Ideas for Weekly Meal Prep {Sunday Cook-Up}

Mastermind Weekend 1/16

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I'm Tina

I’m the owner of Carrots ‘N’ Cake as well as a Certified Nutrition Coach and Functional Diagnostic Nutrition Practitioner (FDN-P). I use macros and functional nutrition to help women find balance within their diets while achieving their body composition goals.

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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!

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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!

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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.

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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!

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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:

Question of the Day

Do you do a “Sunday Cook-up”? What are your best tips for getting prepared for the week?
 

This post is brought to you by Poland Spring® Brand 100% Natural Spring Water.

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105 Comments

  1. Always! Both my husband and I work but having dinner on the table for us and our two small boys by 5:30pm every night is #1 in our home. I double batch a crock-pot meal every Sunday and prep a different meal to eat that night- We eat half the crockpot meal on Tuesday night and then the other half goes in the freezer. Every Thursday night is “freezer” night and I have a stash of already prepped meals to choose from. By doing this, I already have two weekday meals made from my Sunday “cookup” and I only have to worry about cooking three meals- which I usually make super-simple- roasted fish on Monday, quick pasta with bison on Wed. and Friday is usually homemade pizza or “fun” night. Staying organizined and planning ahead of time is key.

  2. When I’m in the middle of a semester, I do a LOT of prepping on Sundays. Usually I make a big dinner so we’re sure to have leftovers ready to go Monday night. That always helps. I also make up little snack baggies for our lunches – veggies, fruits, string cheese, almonds, etc and have enough so we can grab and put into our lunch bags each morning.

    I’m also grilling for more than one meal at a time and that saves on evening time. Seriously, when the weather is fabulous the last thing you want to do is be tied to the kitchen chopping, cooking, and prepping every night so it’s great to plan a little ahead and have more free time later. 🙂

  3. This is really helpful! I always try to do a sunday “cook up” but usually fail 🙂 However, one thing I do is prep a huge salad with fresh veggies and lettuce. Then, I can use that salad all week, adding protein if I want the salad to be a full meal or eating as is if it’s just for a side.

  4. These are so great tips! On Sundays, I typically cook a few different meals to carry us for lunches/dinners throughout the week. I also have some foods on hand, that I can make in a pinch as well. I also do wash/chop my fruits and veggies on the weekend because it’s the last thing I want to do in the a.m. or p.m during the work week. It really saves a lot of time!

  5. pre-washed, pre-cut lettuce. i hate washing lettuce and hate tearing it up to make salads for lunch. takes up so much time! i buy a massive tub of baby arugula or baby spinach on sunday and finish it by friday. no washing or cutting required!

  6. Cook-ups are key when staying on track! I try to do my shopping on Saturday and cook on Sunday for the first half of the week, and then Thurs and Fri are usually out to dinner or leftovers. One thing I would caution when washing fruit on a Sunday for the week – be careful of mold, especially on grapes or strawberries.

    And if you don’t belong to one yet, join a CSA! Having a supply of leafy greens, fruits and vegetables on hand that are organic and locally sourced is key.

  7. One things I make sure to make in batches over the weekend is my green smoothies. They take some time in the morning and I want to be sure that I’ve got one ready and raring to go to be sure I check off that box of morning greens!! Of course this is a 3 day process but better than every morning…

  8. I’m so picky with re-heating my food that I rarely do a “Sunday cook up” but each night I cook what I want to eat the next day for breakfast/lunch if it needs prep work. I usually cook it while I’m making my dinner for that night, so while I’m in the kitchen I’m killing two birds with one stone! 🙂

  9. Every Sunday (or Monday when I am off) I get everything prepared for the week. For our weekly dinners, my lunches/snacks and food for my baby at daycare. So it takes a lot of time but well worth it. Especially when I am tired during the week and don’t want to do anything!

  10. I love this post!! I have an hour+ commute at night, so the idea of cooking sometimes makes me cranky and I end up either snacking on junk or ordering takeout. I need to get more organized and start “prepping” more on weekends, when I have more time. The only thing I “prep” on Sunday is my coffee for iced coffee during the week…priorities…LOL

    Thanks for the tips!!

  11. I do! My Sunday is all about Food! Right from food shopping, we start our prep-husband makes his lunches (sandwiches) and I start on mine (cooking quinoa, spaghetti squash, ground meats, salads)
    I also make sure that Sundays meal will carry us through for 2 more meals during the week (or for my lunch) and freeze what we dont eat (pulled pork, chili, etc)

    I get all my snacks ready for the week (almonds, raisins, dark choc chips; fruit chopped, bags for smoothies prepped)

  12. I do a lot of cooking, baking, and other food prep on sundays. Certainly does save time getting dinner on the table for my family and keeping my eating on track. I am a geek because I really love when I see my meals are organized in neat little containers in the fridge.

