Power Hour Meal Prep

Meal Prep Plan: A Week of Ina Garten-Inspired Meals

updated Apr 26, 2022
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(Image credit: Joe Lingeman)

Upon first thought, you might not think of Ina Garten as a model for meal prep. After all, if I had to describe her hallmark cooking style, I would say “effortless with endless amounts of time for leisurely cooking.” But it turns out that if you’re looking for brilliantly basic meals that are oh-so-rewarding, her recipes are just the ones to make during a meal prep session.

This Power Hour plan takes about two hours from start to finish, and will give you a week of breakfasts, lunches, and dinners for two. The recipes follow basic meal prep principals, with Ina-level results.

(Image credit: Joe Lingeman)

Meal prep is still a new habit for me, and when I find myself getting stuck, I rely on prepping essentials that are incredibly satisfying on their own but still work well together, like a hearty salad and juicy roast chicken. That’s why Ina’s recipes are ideal for beginner meal prep.

This meal plan is designed to feed two for breakfast, lunch, and most dinners for a work week. It includes breakfasts and lunches that I can eat at my desk and my husband can take with him on his way out the door. We do have two small children who eat dinner with us, so our dinner meal prep needs to be easily supplemented with pasta or vegetables so we can all eat mostly the same thing at the same time.

Meal Prep Goals

  • Breakfast: Easy breakfasts that can be quickly reheated or eaten at room temperature (5 days).
  • Lunch: Filling lunches that can be heated in a microwave if needed (5 days).
  • Dinner: Dinner tentpoles that can be supplemented with quick-cooking sides and appeal to a 7- and 4-year-old too (5 days).
  • Nutritional Goals: While we don’t have any dietary restrictions, I’m sneakily working on getting my husband to eat more fiber and dark leafy greens.
(Image credit: The Kitchn)

Meal Prep Plan Snapshot

  • Feeds: Two adults plus some dinner mains for two elementary age kids
  • Prep Time: About 2 hours
  • Meals Covered: About 90% (no snacks or weekend meals)
  • Weeknight Cooking Required? Quick-cooking sides to supplement main dishes like pasta or steamed frozen vegetables for my kids.

My Meals This Week

Breakfast

Lunches

Dinners

(Image credit: The Kitchn)
(Image credit: Meghan Splawn)

My Shopping List

This week’s shopping list is heavy on produce and pantry items, with just a bit of meat and dairy to round it out. It assumes staples like olive oil, salt, and pepper are already on hand.

  • Produce: Apples, lemons, sweet potatoes, 3 large leeks, bunch of parsley, 2 large containers spinach, 1 bunch of carrots, 1 bunch of celery, 2 pounds Brussels sprouts, 1 onion
  • Meat & Seafood: Prosciutto, 2 pounds ground chicken, 1 pound ground sausage, 2 pounds chicken thighs, 2 pounds chicken breast, 1 1/2 pounds bacon
  • Refrigerated: 1 dozen eggs, 1 pint half-and-half, 1 wedge Parmesan cheese and 1 blue cheese, Dijon mustard
  • Pantry: Bulgur, small pasta, olive oil, apple cider vinegar, pasta sauce, chicken broth, pecans, dried cranberries
(Image credit: Meghan Splawn)

Power Hour: How I Get the Prep Done

Getting the oven cranking with a few low-effort items like bacon and sweet potatoes will give me time to prep other oven-bound dishes. The meatballs for the Italian Wedding Meatball dish will take the longest to prep and cook, so I double the recipe to make the effort and clean up worth the 30 minutes they add to my total prep time.

  1. Bake bacon for Cape Cod Chopped Salads: Heat the oven to 400°F. Line a baking sheet with foil for the bacon (you’ll use the same sheet later for cooking the Brussels sprouts). Place 4 sweet potatoes on a second baking sheet and place both in the oven. The bacon will take about 20 minutes; the sweet potatoes will take 50 to 60 minutes.
  2. Prepare and cook Lemon Chicken Breasts: This recipe for baked chicken breasts (I’m adding a few thighs because I love them) requires minimal prep and bakes in a casserole dish — so just move some of those sweet potatoes to the side to make room for the chicken. The chicken will need 30 to 40 minutes.
  3. Halve and roast Brussels sprouts: While the bacon finishes roasting, prep the Brussels sprouts and chop leeks for the frittatas, as well as carrots and celery for the soup. As soon as the bacon is done, the sprouts can go in.
  4. Cook filling for Mini Italian Frittatas. Because the frittata filling needs some cooling, cook this next so the frittatas can go into the oven after the chicken. Cool the filling in the muffin pan to make room on the stovetop.
  5. Prepare and bake meatballs for Italian Wedding Soup. At this point the oven is pretty full, but in the time it takes to prep and roll the meatballs both the chicken and Brussels sprouts will finish. This may require some maneuvering some cooling pans around on the counter, but it also means that the meatballs will be ready to go in when the other two pans are done.
  6. Mix up eggs and grate cheese for Italian Fritattas and bake. While the meatballs are baking, mix up the frittata egg mixture, pour into the muffin tin over the filling, and get them into the oven next.
  7. Cook a pot of bulgur on stovetop. Onto the stovetop cooking. A simple pot of bulgur will work as a breakfast grain and a base for power bowls throughout the week.
  8. Chop veggies and cook with broth for Italian wedding soup. With most of the veggies already chopped and the meatballs baking, all that’s left for the soup is sautéing the vegetables and cooking pasta in the broth
  9. Toast nuts and chop apples for salad. With most of the other components ready to store, all that’s left is making a quick salad dressing and packing containers.
  10. Make dressing for salads.
(Image credit: Joe Lingeman)
(Image credit: Jenny Chang-Rodriguez)
(Image credit: The Kitchn)

A Week of Easy, Ina Garten-Inspired Meals

Breakfast: The Mini Italian Frittatas may go down as my all-time favorite grab-and-go breakfast — their fat and proteins makes them supple whether eaten hot or cold and keep us full. The simple pot of bulgur makes a decent replacement for my morning oatmeal too.

Lunch: While I loved having soup and salad options for the week, I found myself making more bowls of grains, the cooked meatballs, and roasted vegetables more than anything else. This speaks to me about the power of basic meal prep being adaptable if you find you aren’t quite craving what you originally planned at the top of week.

Dinners: Meatballs for president, you guys. My kids devoured both the meatballs and pasta and the Italian Wedding Soup for dinners and have repeatedly asked for meatballs since. Ina’s lemon chicken was easily adapted to chicken salad and a very basic dinner wrap on a few nights when we needed to eat dinner on the go.

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.