- Get the Right Tools
You don’t need to have a huge budget or even a ton of storage space to make meal prep easier — all it takes is a few tools that do double-duty. A spiralizer, mandoline slicer, hand-chopper, and instant pot are more than enough to cut down on the amount of time you spend in the kitchen while allowing you to make big batches of healthy food. The best part? Most of these tools can be easily purchased for under $15.
- Chop and Store Onions
Don’t cry over chopped onions! A staple in countless dishes, onions can be a serious hassle to prep for dish after dish, particularly for the tear-prone. Fortunately, adding a single chopping session to your schedule each week can cut down on all the prep time and those accidental onion-induced crying sessions that, frankly, nobody has time for. A hand-chopper can cut chopping time to virtually nothing, or, if you’re a traditionalist, chopping onions in water can help keep those weepy eyes at bay. Chopped onions can also be kept fresh in your fridge for up to a week, helping you flavor your food in an instant.
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- Store Some Healthy Cooked Grains
Creating one big batch of quinoa or brown rice each week can make creating healthier a breeze. Make a batch of your preferred grain in your rice cooker or on the stove and portion out into containers in your fridge or freeze. When you’re ready to eat them, dunk the bags in a warm water bath and stir them into your favorite dish.
- Mix Your Own Spice Blends
Flavoring your recipes is easier than ever when you have pre-mixed spice blends at the ready. While many of the blended spices you find in your local grocery store are both pricey and loaded with salt, you can easily create the perfect spices to flavor your meals by combining your own, portioning them out, and labeling them. Not only will this help you clear out that spice cabinet cluttered with six half-full jars of rosemary or dill, it will also make it easier to create tasty meals on the fly when you’re short on time.
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- Make Veggie Mixes
Buying big batches of your favorite veggies, chopping, and freezing them can make it easier to cook healthy dishes without the hassle of starting from scratch. Portion out some peppers, onions, carrots, and sweet potatoes and vacuum seal or toss into a freezer-safe container for the perfect start to a stir-fry, soup, or sauce.
- Freeze Some Soup Bases
Don’t let your kitchen scraps go to waste — turn them into something useful and delicious by making them into a base for soup. A bit of meat on the bone, some vegetables, and a pinch of your favorite spice blend can turn into a warming and flavorful soup in no time at all.
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- Brew a Pot of Iced Green Tea
Increase your antioxidant intake, slim down, and save time by making some iced green tea. Brew a pot of tea while you’re prepping some of your other foods for the week and allow it to cool in your fridge overnight. In the morning, you won’t have to wait for a pot of coffee to brew to get your caffeine fix, and the cool, refreshing taste of green tea is a perfect way to hydrate on those hot summer days.
- Boil a Batch of Beans
Boiling a batch of black beans or chickpeas to use throughout the week can cut down on your meal prep time in an instant. Prepared beans are an easy base for soups, stews, hummus, and even brownies, and can add some vegan-friendly protein to your favorite veggie-based dish in an instant. Fortunately, cooked beans can be kept for a week in the fridge or up to six months in the freezer.
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- Prep Some Overnight Oats
Take the guesswork out of a healthy breakfast by making some overnight oats. Simply soak your oats in the non-dairy milk of your choice and add some cinnamon. By morning, they’ll be soft and creamy, creating the perfect fiber-rich base for some fresh fruit and a drizzle of honey.
- Crush Some Garlic
Make your recipes more flavorful in an instant by prepping some garlic ahead of time. Properly peeling and crushing garlic can add time you don’t have to your meal prep, but peeling and crushing bulbs ahead of time can make it easier to flavor your food in an instant. Simply crush garlic, portion into small, freezer-safe containers, and freeze for an easy addition to your meals with none of the mess.
- Infuse Your Olive Oil
Infused olive oil can be pretty expensive, but making your own infusions can cut down on both prep time and price. Add your favorite herbs to a bottle of unflavored olive oil and store in a dark cabinet for at least two weeks. When you’re ready to use it, you’ll have a healthy, customized cooking oil that’s perfectly suited to your favorite dish. Can’t wait weeks for it to be ready? Pour some olive oil and herbs into an ice cube tray and pop out individual portions when you’re ready to cook.
- Store Your Morning Eggs
Unless you’re a serious morning person, it’s unlikely that you relish the 20 minutes making an omelet adds to your busy A.M. routine. Fortunately, eggs are surprisingly easy to store in your freezer and pull out when you need them. Make a batch of healthy egg muffins using fresh eggs, some veggies, and your lean protein of choice, and freeze. When you’re ready to eat them, leave one to thaw in your fridge overnight and voila — a healthy breakfast that takes no time at all.
