Power Hour Meal Prep

Meal Prep Plan: How I Prep a Week of 1500-Calorie Days in 2 Hours

updated Sep 10, 2019
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Credit: Photo: Joe Lingeman; Food Styling: Cyd McDowell

Counting calories doesn’t have to mean subtracting filling and flavorful meals from your diet. With a plan in place, it’s easier to stay within your calorie budget and fill your plate with nutrient-packed vegetables and lean proteins.

Set aside two hours for this Power Hour and you’ll have everything you need for a week of nutritious and filling meals. The recipes in this week’s meal plan provide about 1,500 calories per day, and I’ve planned for a bit of caloric wiggle room. (A daily snack that tastes just like your mom’s famous no-bake cookies is built right into the meal plan.) Health and wellness goals are personal to each individual, so adjust this meal plan to fit your needs and, as always, take the advice of a healthcare professional before beginning any special diet. Here’s how to put it all together.

Credit: Photo: Joe Lingeman; Food Styling: Cyd McDowell

My Meal Prep Goals

  • Breakfast: Easy breakfasts packed with filling fiber and heart-healthy fats.
  • Lunch: Packable heat-and-eat lunches alternated with crisp protein-topped salads.
  • Snack: An easy, no-bake snack packed with nuts, seeds, and dried fruit.
  • Dinner: Quick-cooking dinners that focus on lean proteins and lots of produce.
  • Nutritional Goals: Flavorful and nourishing meals that provide 1,500 calories a day or fewer.
Credit: The Kitchn

Meal Prep Plan Snapshot

  • Feeds: Two adults and two kids for breakfast and dinner, and two adults for lunch.
  • Prep Time: About 2 hours.
  • Meals Covered: About 80% (no weekend meals).
  • Weeknight Cooking Required? Meal components are prepped and require about 30 minutes of light cooking to bring dinner together.

My Meal Plan





Credit: The Kitchn
Credit: Patty Catalano

Shopping List

Here’s a list of the ingredients you’ll need to prepare all the recipes in this plan. Make sure to check your pantry, refrigerator, and freezer for ingredients you may already have on hand before you head out to the store. I usually keep staple ingredients like olive oil, vegetable oil, salt, and pepper on hand, but it’s a good idea to double-check that your staple stock isn’t running low. Note: I’m shopping for quadruple the Chocolate Coconut Avocado Smoothie, triple the 2-Minute Creamy Salad Dressing, and triple the Eggs with Summer Tomatoes, Zucchini, and Bell Peppers.

  • Dry Goods: 3 cups rolled oats, 1 1/4 cups steel-cut oats, coffee, 3 cups coconut water, red wine vinegar, balsamic vinegar, Champagne or white wine vinegar, Dijon mustard, 1/4 cup honey, coconut oil, 2/3 cups ranch dressing, 1/3 cup BBQ sauce, chili powder, ground cumin, paprika, Spanish or smoked paprika dried oregano, granulated sugar, brown sugar, 3 ounces bittersweet chocolate, vanilla extract, chopped walnuts, flaky sea salt (optional), Israeli (pearl) couscous, 12 pitted dried Medjool dates, tortilla chips, 3/4 cup roasted, salted pumpkin seeds, 1/2 cup roasted, salted sunflower seeds, 1 (15-ounce) can chickpeas, 4 cups (32 ounces) low-sodium chicken broth, 1 (15-ounce) can black beans, 1 (15-ounce) can diced tomatoes, 1 cup unsalted, sugar-free sunflower seed butter, cacao powder, 1 jar roasted red bell peppers
  • Dairy: 4 ounces feta cheese, 1/2 cup shredded sharp cheddar cheese, 6 large eggs, 1 1/4 cups plain, whole-milk yogurt
  • Produce: 2 shallots, 4 yellow onions, 10 garlic cloves, 2 scallions, 3 pints cherry tomatoes, fresh parsley, fresh oregano, fresh thyme, fresh dill, 6 tomatoes, 6 summer squash or zucchini, 3 lemons, 1 avocado, 1 bunch Swiss chard, 3 apples
  • Meat: 5 pounds boneless, skinless chicken breasts
  • Freezer: 1 cup frozen corn kernels, 1 cup frozen peas, 1 pound uncooked peeled and deveined medium shrimp, 4 (6-ounce) skin-on salmon fillets
Credit: The Kitchn
Credit: Patty Catalano

