My meal prep routine varies week to week depending on how much free time I have on Sundays. But I've learned that even on weekends where I only have one hour, there's a lot I can accomplish. When time is limited, I maximize my efforts by leaning on recipes and ingredients that require minimal prep and little to no hands-on cooking — allowing me to prep multiple things at once.
This Power Hour will help you prep a week of breakfasts and lunches and give you a major jump-start on dinner so you don't have to start from zero every night. Ready to get started?
In my family of two we occasionally enjoy leftovers, but we don't like eating the same thing for dinner over and over throughout the week. While I have a fair amount of time to cook most weeknights, I honestly don't have it in me to start from zero every night.
In addition to making simple grab-and-go breakfasts and lunches for the week, my priority for one-hour meal prep sessions is to get as much of a head start on dinner as I can.
This often means making a protein that can be stretched across a couple meals and a vegetable or slaw that can partner with several dinners. Anticipating that I'll lose steam midweek, I also slot in a simple pasta night (dried spaghetti and jarred marinara).
My Meal Prep Goals
- Breakfast: Wholesome, filling breakfasts for myself and husband that can be eaten at home or taken to work (five days).
- Lunch: Grab-and-go lunch (that's not salad) for me and my husband (five days).
- Dinner: Prepped protein and components for dinner, plus flexibility for an easy mid-week pasta for me and my husband (four days).
- Nutritional Goals: While we don't have any food restrictions, we focus our diet on whole foods, lots of veggies, and lean proteins.
Meal Prep Plan Snapshot
- Feeds: Two people
- Prep Time: 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 Meals This Week
- Overnight oats
- Miso-Ginger Chicken Thighs: Leftovers will be turned into sandwiches for another meal
- Broccoli Slaw with Basic Vinaigrette
- Fish Tacos with Slaw
- Pasta with jarred marinara
My Shopping List
Below are the ingredients I bought or used for this meal prep plan. I also relied on staples and condiments already in my pantry, like cooking oil, vinegar, soy sauce, and spices.
- Produce: 1 pint organic blueberries, bananas, onion, garlic, ginger, 2 boxes baby kale, 3 avocados, 2 lemons, pre-shredded broccoli slaw
- Meat: 2 pounds boneless, skinless chicken thighs
- Dairy: Unsweetened almond milk, Greek yogurt, 12 large eggs
- Pantry: Rolled oats, tomato paste, chicken broth, 1 (14-ounce) can diced tomatoes, 2 cans chickpeas, bulgur, corn tortillas, white miso paste, pasta, 1 jar marinara
Power Hour: How I Get the Prep Done
My approach to meal prep is all about efficiency, multitasking, and embracing the "meanwhile" — especially when there's just one hour on the clock. I always start with the tasks that take the most time, and aim to take advantage of any hands-off moments, like waiting for the oven to preheat or water to boil.
My Sunday afternoon prep list is as follows (and we've created a handy pinnable image with the menu and prep list, if you want to save this for later!):
- Preheat oven: While the oven preheats, I whisk together the miso paste, ginger, and garlic for the chicken, then add the thighs and toss to coat. I prep the onion and garlic for the chickpeas.
- Cook chicken thighs: I arrange the chicken thighs in an even layer on a baking sheet and slide them into the oven for about 25 minutes. I cool the chicken on the baking sheet.
- Simmer chickpeas: Meanwhile, I get started on the saucy Moroccan-Spiced Chickpea Bowls which will be lunch for the week. After sautéeing the onion and garlic, I add the chickpeas and tomatoes and simmer for about 20 minutes.
- Cook bulgur: On a separate burner I add bulgur, water, and a pinch of salt to a saucepan. It takes about 10 minutes to cook, and once the water is absorbed and the bulgur is tender, I let it steam in the pot for another 10 minutes.
- Hard-boil eggs: I add another pot to the stovetop to hard-boil the eggs at the same time. When they're done I immediately drain them then fill the pot with cold water and lots of ice for a lazy, makeshift ice bath.
- Sauté kale: I'm trying to minimize dishes, so I wipe out the pan I used to cook the chickpeas and use it to give the kale a quick sauté until tender.
- Make overnight oats: In a large (lidded) bowl I mix together whole oats, ground cinnamon, a pinch of salt, Greek yogurt, almond milk, maple syrup, and a handful of blueberries for overnight oats.
- Mix slaw: To save time I opt for a bag of pre-shredded slaw. I whisk together some vinegar, Dijon, and olive oil for a simple dressing in a large bowl, add the slaw, and toss. It'll be used over the course of the next three nights, so this gives it time to soak up the tang of the dressing without getting soggy.
A Week of Wholesome Meals for Two
Breakfast: Since it's easy to make a huge batch at once and it lasts for up to five days, overnight oats with fresh berries, cinnamon, and maple syrup is one of our go-to weekday breakfast choices. Just before eating we top it with sliced banana, toasted coconut flakes, toasted nuts, and seeds.
Lunch: Lunch is one of my weekly pain points, so I tend to stick with options I can prep in advance for the whole week. This week is saucy Moroccan-spiced chickpea bowls with bulgur, sautéed greens, and a hard-boiled egg — one of my favorite recipes from my cookbook, Buddha Bowls. It's satisfying and filling, without being too heavy for the middle of the day. I like to layer it in jars with the yogurt sauce at the bottom and the kale at the top, which is an easy way to keep the greens from getting soggy.
Dinner: I kick off the week by reheating some of the miso-ginger chicken thighs (which have even more flavor a day later) and pair them with broccoli slaw and a loaf of bread I pick up after work. On Tuesday I use the slaw and avocado as a base for simple fish tacos, and Thursday the remaining chicken and leftover bread is turned into sandwiches. We also have a mid-week pasta night that comes together in a flash, thanks to dried spaghetti and a jar of marinara.
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.