Items to make for meal prep at the beginning of each week?
September 3, 2015 4:07 PM   Subscribe

Lately we have been cooking a bunch of things on Sunday or Monday that can be assembled mix-and-match style during the week, and it has been awesome. We're getting a bit tired of what we've been making, though, so I'm looking for additional ideas that we may not have thought of. If you do meal prep to get you through the week, what do you make?

In a quest to spend less money and calories eating dinner out and getting takeaway, we have started doing weekly meal prep in earnest, inspired by this super-helpful Shutterbean post. This seems to be working way better than attempts at strict meal-planning have gone in the past, and we want to keep doing it--but we're running out of ideas! So far the things we have made included:

-roasted vegetables
-roasted chicken
-doctored beans
-low GI rice blend
-crock-pot steel cut oats
-hard-boiled eggs
-huge batch of tuna salad

So one night we had rice/bean/veg bowls; another night we had beans with eggs and fresh veggies. Another night chicken and bean burritos. There was always something in the fridge to eat, and enough to take to work for lunches. We've kept doing this, with minor variations, but I'd like to add in some variety so we don't get frustrated or bored.

A few health-required dietary restrictions:
-very minimal red meat or animal fats like cream, butter, etc.
-lots of vegetables and lean proteins
-slow or no carbs--no sugar, either

Thanks so much for any ideas you might have, or websites that you would recommend. I've googled and looked on Pinterest a bit, but it's overwhelming and a lot of the sites I'm seeing don't necessarily give ideas for *what* to make, just why you should do it. I did see this question but I'm less interested in following intricate recipes or a specific meal plan than I am "oh hey we do this, also you should make frittatas".
posted by stellaluna to Food & Drink (20 answers total) 213 users marked this as a favorite
Best answer: Some ideas:
-Cabbage slaws (especially with vinaigrette dressings) keep well and go with lots of things. You can dial up the veg by including beets, shredded carrots, red or green onion, peppers, or celery.
-Prepped edamame. Good on salads, good by itself, good as a side.
-Other grains and pseudo grains? Quinoa or millet, specifically
-Veggie scramble that's more veg than egg. My favorite combo is crimini mushrooms, broccoli and red onion. You could chop those veg ahead of time or even cook them ahead of time, then heat and scramble in your eggs.
-Sweet potatoes/garnet yams (roasted especially)
-Explore and make different sauces for your bowls: peanut sauce, chimichurri, homemade salsa, pesto, tahini-lemon

You don't mention salads, which can be easy to assemble if you have some things prepped, or can even be pre-assembled, ala salad in a jar. I like some uncooked veggies for variety in the same week as cooked veggies.
posted by purple_bird at 4:24 PM on September 3, 2015 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Turkey chili in the crockpot. If that's too one note for you as far as meal possibilities, do seasoned ground turkey. That can become a perversion of larb gai, tacos, burritos, sloppy joes, bolognese, etc later in the week.
posted by telegraph at 4:28 PM on September 3, 2015 [2 favorites]

In my house, we love to do Fajita "bowls":

Sauteed onions, garlic and bell peppers (can be prepped ahead and used for other recipes!)
Pre-cooked chicken
Beans/rice/any carbs you like

We add salsa, cumin, cheese, and sour cream sometimes. If you're feeling fancy, get an avocado, too!

Super quick to throw together and really delicious.
posted by theantikitty at 4:31 PM on September 3, 2015 [4 favorites]

Best answer: - green lentils (the non-mushy french kind. usually dressed with a mustardy vinaigrette-- love these on top of quinoa, with feta & arugula)
- some kind of quick pickled vegetables, like vietnamese carrot/daikon
- cabbage slaw-- often combined with the pickled vegetable
- some kind of sweet potato, squash, yam etc-- either ready to microwave, or roasted/steamed. i like kabocha squash with a dab of orange marmalade
- quinoa, seasoned with garlic, onion, za'atar
- massaged kale salad-- lasts forever
- prepared tomato salad, like an israeli salad
posted by acidic at 4:32 PM on September 3, 2015 [3 favorites]

Pork loin.
posted by Iris Gambol at 4:46 PM on September 3, 2015 [2 favorites]

I tend to cook plain proteins and then box/bag them up with 2-3 sides, and I stick to stuff that freezes okay because I put about half in the fridge and half in the freezer.

