​prepped​ ​Sunday​ ​(recipe​ ​above)​ ​peeled, and cut in half
  • 1⁄2 an avocado sliced

Directions

  1. Sautee the shallot, mushrooms and bok choy with olive oil for about 2 minutes, off the heat, coat with tamari and grated ginger
  2. In a bowl, place the quinoa, then arrange: mushrooms and bok choy mixture, kimchi, avocado, the hardboiled egg, and the salmon.

WEDNESDAY

BREAKFAST:

​Avocado​ ​“Toast”

Avocado toast

Ingredients

  • 1 avocado
  • 2 green onion thinly sliced
  • Juice of 1⁄2 a lemon
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • 1 rice cake
  • 1 hard boiled egg, peeled and sliced

Directions

  1. Mix together avocado, green onion, lemon juice and salt and pepper
  2. Spread avocado mixture on a ricecake, then top with the sliced egg

LUNCH:

​Chicken​ ​and​ ​Roasted​ ​Vegetable​ ​Salad​ ​with​ ​Avocado

Arugula Salad with Roasted Chicken and Vegetables

Ingredients

  • 1 shredded breast of​ ​Roasted​ ​Chicken​ ​you​ ​prepped​ ​Sunday​ ​(recipe​ ​above)
  • 1⁄2 cup of Vegetables​ ​(recipe​ ​above)
  • 1 cup of arugula
  • 1⁄2 an avocado sliced
  • 2 tablespoons of olive oil
  • Juice of 1⁄2 a lemon
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • 1 teaspoon of chopped parsley
  • Sprinkle of pepitas

Directions

  1. On a bed of arugula, place chicken, vegetables and avocado
  2. Whisk together olive oil, parsley. lemon juice salt and pepper and drizzle over salad

DINNER:​

​Fried​ ​Quinoa

Fried Quinoa

Ingredients

  • 1 cup of cooked​ ​quinoa​ ​you​ ​prepped​ ​Sunday​ ​(recipe​ ​above)
  • A handful of green onions, chopped
  • 2 cloves of minced garlic
  • 1 tablespoon of minced ginger
  • 2 tablespoons of olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon of sesame oil
  • 1 egg
  • 1⁄2 cup of frozen peas
  • 2 tablespoons of tamari
  • 1 tablespoon of coconut sugar
  • 1 tablespoon of sriracha

Directions

  1. In a large saucepan, heat up olive oil then add the garlic and ginger
  2. Once fragrant, add the quinoa, until it’s coated with the oil mixture
  3. Add the frozen peas and carrots until defrosted (about 3-5 minutes)
  4. Make a hole in the rice, add the sesame oil, then crack in the egg
  5. Once the egg begins to cook (about 1-2 minutes) mix up the rice
  6. Turn off the heat, add the tamari, sugar and sriracha

THURSDAY

BREAKFAST:

Overnight​ ​Cacao​ ​Chia​ ​Pudding

Cacao Chia Seed Pudding

Ingredients

  • 1 1⁄2 cups of almond milk
  • 1⁄3 a cup of chia seeds
  • 1⁄4 cup of cacao
  • 2 tablespoons of coconut sugar
  • A dash of salt
  • 1 teaspoon of vanilla extract
  • 1 tupperware
  • Toppings (optional): Shredded coconut, pomegranate seeds, sliced banana, fresh berries, whatever you have around

Directions

  1. In the tupperware place all ingredients and quickly stir until well blended
  2. Place in a refrigerator for at least 3-5 hours or overnight
  3. Top with shredded coconut, pomegranate seeds, sliced banana and fresh berries, or whatever you have around

LUNCH:​

​Sweet​ ​Potatoes​ ​Stuffed​ ​with​ ​Lentils

Roasted Sweet Potato Stuffed with Braised Lentils

Ingredients

  • 1 roasted​ ​sweet​ ​potato​ ​you​ ​prepped​ ​Sunday​ ​(recipe​ ​above)​ ​cut open
  • 1 cup of braised​ ​lentils​ ​you​ ​prepped​ ​Sunday​ ​(recipe​ ​above)
  • 1⁄2 an avocado sliced
  • 1 tablespoon of chopped cilantro
  • 1 lime wedge

Directions

  1. Heat up the lentils and potato (about 2 minutes each in the microwave)
  2. Stuff lentils in the potato
  3. Top with avocado, cilantro and a lime squeeze

DINNER:​

​Zoodles​ ​with​ ​Pesto

Zoodles with Fresh Pesto

Ingredients

  • 1 zucchini spiralized (either using a spiralizer or buying zoodles pre made - most health food stores like Whole Foods sell this)
  • 1 clove of garlic minced
  • 1 tablespoon of olive oil
  • Vegan​ ​Pesto​ ​you​ ​prepped​ ​Sunday​ ​(recipe​ ​above)

