Power Hour Meal Prep

Meal Prep Plan: My Favorite No-Cook On-the-Go Strategy

updated Jul 17, 2019
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Credit: Joe Lingeman/Kitchn; Food Stylist: CC Buckley/Kitchn
Credit: The Kitchn

Hot summer days turn into long and lazy nights, so it’s no surprise that we often find ourselves staying late at the pool or watching a movie from our picnic blanket in the park. This meal prep plan shows you how to make meals that are perfect for packing in a cooler and eating on the go — morning, noon, or night.

I prefer to meal prep on the weekend right after grocery shopping, so I can set aside the newly purchased ingredients I need. This Power Hour takes about two hours to prep and is full of fresh summer produce. Here’s how to do it.

Credit: Joe Lingeman/Apartment Therapy

My Meal Prep Goals

  • Breakfast: Ready-made breakfasts to keep us fueled for hours of outdoor playing before it gets too hot (five days).
  • Lunch: Lunches that are easy to stash in a cooler or serve straight from the fridge with no extra prep required (five days).
  • Dinner: Dinners that are made for eating on the go, whether poolside or on a picnic blanket.
  • Nutritional Goals: We have no dietary restrictions, and serve family-friendly meals that include lots of fruits and vegetables. In our family we serve our kids a variety of veggies knowing that they won’t eat every bite, but the exposure is part of building familiarity.
Credit: The Kitchn

Meal Prep Plan Snapshot

  • Feeds: 2 adults and 2 preschoolers for breakfast and dinner, and 2 adults for lunch
  • Prep Time: About 2 hours
  • Meals Covered: About 80% (no weekend meals)
  • Weeknight Cooking Required? Cooking required only on one night, although some dinners require assembly before packing up. All meals can be enjoyed chilled or at room temperature.

My Meal Plan




Credit: The Kitchn
Credit: Patty Catalano

My Shopping List

These are the ingredients that I bought or used for this meal prep plan. I always shop my pantry and refrigerator before heading to the grocery store, so that I don’t double up on ingredients I already have. I also rely on staples like olive and vegetable oils, kosher salt, and black pepper. Note: I shopped for enough ingredients to triple the Mason Jar Tuna Nicoise recipe.

  • Deli/Bakery: Garlic bread, soft French bread, whole-wheat pitas, 1 pound pizza dough, hummus
  • Dry Goods: 3 cups unsweetened almond milk, 3 cups unsweetened canned coconut milk (from 2 cans), toasted sesame oil, Dijon mustard, 2 (12-ounce) jars fire-roasted red peppers, pitted Nicoise olives, Peppadew peppers, fish sauce, hot sauce, ketchup, mayonnaise, ranch dressing, red wine vinegar, garlic powder, Italian seasoning, sweetener (maple syrup, sugar, or coconut sugar), vanilla extract, crispy fried onions, pesto, marinara sauce, 9- to 10-inch tortillas, barbecue sauce, 1 (4-ounce) can tuna packed in water, almonds, chia seeds, anchovies, 1 (15-ounce) can chickpeas
  • Produce: 1 bunch fresh dill, 1 bunch fresh parsley, garlic, Boston or butter lettuce, 1 1/2 pounds broccoli florets, 2 pints cherry tomatoes, 2 English cucumbers, 1 bunch kale, 1 lemon, 2 ounces green beans, 1 cup fresh baby spinach, 4 ounces new potatoes, 3 plum tomatoes, 1 red bell pepper, 9 to 12 ounces broccoli slaw, fresh berries
  • Meat: 1 1/2 pounds boneless, skinless chicken breasts
  • Dairy: eggs, Parmesan cheese, low-moisture mozzarella cheese, plain Greek yogurt, unsalted butter, 2 (9-ounce) packages fresh cheese tortellini
  • Frozen: frozen corn kernels
Credit: The Kitchn
Credit: Patty Catalano

