Sometimes the trickiest thing with meal prep can simply be deciding what to cook. You want to avoid making the same exact thing every single week, but you also want to keep things stress-free. I've found that the best way to keep meal prep food varied and interesting is by getting inspiration from other meal preppers and home cooks.
So I asked 10 seasoned home cooks to share their favorite meal prep recipes, plus smart tips on how they put them to work during the week. Here's what they had to say.
When a smart, seasoned home cook speaks, we listen. We chatted with some of our favorite bloggers, cookbook authors, and food people who are all home cooks to get the scoop on their favorite go-to recipes for meal prep.
1. Pasta Salad
One of my favorite recipes to meal prep is my Mediterranean Pasta Salad. It's great for lunches throughout the week, and most of the ingredients can be found in my pantry so it can be easily be thrown together in no time. Add it to an arugula salad or eat it on its own. It gives my family some insurance during the week to have a quick lunch option that doesn't require much preparation or heating up.
2. An All-Purpose Sauce
One of my favorite recipes for meal prep is my simple All-Purpose Stir-Fry Sauce from our newest cookbook, Ready or Not! I love this recipe because it's a tasty, gluten-free, and junk-free sauce that takes just a few minutes to toss together. Once you've got some in the fridge, you can use it in stir-fries, as a salad dressing, as abraising liquid for an Instant Pot stew — the sky's the limit. (In other words, you have no excuse not to cook!) I use it with Paper-Wrapped Chicken, Paleo Hiyashi Chuka (Cold "Ramen" Salad), and Smashed Cucumber Salad.
3. Marinara Sauce
I don't necessarily plan all my meals ahead, but there are a couple of staples I can always turn into a meal. This marinara sauce is a great way to use up overripe tomatoes at the end of the week and I can use it as pasta sauce, in lasagna, on a pizza, in risotto, or just drizzled over roasted vegetables. I also love to put together a quick casserole with whatever I have on hand, but I don't like to use canned mushroom soup; making my own is easy! I can serve it one night as a soup and freeze the rest in containers for casseroles later.
4. Buddha Bowls
I meal prep each Sunday for my husband's work lunches and my work-at-home lunches. Who wants to stop working to clean the kitchen? Not me! My college sons also pack their own. It helps them save a chunk of change and stick to healthy choices. Our go-to meals are Asian-Inspired Chicken and Rice Bowls and Easy Chicken Quinoa Bowls.
5. Building Blocks
There isn't one particular meal I love prepping above all others. Instead, I love the idea of prepping for whatever might come my way. I like to install a little arsenal of ingredients I am 99% certain I will use at some point over the coming week — like chopped onions, minced garlic, lemon juice, lemon zest, minced shallots, and minced ginger. No matter how my meal planning shakes out, I know I then have a leg up on whatever I end up making.
6. Slow Cooker Beef
Madison's Favorite Slow Cooker Tacos are awesome for meal prep! They are family friendly, easy to make, and make enough meat for several nights. With leftovers, I meal prep lunches such as taco salad and taco rice bowls. I also use the meat in baked empanadas.
7. Meat-Free Burrito Bowl and Taco Filling
My current favorite meal to prep in advance is a super basic, semi-spicy cauliflower walnut taco meat. I like it because it is easy to make, and once it's baked it freezes like a dream. It stays somewhat soft and crumbly in the freezer so you can just take out one or two scoops at a time rather than having to thaw the whole thing. I have been making double or triple batches of this stuff for use in quick nachos, tacos, burritos, enchiladas, rice bowls, you name it! Bonus: it's got amazing flavor and texture and it's vegan — although you definitely don't need to be vegan to love it!
8. Mix-and-Match Grain Bowls
My go-to meal prep staple is grain bowls, and my favorite one is more of a formula than a recipe. I'll start by batch-prepping a few bases (like rice or farro) early in the week. Then I'll top them with protein + something tangy + something creamy + something crispy. Simple combinations might be brown rice, spicy chicken, Greek yogurt, and roasted broccoli. Or farro, crispy fried egg, cherry tomatoes, and avocado. Most elements can either be prepped in advance or tossed together really quickly — so all you have to do is mix and match.
9. Grab-and-Go Bars
Something I like to meal prep on Sundays are healthy, quick snacks. I like making a pan of these Quinoa Breakfast Bars because they're filling and wholesome and something I can quickly grab while I'm working for a snack (or in-a-pinch breakfasts). I also like making a pan of these Nut-Free Snack Bars. My husband likes them for breakfast and I can put them in my fifth-grader's lunch box. (He sits next to a friend at lunch who is allergic to peanut and tree nuts, so we pack nut-free lunches).
10. Veggie Frittatas
A recipe that I've consistently been making is a frittata. It's loosely based on the Kitchn's Cooking Lesson, but I'll do eight eggs in a 10-inch pan, and the veggies and meats are leftovers from the week before. It's a great way to use them all up. I either heat it up and eat as-is during the week, or I put it in a breakfast sandwich or crumble it into a tortilla with cheese as a breakfast quesadilla.