By Natalie Bickford, MS
We can’t believe it’s already almost September and back-to-school season! This time of year can be particularly hard to get back into the swing of meal prepping. Our summer schedules are so flexible and eating seems so simple and effortless. Now that school is starting up again, it’s time to get a little more organized and meal prep is the key to success!
Why Is Meal Prepping So Important?
With school and work schedules in full swing, there’s a lot less time to figure out what to have for dinner on the fly. This often leads to takeout, dining out, and turning to convenient processed foods. While that might seem like the best option in that moment, over time it really puts a dent in your wallet and your health.
Meal prep can seem daunting and arduous, but with a few tips, tricks and easy delicious recipes, you’ll be a pro! Plus, the amount of time, money and decision-making energy it saves makes it well worth it. Once you get a routine down, it will become second nature.
Tips For Becoming A Meal Prep Pro
Make a plan. Trying to decide what to have for dinner can sometimes take as long as making dinner. Plan your meals for the week and make one grocery list so you can get it all done in one shop. Now you don’t have to think about what’s for dinner every night or run to the grocery store multiple times per week. Time saver!
Dedicate one afternoon each week to do all of your meal prep. You’ll be amazed at what you can accomplish in just 2 or 3 hours. Make a list of all the items you have to prep or cook and organize it by whether it requires the oven, stove, or neither (raw). This way you can have one thing going in each category for maximum efficiency!
To keep you inspired in the kitchen check out the Run Fast Eat Slow Meal Planner/Journal launching soon! Pre-ordered copies are signed with love by Shalane and Elyse.
Batch cook. If you’re making something that freezes well, double the recipe! You’ll get double the amount of food for the same amount of cook time. Always cook extra grains to have in the fridge as a base for veggies and leftovers. That way you can top it with any odds and ends hanging around in your fridge for a quick "power bowl" dinner.
Sauce it up! Try to have at least one sauce in the fridge or freezer. It really takes a meal to the next level and adds tons of anti-inflammatory fats and nutrients to the meal. For example, a rice bowl with veggies and chicken will be much more satisfying topped with a creamy pesto or peanut sauce.
Repurpose leftovers. This is one of our favorites! Bring back to life the sad looking dinner leftovers by repurposing it into a salad, bowl or soup. Turn last nights burger dinner into a burger salad for dinner the next day. Throw any leftover roasted veggies into a grain salad for lunch the next day.
Have fun! You’ll never want to do something on repeat unless you have fun doing it. This could mean experimenting with new recipes, cooking with a friend, listening to a podcast or music. Make meal prep something to look forward to and you’ll be setting yourself up for long-term success!
Check out our Marathon Training 7-Day Meal Plan!
Favorite recipes for quick weekday breakfasts
Can’t Beet Me Smoothie 2.0 (RFCFES, p. 52)
Superhero Muffins (RFCFES, p. 60-63)
Coconut Banana Breakfast Cookie (RFCFES, p. 67)
Sweet Potato Breakfast Cookie (RFES, p. 56)
Ginger Molasses Granola with whole milk yogurt (RFES, p. 54)
Make-Ahead Breakfast Burritos (RFES, p. 49)
On-The-Run Frittata Muffins (RFES, p. 52)
Spinach and Sausage Frittata (RFCFES, p. 79)
Oatmeal Banana Pancakes (RFCFES, p. 80)
Our favorite school or work lunches + snacks
Thai Quinoa Salad (RFCFES, p. 90)
Kale Radicchio Salad (RFES, p. 80)
DIY Grain Salad (RFCFES, p. 95)
Recovery Quinoa Salad (RFES, p. 99)
Mediterranean Hummus Wrap (RFCFES, p. 108)
Superfoods Soup (RFCFES, p. 112)
Slow Cooker Beef and Lentil Minestrone (RFCFES, p. 115)
Power Bowls (RFCFES, p. 122)
Savory Pretzel Granola (RFCFES, p. 191)
Sweet Potato Hummus (RFCFES, p. 195)
Don’t Get Beet Hummus (RFES, p. 73)
Maple Turmeric Nuts (RFCFES, p. 200)
Chocolate Matcha Energy Balls (RFCFES, p. 213)
Chocolate Coconut Cashew Energy Bars (RFCFES, p. 225)
Molasses Granola Bars (RFCFES, p. 229)
Check out some of our favorite weeknight dinners!
Natalie is a nutritionist and personal chef in Portland, OR who specializes in women's health and sports nutrition. She loves creating simple, nourishing meals and recipes to fuel your life. Find Natalie at nataliecooks.com.