Simple Weekly Meal Prep That Fits Any Schedule

How I approach meal preparation so I can eat delicious, nutritious food all week long

simplify your weekly meal preparation
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I describe the grocery store and my kitchen in the same way: my happy places. Over the years, I have made peace with the grocery store. I find solace and pleasure slowly walking the aisles, looking for new products and finding familiar ones.

I am confident when I pick up an ingredient and I know exactly what recipes I can use it for. I carry that confidence with me, back to my kitchen where I prepare all those ingredients to make sure I have nutritious food for the week.

I’ve used so many resources over the years to inform my meal preparation. If you’re just getting started with meal prep there are plenty of websites and articles that can help you understand the benefits of meal prep or find different ways to incorporate more healthful ingredients into your menu planning.

You can find the best vegan meal prep ideas, best meal prep for weight gain or weight loss, or some unique meal ideas for picky eaters.

schedule a weekly variety of balanced healthy meals
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It’s important to find what works for you but read through what others have done before you to get some kitchen inspiration. At least that’s what worked for me! I love eating delicious food.

I hate bland recipes. And I can’t stand monotony. Therefore, my meal prepping must allow me to a variety of satisfying and balanced meals.

I’m going to give you a rundown of my weekly meal prepping routine. This might serve as a guidebook for you or, at the very least, give you some inspiration for your own routine.

I normally go shopping on a weeknight during dinner time (to avoid some of the crowds). I eat a snack when I get home from work, grab my grocery bags, and then go to the grocery store.

I grab some of my staple ingredients and I always end up with at least one wildcard item. Last week, I tried some new pepper and poppy seed crackers and now I’m addicted.

groceries for weekly meal planning
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Right after my grocery run, I unload all my ingredients onto my kitchen counter, put on some amazing music, and begin my meal preparation. Sometimes I’ll even light a candle to really set the mood. Like many foodies, I tend to prep ingredients rather than meals.

For a given week, I will consider all kinds of factors when deciding what ingredients to prep.

Factors

  1. Am I having someone over for dinner?
  2. Will I be meeting friends for lunch or dinner out?
  3. What’s my budget for groceries this week?
  4. Am I having a really busy week?

I know myself well enough to say that the fourth question is the most important one. If I’m having a busy, stressful week, I am incredibly unlikely to cook up a masterpiece.

In fact, I’m way more likely to heat up a frozen pizza. I try to shop, cook, and eat intuitively. So my grocery haul typically reflects exactly what kind of week I am expecting.

It’s a good practice to consider your overall week when it comes to meal planning.

To give you an idea of what type of meals I eat, here’s what I’d eat on a busy week:

DayBreakfastLunchDinner
MondayYogurt + nuts +fruitPB&J + carrots + hummusSweet potato + roasted veggies
TuesdayChia pudding + fruitSalad + hummus + carrotsFrozen pizza
WednesdayChia pudding + croissantLeftover frozen pizza + strawberriesZoodles with veggies
ThursdayMuffin + fruitLeftover zoodles + saladCheese and fruit plate with crackers
FridayPB&J + fruitLunch outDinner out
SaturdayBrunch outLunch outPasta with homemade sauce
SundayFruit + croissantHummus + veggies + cheeseRoasted veggie pasta

As I’m sure you guessed, I always have some ready-made items in my house. I use these as ingredients or eat them as meals/snacks.

My Favorite Ready-Made Items

  • Canned crushed tomatoes
  • Pre-made hummus
  • Pre-sliced cheese (for crackers)
  • Frozen pizza
  • Greek yogurt
  • Ravioli or gnocchi
  • Mixed salad greens
  • Canned coconut milk

For a week like the example above, I won’t need to do that much prep. Other weeks, I prepare all sorts of delicious things.

healthy various vegetables for dinner
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Here’s an example of what I might prep on a slower week:

DayBreakfastLunchDinner
MondayChia pudding + fruitKale + White Bean Soup + hummus + carrotsSweet potato + roasted veggies
TuesdayChia pudding + fruitSalad + hummus + carrotsKale + White Bean Soup + roasted veggies
WednesdayOvernight oatsRice bowl (Black beans + sweet potato + onionsZoodles with veggies + strawberries
ThursdayOvernight oatsLeftover zoodles + saladCheese and fruit plate with crackers
FridayPB&J + fruitLunch outDinner out
SaturdayBrunch outLunch outRice bowl (Black beans + sweet potato + onions) + strawberries
SundayFruit + croissantHummus + veggies + cheeseRoasted veggie pasta + strawberries

It’s not that much different, but when I have more time, I typically eat more fresh ingredients. Let’s use the second meal schedule as an example for my weekly meal prep routine.

