In the world of meal prep, there are the recipes that everyone knows about. Things like overnight oats, stir frys and soup are go-to meal prep ideas, and for good reason. They’re easy to prep, taste fantastic and (usually) store quite well until you want to eat them.
I can’t explain the power of a fully-formed meal prep habit. It’s like some kind of magic. It makes eating healthy simple enough that you can stick to it long term. Plus you eat more vegetables and save a bunch of money – win-win!
That said, it can be easy to get stuck in a bit of a meal prep rut. Once you find recipes that are simple to make and store well, it can be easy to whip them out week after week. But there’s a whole variety of different foods that can be prepped that many people don’t know about.
Here are 15 things you probably didn’t know you could meal prep.
1. Protein pancakes
Protein pancakes are an absolute saviour for any health-focused individual that loves this traditional breakfast dish. But they’re pretty messy and time-consuming for busy mornings. Make a bulk bunch on Sunday for the week and reheat each morning.
2. Salad ingredients
Just because salads usually taste better when they’re made fresh doesn’t mean every ingredient has to be prepared just before eating. Legumes, roast vegetables, some fresh vegetables and dressing can all be prepared ahead of time and stored separately. Then when you’re ready to eat, just combine the ingredients like you normally would. These sesame roasted chickpeas are a great example of salad ingredients you can meal prep.
Smoothies are a great way to work extra nutrients into your diet – especially greens. But if you have to chop up a bunch of Kale, peel pieces of fruit and skin fresh ginger for every single smoothie you make, you’re probably less likely to drink them. Instead, prep the ingredients in one go and store in ziplock bags in the fridge or freezer. On busy mornings, throw the ingredients in the blender with some water or milk and you have a nutritious drink ready in less than 30 seconds.
If you’re keen to up your morning protein intake, eggs are a great alternative to sugary cereals and toast for breakfast. But the prospect of having to cook them in the morning scares many people off – especially if you’re time strapped. Luckily, egg omelettes can be easily prepped in the form of muffins ahead of time. Here’s one of my favourite recipes.
5. Chia pudding
Because chia pudding takes around 24 hours to set, it’s a no-brainer meal prep idea. But don’t waste time preparing one serving for the next day. Instead, fill a mason jar or bowl with four or more servings worth of ingredients to enjoy chia pudding all week long.
If you’re looking to save money or just help the environment out a little, try meal prepping with dried legumes. Not only do they offer lots of nutrients, they’re a great alternative to meat and store safely for much longer (a meal prepper’s dream!). Try cooking a few more cups than you need on meal prep day. That way you can use them in baking, make some hummus or throw them in a healthy lunch recipe. Here’s my favourite rainbow buddha bowl recipe.
7. Single ingredients
The biggest obstacle to cooking for most people is the prep time. Let’s be honest, slicing onions, dicing carrots and peeling sweet potato isn’t that riveting. But if you’re already in the kitchen and have a dirty chopping board, you may as well make the most of it. Many single ingredients can be frozen to be easily used at a later date. So while you’re waiting for something to cook, get ahead on next week’s meal prep by chopping up the veggies and storing them in the freezer.
8. Snack portions
Even some of the best meal preppers outsource snacks. It can be easy to fall into the trap of prepackaged snacks that are individually portioned and claim to be healthy. But the reality is, even many of the snacks found in the health food aisle contain large amounts of sugar and not many nutrients. Instead, save some money by buying a large bag of nuts and portioning out 1/4 cup servings. Make your own muesli or granola bars. You could also hard boil a few eggs to eat with crackers. Bonus points for using reusable containers instead of plastic packaging!
9. Infused water
Infused water has skyrocketed in popularity over the last few years, and for good reason. Not only is it cheap, hydrating and good for you, it tastes fantastic! Prep a water jug of infused water for the week with ingredients like lemon, lime, cucumber and berries. You can also do this in water bottles.
10. Fresh herbs
Has anyone ever actually used an entire bunch of herbs without them wilting? Most recipes only call for a tablespoon or two so it can be easy to let them go to waste. Instead, finely chop the whole bunch and place in icecube trays before covering with your cooking oil of choice. When you’re cooking, pop a few out and voila – herb-infused oil and delicious, nutritious flavours.
Bananas are almost as notorious as avocados for all ripening on the same day and being inedible a day or two later. If you’re already kitchen savvy, you might use mushy bananas to make banana bread, muffins or overnight oats. But you can also chop them up and freeze them. A stash of frozen bananas is a must for any nicecream lover!
Cooking rice can be messy and time-consuming even if you have a rice cooker. That’s why plenty of people turn to packets of microwave rice. But these are super expensive and have to be cooked in plastic :/ Instead, cook a big batch of rice once a week or a few times a month and place the remainder in the fridge or freezer. You can also prep and freeze cauliflower rice.
Whether you got a little too excited with French press or just love ice coffee, you can freeze coffee in icecube trays to be used at a later date. Throw a few of the ice cubes in a blender with a little milk for a delicious coffee frappe. You can even add a few to banana nicecream for extra flavour.
Very few people make their own salad dressing these days, instead turning to store-bought, fat-free options that are usually filled with sugar, salt and other additives. Try making a batch of your own and storing it in a jar or glass bottle. Sure, it might separate due to the lack of additives, but a good shake before eating will fix that.
15. Uncooked dishes
Meal prepping is great, but some things just taste better fresh out of the oven or straight out the pan. But that doesn’t mean you can’t prep them ahead of time for a busy week. Many recipes, like casseroles, stir fries, curries, lasagna etc, can be assembled and then placed in the fridge or freezer to be cooked at a later date. Take them out to defrost before you go to work and throw in the oven when you return, and you’ll have a freshly cook, delicious dinner with minimal effort.
Let’s chat below! Were you surprised by any of these meal-prep friendly foods? What’s your favourite thing to meal prep ahead of time?