Although I'm fairly new to meal prepping, it didn't take me long to get into the groove. I discovered that while I like having some sort of rough framework for what I'm going to eat during the week, I also need some flexibility. Since I'm only cooking for myself and my husband, we have the luxury of cooking somewhat spontaneously on weeknights, which makes our busy weeks more fun and enjoyable.
My Power Hour Meal Prep Plan provides a rough guideline for a week of wholesome, feel-good meals, but leaves room for mid-week inspiration. Oh, and it comes together in just one hour.
My husband and I are both creatures of habit when it comes to breakfast — always yogurt, some kind of wholesome granola, and fresh fruit.
We're the opposite for lunch and like a bit of versatility. As long as we have basic components prepped to use to create lunches that vary a bit day to day, we're happy. They also need to be packable, as my husband is taking his to the office.
Dinner isn't strict, but having some prepped vegetables and protein on hand helps up enjoy the evening more (we can sit and enjoy a glass of wine, catch up on our days, and actually unwind a bit).
My Meal Prep Goals
- Breakfast: Simple, high-protein breakfasts with fresh fruit. Needs to be pre-packed to make it easy on my husband on days when he's running late in the morning (five days).
- Lunch: Mix-and-match options for me and my husband (five days for me, three to four for my husband, as he usually has lunch meetings a couple times a week).
- Dinner: Prep main proteins and components for dinner without restricting ourselves from cooking what we're in the mood for. We also subscribe to a weekly CSA, so we like to leave room to cook with our fresh produce (three to four days).
- Nutritional Goals: We don't have any food restrictions but we generally try to eat a vegetable- and fruit-heavy diet that's balanced with whole grains, whole dairy, and lean protein.
Meal Prep Plan Snapshot
- Feeds: Two people
- Prep Time: About 1 hour
- Meals Covered: About 75% (no Friday night dinner or weekend meals)
- Weeknight Cooking Required? Moderate (15 to 20 minutes of light cooking to bring dinner together)
My Meal Plan
- Soft & Chewy Granola
- Plain whole-milk yogurt
- Pasta salad & green salads: Cooked pasta, salad greens, shredded rotisserie chicken, crumbled bacon, halved cherry tomatoes, marinated vegetables, olives, and cheese that can be tossed with a basic vinaigrette and customized throughout the week.
- Marinated White Beans
- Sliced loaf of bread
- Salad greens
- Oil-packed tuna
- Shredded rotisserie chicken
My Shopping List
I like to lean heavily on what's already in my pantry, so this week's shopping list is mostly just perishable items (produce, dairy, and meat) and items I buy in bulk, like nuts and seeds.
- Produce: 2 heads lettuce, 2 pints cherry tomatoes, 1 shallot, 1 quart of peaches, 2 pints berries (whatever looks good at the store)
- Meat & Seafood: Rotisserie chicken, bacon
- Refrigerated: Plain whole-milk yogurt
- Pantry: Millet, almonds, sesame seeds, pumpkin seeds, sunflower seeds, honey, dried apricots, flaxseed meal
- Other: A mix of marinated veggies, olives & cheese from the antipasti bar, loaf of whole-wheat sourdough
Power Hour: How I Get the Prep Done
- Preheat the oven and bring a pot of water to a boil.
- Make the granola: I follow our recipe for Soft & Chewy Granola. I replace the chia seeds with more sunflower and pumpkin seeds because neither of us are a fan of their texture and swap out the butter for olive oil because I want to make the granola a little more wholesome.
- Boil the pasta and fry the bacon: While the granola bakes, I boil half a box of whatever short pasta I have in the pantry (in this case, fusilli) then drain and rinse it. At the same time, I fry up a few slices of bacon and crumble them once cool.
- Make the white beans and vinaigrette: With the granola, pasta, and bacon out of the way, I turn my attention towards chopping shallots and herbs for the marinated white beans. I chop a little more than I need and toss the extra into a jar with olive oil, red wine vinegar, and a bit of Dijon mustard to make a basic vinaigrette.
- Wash and prep lettuce and cherry tomatoes: I return to my cutting board to break down the heads of lettuce and halve the cherry tomatoes. Then I wash the lettuce in a salad spinner, where it will also be stored for the week in the fridge.
- Slice bread: I wipe down my cutting board and slice the loaf of bread. I tuck the whole loaf into a freezer bag and toss it in the freezer.
- Shred chicken: One more wipe-down of the cutting board. I place the rotisserie chicken on it and shred it with my hands. I save this step for last since it's the messiest. Then I'm able to take my cutting board to the sink and clean up.
A Week of Easy, Flexible Meals
Breakfast: A simple breakfast of yogurt and granola is something neither of us tire of. To add some variety, we alternate between dropping blackberries or slicing a peach into the bowl.
Lunch: We alternate between pasta salads and green salads throughout the week, depending on our mood. I pour some vinaigrette into a Tupperware for my husband, then pile in either the lettuce or cooked pasta, and a few other odds and ends. He shakes and tosses it before eating, while I assemble mine later in the day. Our favorite combination this week is pasta with halved cherry tomatoes, marinated mozzarella balls, and olives.
Dinner: We mix and match depending on our mood, but if we didn't use the chicken in our lunch salads, we use it as a base for a quick stir-fry with the bell peppers we get in our CSA. We also stuff the chicken into sandwiches with thick slices of CSA tomatoes. The white beans are piled onto toast or spooned into shallow bowls and topped with chunks of the oil-packed tuna. A simple green salad tossed with vinaigrette is our side for the week.
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If you're new to meal prepping, one of the first things you'll want to determine is whether you like to have every meal planned out or whether you prefer to keep it flexible. If you're like me and like some wiggle room, I'd love to hear some of your favorite meal prep tactics and mix-and-match meals.
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.