Power Hour: How I Get the Prep Done

  1. Slow-cook chicken. Pour enough barbecue sauce to generously cover the bottom of a 6-quart slow cooker (1 to 1 1/2 cups). Nestle chicken breasts into the sauce, then pour another 1/2 cup sauce over top of the chicken. Cover and cook until an instant-read thermometer inserted into the thickest part reaches 165oF. Remove chicken; shred with two forks. Return to the slow cooker and toss with the barbecue sauce. Add to food storage containers with the other Upside Down BBQ Chicken Bowl components.
  2. Hard-boil eggs in Instant Pot. Cook eggs in the Instant Pot for breakfasts, Mediterranean Pitas, and Mason Jar Tuna Nicoise. Eggs cooked in this method are always perfectly cooked and easy to peel, plus it’s hands-off once you lock the lid. Here are other methods for hard-boiling eggs if you don’t have an electric pressure cooker.
  3. Roast vegetables. Heat oven to 400oF. Garlicky Broccoli Subs: Toss broccoli florets with olive oil, salt, and 2 minced garlic cloves. Roast until tender, 15 to 20 minutes. I’m using prepared broccoli florets here to cut down on prep time, but whole heads can be substituted.
  4. Prep vegetables. Mediterranean Pitas: Slice cucumbers. Dice tomatoes and lay on a paper towel (or clean tea towel) to absorb excess moisture. Pesto Tortellini Pasta Salad: Halve cherry tomatoes, and chop roasted red peppers. Upside Down BBQ Chicken Bowl: Dice bell peppers, and shred kale. Mason Jar Tuna Nicoise: Trim green beans, dice tomato, and tear lettuce into bite-sized pieces. Mediterranean Chickpea and Feta Wraps: Chop dill, mince 1 garlic clove, cut cucumber into sticks, and slice roasted red peppers.
  5. Sauté vegetables. Sauté diced bell pepper and corn until browned, then add the kale and cook until just wilted. Set vegetables aside until cool. Toss with broccoli slaw and add to food storage containers. Reserve almond and garlic bread toppings separately until ready to serve.
  6. Cook potatoes and green beans. Add potatoes to a pot of cold water, bring to a boil, and cook until easily pierced with a knife. Remove potatoes with a slotted spoon, then return to a boil. Add the green beans and cook until tender. Remove beans with a slotted spoon. Return the water to a boil.
  7. Cook tortellini. Add tortellini to boiling water and cook until done, 3 to 5 minutes depending on package instructions. Drain and assemble Pesto Tortellini Pasta Salad, tossing tortellini with pesto, halved cherry tomatoes, and roasted red peppers. Transfer to lunch containers and refrigerate.
  8. Make sauces. Garlicky Broccoli Subs: Stir mayonnaise, ketchup, Dijon mustard, sesame oil, and fish sauce together in a small jar. Mason Jar Tuna Nicoise: Whisk red wine vinegar, garlic, Dijon mustard, anchovy, olive oil, and kosher salt together. I assembled these salads in Mason jars for the adults and in bento-style containers for the kids because they are more comfortable eating the components of salad separately.
  9. Make chickpea filling. Make the chickpea filling for the Mediterranean Chickpea and Feta Wraps, then refrigerate in an airtight container.
  10. Make chia pudding. Whisk the ingredients for the Chia Pudding in a large mixing bowl. Once combined, divide into smaller jars for easy serving. Summer fruit is so sweet I decreased the amount of sweetener to 1 tablespoon.
Credit: Kitchn
Credit: The Kitchn
Credit: Joe Lingeman/Kitchn; Food Stylist: CC Buckley/Kitchn


In order to get playground time in before it gets too hot, we’ve got to be out the door early. We’ll start our days with chilled Chia Pudding or hard-boiled eggs and fruit.


  • Monday, Wednesday, Friday, Pesto Tortellini Pasta Salad: Pack lunch containers with a scoop of pesto pasta salad on top of a bed of spinach with a hard-boiled egg and fruit.
  • Tuesday, Thursday, Mediterranean Pitas: My husband and I each pack a lunch container with 1 pita and a big serving of fruit.


  • Monday, Upside Down BBQ Chicken Bowl: Heat the garlic bread and wrap in foil to keep warm. Pack the salad containers in a cooler, and don’t forget the chopped almonds.
  • Tuesday, Mason Jar Tuna Nicoise: No prep required for dinner here. Just pack the prepared salads in the cooler and head out!
  • Wednesday, Mediterranean Chickpea and Feta Wraps: Divide the chickpea mixture among the tortillas; top with spinach, cucumber sticks, and prepared red peppers. Roll like a burrito, cut in half, and wrap in plastic wrap or transfer to food storage containers.
  • Thursday, Garlicky Broccoli Subs: Assemble these subs before heading out of the house. I spread the sauce on both cut sides of the bread as a barrier against moisture, then pile on the broccoli (no need to reheat unless you want to), Peppadew peppers, feta, and crunchy fried onions. Wrap the sandwiches in plastic wrap or foil and stash in the cooler.
  • Friday, Muffin Tin Pizzas: The one meal that requires a small amount of cooking is also just right for small helping hands and can be made early in the day if time allows. Follow the recipe to make muffin tin pizzas, then pack the bite-sized pies in a container. We served these chilled from the cooler during adult swim at the pool.


Gathering around the table for dinner is my favorite part of the day, but in the summertime, the table often looks more like a picnic blanket. I hope this meal plan has inspired you to keep cooking even when dinner doesn’t happen at home. Just remember to keep reusable utensils and napkins on hand at all times to make mealtime easier, no matter where you are.

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.