On Sunday afternoons, I typically spend about an hour preparing food for the upcoming week. I usually cook the most time-consuming meal of the week on Sundays, so while I am preparing it, I prep other foods””most of which will be stored in Tupperware containers and incorporated into meals later in the week.
A “Sunday Cook-up,” as I’ve started to call it, might seem like a lot of work, but it’s totally worth it since it helps me eat better in the long run. For instance, when I am starving for dinner and faced with the choice of ordering take-out or eating a healthy meal at home, knowing that I have a number of nutritious options waiting in my refrigerator helps me stick to my healthy habits. Plus, once you do a few “Sunday Cook-ups,” it gets easier and easier. You’d be surprised how quickly things come together, and it sets you up for a healthy week ahead. To help get you started, here are some ideas for weekly meal prep!
Cook all of your starches.
Baking a big spaghetti squash in the oven will take at least 45 minutes to cook. Reheating already prepared spaghetti squash takes about 2 minutes. Obviously, it takes some planning ahead of time, but having food ready to go is a life-saver when I’m hungry or just don’t feel like cooking. I also cook Sweet Potato Wedges and homemade French fries, which I eat reheat (the toaster oven works best), eat cold, or mash up (with a Curry Spice Blend) later in the week. Cook your starches and have them ready to eat all week!
Cook your meat.
Similarly to the time-consuming starches, I cook a bunch of meat on Sunday for the upcoming week. I like to buy a big bag of chicken breasts from Trader Joe’s and cook half the bag (or sometimes the whole thing) for upcoming meals, so I’m not constantly cooking chicken, day after day, throughout the week. I will also cook up ground beef or turkey on Sundays for future meals and then store it in Tupperware, so all I need to do is reheat it when lunchtime or dinnertime rolls around.
Prep big batches of grains.
Rice takes forever to cook sometimes (or maybe I’m just super impatient?), so I prepare several servings at once to eat throughout the week. (Mal eats a ridiculous amount of rice, so I always prepare more than I think we’ll need and somehow it always gets eaten). Similarly, if couscous or quinoa is on the menu for the upcoming week, I’ll cook it ahead of time, so I just need to reheat it.
Hard boil some eggs.
Hard boiled eggs are a great snack to have on hand. They’re nutritious, delicious (especially with a little salt and pepper), and satisfying. Most weeks, I’ll hard boil a half dozen, so Mal and I have quick snacks or I’ll incorporate them into Avocado Egg Salad for lunch or dinner.
Wash all fruits and veggies.
I’m super lazy when it comes to washing fruits and veggies, so I do it all at once on Sundays. I take all of my fresh produce, wash it, chop it (if applicable), and put it away. That way, I don’t have to worry about washing it later in the week. Of course, this saves time too!
Chop fresh produce.
While I am washing my fruits and veggies, I chop them up and store them in Tupperware containers for later in the week. For example, I’ll chop up onions and peppers on Sunday for a pizza we’ll eat on Wednesday night, so all I have to do is sprinkle them on top of the crust instead of breaking out the cutting board. I also love to have fresh fruit (I am currently on a pineapple and watermelon kick) on hand for snacking between meals and when I am cooking dinner.
Make iced coffee (or tea).
Instead of buying iced coffee every morning, I make two big pots on Sundays, which last us almost the entire week. It’s quick, easy, and saves us money. This would also work with iced tea!
I love blogging about meal planning, grocery shopping, and all that jazz, so be sure to check out some of the other posts I’ve written over the years:
- How To Stick to Your Meal Plan
- My Top 10 Healthy Grocery Shopping Tips
- Grocery Shopping Q & A
- How to Get Healthy at the Grocery Store
- Grocery Shopping 101: How to Save Money (5-post series)
Question of the Day
Do you do a “Sunday Cook-up”? What are your best tips for getting prepared for the week?
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This is fantastic!! Most sundays I will bake a loaf of whole wheat bread or banana bread, and boil eggs. I need to make more beans!
Thank you for this! I was wondering about this because some of your recipes call for mashed sweet potato, which I do not usually have on hand!
I know that when I have fruits and veggies ready to eat I am much less likely to reach for a packages snack when hunger hits!
Tina, do you ever use the Minute Brown rice cups? You pop them in the microwave for well, a minute! I love them. They are super handy and brown rice is good for you.
Hi Tina! I love you idea with the iced coffee!!! Now what if I wanted to brew a pot of coffee for the week, refrigerate it and then microwave individual cups throughout the week? Would the coffee lose its potency? I’m a caffeine-nator sooo… Thanks for your reply!
I’m not sure. Sorry! Maybe an Internet search would find the answer?
@Jolie: @Jolie: I would not do that, it will taste like dirt!
@AJ: Dirt? Ewww? I’ll stick to brewing just enough for me in the morning!
I need to start doing a sunday cook up, talk about a time saver during the week! It’s just so necessary so I’m not tempted to order pizza last minute because i have no time to prepare something (that happens more often than I care to admit)
Brilliant, I do the same thing too! Makes life oh so much easier…
Very helpful! I have a 90 minute commute one way to work and now I go to CrossFit after work, so I only have about 2 hours at night before bed to do anything else which includes showering, dinner, daily chores, studying and any downtime I want. I should start incorporating these ideas.