To provide a whole week of food, I have to prepare:

  • One batch of Kale + White Bean soup
  • Two roasted sweet potatoes
  • One batch of chia pudding
  • Two servings of overnight oats
  • One batch of rice bowls
  • Two salads
  • Chopped fruit and veggies for the week

I make my other meals fresh (peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, roasted veggie pasta, cheese and fruit plate, and zoodles).

overnight oats jars ready for the week
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Overnight oats ready for the week

It may sound like a lot, but most of these items can be prepared very quickly.

Here’s how I’d efficiently meal prep for that particular menu*:

  1. Wash and chop all fruits and veggies
  2. Place all ingredients on the counter; group by meal
    • Soup: kale, white beans, soup stock, canned crushed tomatoes, onions
    • Sweet potatoes
    • Chia pudding: chia seeds, strawberries, raspberries, vanilla, honey, canned coconut milk
    • Overnight oats: Greek yogurt, almond milk, oats, strawberries, raspberries, chia seeds, vanilla, honey
    • Rice bowls: canned black beans, sweet potato, onions, rice
    • Salads: mixed greens, strawberries, carrots, nuts, sunflower seeds
  3. Pre-heat oven for sweet potatoes; put them in the oven and set a timer
  4. Soup: saute onions (in extra virgin olive oil) at the bottom of a soup pot; add crushed tomatoes, stock; simmer for about 15 minutes while you do other things; add white beans and kale and stir; let simmer with lid for 10 minutes; remove from heat, set aside
  5. Chia pudding: use a blender to mix together one can of coconut milk, strawberries and raspberries (the more, the better), chia seeds, and a drizzle each of honey and vanilla extract; pour portions into mason jars
  6. Overnight oats: in two mason jars, add Greek yogurt, almond milk, oats, chia seeds, vanilla, and honey; close the jars and shake the ingredients up; re-open the jars to add strawberries and raspberries on top
  7. Rice bowls: prepare rice; saute onions (in extra virgin olive oil) at the bottom of a small pot; add beans and seasoning; cook on low heat for 10 minutes; add hot sauce if desired; remove from heat; add rice and beans with onions to your storage containers
  8. Remove sweet potatoes from the oven; save one for dinner, cut one into pieces to add to the bean bowls
  9. Salads: add mixed greens to storage containers; top with carrots, sunflower seeds, nuts, and strawberries (or your other favorite salad ingredients)
  10. Finally, I use more mason jars to store my soup and servings of leftover fruit/veggies (for snacks)
  11. Bonus step: wash the dishes (you’ll feel so proud of yourself!)
*I didn’t include any proportions or measurements because I don’t have full recipes here. However, you can look up recipes online for all of these meals and find your own way to cook it up!
prep meals for entire week
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Meal prep with mason jars

I don’t get it perfect every week. I have weeks where I eat so much brown rice that I can’t even look at the stuff anymore. But that’s when I engage my number one meal prep mantra: be gentle on yourself. I tell myself that it’s okay to set aside my prepped meal and go to a restaurant with a friend instead.

My advice is to ease yourself into meal prepping. Start by prepping all your lunches for one week–it’s the easiest meal to prepare ahead of time. If that goes well, try prepping some dinners.

Then go to breakfast. Eventually, you could be spending two hours on meal prep one day per week.

Then you’ll be enjoying the fruits of your labor all week long. Just take it slowly, do what feels right, and, most importantly, eat what tastes delicious.

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Written by Jane Diener

Freelance writer, foodie, and budget enthusiast. She enjoys spending time outside, watching the "Great British Bake Off" on repeat, and
concocting new recipes in her favorite room in the house: the kitchen.