Directions

  1. In a small saucepan, heat up olive oil and garlic
  2. Add zoodles until they start to get a little translucent (about 1-2 minutes)
  3. Turn off the heat and toss with pesto

FRIDAY

BREAKFAST:

Cinnamon​ ​Pear​ ​Oatmeal

Cinnamon Pear Oatmeal

Ingredients

  • 1 cup of oats
  • 2 pears cored and cut into cubes
  • 1 tablespoon of coconut sugar
  • 1 teaspoon of ground cinnamon
  • Sprinkle of salt
  • Handful of pecans
  • Handful of pomegranate seeds
  • About 2 cups of filtered water

Directions

  1. In a saucepan place pears, coconut sugar, and cinnamon and cover with filtered water and turn up to medium heat
  2. Bring pear mixture to a simmer, then cover for 5 minutes
  3. Add oats, salt and a little more water so the oats and mixture are covered
  4. Simmer over low heat for 10 minutes, stir every few minutes
  5. When ready top with pecans, pomegranate seeds, cinnamon and coconut sugar. If it’s a little dry add almond milk or even some vanilla protein powder if eating after a workout

LUNCH:​

​Lentil​ ​Soup

Lentil Ginger Soup

Ingredients

  • 1 cup of braised​ ​lentils​ ​you​ ​prepped​ ​Sunday​ ​(recipe​ ​above)
  • 2 cups of vegetable or chicken stock
  • 1 tablespoon of minced ginger

Directions

  1. Blend all ingredients until smooth
  2. Heat in microwave for 1-2 minutes

DINNER:​

​Brown​ ​Rice​ ​Noodles​ ​with​ ​Chicken​ ​Sausage,​ ​Cannellini​ ​Beans​ ​and​ ​Kale

Pesto Brown Rice Noodles with Chicken Sausage, Cannellini Beans and Kale

Ingredients

  • Vegan​ ​Pesto​ ​you​ ​prepped​ ​Sunday​ ​(recipe​ ​above)
  • Handful of brown rice spaghetti
  • 2 chicken sausages cut up
  • Handful of kale chopped
  • 1 can of cannellini beans, drained
  • 2 cloves of garlic, minced
  • 2 tablespoons of olive oil
  • Sprinkle of red pepper
  • Salt and pepper to taste

Directions

  1. Bring a pot of water to a boil, add spaghetti and cook for about 8 minutes
  2. In a saucepan, heat up olive oil, then add garlic and red pepper flakes
  3. Add the sausage and cook until brown, then add the kale, beans and pesto, and a cup of the pasta water
  4. Drain the pasta and mix in the sauce until evenly coated

Step 2: Grocery shop


Use the recipes you’ve gathered to make a thorough list, so you don’t have to make multiple trips. Check your pantry, spice rack and freezer to make sure you don’t buy anything you already have.

Grocery list for above plan:
PROTEIN
● 2 bone-in, skin-on chicken breasts
● 2 wild salmon filets
● 2 Italian-style chicken sausage links
● 1⁄2 dozen eggs

PANTRY
● Kimchi
● 1 package brown rice spaghetti
● 1 can cannellini beans
● 1 can black beans
● 1 package quinoa
● 1 package dried green lentils
● 1 can good-quality tuna packed in olive oil
● Pitted olives
● Coconut sugar
● Shredded coconut
● Chicken or vegetable broth
● Unsweetened almond milk
● Chia seeds
● Cacao
● Capers
● Coconut water
● Protein powder
● 1 jar salsa
● Rice cakes

PRODUCE
● 2 banans
● 2 knobs fresh ginger
● 1 bag green beans
● 1 bag spinach
● 1 sweet potato
● 1 bunch fresh basil
● 1 bunch kale
● 1 bag arugula
● 2 bartlett pears
● 1 bunch fresh cilantro
● 1 bunch fresh sage
● 1 bunch fresh parsley
● 3 shallots
● 4 avocados
● 6 lemons
● 2 limes
● 2 heads garlic
● 2 zucchini
● 2 bell peppers
● 1 container prepared mirepoix (if you can’t find it, get 2 carrots, 1 bunch celery and 1
onion)
● 1 bunch asparagus
● 1 container pomegranate seeds
● 1 bag frozen pineapple
● 1 bag frozen peas
● 2 small heads bok choy
● 1 bunch scallions
● 1⁄2 cup shitaki mushrooms

SPICES,​ ​OILS​ ​&​ ​VINEGAR
● Crushed red pepper flakes
● Salt
● Sriracha
● Pepper
● Olive oil
● Balsamic vinegar
● Toasted sesame oil
● Tamari
● Maple syrup
● Ground ginger
● Ground turmeric
● Ground cinnamon

BULK
● 1⁄2 cup roasted unsalted pecans
● 1⁄4 cup roasted unsalted pepitas (pumpkin seeds)
● 1⁄2 cup roasted unsalted walnuts

Step 3: Prep like a pro

Now that you got everything that you need (go you!), it’s time to dig in and cook. You’re going to multitask a bit, which will really speed up the process.

