Meal Prep Strategies Food Network Staffers Swear By
Just one of these small changes can make a big difference in your weekly meal plan.
If you’re anything like us here at Food Network, you know that resolutions aren’t just for New Year’s Eve. They can be adopted at any time, even a few days into the brand-new year. If you’re still looking for the perfect resolution of your very own, give meal prepping a try. Quick and easy, it’s sure to save you loads of time in 2020. If you’re not sure where to begin, fret not! Our office is filled with meal prepping pros. Here are the tips and tricks they swear by.
Give "Anchor Shopping" A Try
Here’s my weekly conflict. I don’t love the idea of being forced to eat a particular meal day after day, simply because I’ve already shopped for all the ingredients. But most weeks I hardly have time to do a big grocery haul for last-minute ingredients, so shopping ahead of time is the smarter option. But then of course, I really don’t love wasting food when I inevitably change my mind during the week. You see my predicament, right?
I’ve found that the best way to combat this is to do what I call “anchor shopping” on Sundays. Rather than buying a ton of ingredients and then feeling like I have to do something with them come Wednesday or Thursday, I structure my shopping around two or three “anchor” proteins. This gives me some structure so I’m not ordering takeout every day, but it also allows for a lot of flexibility. Usually I pick up a piece of fish (I’m partial to salmon because it’s quick and affordable), a package of ground turkey (usually the 99% fat-free kind because it’s lean) and a piece of chicken (again, white mean because it’s lean). With those three meal anchors, I can go in several different directions. The salmon can be simply roasted and eaten as a filet, or flecked into a big grain bowl with vegetables. I love using the turkey in a quick meatloaf, or in an Asian-inspired stir-fry with tons of garlic. The chicken usually gets seared for chicken fried rice, or breaded and turned into chicken Parm. Or sometimes I just throw it in the oven for the next day’s lunch and then order takeout for dinner!
- Maria Russo, Senior Editor
Use Your Instant Pot or Slow Cooker
Ahead of the work week I cook, since my three sons’ weekday schedules are packed: I pick a slow cooker or Instant Pot dish that can cook through the day, like pulled pork, chicken soup, or taco filling from Food Network; I steam several servings of rice to have in the fridge; and I double a batch of Sunday pancakes (my favorite recipe is the Diner Style Pancakes from the Food Network Kitchen app) so some can tuck into the freezer for quick breakfasts. While we putter around the house on Sunday, I’m multitasking meals and get set heading into the week.
- Debra Puchalla, SVP, Digital Programming & Video, Food
Roast, Roast, Baby!
Meal prep is such a commitment. When I first started, I would spend at least half of my Sunday in the kitchen making breakfasts, lunches and mid-day snacks for myself, my husband and my school-age daughter. After a few weeks I realized that I needed a better strategy — one that would help me save time without cutting any corners. That’s why roasting veggies is a must for me, every single Sunday. It only takes a few minutes of my time to cut everything up and toss the pieces in olive oil, salt and seasonings and when the sheet pans come out of the oven, I’ve got a whole weeks’ worth of veggies ready to go. Roasted broccoli and cauliflower for salads, winter vegetables and Brussels sprouts for grain bowls, roasted butternut squash and sweet potatoes for maple syrup-drizzled oatmeal — it’s amazing how a few minutes in a hot oven can bring out the best in just about any vegetable. One simple, time-saving technique — so many delicious possibilities!
- Kristie Collado, Manager, Digital Programming
Prep and Pack All Your Veggies for Later Use
The one thing I do to meal prep every week is cut a bunch of bell peppers and cucumbers into sticks and put them into separate Rubbermaid Brilliance Containers. I pair each with a small container of hummus. When I am on a roll I decant the hummus from a large container into small ones I have at home; otherwise, I buy a box of individual hummus packets from the new Wegman’s by me. I line all the containers up on the top shelf of the fridge so they’re the first thing I see and impossible to forget on my way out the door. It’s the perfect mid-morning snack to carry me over until lunch.
- Lygeia Grace, Director, Culinary Editorial
Hard-Boil A Carton of Eggs on Sunday
Making a batch of hard-boiled eggs on Sunday night always gets me prepped for the week! If I’m on-the-go in the morning and don’t have time to make a full breakfast, I love being able to grab two eggs and eat them at my desk. I keep a little everything bagel seasoning at work, too, to season them!
- Gabriela Rodiles, Social Media Manager
Sheet Pans for the Win!
Sunday is meal prep day in my house. I prep a week’s worth of lunches on Sunday afternoon, and it truly helps make my week 50% less stressful. I love any kind of recipe that can be made on a sheet pan. They’re perfect for everything from protein to roasted veggies and, when covered in aluminum foil, make for very easy cleanup. My number one recipe for meal prep? Food Network Kitchen’s Sheet Pan Fajitas. I turn them into rice bowls with black beans and some cheese for an easy lunch I crave all week long.
- T.K. Brady, Senior Editor