When Monday rolls around to start the busy work week, a little meal preparation the weekend before goes a long way. Try cooking and preparing the following food items over the weekend so you can enjoy a full week of healthy meals.
1. Prepping your proteins for the week is a must. You can grill a couple of chicken breasts ahead of time, then slice them up and keep them in the fridge for later use in salads, buddha bowls, wraps, or sandwiches. If you're looking to use shredded chicken, beef, or pork in various meal recipes (e.g., burritos, enchiladas, tacos, etc.), you can crank up a batch in the slow cooker, and then portion it out and freeze it in containers or Ziploc bags until you need it during the week.
You can safely keep your meat proteins in the fridge for about 3 to 4 days, so keep this timeline in mind when planning your meals.
2. Raw veggies offer virtually unlimited versatility, so any veggie chopping, washing, and prepping you can do over the weekend will only serve to help you spruce up various snacks, salads, stir-fries, wraps, and sandwiches that you might prepare during the week. Think broccoli and cauliflower florets, carrot and celery sticks, grated beets, chopped bell peppers, and snow peas (with strings removed).
You can store the carrot and celery sticks in cold water in your fridge, and you can keep the chopped and grated veggies in an airtight container (covered with a moist paper towel) for storage in the fridge as well.
Tip: Many raw food enthusiasts recommend soaking your veggies in a solution of water and vinegar (e.g., a large bowl of water with only a couple of tablespoons of vinegar) in order to clean them off really well before prepping for meals.
3. Homemade dried fruit and nut bars are an excellent, nutrient-rich snack to have on hand during the week when you need a little energy boost. Emma Christensen at The Kitchn provides an outstanding recipe for homemade fruit and nut energy bars that requires only three ingredients, and no cooking! You can't get much easier than that!
4. Cook up a crock pot of vegetarian chili to provide a delicious make-ahead meal that you can reheat and enjoy throughout the week. Allrecipes.com has an excellent recipe for what they have dubbed the "Best Vegetarian Chili in the World," and we're inclined to agree.
This recipe incorporates several different types of beans and legumes including black beans, kidney beans, and chickpeas, giving this chili a healthy dose of protein and fiber. You can also sprinkle some shredded cheese on top for some additional protein and calcium. The great thing about a dish like chili is that the more you allow it to sit, the more those different flavors can settle and meld together, which means that sometimes the second or third go-round will taste better than when the chili was first made!
5. Mason jar salads are a great way to prepare and store healthy meals you can enjoy throughout the week. Tammy Kresge over at Organize Yourself Skinny offers a fantastic mason jar salad tutorial that features several excellent recipes, and tips on how to layer everything properly so that your lettuce stays nice and crisp, even with the dressing included!
Preparation makes all the difference when you're trying to negotiate a busy schedule. Keep the above meal prep ideas in mind to help you save precious time during your hectic work week!