Preheat oven to 400ºF. Prepare and bake your sweet potato, chicken breast, vegetables and salmon, as outlined in these recipes:

IN​ ​THE​ ​OVEN

Roasted​ ​Vegetables

Roasted vegetables

Ingredients

  • Sliced zucchini, peppers, onions, mushroom, asparagus - whatever’s fresh and whatever you prefer
  • 1 head of garlic cut in half (you can use the roasted garlic throughout the week to spread on meat or add to dishes for extra flavor)
  • Lined baking sheet
  • 1⁄2 cup of Olive Oil
  • 1⁄4 cup of Balsamic Vinegar
  • 2 cloves of garlic minced
  • Salt and Pepper to taste

Directions

  1. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees
  2. Chop up vegetables
  3. Toss the vegetables with oil, balsamic, garlic and salt and pepper until evenly coated
  4. Evenly spread the vegetables and garlic out on the baking sheet
  5. Bake for 10-20 minutes, checking to see if they’re ready, you want the vegetables to have a little char to them, but not completely evaporated into the baking sheet

Roasted​ ​Chicken​ ​Breasts

Roasted chicken breast

Ingredients

  • 2 bone in skin on chicken breasts
  • 1 baking dish
  • 1⁄2 cup of Olive oil
  • Juice of 1 lemon
  • A handful of minced sage or any other herbs you like
  • 3 cloves of garlic, minced
  • 1 shallot minced
  • A sprinkle of salt and pepper

Directions

  1. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees
  2. Take two clean bone in skin on chicken breasts and place in a baking dish
  3. Whisk together the olive oil, lemon juice, herbs, garlic and salt and pepper
  4. Top the chicken with the dressing and bake for 30-45 minutes, checking if it’s cooked by cutting through the breasts and making sure they’re not pink
  5. In the last five minutes put up the temperature to 450
  6. Remove from oven, cover with tinfoil and set aside for 15 minutes before serving or refrigerating

Baked Salmon

​Braised Lentils topped with Baked Salmon and a side of Roasted Asparagus

Ingredients

  • 2 salmon filets
  • 1⁄4 cup of olive oil or olive oil spray
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • 1 lined baking sheet

Directions

  1. Preheat the oven to 450 degrees or put in salmon when you turn the chicken up to 450
  2. Clean the salmon then lightly coat the filets with olive oil, salt and pepper and place on a lined baking sheet
  3. Bake for 10-12 minutes, checking to make sure the salmon isn’t raw

Roasted Sweet Potato

Roasted sweet potato

Ingredients

  • 1 Sweet Potato
  • 1 lined baking sheet

Directions

  1. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.
  2. Clean the sweet potatoes.
  3. Place the potato on a lined baking sheet and put in the oven for 40-60 minutes (checking in on them at 40 minutes) once it feels soft it’s ready!

Once these items are baking, you can move on to the stove. Set timers so you catch the baking items when they’re done. Time to work on the next set of recipes:

ON​ ​THE​ ​STOVE

Hard​ ​Boiled​ ​Eggs

Hard boiled eggs

Ingredients

  • 4 eggs
  • 1 bowl of ice water
  • 1 slotted spoon

Directions

  1. Using the same boiling water you cooked the beans in, gently drop the eggs into the boiling water using a slotted spoon
  2. After 6 minutes remove eggs and place in ice water for 1 minute, if you like your eggs less runny, boil for an additional minute or two

Blanched​ ​Green​ ​Beans

Blanched green beans

Ingredients

  • 1 bag of green beans, trimmed
  • 1 bowl of ice water
  • Tongs

Directions

  1. Bring a pasta pot of water to a rolling boil.
  2. Drop in green beans, for 2-3 minutes until dark green.
  3. Remove beans with tongs and place in ice water for 1 minute, then drain and serve.

