One of the main problems with meal prep is how freaking long it can take. In another post about meal prep Sunday I talked about how I make this work for me ( namely T.V. and kombucha ) but the fact is that it doesn't always work for me. For example, after we drove back from Vermont a few weeks ago, I had like two hours to get everything done before I went to sleep and woke up to a new work week. So, a multi-hour meal prep wasn't going to work. Here's what I do when I'm short on time:
1. Use the freezer: When I do have time, usually every few weeks, I make some go-to freezer meals. I'll do another post dedicated to this for more detailed ideas but some constants are turkey burgers, black bean burgers, meatballs, energy bites, granola bars, and pesto. These keep me well stocked when I don't have time to prepare food.
2. Pick up a few essentials: Usually I grocery shop on Saturdays and meal prep on Sundays so I don't have to do everything at once, but on a weekend when I"m traveling I'm forced to do everything on Sundays. So, instead of getting supplies for the whole week, I focus on things I will need to get me through the next few days. Always on my list? Spinach, kale, avocados, quinoa ( if I'm running low ), eggs, yogurt, any frozen fruit I've run out of, almond milk, and some fast vegetables -- green beans, swiss chard, carrots, and broccoli are house favorites. Bell peppers are great too because I can throw them in with anything.
3. Make bulk recipes: When I'm short on time I focus on recipes that don't take much time and can be made in bulk. For example, I can easily double a smoothie recipe and it will take the same amount of time to make a double batch. Then I'll have two breakfasts instead of one in the same amount of time. Another favorite is overnight oats because they keep well and again don't take any more time to make extras of.
4. Keep it simple: Whatever recipes I do make, I try to keep low on ingredients to reduce prep time and to make it easier for the week. I'll do a basic salad and some smoothies because those are fast, have little prep, and keep fairly well.
5. Old Faithfuls: I almost always make quinoa for the week but I especially do for mini-meal prep because it's so easy throw in our rice cooker and then to pair with a protein or toss onto a salad throughout the week. Besides quinoa, I divide the spinach into tupperware for lunch and then keep a bag full for smoothies throughout the week. I also almost always buy yogurt because I can throw it in a smoothie or portion some out on its own for an easy snack. My other favorite, fast staple is homemade trail mix. I always have nuts, dried fruit, and seeds around so I just toss them all into a bowl, mix, and divide into pre-portioned ziplock bags.
6. Buy Carefully: Finally, don't forget that, while it is less cost effective and at times less healthy, many things can be bought for convenience. If you're short on time this week ( or hey, this lifetime ) then store bought granola bars and oatmeal containers are not bad things--as long as you read the ingredients and pick carefully. I love picking up green juices from the store, too, because I rarely take the time to make my own juice ( despite having a juicer ).
What are you meal prepping this week? Any quick meal prep tips?