12 Meal Prep Ideas That Are Both Genius and Functional

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Life is hectic and sometimes you just don’t have the time to stop and fix something healthy and then clean up afterward – let alone actually consume what you made. Well, we totally understand, our lives are busy too. So we went looking for some answers. And we found some great ideas to share with you. These ideas allow you to do all the prep, making, baking, clean up, freezing, and portioning at one time – when you have the time to do it. Then you have lots of options to grab and go in your cupboards, fridge, and freezer. Here are 12 ideas we want to share with you.

Do you love a smoothie?

1000pizzadoughs.typepad.com
1000pizzadoughs.typepad.com

Check out this idea. Get all the fixings for your favorite smoothies ready in bulk! Then make up a couple of batches and pour the drink into a muffin tin – no liners. Place the pan flat in the freezer and leave it there for several hours until they are frozen solid. Remove them from the tin and put 2-3 of them in separate plastic bags. Make only enough smoothies to fill the muffin tins you have available for freezing. The next time you want to enjoy a smoothie, grab your pre-measured bag and throw the muffin-shaped smoothie cups into the blender. You’ll have a nice cold drink quickly, without all the mess and cleanup. One and done.

Keep lots of clear single-serving sized containers and resealable plastic bags handy.

1000pizzadoughs.typepad.com
1000pizzadoughs.typepad.com

What’s great about buying in bulk – it is usually a lot less expensive. When you buy single serving sizes, it is so much more costly. But when you buy bulk, it can be easy to overeat, especially on snack items. Here’s the trick to saving money and having single servings. Buy in bulk and immediately distribute that item into single-portion clear containers or plastic baggies. An added tip is to make it as difficult as possible to get to the ones that may trigger you to eat other less healthy foods. You know which foods fall into that category for you right? When you have them all portioned out, it is easier to stick with just one serving. It is also easy to grab a bag to take with you when you are in a hurry and know you’ll be rushing about for several hours.

Do you eat a lot of the same baked protein (maybe chicken)?

dailyburn.com
dailyburn.com

Hold onto your hat for this idea. Get out your 9×13 baking pan and start with a length of foil at least 2½ times the length of the pan. Start the foil at one end of the pan and about one-third the length of the pan, build a foil wall. You might want to add a piece of cardboard in between the layers of foil, or just several layers of foil. Then go another one-third distance and repeat. Lay the remaining foil down covering the rest of the pan. Now you have three compartments that you can cook chicken with different flavors, spices, or sauces. You won’t feel guilty for not making full use of the oven when it is on because doing all of the chicken in one option gets boring. Instead, you can bake  three options – or two if you want to split the pan in just two compartments. This saves time, your sanity and gives you lots of choices for the week. You can enjoy part of each and pop the rest into the freezer in individual sized packets that you can microwave later.

Make up a quadruple batch of protein ball cookies.

www.thecattylife.com
www.thecattylife.com

There are lots of recipes for these out there, you can find a good one at the link listed below. When you make them, go ahead and prepare a bunch of them. They are easy, they just need a bit of mixing to incorporate all the ingredients and roll them into balls about the size of a ping-pong ball or a bit smaller. After that, freeze them while they are separated and on a pan. Once they have been in the freezer for several hours, take them off the pan and place them n a freezer bag (or several of them).  They are small, so they thaw quickly, but because they have just the right amount of moisture, they can also be a really satisfying frozen sweet treat. You’ll love having a bunch handy for yourself and your family. Once you get the basic concept for the recipe, you can play with it and add in or delete a variety of foods for different flavor combos. You might even make the basic recipe and then separate it into 3 or 4 batches with each batch having different added ingredients.

Prep lots of veggies right after you buy them.

www.thecattylife.com
www.thecattylife.com

Use a spiralizer tool or chop up your veggies and put them in sealed bags (remove as much air as possible) or plastic containers. Uncooked and chopped squashes such as zucchini and butternut squash can last in your fridge for 3-5 days. Other hearty veggies like carrots, peppers, onions, turnips, radishes, broccoli, cauliflower, etc. will last up to a week. These will work great to add to your dinner entrees or as side dishes. Of course, they can also be enjoyed in salads and for snacking.

Another thing you can do is pre-cook some base veggies like onions, celery, mushrooms and freeze them in freezer bags. If you do them in small portions and lay them in thin layers, then they will be easy to grab. You can immediately throw them into your pan when you are making meat sauces, soups, stews, and the added oomph of flavor in casseroles.

Roast veggies.

www.tablefortwoblog.com
www.tablefortwoblog.com

Yep, these too can be done in bulk. Some veggies that work great together are sweet potatoes, winter squashes, onions, beets, carrots, turnips, and cauliflower. Cut them all into similar sizes and toss them in a bowl with seasoning and some olive oil or melted coconut oil. Spread them in a single layer onto a baking sheet. Bake them at 350˚ until they are tender. But if you want to go one better – after these are in the oven, prep some asparagus, snap peas, mushrooms, Brussel sprouts, and green beans. Use that same bowl to get these coated and place on a pan, then place them  in the oven. These won’t take as long to cook. You can divvy up your vegetables into separate servings for a few meals during the week and  freeze some too so you can reheat quickly. Try these additional steps. Prepare brown rice or quinoa while the veggies are roasting. Also, pull out some previously cooked protein servings. Now, make your own frozen dinners. You’ll have the starch, the protein and lots of veggies for each meal  Add a bit of fresh-squeezed lime or lemon juice to brighten and moisten the flavors and you’ll feel pampered with every meal.