- Grab Some Gloves
If you’re a fan of spicy food, you’ve likely encountered the fiery pain that accompanies chopping hot peppers. To eliminate the burn, get yourself a pair of designated gloves for chopping jalapeños and other spicy foods — it will also limit heat transfer to your other cooking devices and surfaces.
- Make a Mason Jar Salad
Instead of running up a huge lunch tab every week, prep some Mason jar salads that are as fun to eat as they are to make. Layer some spinach, kale, quinoa, beans, seeds, and onions in a jar. When you’re rushing out the door, you’ll have an easily transportable salad that just needs a little bit of olive oil and vinegar and is ready to go.
- Parcel Out Some Single-Serving Snacks
If you’re a bulk shopper, portioning out some snacks right when you get them home can save you serious time in the long run. Using plastic bags or reusable containers, separate your bulk goods into snack-sized servings that are easy to grab on the go.
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- Whip Up an Easy Chia Pudding
Increase your intake of both fiber and omega-3s by whipping up a batch of chia pudding that will work for breakfast all week. Just soak chia seeds overnight in carrageenan-free almond milk and top with a bit of cocoa powder and honey for a tasty treat that takes virtually no time to make but will keep you full and satisfy your sweet tooth.
- Hard-Boil Eggs
Boiling up a pot of hard-boiled eggs can make meeting your protein goals easier than ever. Hard-boiled eggs can last for up to a week in the fridge and make for a great grab-and-go breakfast, an easy topping for a salad, or the base for a tasty egg salad.
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- Marinate Your Meat
If your grocery store is having a sale on meat and you’re eager to stock up, ensure that it’s perfect when you’re ready to cook it by marinating it when you get it home. Toss steaks or chicken into a freezer-safe container with some tamari, crushed garlic, and a bit of black pepper for a meal that’s ready to cook the second it comes out of the bag.
- Make Some No-Bake Bars
All it takes is a few ingredients to create a perfect breakfast that’s easy to take on the go. Combine mashed bananas, oatmeal, flaxseed, and some chopped nuts and refrigerate overnight for a breakfast bar that’s fiber-rich, but free of refined sugars, artificial colors, and flavors.
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- Measure Your Meals
Measuring your food in one fell swoop each week can take the prep time out of creating recipes when you’re in a rush. Portioning out proteins, grains, and veggies and storing them in individual containers, or together in freezer bags for complete meals, can help you enjoy recipes that only take a second to put together on a busy night.
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- Put Together Some Smoothies
There are few snacks more satisfying than a smoothie, and fortunately, it doesn’t take much time to create a large batch that’s ready to go at a moment’s notice. Store fresh fruits, a little nut butter, and your preferred spices together and freeze for a cool drink that just takes a few pulses of the blender to prepare.
- Create One-Pan Recipes
Cleaning up is undeniably the least enjoyable part of making a dish, making one-pan recipes such a delight for home chefs. Using some aluminum foil, create dividers between your veggies and meat on a baking pan, season, and refrigerate. When you’re ready to cook, all you have to do is pop it in the oven and bake until the meat is cooked through, leaving just a single dish to clean when you’re done.
- Spiralize Some Veggie Noodles
Spiralizing your zucchini, carrots, and squash when you bring them home can help you get healthier in an instant while cutting down on your weekly cook time. Spiralizing veggies takes virtually no time at all, but creates a fast-cooking, nutrient-rich alternative to pasta, an easy base for soups, or a healthy addition to salads that can be frozen for up to six months.
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- Skewer Some Protein-Veggie Combos
Fun to eat and easy to prepare, skewered meals are the key to a healthier, simpler diet in no time. Cut up some chicken and veggies, skewer, season, and store in the freezer for an easily-prepared meal on those nights when you just don’t have the energy to channel your inner Julia Child. Even kids who aren’t huge fans of healthy food will flip for desserts served on skewers — just add some fresh fruit to a skewer and serve raw or grill for a dessert that’s healthy and delicious.
- Freeze Your Ingredients
When in doubt, freeze your recipes in advance. If you have a few hours on a weekend to prepare some meals, make a big batch of grains, beans, lean meat, and veggies, and store in your freezer for up to six months. When you’re ready, you’ll have a quick and easy one-pan meal that takes just minutes to heat up.