My Minimal Effort Meal Prep Plan

I’m keeping it real with you guys this morning. I run a macro plan business, but, man, there are just some weeks that I’m not in the mood to meal prep at all. Sometimes I’ve had a busy weekend and just don’t have the energy. Other times, I’m just not super motivated to spend a couple of hours in the kitchen, especially when I have the option of enjoying “Sunday Funday” relaxing with my family or friends.

But, at the end of the day, I know how much better I feel after I meal prep. I mean, I’m setting myself up for a healthy week, and, if I slack on that, I know my week of eats will not be as nutritious. I’m sure a lot of us have been in the same position, so here are a few of the tricks that I turn to when I really don’t want to prep, but I know it will help set me up for success. And, of course, I would love to hear yours, too! Please share if you have a go-to tactic or trick when it comes to meal prep, especially when you don’t want to meal prep – would love to hear it! 😉

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Break out the Instant Pot and make a big ol’ batch of shredded chicken – I pretty much make shredded chicken every week. It’s so versatile and so darn easy. I typically buy 4-5 pounds of chicken breast, pop it in the Instant Pot with a cup of water, and then pressure cook it for 27 minutes. After that, I remove the chicken breasts from the Instant Pot, allow them to cool, and then “shred” them with a fork. The breasts are so moist (yup), the meat just falls apart. It’s the easiest thing ever, and then we have a versatile protein source for the entire week.

Roast up a big pan of veggies. I typically roast something like Brussels sprouts, squash, or root vegetables. The only active time it really takes is the 5-10 minutes it takes to chop, which is kind of relaxing anyway. After that, I coat them with cooking spray or sunflower oil (depends what I’m baking and how lazy I’m feeling), place them on a silicon mat on baking sheet, add salt and pepper, and roast for about 35-40 minutes at 425 degrees F.

Defrost your favorite frozen veggies. If you’re not into roasting, defrosting your favorite veggies and having them ready to go is a helpful trick for me. I don’t know about you, but if I see a food out or in my refrigerator, I’m more likely to prepare it. Out of sight, out of mind, right? I typically pour a few servings of frozen veggies into glass containers and then just keep them in the fridge for easy access throughout the week. Seeing them every time I open the fridge definitely gets me to eat more nutrients since I’m constantly adding them to meals and even snacking on them.

Prep your breakfast for the week. Whether you have kids or not, mornings are almost always stressful and it’s just too easy to stop at Starbucks for a sandwich instead. But breakfast is actually one of the easiest meals to prep in advance. Pre-making overnight oats or muffins means that you can just grab a portion and heat it up. I usually prep breakfast for Monday through Friday, so I don’t even have to think about it in the morning!

Prepare for what you suck at. When you come home from work and have no dinner ready, do you just give up and order takeout? If you know that you’re not the type to make a whole dinner when you come home from work starving, then make sure you have your dinner elements prepped and ready to go. For example: have a protein, a veggie, and a starch (spaghetti squash is a great one to prep in advance) all ready to go so that you can just sit down and eat!

Question of the Day

What are your minimal effort meal prep tricks?

18 Comments

  1. Ha, this is almost my exact routine – and menu! Shredded chicken and a pan of roasted veggies = easiest meal prep ever. I also always cook up a batch of hard-boiled eggs. Anything I can do to make meals grab and go is a big nutritional win for my week. It also helps that I’m fine with eating the same base ingredients over and over.

  2. Hard boiled eggs are a go to in our house. I also like to bake up sweet potatoes ahead of time. When I’m doing REALLY well, I wash, chop, and store raw veggies in an easy to grab container!

  3. Some of my strategies (and my life feels intense; I teach 7 college writing classes per term and am always grading papers, or driving somewhere because everything takes TIME on the road…):
    1. part of my meal prep is taco chicken or turkey–two lb of ground chix or turkey (depending on which is the better price that week) and a mix of taco spices sitting in the fridge helps my husband make quick burritos at the end of the day and helps me make quick taco salads when I am exhausted and need dinner. (It can also go in a tupperware with some steamed or roasted veggies, some salsa, and some shredded cheese to be heated up for a ‘tex mex bowl’ at lunch time)
    2. we keep steamer bags of frozen veggies in our freezer. We don’t keep the “flavored” or “sauced” kind–just plain ol’ cauliflower and broccoli. It can go in the microwave when I am rushing off to my bedroom to switch out of teaching clothes (or gym clothes) and into pajamas/yoga pants/etc. Whatever I don’t eat I put into a tupperware for either lunch the next day or to be reheated in a sautee pan with an egg and two egg whites for a quick no-muss no-fuss veggie egg scramble for breakfast in the morning.
    3. Every week I rotate between 3 proteins–chicken, beef, pork–for a crockpot dish. I make sure that there is enough of this protein made to cover me and my husband for 3 nights for the week.
    4. I have an oatmeal that I love that takes maybe 1 minute to assemble and exactly 2:45 to heat in the microwave. I have this three times a week, and the other three days of the week are scrambled eggs with leftover steamed veggies, which doesn’t take too much time to put together.

