Power Hour Meal Prep

Meal Prep Plan: How I Prep a Week of Quick and Easy Meals for an Extra-Busy Month

updated Nov 22, 2022
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Credit: Photo: Joe Lingeman/Kitchn; Food Stylist: Cyd McDowell

The holidays are fully underway and your social commitments are ramping up. There are office potlucks squished onto the calendar between small parties, school events, and family gatherings. How do you fit in time to organize the regular meals in between it all? That’s where this Power Hour comes in.

This meal prep plan takes just one hour to come together, but at the end of it you’ll be left with a full week of flexible and fast breakfasts, lunches, and dinners that can be enjoyed around your extra-busy schedule. Move around meals as you need. You’ll even have some leftovers to stretch into the weekend. This is all about freeing you up for all the fun that’s already started (and shows no sign of slowing down) this time of year.

Credit: Photo: Joe Lingeman/Kitchn; Food Stylist: Cyd McDowell

Meal Prep Goals

  • Breakfast: A wholesome option that’s easy to pack and take on the go (four days).
  • Lunch: Alternating options that don’t require much thought but you’ll look forward to eating (five days).
  • Dinner: Meals that come together in 15 minutes or less (four days).
  • Nutritional Goals: No major nutritional goals, but overall a balanced week that’s seasonally appropriate.

Meal Prep Plan Snapshot

  • Feeds: Two people
  • Prep Time: 1 hour
  • Meals Covered: About 75% (one breakfast and weeknight dinner off, plus no set weekend meals, although there will be leftovers available)
  • Weeknight Cooking Required? Light (10 to 15 minutes of light cooking to bring dinner together).

Meal Plan




Shopping List

This week’s shopping list is a combination of vegetables, fruit, meat, dairy, and a handful of pantry items. It assumes staples like olive oil, salt, and pepper are already on hand.

  • Produce: 4 russet potatoes, 1 1/2 pounds broccoli, 2 (8-ounce) bags mixed baby bell peppers, 1 head garlic, 1 large white onion, 1 bunch scallions, blueberries, bananas, shredded lettuce, 1 large tomato
  • Meat & Seafood: 1 1/2 pounds boneless, skinless chicken breasts, 1 pound ground beef or turkey
  • Refrigerated: Sour cream, 2 (8-ounce) blocks sharp cheddar cheese, 1/2 gallon whole milk, 2 cups plain Greek yogurt, unsalted butter, hummus
  • Pantry: Dried Italian seasoning, 2 (14-ounce) cans diced tomatoes, chili powder, 2 (15-ounce) can red kidney or black beans, old-fashioned rolled oats, maple syrup or honey, chia seeds, ground cinnamon, sliced almonds, 1 pound dry elbow macaroni

Power Hour: How I Get the Prep Done

  1. Preheat oven and bake potatoes: Position oven racks in upper and lower thirds of the oven; heat oven to 500°F. Rub 4 russet potatoes with olive oil, season with salt and pepper, prick all over with a fork, and roast directly on the rack in the top third of the oven.
  2. Roast chicken and veggies: Meanwhile, prepare baked chicken and veggies according to recipe instructions. Keeping the potatoes in the oven, reduce oven temperature to 475°F and roast chicken and veggies on the rack in the bottom third of the oven, stirring halfway through, until the chicken is cooked through and the vegetables are tender, 15 to 20 minutes total.
  3. Make chili: While the potatoes and chicken and veggies cook, start on the chili. Prepare according to recipe instructions and let simmer on the stove on low heat while you complete the Power Hour. Remove from heat once the Power Hour is complete.
  4. Prepare overnight oats: Once the sheet pan of chicken and veggies is cooked, remove from the oven and reduce oven temperature to 425°F, keeping the potatoes in the oven to continue baking. Prepare a double batch of overnight oats according to recipe instructions and divide among 8 individual jars, if desired, or cover bowl with plastic wrap to divide later.
  5. Grate cheese: Grate 1 1/2 blocks of sharp cheddar cheese (reserving remaining half block for another use) for the mac and cheese and chili. Place in a large zip-top bag.
  6. Remove potatoes from oven and cool: Check the baked potatoes to see if they’re tender. They should be at this point, but if not, keep them in the oven for another 5 to 10 minutes until they are. Remove them and let cool completely before storing in an airtight container or wrapped in aluminum foil.
Credit: Photo: Joe Lingeman/Kitchn; Food Stylist: Cyd McDowell

A Week of Quick, Easy, and Flexible Meals


Grab a jar of overnight oats or scoop out a portion of it from the bowl and top it with sliced almonds and either blueberries or sliced banana. One morning is intentionally left free to enjoy whatever treat someone brought into the office (because that freshly baked pumpkin bread your colleague baked should definitely be sampled).


  • Monday, Wednesday, and Friday, 20-Minute Sheet Pan Chicken and Veggies: Pack up a portion of chicken and veggies.  
  • Tuesday and Thursday, 5-Ingredient Chili: Pack up a portion of chili and bring along sour cream, shredded cheddar cheese, and sliced scallions for garnishing, if desired.


  • Monday, Chili and Cheese Stuffed Baked Potatoes: Re-warm two baked potatoes and about a cup of chili in the microwave. Spoon the chili into the potatoes, and top with a dollop of sour cream, some shredded cheddar cheese, and sliced scallions.
  • Tuesday, Creamy Mac and Cheese: Prepare the mac and cheese according to recipe instructions, using 2 cups of the shredded cheddar cheese. 
  • Wednesday, Hummus-Stuffed Baked Potatoes: Rewarm remaining two baked potatoes in the microwave. Spoon about 1/3 cup of your favorite hummus into each potato, and top with shredded lettuce, chopped tomato, and a drizzle of olive oil.
  • Thursday, Chili Mac: Stir some leftover chili into two portions of leftover mac and cheese and rewarm in the microwave or on the stove.
  • Friday: Head out to that Friendsgiving or just enjoy a night out!

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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.