Don’t have time for all the veggie prep.

www.fruitcentermarketplace.com
www.fruitcentermarketplace.com

It might cost you a bit more, but buy a large veggie tray and then just bag up the various veggies for snacking. They probably won’t be cut small for easy cooking, but they will be easy for grab and go snacks. If you want to make the grab and go even more delicious, pour a tablespoon or two of your favorite healthy dipping sauce or hummus in the bottom of a pint or quart-sized Mason jar with a lid. Add veggies to fill the jar enough, so the veggies remain standing, and you have veggies and dip to go. If you want some multigrain crackers to go with it, put some in snack-sized plastic baggies. Then grab that with your veggies and dip and you’ll have plenty to keep you going while you run errands, attend meetings, and then pick up the kids after school.

Another great muffin tin idea.

www.alaskafromscratch.com
www.alaskafromscratch.com

Did you know you can get “hard boiled” eggs by baking them? That’s right. Put one egg in each spot in a muffin tin – allowing you to hard boil 12 or more eggs at a time. No water is needed. Place your filled muffin tin in the oven at 350˚ and bake for 30 minutes. When they are done immediately put them all in a bowl of iced water for 10 minutes to stop them from cooking further. Place them in the fridge for on-the-go snacking or adding an extra protein boost to salads or other meals.

Healthy meals in a jar.

o-MASON-JAR-SALAD-facebookYou can do salads in a Mason jar. Just put your dressing on the bottom, then the veggies that aren’t going to get soggy – like peppers, radishes, cauliflower or broccoli, add any  other veggies you want in your salad and at the top is where you put the lettuce. If you make several at a time, put a folded square of paper towel on top of the lettuce, and it will help keep your veggies crunchy. Salad is not your only option. Try  a burrito bowl or a skinny teriyaki bowl in a Mason jar as well. Be creative! Experiment with some of your favorite entrees to, see if they will work in a mason jar for enjoyment while you are on the run.

Have a freezer meal prep party.

http://www.thekitchn.com/how-i-hosted-a-freezer-meals-party-and-made-300-meals-for-about-300-gatherings-from-the-kitchn-216210
http://goo.gl/Pwdw5y

Check out some freezer meal possibilities on sites like Pinterest and adjust as needed to meet your healthy lifestyle requirements. Print some recipes out and talk with some of your friends and neighbors to see who might be interested in gathering to make meals together. Each of you can take a recipe and prepare enough so everyone can take one home. If you have 10 people doing it, then everyone will walk away with 10 different freezer meals.  Make sure that everyone gets copies of the recipes and instructions, so they will know what is in the meals and how to make more if they want. Do that every 60-90 days with new menu options each meeting. By year’s end, everyone will get to enjoy a wide variety of dinner options.  

Buy fruits and berries in season.

www.wellrecipeblogs.com
www.wellrecipeblogs.com

If you have fruit orchards nearby, check for roadside  fruit stands selling freshly picked items, often at better prices than the local grocery store! Now, you can do the canning trick which is good, but takes a lot of time and energy, but give this a try. Rinse and soak berries and whole fruits in a mixture of 3 parts water and 1 part white vinegar – soak for 5 minutes. This rinses away much of the bacteria that can be harmful as well as spoil the fruit faster. Now freeze (and cut if needed) the berries in a single layer on a baking sheet and do the same with cut fruit. Put what you want to be mixed together in the same freezer bag or keep each separate. You’ll be able to enjoy fruit all year long in a variety of different ways. Blueberries and grapes are great to just pop right into your mouth from the freezer. Other berries and fruits are great in smoothies or mixed with 0% fat Greek yogurt – add some raw honey or a packet of Stevia, mix well and you’ll have a healthy frozen yogurt treat.

Make a batch of breakfast bars.

chemicalfreelife.tumblr.com
chemicalfreelife.tumblr.com

Or make two as long as you’re doing it. There are some great recipes using oatmeal, quinoa, or even protein powder to make breakfast cookie bars that are wholesome and filling. They are also a breeze to grab and go right from the freezer if you’ve frozen them in individual portions. They will thaw out quickly and you’ll be good to go before the hour is over. One such recipe can be found at quinoa-breakfast-bars. Check the internet for more and as long as you keep to the basic batter, you can choose the items that you want to add. This way you’ll get the little bursts of flavor you want most when you are munching away on your cookie.

Many of our ideas were inspired by this article at Dailyburn. If you have a favorite time and energy saving tip for food prep, please tell us about it in the comments section.

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