Back to School Meal Prep Ideas
It’s officially time for “back to school” and although we’re sad to see summer go, this time of year is one that inspires us to get organized! Organizing a plan for meal time is no exception. That’s why today’s post is all about meal prep ideas.
Being prepared with ingredients and a little planning makes eating throughout the week less stressful, more enjoyable, and healthier. But we often hear clients telling us it seems overwhelming to start. We totally get it and promise you it’s just a matter of getting your feet wet. You don’t have to start by prepping and planning every meal–– even small amounts of prep help tremendously.
Below are 3 tips to get you started making meal prep a part of your weekly routine. Plus, we’re featuring a delicious Tuna Nicoise Salad that can be prepped ahead from one of our favorite newly released cookbooks The Healthy Meal Prep Cookbook: Easy and Wholesome Meals to Cook, Prep, Grab, and Go, by registered dietitian Toby Amidor. We recommend checking it out for more meal prep inspiration!
Tip #1 – Designate a shopping and cook/prep day.
Figure out a day each week that will work for you to spend about 30 minutes creating a rough meal plan for the week. Then, designate a time to shop and do some prep. If you have weekends off, typically Saturday works well as a planning and shopping day, and Sunday works well as a prep day.
However, sometimes meal prepping isn’t enough. For those days when you want a quick snack but don’t have time to heat anything up, we recommend stocking up on your favorite flavors of spoon tuna pouch for your life on-the-go.
Tip #2 – Batch cook a few versatile ingredients
You don’t always have to make full recipes ahead of time. Pre-cooking simple, healthful ingredients will make meals so much easier to throw together, especially if you’ve jotted down ideas of what to do with them in your meal plan. For instance, pick a favorite whole grain (such as bulgur wheat) and make at least 3-4 servings of it on prep day. You can use that whole grain in a variety of ways throughout the week. For instance, in a quick stir fry; as a hot breakfast cereal combined with milk, fruit, and nuts; as a side tossed with herbs and Parmesan cheese; or in a quick lunch salad mixed with Solid White Albacore Tuna in Water and veggies since this tuna holds up well on it’s own or with fresh veggies. You can learn more about the difference between albacore tuna and chunk light tuna in our informative blog.
Three more items that are great for batch cooking are roasted veggies, beans, and shredded chicken breast. These all last for at least 3-4 days stored in the refrigerator and can be used in numerous ways throughout the week.
Tip #3 – Pre-cut fruits & veggies (and pre-wash greens)
This may seem obvious, but most people don’t do enough of this. If your peppers are washed and pre-cut, cucumbers sliced, carrots grated or chopped, and celery cut into sticks, you’ll be much more likely to use up those veggies rather than having them go to waste. Plus, when you do it all at once, you only wash the cutting board once! Pre-washing greens means all you have to do is grab a handful for a quick salad or sauté throughout the week.
Tuna Nicoise Salad
Recipe by: Toby Amidor, The Healthy Meal Prep Cookbook: Easy and Wholesome Meals to Cook, Pre, Grab, and Go, Rockridge Press, 2017.
Photo courtesy of Nat & Cody Gantz
- 2 small red potatoes, sliced into 1-inch cubes (about 1 cup)
- 1 teaspoon olive oil
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 4 large eggs
- 5 ounces fresh spinach, chopped (about 4 cups)
- 1 cup fresh green beans, trimmed and cut into thirds
- 1 cup grape tomatoes, halved
- 2 (4-ounce) cans tuna packed in olive oil, undrained
- 1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
- 1 lemon, quartered
- Preheat the oven to 350ºF. Coat a baking sheet with the cooking spray.
- In a small bowl, add the potatoes, olive oil, and salt. Toss to evenly coat. Spread the potatoes in a single layer on the baking sheet. Roast until golden brown and tender, 20 to 25 minutes. Set aside to cool for 10 minutes.
- While the potatoes are roasting, place the eggs in a medium pot and cover them with water. Place the pot over high heat and bring the water to a boil. Cook the eggs for 3 minutes, then remove the pot from the heat, cover it, and let stand for 15 minutes. Drain and run cold water over the eggs until they are completely cool, about 10 minutes. Peel and slice into quarters lengthwise.
- Into each of four glass containers, place 1 cup of the spinach. Top each with ¼ cup of the potatoes, 4 egg quarters, ¼ cup each of green beans and tomatoes, and ½ can of tuna with the oil. Sprinkle each with the black pepper and add a lemon wedge. When ready to eat, squeeze the lemon juice on the tuna.
REFRIGERATE: Store each sealed jar for up to 5 days.