6 Ways to Nail Meal Prep This Week (and Every Week!)

Food Network Kitchen’s meals in jars opener as seen on Food Network.

Photo by: Stephen Johnson ©2015, Television Food Network, G.P. All Rights Reserved

Stephen Johnson, 2015, Television Food Network, G.P. All Rights Reserved

Food Network Kitchen’s meals in jars opener as seen on Food Network.

If you’ve ever envied the perfectly portioned-out rows of Tupperware meals you spot on Pinterest, we understand. Meal-prepping (a timeless tradition and yet somehow also a totally new internet phenomenon) can make your week go more smoothly and help you stick to eating healthy. But if you don’t already do it, getting started can be daunting. Here’s some advice to get going — just in time for the onset of the busy school year.

Photo by: Courtesy of Peanut Butter and Fitness

Courtesy of Peanut Butter and Fitness

Start Small

Erin, the blogger behind Peanut Butter and Fitness, is known for posting bountiful rows of thoughtfully planned meals each week, ensuring she always has nutritious food at the ready. Still, she didn’t perfect the practice in a day.

“A lot of people get overwhelmed the first time they try to meal prep because it seems like a daunting task to make 21 meals in an afternoon,” Erin says. “I’d recommend starting small, maybe with only 5 or 6 meals at once. Split up the prep over a couple of days to make it more manageable. Once you get the hang of it, you’ll start to see how you can multitask and stick 3 or 4 different things in the oven at once.”

Photo by: Courtesy of Bourbon and Honey

Courtesy of Bourbon and Honey

Aim for Ingredients That Can Do Double-Duty

Kristen, who blogs at Bourbon and Honey, reminds us that a few hours spent meal-prepping can help free up lots of time during the week. And choosing flexible ingredients will make things even easier.

“I never know what my week will bring,” she says. “So spending a few hours on Sunday cooking allows me to be more spontaneous during the week. I always make a grain, a protein, and a handful of veggies, and mix and match them throughout the week to keep things interesting. A salad on Monday can turn into a grain bowl on Tuesday, a taco on Wednesday, soup on Thursday and veggie pasta on Friday.”

Photo by: Courtesy of Eat Yourself Skinny

Courtesy of Eat Yourself Skinny

Work the Slow Cooker Into Your Plan

Eat Yourself Skinny blogger Kelly finds that this handy kitchen appliance makes meal prep even less overwhelming. She likes to make bowls with a grain, a veggie and a protein, and has figured out a way to cook everything at once.

“Preheat your oven, chop up all your veggies, and throw some chicken into your Crock-Pot,” she says. “Then, while your veggies are roasting in the oven and the chicken is slow-cooking, boil some rice or quinoa. This is also a good time to make hard-boiled eggs or anything else you can make on the stove.”

Food Network Kitchen’s beet and brussel sprout salad as seen on Food Network.

Photo by: Stephen Johnson ©2015, Television Food Network, G.P. All Rights Reserved

Stephen Johnson, 2015, Television Food Network, G.P. All Rights Reserved

Food Network Kitchen’s beet and brussel sprout salad as seen on Food Network.

Embrace the Power of a Good Jar

There’s a reason glass jars are such trendy meal containers (besides the fact that they look cool): They’re great for layering. With a jar you can pre-make salads, grain bowls, and snacks — layering ingredients strategically, so the delicate stuff doesn’t get soggy or wilty. Try it out with our beet and Brussels sprouts salad, Mexican-inspired quinoa salad or coconut chia pudding.

Photo by: Matt Armendariz ©2014, Television Food Network, G.P. All Rights Reserved

Matt Armendariz, 2014, Television Food Network, G.P. All Rights Reserved

Try a Just-Add-Water Lunch

These recipes make fresh soups, couscous and oatmeal even more portable (and delicious) than before. Because you add hot water right before you eat them, you can make a bunch in advance and be set for the week.

Don’t Be Too Hard on Yourself

Denise, the blogger at Sweet Peas and Saffron, likes her make-ahead fajita bowls because they offer a welcome alternative to sandwiches at lunchtime. But we’ve all had that moment when we look into our plastic containers and just think, “I’m really craving anything but this.” And that’s OK! Denise reminds us that being too strict with yourself isn’t productive.

“You want to have some flexibility in your meal plan, she says. “If you stray from it, be kind to yourself and try to reboot the next day.”

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