Currently I just make my boyfriend do the cooking 🙂
I love love love my Sunday cook-ups! I’ve never tried the ice coffee thing, but should! I haven’t been wanting my regular hot coffee cause it’s summer, and hot out! Thanks for the idea!
I typically hard boil a bunch of eggs, portion out some fruit, make a big batch of trail mix, and stock up on sandwich meat! It makes it really easy to toss a lunch together each morning. 🙂
I just read that washing your fruit before you are ready to eat it gives time for bacteria to grow on the water! It said not to wash fruit, specifically it was talking about strawberries, ahead of time and only wash the batch that you are about to eat!
@lisa: I’ve read as well that prewashing makes fruits and veggies spoil faster. I like the rest of the tips but taking time to wash and cut fruits and vegs before use is definitely worth it!
I have started doing more of this, at least for all breakfasts and lunches. I am funny about some reheated meat, especially chicken. I am curious how do you cook your chicken most of the time? Any meat tips?
I usually cook the chicken in the oven or on the grill (depending on season) with olive oil, salt, and pepper. Simple, but delicious! 🙂
Any tips for keeping sweet potato fries on the crispy side? Every time I cook a big batch on Sunday, their texture gets too mushy for my liking (not that I wouldn’t eat them of course.. :-)) and would prefer if they stayed on the crispy side. Any tips or either cooking them in a way to keep them crispy or reheating them to make them crispy?
I usually reheat them in our toaster oven which seems to help. You can always pop them in the oven on broil to crisp them up again!
I’ve never done a full Sunday cook up, but I went through a phase of preparing a week’s worth of oatmeal in the crock pot on Sunday nights. It definitely made mornings less rushed, but I got bored quickly!
I like to prep on Sunday too, but I have a hard time keeping my chopped veggies fresh. I find that the carrots and peppers that I slice wilt during the week. Do you have a trick to keep them fresh?
How do you store your cooked chicken?
In Tupperware! 🙂
You do we’ll achieving all that in 1 hour 🙂
Love the angry orchard in your fridge in one of the pictures 🙂 That is my favorite beer. But yes, food prepping. If I know I am going to have a week of noninterruption that nothing is going to come up like a sporadic show or dinner then I like to prep and thoroughly enjoy it. Sometimes I just take it day by day and will make something at night and make extra to throw into a lunch and dinner the next night. I made steak last night and instead of making one I made two so I had the other one to cut up and put into a steak salad for lunch (Even though I forgot it at home and was very sad but it’ll be there for dinner or salad tomorrow for lunch)
I adore this post, and have started doing this for our family as well. We’re a bit uprooted at the moment because we are moving into a new place, and with that, I’ve noticed a BIG difference in how we are eating. Because we were lacking pots/pans/etc as our shipment arrived from Korea, eating out has become more survival right now, and I’m hating it! This week we finally have a REAL kitchen to cook in and we are starting Sunday prep again…and I’m ridiculously excited about it.
I liked ALL the steps you do, because I frequently just do the meal portion, not the washing of the fruits and veg, and I can already tell that would make a massive impact on our food for the week.
*We also make a lot of homemade dressings/dips for the week too. I do hummus, and a few dill & greek yogurt dips so that instead of a chip, we grab for the veg and a dip!
I like to do this too!
I do my Sunday meal prep and have for a long time. I love it and it definitely makes a difference for a successful week of healthy eating. I usually do my food shopping on Sundays so when I get home I prep everything before it goes into the fridge.
One of my staples and something I do every Sunday is prep 5 salads to eat for lunches throughout the week. I store them in tupperware and they are fresh till Friday. The one exception is the cucumbers. I will add (de-seeded) cucumber slices to the salads for Mon-Wed and then chop a fresh one Wed night and add it to the other salads. Then when I cook up my protein (chicken, fish, etc.) for dinner I make extra and eat it with my salad the next day.
Does the chicken you cook on Sunday stay fresh all week long? Or do you freeze some of it and take it out/defrost later in the week?
What a great idea! I need to start doing this so I don’t resort to eating my lunches out during the work week.
Wow, I thought that I was good at planning ahead, but you just gave me some awesome ideas! Im definitely going to try washing produce ahead of time…I dont mind chopping it up, but for some reason washing stuff gets annoying. It really is the little things that make healthy living so much easier!
These are great suggestions! What do you do for weekends when you’re out of town? Do you try to prep when you get back on Monday or Tuesday? I struggle most with this, especially during the summer when it seems like every weekend is packed full of stuff.
Yep! Usually Monday!
I am so doing this right NOW. Your ideas in this blog are so inspiring and incredibly easy to do. I am also sharing your post on my Fan Page – since you mentioned Tupperware 🙂 – and I happen to sell Tupperware. Thanks soooo much!!
I saw your blog and have been trying our meal prep for a week as well. Would love to get your opinion on how I did healthylivying.wordpress.com/2014/06/29/meal-prep-first-timer/ 🙂