    Not always the most original, but it’s efficient enough for me. I have too many other things going on and my husband works 2 jobs. We’re on the go entirely too much, and if dinner is going to take above 10 minutes to assemble and heat on any given night, then I know my husband–he is going to say “eff it” and order out from the chain restaurant with the wings he likes or he is going to heat up a frozen pizza and eat the whole thing. It works for us.

    1. Love this!! I’m in the same boat with my boyfriend. We both have crazy schedules, so sometimes we eat dinner at different times. If nothing is prepped (enough for him to assemble and heat), my boyfriend will get take out. We both feel 100% better mentally and physically when we eat home cooked (usually healthy) meals.

      What kind of #3 meals do you cook? Any great recipes to share?

  4. I try to plan one big meal to make on Sundays that will last us a few days – usually a crock pot meal of some sort. That helps so much when you come home from work or the gym on Monday night to an already cooked, nutritious meal! When my husband and I know we have a busy week ahead, or when we grocery shop a little later in the day on Sunday, we buy steamable veggies. They’re super easy to microwave on a busy weeknight, and a lot of the options have no added sodium or preservatives (just look for some without sauce). If I want roasted veggies but not the hassle of chopping, I’ll buy the steamable veggies from the produce section. Just dump those out onto a baking sheet and season/roast as usual! I also always make sure to bake or grill a huge batch of chicken for lunches and busy dinners.

  5. We eat a variation on the same things each night, according to the season; they are all simple as can be. Common winter meals are: baked salmon and roasted veggies, pasta with kale and parmesan, baked potatoes with Amy’s chili, minestrone (made on Sundays) pierogis and roasted Brussels, naan pizzas with goat cheese and (Kirkland brand) pesto. Takes the guess work out for us; I am a teacher, my husband is an attorney. Between work and the kiddo, we have to keep to simple!

  6. I usually spend a few hours in the kitchen on Sundays and fully prepare 2 meals my husband and I can reheat throughout the week. It depends how I’m feeling, but sometimes I’ll make more involved meals and sometimes they are SUPER easy and don’t take much time at all. It really depends how I’m feeling, but no matter which route I go I always end up with 2 options to rotate between for lunch and dinner. Since I commute about an hour each way to work and my husband I typically go to the gym after work, it is nearly impossible for us to think about cooking anything after that. The time I spend on Sundays is 1000% worth it to me and is even kind of relaxing!

    For minimal effort, one meal I like to make is prechopped frozen broccoli florets, the harvest grains mix from Trader Joe’s (just boil it on the stove – it’s a mix of coucous, quinoa, etc), and precooked chicken chopped up. Or chili – just throw everything in the crockpot.

  7. My best tip is to plan all the meals for the week on Saturday or Sunday, then I will have a plan at the grocery store 🙂
    Luckily my husband likes to cook!

  8. Communication about the upcoming week helps me set out my grocery list (events, visitors, etc). I also create a meal plan, just dinner and keep staples in the house for breakfast and lunch. From there, I write out a weekly dinner menu and prep as much as possible on the weekend. Sure, food is better fresh, but it saves time, money and stress to roast, cook and chop ahead of time!

  9. No instant pot, so I just put a pan of chicken breasts into the oven to cook while I prep some ‘egg muffins’ ; eggs, cut veggies maybe some sort of meat and put it in the muffin tins to bake and they make great breakfasts. I’ll also precook some sweet potato or normal potatoes to have sometime thru the week, then it’s just a reheat and eat.
    My hubby loves the one dish meals, chili, stew etc..something we prep for the crockpot and can have for a couple meals..and send some over to his adult son and girlfriend, since they are shift workers and it’s nice to look after them a bit still. 🙂
    I love plain greek yogurt with fresh strawberries, instead of buying flavoured yogurt, so I usually have to cut up a bunch of strawberries or just use frozen ones to add into my yogurt. So much better tasting, and so little work for the taste.
    I always find the weeks I put the effort in on Sunday totally pay off for a week of being able to eat healthy. Healthy convenience food makes a happier me.

  10. In addition to prepping the bare minimum (a breakfast and a protein & veggies) I try and stock my freezer/pantry with things that I know will make “smart” choices when I am pressed for time: Chicken sausage, cauliflower rice, cowboy caviar (we buy a 1/4 cow from a farm so we always have ground beef), and the current sleeper hit of my pantry: canned salmon. I’m pregnant and can’t have tuna but salmon salad is quick to whip up and so yummy.

  11. I can so relate to this, especially last night. Sunday mornings are typically for grocery shopping + easy meal prep, but we had such a busy week that we didn’t get to the grocery until around 5:30 p.m., which meant dinner and prep had to happen fast so I could relax on the couch with my dudes. I threw sweet potatoes in the oven to roast, a batch of tofu to bake, boiled eggs for Felix’s breakfast, made a batch of super simple vegan muffins and prepped a batch of farro. All in an hour. Boom. Cooking each night after work has actually been pretty relaxing for me, so for now I’m going for it, but I LOVE meal prepping, especially heading into the work week!

  12. Totaly love this post, I also preparing my breakfast for the week because eating breakfast is important for everyone especially for me to perform better on my work, with better concentration, problem-solving skills, and eye-hand coordination.

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