Sometimes one side is rice- or potato-based, but I'm doing the resistant starch thing and if that isn't a slow enough carb for you, ignore that advice. My favorite sides are:

- 2lb frozen spinach, 1 can coconut milk, .5-1 onion diced, much garlic, curry powder. Saute onions/garlic/curry first, dump in spinach and coconut milk, cook. You can do this in the crock pot too.
- large bag frozen "California mix" (~2lbs) OR 1-2 heads cauliflower OR a bag of green beans OR 1 head cauliflower and then whatever's lurking in the vegetable drawer that needs handling, plus some diced onion and garlic, maybe some hot sauce or part of a jalapeno. 1 lg can tomatoes + 1/2 can paste, put the stuff in and stir real good, bake 350 ~45-60m until contents are soft. Cheese in or on top optional. (You can add more liquid to keep this on the runny side, and then box up over quinoa/rice/pasta. You can also use jar pasta sauce, or really any "simmer" sauce, or make your own curry sauce, etc.)
- roasted brussels sprouts, just tossed in oil and roasted high and hot until caramelized, then a spritz of lemon and some salt after they come out. Good with everything, good for snacking.
- Not So Dirty Rice (also works great with vegan sausage crumbles!)
- quickie "padding" sides: roasted sweet potato, black beans, cubes of baked or fried tofu

Standalone meal:
-Crock Pot Chicken Tortilla Soup (works on stovetop too) - holy shit, this was good. I just made it this weekend and accidentally put all but 2 servings in the freezer, so I might just make more this weekend.
- I also make and freeze vast quantities of gumbo once the weather turns cold. I use Alton Brown's methodology, particularly baking the roux which I double by making two separate batches in the oven at the same time, and then using chicken instead of shrimp and adding okra, but his doesn't have it and you don't have to if you don't like it.
posted by Lyn Never at 4:55 PM on September 3, 2015 [4 favorites]

Best answer: Also Mashed cauliflower, which you can eat as-is or thin with some broth and re-puree with a stick blender and have as-is or with add-ins as soup.
posted by Lyn Never at 4:57 PM on September 3, 2015

Preroast a heap of veges: cubes of potato, sweet potato, corn, carrots, cauliflower. They keep for four or five days and you can add them to things or just have a bowl of them (I like to bulk it out with canned chickpeas or frozen beans).
posted by lollusc at 5:35 PM on September 3, 2015

Best answer: This week I made these meals portioned in one container servings. For me, portioning the meals makes this all so seem so much better than a big container that starts to feel like leftovers. The individual meals seems like a specially-prepared meal just for me and uses fewer dishes if you microwave the same container.

Homemade meat tomato sauce with scoop ricotta and sprinkle with mozzarella (can be served over zucchini noodles or roasted eggplant strips or pasta for the carb-wild)

Taco meat, salsa, cheddar portioned with pico de gallo and sliced olives (served over lettuce, plain or with a few (plantain) chips or low carb wrap)

Baked chicken breast seasoned (wrap in parchment to retain moisture) with beans and pico de gallo (serve over lettuce or in low-carb wrap)

Lentil soup (saute chopped carrot, celery, onion, add curry or other seasoning, add veggie bouillon and 1 cup green lentils, simmer until soft, salt) serve with big scoop greek yogurt

Spinach soup (saute onion with butter, add lots of spinach to wilt, add broth, salt, puree), serve with scoop greek yogurt

This has been working very well this week. I throw a single serving or so of each meal into the freezer to sub out for subsequent weeks for interest. I use grass-fed beef but you can sub turkey for low-fat.

I find reddit's MealPrepSunday to be helpful with inspiration.

As a side note, minimizing fat and carbs and not-lean meat, leaves only protein so here are a couple other ideas though not full meals that I also portioned this week:

Greek yogurt with some small amounts of fruit, granola on top, and chia stirred-in
Single servings of cottage cheese to throw on any of the above meals or have as a snack
posted by RoadScholar at 5:36 PM on September 3, 2015 [10 favorites]

We do this because we have two little kids, and yeah, I love it. One ~2hr cooking session on Sunday and we're set for the week. Our tastes run more to fatty than lean meats, so ymmv. We also are pressed for time and are cooking for small children with inconsistent palates, so we tend towards the simple right now. We usually cook 2 meats and 2 veg plus salad for the week, a starch, plus fruit and some snacky veggies.

