From Instagram foodies to busy moms, meal prep has generated a lot of buzz. And for good reason! Who doesn’t love cutting down on time at the grocery store, reducing food waste, enjoying homemade, nourishing meals and saving a buck while you’re at it?
Getting into meal prep can feel intimidating, but we’re here to help you through with 8 meal prep essentials that every home cook should have on hand. We’ve chosen meal prep ingredients that can be prepared in a variety of ways and mix-and-matched in numerous recipes so that it doesn’t feel like we’re eating the same meals over and over again. Get out the (BPA-free) storage containers and let’s prep!
We always make sure to keep our pantry stocked with whole grains like quinoa, buckwheat, brown rice, oats, farro, bulgur and whole grain pasta. From harvest bowls to hearty salads, whole grains are a versatile ingredient that are great for bulking up a meal. Use grains as a base for your meal, add on a protein like chicken or tofu and some vegetables and top the whole dish off with a flavorful dressing. Another benefit of whole grains is that in dry form, when properly sealed, they can be stored in the pantry for months without going bad. After being cooked, grains will also stay fresh in the refrigerator for 3-4 days, making them a no-brainer meal prep ingredient (just make sure to cool them to room temperature before storing). We love incorporating whole grains into breakfast, too, with hearty morning porridge, puffed grain cereal bars or scrambled into eggs.
Canned or dry beans
Like whole grains, beans are a shelf-stable meal prep ingredient that are easy to keep in the back of the pantry for months. Whether in dry or canned form, we love having some chickpeas, black beans, kidney beans, pinto beans, lentils or cannellini beans within reach at all times. Beans make a hearty addition to burrito bowls, salads or pasta dishes, and can be mixed into homemade veggie burgers. Dry beans are an especially economical way to shop and are a great way to bulk up a meal for vegetarians and meat eaters alike. And, of course, we can’t live without hummus!
Fresh, seasonal vegetables
Eating in season is the best way to enjoy fresh produce in peak flavor. Whether it’s zucchini in the summer or turnips in the winter, we love incorporating seasonal, local produce into our weekly meal prep. Adding seasonal vegetables to your meal prep ingredients list is also a great way to avoid making the same dishes over and over again. Roasting vegetable with a little olive or coconut oil make for a delicious addition to grain bowls and salads, and chopped fresh veggies like radishes, celery and bell peppers are perfect for dipping and snacking. A super-chef trick? To save money and eliminate unnecessary food waste, we like to get creative and use the entire vegetable: try a salad from beet greens, making carrot tops into a pesto or grating citrus rinds for extra flavoring.
Didn’t make it to the farmer’s market this week? Fear not! Frozen vegetables are a meal prepper’s best friend. Sure, we’d all love to eat fresh, local produce all the time, but some weeks it’s just not going to happen. Don’t sweat it! Corn, peas, carrots, cauliflower, spinach, and broccoli are all easy to find in the frozen section of the grocery store and are perfect when you’re in a pinch. We often find ourselves reaching for a bag of frozen veggies when we don’t have time to wash and chop vegetables. It’s also a great way to eliminate food waste, since you can use what you need and keep the rest safely preserved in the freezer, no soggy kale leaves or mushy zucchini harmed. Steam up frozen vegetables in the microwave, mix them into soups and casseroles or toss a handful into a green smoothie.
Having a dozen eggs in the fridge is one of our favorite time-saving (and money-saving) meal prep essentials. Hard-boiled eggs must be the most versatile ingredient out there; we like to boil up a batch of at the beginning of the week and eat them on-the-go for breakfast, added into salads or layered onto sandwiches. Baked egg dishes like quiche or frittata are another fridge-stable option that you can dress up for a last-minute meal. Another home-cook secret is adding a poached or fried egg onto an otherwise lackluster dish to really up the flavor game. We’re talking avocado toast, sautéed greens, ramen from the package…When in doubt, put an egg on it!
For even more recipes and meal prep resources, download Meal Hero, a meal-planning app that makes getting dinner on the table simpler than ever.