Meal Prep Plan: How to Prep an Entire Week of Meals for $33 in Under 2 Hours
I used to love spending hours on Sunday afternoon shopping and meal prepping. These days? Not so much. I’m juggling part-time school with full-time work, which means even my weekends are pretty packed. But takeout isn’t as easy (or tasty, to be honest) down here in North Carolina as it was when I lived in New York City, so instead of giving up on meal prep altogether, I’ve worked to streamline the process as much as possible.
Something I’ve learned from years of writing about cooking is that it isn’t necessarily the cooking itself that’s intimidating; what trips people up is the planning and shopping you need to do before. Piecing together a weeklong meal plan with recipes you find on Pinterest can be a tricky puzzle, and often leads to a miles-long grocery list that leaves you with leftover bits and pieces when the week is up. To sidestep that, I challenge myself each week to make several different meals out of a short list of ingredients — and I wanted to share my latest one with you. It calls for a little bit of weekday cooking, but really the majority of it is just me quickly tossing together the things that I prepped on the weekend. And because the ingredient list is short, it means the cost is low, too.
My Meal Prep Goals
- Five warm breakfasts. One is a make-ahead frittata that just needs to be reheated; the other is a quinoa porridge that takes five minutes on the stove.
- Five lunches that are heavy on vegetables but still satisfying, and that are easy to pack.
- Five dinners that are easy to reheat on the stove or in the microwave. Meals that are balanced and satisfying, but don’t follow specific calorie or nutrition guidelines. I’m not big on food rules, but I do make sure that every meal has at least one serving of fruits and/or vegetables — usually two.
Meal Prep Plan Snapshot
- Feeds: One person
- Prep Time: About 2 hours
- Meals Covered: 100% of weekday meals
- Weeknight Cooking Required: Minimal. Five minutes at breakfast, to reheat the frittata and to put together quinoa porridge on the stove; a few minutes to throw together three salads for lunch; five minutes to reheat curry for dinner.
My Meal Plan
- Potato, Broccoli, and Cheddar Frittata
- Coconut-Quinoa Porridge with Grapes
- Kale Salad with Hard-Boiled Egg and Grapes
- Green Chicken Curry with Quinoa (leftovers)
- Green Chicken Curry with Quinoa
- Sheet Pan Honey-Lime Chicken Thighs
My Shopping List
These are the 15 ingredients I bought or used for this meal prep plan. I also relied on pantry staples including kosher salt, black pepper, olive oil, cinnamon, and vanilla extract.
- Produce: 8 cups broccoli florets (about 3 heads), 4 cups grapes, 4 limes, 10 cups kale (about 3 bunches), 2 medium red onions, 3 medium Russet potatoes
- Meat: 4 medium boneless, skinless chicken thighs (about 1 1/2 pounds total)
- Dairy: 3/4 cup shredded cheddar cheese (about 4 ounces), 12 eggs
- Pantry: 1 cup chicken stock, 2 cans light coconut milk, green curry paste, 3 tablespoons honey, 1 (15-ounce) can chickpeas, 2 1/2 cups uncooked white or golden quinoa
Power Hour: How I Get the Prep Done
There are several components to this meal prep, but it’s easy to multitask. You’ll cook the frittata and the sheet pan chicken in the oven at the same time. Then, you’ll start the curry on the stovetop, and cook the quinoa and hard-boiled eggs as it simmers. To make things easier, let food cool in the pot or pan until you’re done cooking. Then, put everything in airtight plastic containers at the very end of your meal prep session.
1. Wash your produce. Chop the kale, then soak the leaves in a bowl of cold water before rinsing them through a colander. Rinse broccoli and grapes. Scrub potatoes lightly under cold water. Peel and discard the outer layer of red onions as you cut them.
2. Cook the frittata. Heat oven to 400°F. Heat 1 tablespoon olive oil in a large cast iron skillet over medium heat. Add 1 peeled and very thinly sliced potato and cook, stirring, until slices start to soften, 4 minutes. Stir in 2 cups broccoli florets, cut into bite-sized pieces. Spread in an even layer. Stir together 6 eggs, 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt, a few grinds black pepper, and 3/4 cup cheddar cheese in a bowl. Pour mixture into skillet. Bake 12 to 15 minutes, until eggs are set. Cool completely.
3. Cook the sheet pan chicken. While the frittata cooks, chop 1 potato into 1/2-inch cubes, slice a red onion into 6 wedges, and prepare 2 cups broccoli florets. In a medium bowl, toss 2 chicken thighs with the juice of half a lime, 1/2 tablespoon olive oil, 2 teaspoons honey, and a pinch each salt and pepper. Place on parchment-lined sheet pan. Toss potato, onion, broccoli, and 1 cup grapes in now-empty bowl. Spread around the chicken on the pan. Bake, flipping thighs and tossing vegetables halfway, 20 to 25 minutes.