Quinoa

Quinoa

Ingredients

  • 1 cup of quinoa
  • 2 cups of chicken or vegetable stock
  • A pinch of salt

Directions

  1. In a saucepan cover quinoa with water and salt and bring to a boil
  2. Turn the heat down to low and cover for 15 minutes until broth is absorbed
  3. Take off the heat and let it stand covered for 5 minutes, then fluff with a fork

Braised​ ​Lentils

​Braised Lentils topped with Baked Salmon and a side of Roasted Asparagus

Ingredients

  • 1 cup of green lentils
  • 2 cups of chicken or vegetable broth
  • 1 container of Mirepoix (chopped carrots, onion and celery, most grocery stores sell this prep chopped, huge time saver!) or 2 cups equal parts chopped carrots, onions and celery
  • 1 tablespoon of Olive Oil
  • 2 garlic cloves minced
  • 2 cups of vegetable or chicken stock
  • 2 tablespoons of chopped parsley
  • 2 tablespoons of balsamic vinegar
  • Salt and Pepper to taste

Directions

  1. Bring lentils and broth to a boil, then turn the heat down to low, simmer and cover the lentils for 15-20 minutes, until they’re cooked but still have a bite
  2. Heat up the olive oil on a large pan on medium heat
  3. Add the mirepoix, mixing around with a wooden spoon until the vegetables start to sweat (about 3-5 minutes)
  4. Add the garlic until fragrant (about 1 minute)
  5. Add the lentils, then add another cup of broth
  6. Turn the heat up to high until the lentil mixture comes to a boil, then turn down to simmer and cover. Stir every now and then until the stock is absorbed (about 15-20 minutes)
  7. Once ready, turn off the heat and add parsley and balsamic then season with salt and pepper

Cinnamon​ ​Pear​ ​Oatmeal

Cinnamon Pear Oatmeal

Ingredients

  • 1 cup of oats
  • 2 pears cored and cut into cubes
  • 1 tablespoon of coconut sugar
  • 1 teaspoon of ground cinnamon
  • Sprinkle of salt
  • Handful of pecans
  • Handful of pomegranate seeds
  • About 2 cups of filtered water

Directions

  1. In a saucepan place pears, coconut sugar, and cinnamon and cover with filtered water and turn up to medium heat
  2. Bring pear mixture to a simmer, then cover for 5 minutes
  3. Add oats, salt and a little more water so the oats and mixture are covered
  4. Simmer over low heat for 10 minutes, stir every few minutes
  5. When ready top with pecans, pomegranate seeds, cinnamon and coconut sugar. If it’s a little dry add almond milk or even some vanilla protein powder if eating after a workout

Now, while you’re waiting for everything to finish, prep these no-cook recipes:

Vegan​ ​Pesto

Vegan pesto

Ingredients

  • 1 packed cup of basil
  • 1⁄2 cup of olive oil
  • 2 cloves of garlic
  • 1 teaspoon of maple syrup
  • 1⁄2 a cup of walnuts
  • A lemon squeeze
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • 1 teaspoon of chilli pepper flakes
  • A blender

Directions

  1. Put basil, garlic, maple syrup, walnuts, lemon squeezed, salt, pepper and chilli flakes into a blender add olive oil and blend
  2. If pesto is not easily mixing, add more olive oil until the mixture is a paste
  3. Taste and add more salt if needed

Overnight​ ​Cacao​ ​Chia​ ​Pudding

Cacao Chia Seed Pudding

Ingredients

  • 1 1⁄2 cups of almond milk
  • 1⁄3 a cup of chia seeds
  • 1⁄4 cup of cacao
  • 2 tablespoons of coconut sugar
  • A dash of salt
  • 1 teaspoon of vanilla extract
  • 1 tupperware
  • Toppings (optional): Shredded coconut, pomegranate seeds, sliced banana, fresh berries, whatever you have around

Directions

  1. In the tupperware place all ingredients and quickly stir until well blended
  2. Place in a refrigerator for at least 3-5 hours or overnight
  3. Top with shredded coconut, pomegranate seeds, sliced banana and fresh berries, or whatever you have around

Tuna Salad

Tuna Nicoise​ ​Salad

Ingredients

  • 1 can of tuna fish packed in olive oil
  • 1/2 shallot, minced
  • 1⁄3 cup of chopped parsley
  • 2 tablespoons of capers
  • The juice of 1 lemon
  • 1 tablespoon of balsamic vinegar
  • Salt and pepper to taste

Directions

  1. Mix all ingredients together

And that’s it. For next week, set aside recipes as you find them all week long to streamline even more, and don’t be afraid to repeat your favorites. You can even create your menu and shop on Saturday to break up the work, if you like. Before long you’ll have a folder full of awesome recipes to draw from and Top Chef-worthy prepping skills.

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