Power Hour: How I Get the Prep Done

  1. Hard-boil eggs: I meal prep hard-boiled eggs in my Instant Pot. Cook 6 eggs at LOW pressure for 7 to 8 minutes. Use the quick pressure release and plunge the eggs into an ice bath. If you don’t have an Instant Pot, try one of these methods.
  2. Make dressings and marinades: Mix 3 tablespoons olive oil, 1 chopped shallot, 2 tablespoons red wine vinegar, 1/4 teaspoon each salt and pepper in a large mixing bowl for Israeli Couscous Salad with Feta, Chickpeas, and Herbs. Set aside. In another large bowl, whisk 2 tablespoons olive oil, 2 tablespoons lemon juice, 2 tablespoons finely chopped shallot, fresh dill, 1 1/2 teaspoons Dijon mustard, 1/4 teaspoon salt and pepper for the Roasted Shrimp and Pea Couscous Salad. Set aside. Make 2-Minute Creamy Salad Dressing: Combine 1/4 cup Champagne or white vinegar, 4 teaspoons Dijon mustard, 6 tablespoons yogurt, 1/2 teaspoon each kosher salt and granulated sugar, and a few grinds black pepper in a jar. Cover; shake until smooth. Make tomato sauce for Saucy Skillet Salmon according to recipe. Store in an airtight container. Prepare yogurt marinade in a zip-top bag according to this recipe using lemons.
  3. Freeze avocado: Remove pit and dice the avocado. Arrange in a single layer on a parchment-lined baking sheet and freeze. Once frozen solid, transfer to an airtight container or zip-top bag.
  4. Make granola bars: Follow the recipe to make Easy No-Bake Chewy Granola Bars. Cut into 18 bars and store in the refrigerator.
  5. Prep chicken: Pound 2 pounds chicken breasts to 1/2-inch thickness according to this recipe; add to prepared yogurt marinade. Marinate chicken in the refrigerator overnight. Dice 2 pounds boneless, skinless chicken breasts into 1-inch pieces for BBQ Ranch Chicken Bites.
  6. Marinate and broil chicken bites: Mix ranch dressing and BBQ sauce. Pour half over diced chicken breast in a large mixing bowl. Set aside for 30 minutes to marinate; arrange on a rimmed baking sheet, broil until cooked through, 8 minutes. Refrigerate in an airtight container; store remaining sauce in a lidded jar.
  7. Make Instant Pot steel-cut oats: Prepare the five-serving variation of this recipe.
  8. Sauté vegetables: Heat oil in a Dutch oven. Add 3 thinly sliced onions, cook until translucent. Add 3 garlic cloves, cook for 1 minute. Add 6 diced summer squash or zucchini, cook until soft. Add 6 diced tomatoes, 1 1/2 teaspoons fresh thyme, 1 tablespoon Spanish paprika, and diced roasted red bell pepper. Transfer to an airtight container or divide into lunch containers.
  9. Make Chicken Taco Soup: Prepare soup according to recipe instructions, but do not add the corn. Cool, refrigerate in an airtight container.
  10. Make couscous: Heat oil in a Dutch oven, add 3 cups Israeli (pearl) couscous, and toast until light golden-brown. Stir in 3 cups water and 3/4 teaspoon kosher salt and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to medium-low and simmer uncovered until couscous is tender. Drain through a fine-mesh strainer to remove excess cooking liquid. Toss a third of the couscous in the prepared dressing for Israeli Couscous Salad with Feta, Chickpeas, and Herbs, toss with halved cherry tomatoes, feta, and herbs according to recipe. Stir another third of the couscous into prepared dressing for Roasted Shrimp and Pea Couscous Salad. Toss final third with olive oil, salt, and pepper. Refrigerate in an airtight container or divide into lunch containers with sautéed vegetables and hard-boiled eggs.
Credit: Kitchn
Credit: The Kitchn
Credit: Photo: Joe Lingeman; Food Styling: Cyd McDowell


  • Monday, Wednesday, and Friday: Heat a serving of Instant Pot Steel-Cut Oats until warm, then stir in 1 tablespoon brown sugar. Top with 1/2 small diced apple and 1 tablespoon chopped walnuts. (280 calories)
  • Tuesday and Thursday: Brew coffee. Make Chocolate Coconut Avocado Smoothies using prepared frozen diced avocado. (320 calories)



I’m a sucker for a 3 p.m. snack, especially if I’m monitoring my calories. These granola bars were the perfect thing to satisfy my sweet tooth and keep me going until dinner. In fact, these no-bake cookie dupes turned out to be my favorite recipe of the week. (275 calories)


  • Monday, Green salad with 3-Ingredient Yogurt-Marinated Chicken and 2-Minute Creamy Salad Dressing: Remove chicken from the marinade and grill over direct heat for 4 to 5 minutes. If you don’t have a grill, cook in an oiled skillet over medium-high heat for 6 to 8 minutes per side, or until breasts reach an internal temperature of 165°F. Serve atop a green salad with prepared dressing. If you have frozen shrimp, transfer from the freezer to the fridge to thaw overnight. (360 calories)
  • Tuesday, Roasted Shrimp and Pea Couscous Salad: Take couscous out of the fridge to come to room temperature. Heat oven to 400°F. Toss shrimp, frozen peas, olive oil, salt, and pepper on a rimmed baking sheet. Roast until shrimp are pink and opaque, 6 to 8 minutes. Toss shrimp and peas into couscous, serve. (400 calories)
  • Wednesday, Easy One-Pot Chicken Taco Soup: Reheat soup in a Dutch oven, add the corn. Ladle into bowls, serve with thinly sliced scallions, crumbled tortilla chips, and shredded cheddar cheese. (520 calories)
  • Thursday, Saucy Skillet Salmon: Season salmon with salt and pepper, cook according to recipe. Transfer to a plate. Add prepared tomato mixture to skillet, bring to a simmer, nestle salmon into sauce. Cover, cook until desired doneness. Serve over couscous. (480 calories)
  • Friday, Israeli Couscous Salad with Feta, Chickpeas, and Herbs: This dinner requires nothing from you — simply scoop into bowls and enjoy. The couscous and chickpeas are packed with flavor after marinating in the dressing all week. (370 calories)


Power Hour Meal Prep is the series where we help you put it all together. We show you how to eat well during the week with an hour or two of Power Hour prep over the weekend. Every plan is different; mix and match to find your own personal sweet spot.