  13. I really admire how diligent you are about prepping! I try to be better, but usually end up just winging it. Does any of your food ever spoil since you make it in advance? That’s always something I’m worried about!

  14. Great tips! I travel during the week for work, so I (sadly) don’t get to prepare my meals during the week. But my equivalent is cooking up something over the weekend (soup, stew, etc.) that I can freeze a few extra servings … that way, when I stumble in from the plane late on Thursdays, I can grab a quick home-cooked meal rather than eating airport food or ordering in!

  15. We enjoy the process of creating and cooking our meals way too much for prepping ahead. There is benefit in both approaches!

  16. I would advise against brewing those two pots of iced coffee for the entire week, and just take the time to brew it in the AM. The longer coffee sits around, the more acidic it becomes. That is why coffee places dispose of their coffee every hour. It does a job on one’s stomach, and probably isn’t helping with your flare-ups.

  17. I’m really surprised you don’t buy free-range, organic chicken! As a crossfitter for 5 years, I will never understand how athletes who care so much about their bodies can disregard the importance of purchasing free-range and organic, not to mention the ignorance of the environmental consequences that come with mass-quantity meat consumption…

    1. I buy organic meat almost all the time, but sometimes at shop at Trader Joe’s. Just wanted to give people some easy ideas! 🙂

    2. @Anonymous: what about those of us who cannot afford it (honestly) or who absolutely cannot find/source it? no joke….better to simply eat none of it or buy what you can? (“it starts with food” says to buy what you can).

  18. You hit the nail on the head! I do the same thing only I tend to “prep” (marinade, make turkey ball/loaf mixtures) on fri or sat to save some time on Sunday so all I have to do is bake. I have started to make my own granola bars(less sugar and ingredients than store bought) however I often get stuck making a batch mid week. Thankfully they take 30 min total so it’s easy to do while watching tv!! 🙂

  19. I think Sunday Cook-Up is fabulous! I do this every week and did before I even started meal planning, because I knew without a doubt, I would need hard-boiled eggs and cooked chicken for something 🙂

  20. Great tips! I also like to cut up fruit for the week so it’s easy to get to for snacking. Whatever doesn’t get eat gets frozen for smoothies!

  21. I really need to start doing a weekly meal prep – saves time during the week. I usually do roast a squash and sweet potatoes over the weekend, but need to start prepping a week’s worth of protein options too.
    One thing I wouldn’t recommend washing beforehand are berries – they spoil faster after washing, so those I would was just before eating.

    I also agree with the comment about brewing a week’s worth of coffee – way too acidic by the end of the week, and definitely not easy on the digestive system.

  22. This is a great idea!! As a super busy college student who loves to eat healthy, any shortcuts are necessary. It can be harder when cooking for one person though..I don’t like to make a big batch of something because then I have to eat the same thing for a week and a half. Any tips for those of us out here who are still cooking for one?

  23. I work long hours and a caregiver for a parent to boot. Weekends are my meal prep time. Hardboiled eggs are a standard because they are a great “go to” protein ( that’s usually hubby’s job – he has a perfect method). After running a 5k on Saturday this weekends meal plan was: Boneless Balsamic Chicken Thighs, Baked Eggrolls with homemade sweet and sour sauce, Stir Fry (wiht leftovers from the eggrolls), Colorful Marinated Tomato Salad with Basil and Parsley, Greek Turkey meatloaf, Greek Green Beans, Barley, Sweet Potatoes, and Broccolli (also a standard). My hubby also made a fabulous turkey salad from left over turkey breast. As you can see we love to eat.

  24. Great tips! I don’t usually do a Sunday cook up because I often travel but maybe I should start investing some more time doing so! I have a question about the grains- I’ve heard rice can grow bacteria very quickly and make you pretty sick, how long do you keep prepared rice or other grains before eating it?

      1. @Tina: I know I should eat rice..but always take the convenience (and crunch) of rice cakes instead. major OOPS..is it that really really bad I wonder? I sometimes eat the entire pack in a day (they are 40 cals and 10 grams carbs each)…I just truly like the crunch. Oops.

  25. Prepping up food on Sundays has been a life saver since we started! With my husband and I both working long days, the last thing either of us wants to do is stand in the kitchen and cook afterwards.

    For us, as long as we prep some protein (meat for him, tofu/tempeh for me, and eggs), chop veggies, and prep grains we’re usually in great shape!

  26. I need to get my mom to read this post because lately my family has gotten really used to getting lazy and ordering take out on week nights! If we did more meal prep on Sundays we would definitely be inclined to make healthy meals all week. Thanks for the tips!!