Our go to meats (right now at least) are:
  • carnitas - good over veggies, can add to salad, good with beans and rice, or for delicious nachos. A little bit adds a lot of flavor.
  • grilled pork shoulder - basic marinade in Braggs, olive oil, salt, pepper and garlic salt, grilled till medium done (not too dry). Chopped up over veg, rice/grain, (cuban-ish pork) salad, sandwiches, um, nacho's. You get the idea.
  • brats
  • rotisserie chicken
  • some quickly fried ground turkey - we do this for the kids but it's pretty yummy thrown on stirfry or veggies
  • sort of blanched green beans - green beans boiled in salty water till desired tenderness and then cooled in cold or ice water. These are a beautiful green color and taste good cold just for munching or as a base for a fuller meal. I like butter on EVERYTHING and I love these green beans cold and with only a sprinkle of salt.
  • brocolli, basically the same as the green beans
  • prepared salads - we make salads for the week on sunday if you focus on heartier ingredients (I'm eating a green leaf, cabbage, red pepper, cherry tomato, snap pea salad right now) they should last well for the week. We also have tiny little containers to put dressing in (look for jello shot cups in amazon) and you can put nuts or seeds in a little syran wrap twist so they don't loose their crunch.
  • lightly sauteed zuchinni, grilled asparagus, grilled zucchinni/mushrooms/onions/peppers, etc. pasta salad
  • We also sometime do a soup that's basically, whatever meat and veg we have, plus broth and bean thread noodles. That's not really a dish so much as another way to redress food you have.
We also prewash and chop snacky veggies (cucumber slices, snap peas, celery, etc.) and fruit (watermelon, grapes, berries, etc.). I find I'm much more likely to eat something healthy (even when I'm exhausted) if it requires zero work.

Oh and we prepack our work lunches for the week. Grab one entree and one salad, healthy, yummy and no sweat. So nice in the mornings!
posted by pennypiper at 5:44 PM on September 3, 2015 [8 favorites]

I pack multiple jars of salad mix-ins and a jar of dressing, and then each night I just have to prep the greens. Lately I've been packing fruit (usually canned pineapple chunks or mandarin orange slices), chopped onion, toasted walnuts, chopped feta, and about a third of a can of beans (usually pinto or black). It's kind of a weird combo, I know. Then each night I prep a big Tupperware container of greens and in the morning I grab that and a jar of mix-ins. I make dressing and leave the jar in the fridge at work all week.
posted by skycrashesdown at 5:55 PM on September 3, 2015 [2 favorites]

I do this too and I love it and I love this question.

Along with the list you mentioned, my heavy rotation includes:

-Mason jar salads. It's trendy so it sounds a bit silly, but they really do stay fresh for an absurdly long time. At least six days. Put hard stuff like celery, carrots, cabbage, and peppers on the bottom, then softer veggies like cucumber and tomato, then proteins and/or beans and/or grains, then lettuce and greens. Dressing on the very bottom is optional.

-Chicken breast cooked in a yummy way (grilled or pan sautéed is best, or baked for easiness) and cut into strips to go on top of the aforementioned salad. This is usually a last-minute or morning lunch-packing assembly.

-Grain salad, like tabouli, or a salad made out of quinoa and veggies, or a pasta salad with chickpeas for added protein (not sure if whole wheat pasta counts as slow-carb for you).

-Kale or collards cooked in the crockpot, or kale sautéed with lots of lemon and garlic.

-My beloved mix of onions, peppers, mushrooms, tomatoes, and squash, tossed with olive oil and vinegar and seasonings and roasted in the oven on extremely high heat. Good with lots of stuff.

-Egg muffins that are basically just mini-fritatas that you make in a muffin pan. Great for grab-and-go breakfasts.

-Freezer burritos, assembled in advance for quick grab-and-go lunches.

