Power Hour Meal Prep

Meal Prep Plan: How I Turn a 12-Item Grocery List into a Full Week of Meals

updated May 22, 2020
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(Image credit: Joe Lingeman)
(Image credit: The Kitchn)

Meal prepping with a super-short grocery list is great for a number of reasons: It reduces the amount of time you have to spend at the grocery store, it keeps your grocery cost to a minimum (this entire plan cost about $70 total), it means nothing goes to waste, and it turns your meal prep session into a fun, puzzle-like challenge (how can I transform these 12 groceries into a week’s worth of diverse, flavor-packed meals?).

For this week’s Power Hour Meal Prep Plan, you’ll start with just 12 ingredients (and some basic pantry staples). In just two hours, you’ll have a huge head-start on a week’s worth of meals for two, including breakfast, lunch, and dinner.

(Image credit: Joe Lingeman)

My Meal Prep Goals

  • Breakfast: Hearty, fiber-packed breakfasts that my boyfriend and I can eat at home or on-the-go (five days)
  • Lunch: A wholesome, light, protein-packed lunch for both of us (five days)
  • Dinner: Healthy dinners that require minimal cooking and yield enough for leftovers the next day (five days).
  • Nutritional Goals: I follow a pescatarian diet, so this week our protein comes from fish, legumes, and eggs. It’s packed with whole foods and vegetables, including lots of leafy greens.
(Image credit: The Kitchn)

Meal Prep Plan Snapshot

  • Feeds: Two people
  • Prep Time: About 2 hours
  • Meals Covered: About 70% (No weekend meals)
  • Weeknight Cooking Required? Yes, but nothing that takes more than 15 minutes to whip up.

My Meal Plan


  • Maple-Cinnamon Oatmeal with Banana (portioned into jars like these)
  • Banana-Oat Smoothies



(Image credit: The Kitchn)
(Image credit: Joe Lingeman)

Shopping List

Your ingredients this week are as follows:

  • Produce: 3 large sweet potatoes, 1 pound shiitake or cremini mushrooms (or a blend), 4 bunches lacinato or curly kale, 1 knob fresh ginger, 1 bunch bananas
  • Seafood: 4 boneless salmon fillets (6 ounces each)
  • Dairy & Eggs: 1 quart whole milk, 1 dozen large eggs
  • Pantry: 1 (16 oz. box) orzo, rolled oats, 2 (15.5 oz.) cans chickpeas
  • Refrigerated: 1 lb. whole wheat pizza dough

I also relied on the following pantry staples: olive oil, tamari or soy sauce, sriracha, maple syrup or honey, balsamic vinegar, rice vinegar, red wine or apple cider vinegar, garlic powder, ground cinnamon, ground cumin, ground cardamom, kosher salt, freshly-ground black pepper.

(Image credit: The Kitchn)
(Image credit: Grace Elkus)

Power Hour: How I Get the Prep Done

  1. Roast sweet potatoes for pockets: Set pizza dough on the counter to let it come to room temp., which will make it easier to work with. Preheat oven to 375°F. Place 2 of the sweet potatoes on a picking sheet and prick in several places with a fork. Bake until very tender, about 1 hour. Set aside to cool.
  2. Assemble and bake crustless quiche: We’re following this recipe, but halving it. Heat 2 tablespoons olive oil in a large skillet over medium-high. Add both cans of drained, rinsed, and dried chickpeas; season with salt. Cook, tossing, until golden, 8 minutes. Add 8 oz. of the mushrooms and 1 bunch chopped kale stems and cook, stirring, until mushrooms are brown, 6 minutes. Tear kale leaves into the skillet; season with salt and pepper. Cook until kale is wilted, 1 to 2 minutes. Pour half the mixture into a greased 1.5 or 2 quart baking dish; set aside the rest. Whisk 5 eggs, 3/4 cup milk, 1/4 teaspoon salt and several grinds pepper in a large bowl. (At this point, if you have any grated cheese in the cheese drawer you want to use up, toss it in). Pour over mixture in dish. Bake at 375°F alongside potatoes until set, 20 to 25 minutes. Set aside.
  3. Cook orzo and make orzo w/ caramelized veggies. We are following this recipe with some adaptions, and making extra orzo to have on hand for the week. Boil a large pot of salted water. Cook the full 1 lb. box of orzo until al dente, 9 minutes. Drain; toss with a drizzle of oil. Transfer half to a meal prep container. Continue with recipe, using remaining 8 oz. mushrooms and 1 bunch kale (add chopped stems when you add mushrooms), omitting onion and Parm, and subbing 1/2 teaspoon garlic powder for the fresh garlic.
  4. Assemble and bake pockets. We are following this recipe with some adaptations. Start with step 6, seasoning the mashed sweet potato with salt, cinnamon, and cumin, to taste. Instead of the lentil mixture, use the leftover cooked veggies and chickpeas (from the quiche) in the pockets. Bake at 450°F; let cool completely. At the end of meal prep, place two in the refrigerator, then freeze the rest (follow instructions for freezing in the recipe).
  5. Hard boil 3 eggs.
  6. Prep remaining kale and make vinaigrette. Wash and cut remaining two bunches of kale, transfer to an airtight container. Make the balsamic vinaigrette and store in the fridge (do not toss with the kale).
  7. Prep oatmeal cups. Add ½ cup rolled oats, several dashes cinnamon, and a pinch of salt to 6 jars, like the ones shown here. Each jar is 1 serving. (Alternatively, store in plastic bags and transfer to a cereal bowl each morning).
  8. Prep smoothie packs: Place 1 cup rolled oats, 2 sliced bananas, and a dash of cinnamon and cardamom in each of 2 freezer bags. Each pack is 2 servings.
(Image credit: The Kitchn)
(Image credit: The Kitchn)
(Image credit: Grace Elkus)

