We've compiled a list of recipes for prepared meals that can be made in bulk to last the whole week. Whether cooking full meals ahead of time or simply washing and chopping fruits and vegetables for quick snacks later, the up-front time invested in meal prep pays off in a number of ways.
Meal prep supports healthy eating by allowing for meal planning that incorporates healthier ingredients and more variety into weekly menus, while also allowing for control over exactly what goes into a dish. Recipes, along with meal-prep strategies, can easily be modified to meet each individual or family's needs, dietary restrictions, and preferences.
Cost savings are another benefit when you plan meals ahead of time, preventing last-minute calls for takeout or on-the-go lunch orders. Planning out meals will also save at the supermarket: You'll be less tempted by impulse buys and can be more strategic by choosing recipes with ingredients that can be used across several dishes.
Meal prep also decreases stress for those busy with work, caregiving, and other responsibilities. Having prepared meals on-hand is helpful when one may be too tired to cook at the end of a long day.
Keep reading for 10 easy and delicious meal prep ideas to try.
Black bean and sweet potato enchiladas
Black bean sweet potato enchiladas make for a hearty vegetarian dish that supplies five servings in just 20 minutes of prep time. The enchilada sauce calls for salsa verde, which can be made at home or bought pre-made at the store. As an added bonus, this recipe includes modifications to make it gluten-free or vegan.
Baked ziti allows for a lot of personalization: You can choose your preferred meat (Italian sausage, ground beef or pork, or a vegan alternative), your favorite store-bought pasta sauce (or make your own), and pasta shape. The recipe recommends using different fresh herbs depending upon the season, from basil in the summer to rosemary in winter. This dish is easy to freeze, so be sure to prep a little extra.
Quick and easy to make in bulk, and very freezer-friendly, this vegetarian chili is vegan, gluten-free, and packed with protein thanks to the beans and quinoa. Cumin and chili powder are key to the flavor of this recipe. Finish it off with a variety of toppings like sour cream, Greek yogurt, cheese, or chips, depending on your dietary preferences.
Slow cooker sesame beef
With just a few inexpensive ingredients, slow cooker sesame beef is simple and budget-friendly. All you need to start this delicious dish is a 3-quart or larger slow cooker and 15 minutes of prep time. When the meat is finished cooking, pair it with your choice of sides like broccoli and rice, use it to top a cabbage salad, or load up a few taco shells.
Chana masala is a simple, delicious Indian dish featuring chickpeas. The recipe yields two servings perfect for a dinner or spread across workweek lunches. Chana masala can be spooned over jasmine or basmati rice, paired with naan bread, or served on its own.
Baked mini frittatas
For fans of breakfast anytime, baked mini frittatas fit the bill. Following the recipe as given, with bacon, broccoli, and cheese, each frittata is only 127 calories; however, you can incorporate any ingredients you'd like. The recipe makes a dozen frittatas using a muffin tin: plenty for a week's worth of breakfasts.
Red beans and rice
Red beans and rice may take a little longer to fix than other dishes, but it's worth the time for six servings of a freezer-friendly meal. Quick-soaking the beans will decrease prep time. This recipe offers flexibility, from the type of beans and sausage to the level of spice in the dish. Ingredients for this meal are inexpensive and full of protein and fiber.
Southwest shrimp and corn succotash
Southwest shrimp and corn succotash is a healthier twist on a southern classic. The dish is given a TexMex flair by using black beans instead of lima beans, along with spice-rubbed shrimp and jalapenos. Pro tip: Cut down on your prep time by purchasing shrimp that are already peeled and deveined. The entire dish can also be made using one pan, making clean-up quick and easy.
Sausage and kale lentil stew
Packed with fresh veggies, sausage and kale lentil stew is quick and easy to fix with cook and prep time totaling just over an hour. The recipe makes six servings, so be sure to freeze any extra in order to enjoy it a month or two down the road.
Moroccan pot roast
Moroccan pot roast is a new twist on an old favorite: traditional beef chuck roast flavored with nontraditional ingredients including eggplant, honey, and mint. This dish pairs especially well with flatbread or couscous. The slow cooking takes about seven hours, but when it's done you're left with eight servings that will last all week or can be frozen for a delicious meal later on.
Be Better Prepared for the Week
Meal planning can be a great way of maintaining a healthier diet and saving money - here are some tips for proper meal prepping for beginners. If your schedule is too tight to meal prep for the entire week, meal delivery can save you some valuable time.
When you order meal kits, can get the exact number of portions you want with all the ingredients already inside, ready to be prepared and quickly tossed in the oven. Looking to save even more time? Companies like Factor_ and Fresh and Easy offer pre-prepared meals that only require heating, so you're prepared for the entire week.