4. Cook the curry. Heat 1/2 tablespoon olive oil in a large pot with a lid over medium heat. Add 1 peeled and thinly sliced russet potato and 1 chopped red onion and cook, stirring, until potato starts to soften, about 5 minutes. Remove veggies and set aside in a bowl. Heat 1/2 tablespoon oil in the same pot over medium. Add 4 chicken thighs, cut into bite-sized pieces, 1/4 cup green curry paste, 1/4 teaspoon salt, and a few grinds black pepper. Cook, stirring, until chicken is opaque on the outside. Add 2 cups light coconut milk, 1 cup chicken stock, and 4 cups broccoli florets. Bring to a simmer and simmer over low for 20 minutes, until chicken is cooked through. Stir in 4 cups chopped kale.
5. Cook the quinoa. While the curry simmers, rinse 2 1/2 cups quinoa in a fine-mesh strainer. Heat 2 teaspoons olive oil in a large saucepan with a lid. Add quinoa and cook until dry, 4 minutes. Add 4 1/2 cups water and 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt. Bring to a boil and cover pot. Reduce heat to a simmer. Cook 15 minutes. Let stand, covered and off the heat, 5 minutes more. Fluff with a fork.
6. Hard-boil the eggs. Once the quinoa is going, boil water and hard-boil 6 eggs. Once they’re done, let them sit in an ice bath while you get the rest of the prep sorted.
7. Make the honey-lime vinaigrette. Whisk together the zest of 1/2 lime, the juice of 2 limes (about 1/4 cup), 1/4 cup olive oil, 1 tablespoon honey, and 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt in a small container, then cover it and store it in the fridge.
8. Transfer everything to storage containers. Cut the frittata into six wedges; store in an airtight container. Transfer the sheet pan chicken and vegetables into an airtight container. Put quinoa in an airtight container, and the curry in a really big airtight container (or two, if you don’t have one big enough), so you can scoop as much as you need of both to reheat throughout the week. The hard-boiled eggs go in their own airtight container, too. Store kale in a big mixing bowl covered with a damp paper towel.
A Whole Week of Meals, Very Little Cooking
Throughout the week, meals are either ready to go or require minimal prep. Here’s what needs to get done.
- Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Frittata: If you cut the frittata into six wedges, you’ll eat two wedges for breakfast each day. I reheat them in a 400°F oven for 5 minutes if I have time, or in the microwave for a minute if I don’t.
- Thursday, Friday, Coconut Quinoa Porridge: On Thursday, combine 1 1/2 cups cooked quinoa, 1 1/2 cups halved grapes, 1 cup coconut milk, 1/2 cup water, 1 1/2 tablespoons honey, a pinch of salt, and 1/4 teaspoon cinnamon and 1/4 teaspoon vanilla (if desired) in a small saucepan. Bring to a boil, then reduce to a simmer. Cook 5 minutes, until quinoa and grapes are soft. Eat half, then save the second for Friday. You can reheat the second serving either on the stovetop or in the microwave.
- Monday, Wednesday, Friday, Kale Salad: The salad tastes so much better when you make one salad each morning, instead of making all three at once. It’s fine to add the dressing in the morning, though, since kale is heartier than other salad greens and won’t wilt. Each morning, toss 2 cups chopped kale with 1 1/2 tablespoons honey-lime vinaigrette. Add 2 chopped hard-boiled eggs, 1/2 cup halved grapes, and 1/2 cup canned chickpeas (rinsed and drained), and toss to combine.
- Tuesday, Thursday, Chicken Curry: The curry is super easy to reheat! You can use the microwave to heat both the curry and the quinoa.
- Monday, Wednesday, Friday, Chicken Curry: The curry stays tasty in the fridge all week, since fat from the coconut milk helps preserve it. That said, FDA guidelines recommend keeping leftovers in the fridge for no longer than four days, so you can play it safe by freezing the last serving or two, and thawing it in the fridge overnight before you’re ready to eat it.
- Tuesday, Thursday, Sheet Pan Chicken: The chicken is a no-brainer. All you need to do is nuke it for about 90 seconds (or eat it cold, if you want!).
One thing that should go without saying (but I’ll say it anyway!): Everyone’s eating habits and hunger levels are a little different. If a meal is too filling or not filling enough, you should feel free to adjust portions, or add or subtract ingredients. Snacks aren’t a part of the meal prep plan, but you should feel free to snack as much or as little as you want and need to!
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.