As one of the team leaders of Kitchn's Meal Plan Club, this is a little hard for me to admit: I'm not that into meal prep. Meal prep is the last task in meal planning that really puts your plan into action and makes weeknight dinners that much easier and less stressful, but I fail at it most weeks.
The problem isn't that I don't understand the basics of meal prep, but rather that come Sunday afternoon I'd rather run around the yard with my kids or drink a glass of wine and read a magazine. Recently, I've taken to adding just enough lazy meal prepping to my routine to make weeknight dinners easier without sacrificing my precious weekend time. So for all you lazy meal preppers, here's what to do.
1. Use up what you've got!
You know those Instagram before-and-afters where groceries magically turn into prepped meals in the fridge? This is not that. Before you even shop and meal plan, look at what's already in the fridge that needs using up. Sometimes there's some thawed chicken breast in there that needs cooking, and maybe some vegetables in your crisper drawer that you can cut up. Also, pick through that plastic clamshell of arugula you've neglected all week to salvage the non-slimy pieces. And voila! You've got a satisfying dinner salad.
Read more: Bizzaro Meal Prep That Changes The Game from The Lazy Genius Collective
2. Just buy your meal prep at the grocery store, already!
The grocery store can be your meal prep sous chef if you shop it well. There's all the pre-chopped fruit and vegetables in the produce department, but don't overlook the freezer aisle or even the deli for meal prep that is done for you before you even get home from the grocery store. Have zero guilt about using these shortcuts — they exist because everyone needs help with dinner sometimes.
A Few Grocery Shortcuts to Remember
The slow cooker can prep Sunday's dinner and your lunches for the week while you sip wine in the backyard on a Sunday afternoon. If you can find at least one meal — breakfast or lunch are the easiest — where you don't mind eating some variation on repeat, you'll save a ton of meal prep time.
Get started here: 5 Things You Never Thought to Meal Prep in the Slow Cooker
4. Use Monday and Tuesday to play catch-up.
One of my favorite lazy meal prep ideas, and the one I employ often when I'm too busy to prep on Sunday night, is to just incorporate a little meal prep into the first few dinners of the week. Mix up a big batch of salad dressing on Monday night to eat all week. Chop extra onions on Tuesday for Thursday and Friday's dinners.
How to be extra: Meal Planning for the Person You Need to Be
5. Overnight it!
Oats, that is! Overnight oats are my favorite lazy meal prep breakfast because you can make a whole week's worth at once and they only require assembly and no cooking.
Eat these hot or cold: How To Make DIY Instant Oatmeal Cups
6. Or just don't "cook."
My meal prep secret? I plan at least one meal each week that can be assembled with leftovers plus a few grocery store shortcuts (think: tacos with leftover pulled pork and store-bought slaw).
A few of our faves: 20 No-Cook Dinners to Keep in Your Meal Plan This Summer