A Week Of Meals from a Single, Short Grocery List


Monday, Wednesday, and Friday, Maple-Cinnamon Oatmeal with Banana: I add enough water to the jar to just cover the oats. I microwave on HIGH 2 minutes, then add 1 sliced banana (and sometimes a splash of milk) and continue cooking until oats are cooked through, about 30 seconds more. I finish with a drizzle of honey or maple syrup.

Tuesday and Thursday, Banana-Oat Smoothies: I add the contents of a smoothie pack to the blender along with 2 cups whole milk and blend until creamy.


Monday and Friday, Spiced Chickpea, Sweet Potato, & Kale Pocket: I reheat one of the pockets I stored in the fridge in 1-minute bursts on HIGH in the microwave for 2 to 3 minutes, or until warmed through. It’s great drizzled with Sriracha. On Monday, I enjoy with a hard boiled egg.

Tuesday, Leftover Salmon, Sautéed Kale, and Orzo: I warm up some of last night’s leftover sautéed kale and some of the orzo I cooked during my prep session. I top with one of the leftover salmon fillets, which I flake with my fork before digging in. I drizzle with a little tamari, too.

Wednesday, Leftover Quiche & Kale Salad: I pop a slice of quiche from last night’s dinner in the microwave and eat alongside leftover kale salad.

Thursday, Leftover Orzo with Caramelized Vegetables: This is great eaten hot or cold, whichever you prefer!


Monday, Seared Salmon with Soy & Ginger, Sautéed Kale, Orzo: I follow this recipe, omitting the scallions and cilantro. I sauté half my prepped kale using this recipe, omit garlic and adding a splash of red wine or apple cider vinegar instead of lemon juice, to taste. I serve atop some of the plain cooked orzo from my meal prep session. We eat half tonight and save the rest for lunch tomorrow.

Tuesday, Crustless Quiche & Kale Salad: We heat up half the quiche in the microwave (alternatively, use the oven). We toss the remaining prepped kale with some of the balsamic dressing I made during meal prep. The quiche tastes great with a drizzle of Sriracha. We save the rest for lunch tomorrow.

Wednesday, Orzo with Caramelized Vegetables: This dish was finished in its entirety during meal prep. All we have to do is warm up half in the microwave. If you’d like, it’s great with a poached or fried egg on top.

Thursday, Spiced Chickpea, Sweet Potato, & Kale Pocket: I heat two of the pockets in a 400°F oven until warmed-through, about 30 minutes. I place two more in the refrigerator to thaw overnight for tomorrow’s lunch. We split a hard boiled egg to eat alongside the pockets.

Friday, Soy-Ginger Scrambled Eggs with Orzo: I whisk together the remaining 4 large eggs with 1 teaspoon finely-grated peeled ginger and 1 teaspoon soy sauce. I heat a drizzle of olive oil in a skillet over medium-low. I pour in the eggs and cook, stirring with a rubber spatula, until large curds form eggs are no longer wet, about 2 minutes. I season with salt and serve with any remaining cooked orzo in the fridge, and leftover greens if there are any.


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.