Meal Prep Plan: How I Prep a Week of Effortless Fall Meals — No Weeknight Cooking Required!
Before beginning a meal planning or prep session I always think it’s helpful to first consider what your current pain points are when it comes to feeding yourself or your family. It’s a strategy I believe leads to making the most of your time and effort and makes tackling mealtimes more manageable. Maybe dinners aren’t an issue, but you really need a solid lineup of make-ahead lunches you can quickly grab between Zoom meetings or errands. Perhaps putting your efforts into freezer-friendly snacks the whole family will devour would make life a little easier right now. Or maybe you have some extra time on your hands and it’s worthwhile to double down on your meal prep efforts to stock the freezer with a couple weeks’ worth of meals.
Right now, my pain point is starting from zero when it comes to cooking dinner during the week, along with limited time for meal prep. The solution is batch-cooking several foods that can be mixed, matched, and repurposed into different meals throughout the week. In about one hour, this Power Hour will set you up with a week of make-ahead meals to eliminate weeknight cooking. Instead the only thing you’ll have to do to get dinner on the table is some simple reheating and a little assembly. Your reward for that bit of work on the weekend is a week full of flavorful meals featuring fall flavors and ingredients. Here’s how to do it.
Meal Prep Goals
- Breakfast: An easy option you’ll be excited to eat, and that can be assembled in just a few minutes (five days).
- Lunch: A light, yet filling option that requires minimal assembly time (five days).
- Dinner: Fully cooked mix-and-match dinners that just need to be reheated before serving (five days).
- Nutritional Goals: There are no set nutritional goals, but all the meals here are generally wholesome and well-balanced.
Meal Prep Plan Snapshot
- Feeds: Two people
- Prep Time: About 1 hour
- Meals Covered: About 80% (no weekend meals)
- Weeknight Cooking Required? Minimal. Dinner components are already cooked, and only require simple reheating and assembly.
This week’s shopping list relies on a mix of produce, dry and refrigerated pantry basics, and store-bought conveniences. Shop your pantry, refrigerator, and freezer before setting foot in the store (or opening your grocery delivery app) to avoid adding items to the cart that you already have on hand. I also used staple ingredients like olive and vegetable oils, kosher salt, and black pepper that are not listed here.
- Produce: 6 avocados, 2 medium cucumbers, 5 medium tomatoes, 1 small bunch fresh parsley, 1 head garlic, 3 pounds root vegetables (such as carrots, parsnips, sweet potatoes, and/or beets), 1 small red onion, 1 small yellow onion, 1 small bunch fresh rosemary, 1 bag tri-color slaw, 1 lemon, 1 large carrot, 2 large celery stalks, 2 salad kits
- Refrigerated & Frozen: 10 ounces plain Greek yogurt, 10 large eggs, 2 (10-ounce) containers hummus, 2 pounds boneless chicken thighs
- Pantry: Honey, vanilla extract, flaky salt, 6-7 whole-wheat pita breads, 2 tablespoons Dijon mustard, balsamic vinegar, brown sugar, 6 (6-inch) corn tortillas, salsa, 1 cup dried red lentils, 1 box low-sodium chicken or vegetable broth, 1 bay leaf
- Other: 1 loaf sourdough
Power Hour: How to Get the Prep Done
- Prep vegetables. Arrange racks to divide the oven into thirds and heat to 425°F. For the roasted vegetables, peel the root vegetables and cut into 1-inch chunks. Place on a rimmed baking sheet, drizzle with oil, salt, and pepper; set aside. For the red lentil soup, dice the carrot, celery, and onion, and place in a medium bowl.
- Roast chicken thighs and vegetables. Prepare chicken thighs, including the sauce, according to the recipe instructions. Place in a 9-inch baking dish on the top rack of the oven. Roast until the chicken has an internal temperature of 165°F, about 20 minutes. Place the baking sheet with vegetables on the bottom oven rack and roast for about 40 minutes. Once cooled, store in separate covered containers in the refrigerator.
- Make soup. Meanwhile, prepare the red lentil soup in a Dutch oven according to the recipe instructions. Once cooled, store in an airtight container in the refrigerator.
- Cook hard-boiled eggs. Cook 10 hard-boiled eggs (more if you’d like some for snacking). You can use the instructions in the Mediterranean Pita recipe or your favorite method of cooking hard-boiled eggs. Once cooled, store in a bowl in the refrigerator.
A Week of No-Cook Dinners
Each morning, cut a couple of slices of sourdough. While the bread is toasting, mix together some yogurt, honey, and a splash of vanilla extract. Spread over the toast and top with half of a sliced avocado.
To assemble the Mediterranean Egg + Hummus Pita, each day split 1 pita bread in half, and fill each half with a couple of tablespoons of hummus, a sliced hard-boiled egg, sliced cucumber, chopped tomatoes, and parsley. Feel free to liven things up by adding other condiments, such as harissa, or fillings, like pitted olives or cooked vegetables.
Tuesday, Red Lentil Soup and Salad: Reheat half of the soup and assemble one of the salad kits. Dinner is ready in less than 10 minutes.
Wednesday, Chicken Tacos: Warm the tortillas in the microwave and reheat the leftover chicken. Shred or slice the chicken into thin strips. Fill each tortilla with chicken, tri-color slaw, sliced avocado, and salsa.
Thursday, Leftover Red Lentil Soup and Salad: Reheat the remaining soup and assemble the remaining salad kit. Dinner is ready in less than 10 minutes.
Friday, Roasted Vegetable Hummus Bowls: Reheat the leftover roasted vegetables in a 350°F oven for about 10 minutes. Spoon about 1/2 cup hummus into each bowl, top with the roasted vegetables and any remaining parsley, and serve with a piece of pita bread for dipping.
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.