  27. My boyfriend and I usually cook enough food for lunches and dinners on Sunday–with school and work for both of us, this cuts down on busy evenings during the week. And it’s been wonderful for our food budget!

  28. I know you love iced coffee but have you ever tried cold brow? The cold brew process significantly reduces the acidity of coffee and creates this amazing, smooth, delicious brew. Check out http://toddycafe.com/ – this is what I use to make cold brew every week and it really is the BEST iced coffee I have ever had. The system is available on Amazon for $35.

  29. I am HUGE on Sunday prep. I usually wash & chop all fruit and veggies for the week. Hubby will cook up enough meat to last us until Wednesday, when he will cook up some more. It’s definitely important to prep for success!

  30. Great ideas! 🙂 I recently just quit my part time Job so hopefully I will have more times on Sundays. I really should do this too… I am always temped to cheat and order out when I think about the prep time for dinner. It would also allow me to choose more options for meals during the week if I split up the prep time. but I also do the hardest meal to cook on Sundays as well! 🙂

  31. I have to meal prep sunday, or I feel totally overwhelmed during the week – saves so much time and money. The biggest help for me is having healthy snacks. Chopped fruit and veggies, I’ll make a big batch of hummus, set aside frozen smoothie packs. It makes healthy eating so much faster – plus if I’m running late I can just have my fiance heat stuff up!

  32. I do that too! I meal plan a week ahead and do grocery shopping on Saturday or Sunday and then rinse, chop, etc. for the rest of the week. I’ll also mix together any sauces/marinades ahead. Some meals I make in advance and put in tuppers, others I just do as much as I can so cooking when I get home from work is a breeze. It’s a lot more extra work on the weekend but like you said, it helps me to eat much healthier through the rest of the week.

    Some advice my mom gave me for rice is right after you cook it, separate it into portion sizes and wrap tightly and freeze. When it’s time to eat it just microwave it for a minute or so until it’s warm again. I love this because I can never finish a whole pot of rice by myself! This is for Asian sticky-ish rice so not sure how the non-sticky version of rice would hold up in the freezer.

  33. I agree that sunday meal prepping is the way to go. I will usually cook a big meal every few days to last a couple of days, especially because i take lunch to work pretty much every day

  34. hi tina. great post, thanks for the ideas. i have started doing a sunday cook up as well – i’m curious to know your thoughts on something. if you pre-cook chicken breasts on sunday, how long do you think they are good?

  35. I love this post! I went back to school for three years to earn a second bachelors and then my master’s degree, and am getting ready to move out on my own again and begin my new teaching job. Eating healthy and staying active are a big part of my life and your tips on prepping food and storing is so incredibly helpful! I’ve been following your blog for a while now and I have learned so many things that I can finally put into practice! What’s awesome is I can go back and find different posts with recipes that looked so good but I didn’t have the space/equipment in a dorm to make them. I just love your blog, keep up the great work! 🙂

  36. I JUST learned this past weekend how to “butcher” a pineapple. Like you, I never want to buy canned ever again. 🙂 I really need to start doing Sunday cookups. I spend far too much time prepping and chopping! Thanks for the tips.

  37. These are great suggestions, especially the idea of preparing the starches and grains for the week! I’m going to have to start doing that too, since it’ll be a huge time-saver during the week. At this point, the main thing I do is chop veggies (although that has become far less time-consuming since we recently switched to buying the frozen, pre-chopped variety) and prepare our proteins (pre-cooked meatballs, pre-mixed turkey burgers, etc.). Thanks for the awesome tips!

  38. Good tips! Though one should be very careful on pre cooking and storing meat for several days. Aside from sacrificing tenderness and flavour, storing cooked meat too long exposes it to dangers of bacteria build up and potentially harmful toxins. You should always allow meat to reach a “well-done” temp if cooking in advance.

    http://www.foodsafety.gov/keep/charts/storagetimes.html

    Maybe a quick disclaimer at the bottom of your post?

  39. Great post! I do indeed do a Sunday cook up, which makes the workweek meal planning easy! My tip-I lay out all the ingredients once prepped for making lunches in assembly line fashion to put in Tupperware. Lately I’ve been having chickpea salads with veggies and hummus- in goes the salad in 5 Tupperware containers, then veggies, hummus, and chickpeas! I also make over night oats in Tupperware and place everything in the fridge for a quick morning grab-n-go!

  40. Wow! I feel dumb that I never thought of this. I always lose half my day trying to prep things. Can’t believe I did’t think of the coffee thing, esp since I use a french press and it would be super easy to put the left overs in the fridge!

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