-Whole wheat muffins with chia seeds and flax seeds and filling stuff like that.

I started cooking for the week like this after reading Tamar Adler's An Everlasting Meal, a delightful and charming book I love so much it's embarrassing. I highly recommend it.
posted by the turtle's teeth at 6:14 PM on September 3, 2015 [3 favorites]

Best answer: Keep your eyes out for deals on plain unsalted nuts and keep them stored in the freezer. Make roasted flavored nuts in a rotating variety for snacks and prep some just chopped & toasted for add-ins during meals. You can do mixes or one type at a time and then you won't get tired of them. A lot of recipes for roasted nuts will have a lot of salt and sugar in them but really all you need is a bit of oil to coat them and get the seasonings to stick and a pinch of salt, plus whatever herbs and spices you like/would go with the foods you're making that week. Just coat and toast in the oven in a single layer at a low heat until they're really fragrant.

Some places to include nuts:
-Almonds in any chicken or tuna salad
-Pecans with cheese and fruit for desserts or snacks
-Walnuts on a bowl of soft roasted veggies for crunch
-Hazelnuts with barley and mushrooms
-Peanuts on any sort-of-Asian salad
posted by Mizu at 6:26 PM on September 3, 2015 [1 favorite]

Dhal. Homemade pizza. Tandoori Chicken. Hummus.
posted by kjs4 at 7:44 PM on September 3, 2015

I'd always go with red beans and rice. Make a big pot of beans, spice it as you like it-- traditional is made with a ham hock, but I've had some solid vegetarian versions. Make rice separately. Since you're limiting meat, you can do without, or add chunks of grilled sausage.. grilled chicken would work too, though it's not traditional. I usually beans and meat together, but there's no requirement as long as all the components are good. Here's a recipe I could agree with, just looking at ingredients. The only change I'd make for a meaty version is 2 smoked ham hocks (or 1 smoked ham shank) going in the liquid at the start, and sausage at the finish. (And just one bay leaf? Get real-- and get two more.)
posted by Sunburnt at 8:14 PM on September 3, 2015

Fantastic question and thread. I often make tomato / basil / garlic salad (could add mozzarella if you eat cheese), which lasts about 3-4 days and gets better the first day or two as flavors merge; a big thing of kale, sometimes cooked, sometimes raw; chicken; a baked root vegetable or squash; and two entrees that feature similar vegetables cooked in different ways, often a curry and a veggie soup. I also often chop onions plus another veggie or two that I'm likely to use in an entree I spontaneously make, often an egg scramble and/or pasta (which is not your thing, but you could pre-bake a spaghetti squash), so it's often onions plus peppers.
posted by slidell at 9:16 PM on September 3, 2015

Oh, also, lately I shuck some corn, which cooks up quickly. And I keep a bunch of fruit, avocado, lemons, and whole tomatoes on hand to slice up whenever we need a snack.
posted by slidell at 9:19 PM on September 3, 2015

I often make a big pot of khichdi at the start of the week, and take it to work for lunch in tupperware. It's a flexible base recipe: rice, lentils, whatever vegetables you like and whatever spices you want to add (I usually use garam masala, turmeric, and coriander powder but a supermarket curry powder would also work). For a lower carb version, you can also leave out the potato without seriously affecting the flavour.
posted by Aravis76 at 2:52 AM on September 4, 2015

I'm a fan of the grain salad and it's many combinations of flavors, especially if you look into different types of vinaigrettes and herbs. Here's a Mark Bittman article that talks about the basic concept. And here's my favorite recipe from him, Shrimp Tabbouleh, which you can pack with fresh vegetables and which keeps really well in the fridge for a week or more, so you can eat off it all week.
posted by megancita at 8:25 AM on September 4, 2015

Response by poster: Marked as best answer things we hadn't thought of, or made, yet--but I will be coming back to this thread again and again for inspiration! Thank you all so much for spending the time to write out your routines. And special shout out to @RoadScholar, without whom I wouldn't have found r/MealPrepSunday, and through it, this awesome blog (in case anyone else is interested).
posted by stellaluna at 4:16 PM on September 4, 2015

« Older Where does this pic of Kermit the Frog come from?   |   Saving Smarter Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.