We’ve all seen those colorful stacks of meal prep lunches and dinners on Pinterest, Instagram, and TikTok. They always look like something only Type-A, uber-organized, super on-top-of-it people do.
But I’m here to tell you that YOU CAN DO IT, TOO. Making meal prep lunches ahead of time is not only a healthier and cheaper way of cooking for yourself and your family, but it’s the most freeing feeling ever.
Meal prep takes work out of your week
If I could make a new year’s wish for everyone I know, it would be the total comfort of knowing you’ve got lunches and dinner and even breakfast and snacks HANDLED for a week.
When you meal prep effectively, you’re batching your time and efforts and the payoff comes in spades.
But it’s easy to get overwhelmed in the beginning stages, so I’m going to walk you through 1 week of easy meal meal prep lunches, and a few dinners, for 2 adults.
If you’re new to meal prepping, start by taking it one step at a time.
I’ve found that when it comes to lunch, it’s tough to prep more than a week in advance; after that, you get into “store it in the freezer or deal with soggy -ingredients” and neither of those things translates well into lunchtime. Trust me on that one.
So I ventured out into these here intwerwebs to find you 5 simple lunches that combine ingredients and prep techniques, so you can easily get one big bag of groceries and make it into 5 days of lunches for two adults.
We’ll walk through this together, okay? You can do this! And it will feel so good!
First things first: let’s make sure you got what you need:
- Storage containers (these are my faves for lunchtime)
- Writing utensils (I’m partial to Sharpies on masking tape, but dry-erase are great for writing straight on glass containers)
- Time (one hour is all you’ll need)
- Something to listen to (might I suggest this amazing, incredible, super helpful podcast by a well-known meal planning genius!?)
Before we start piecing together how to start meal prepping for the week, let me tell you this:
If you don’t want to watch your meal prepped recipes die a slow death in the fridge, here’s the secret: make something you can’t WAIT to eat. The meal prep structure below is an example of a meal prep week, and the key here is to find
1: recipes you are like, “OMG GIMME” and
2: recipes that share common ingredients, so you can prep once and eat twice.
Because that’s all I’ve really done here: I found 5 recipes with common ingredients and preparations that sounded freaking killer and then did a quick one-hour long prep sesh for meal prep lunches for a whole week for two people.
First, I took the recipes and put together a grocery list (below).
Then I broke the recipes down into prep, and stored them with labels.
That’s IT! Watch what I do below, and then try it for yourself: find 5 recipes with common ingredients and then break ‘em down.
Or just steal meal prep plans from other people on Pinterest, because I fully do that, too.
Here are the recipes:
2. Sweet and Sour Couscous Chicken with Sweet Potatoes and Red Onion (but I’m subbing butternut squash instead of the sweet potato)
3. Cobb Salad with Buttermilk Blue Cheese Dressing (but I’m using plain sauteed chicken instead of breading it)
4. Kale Salad with Pomegranate, Farro, and Spicy-Sugar Bacon Candy (but I’m swapping a regular lettuce mix in for the kale, and couscous in place of the farro)
Here is the grocery list:
- 4 pounds butternut squash (about 3 large squashes)
- 1 large red onion
- 2 large yellow onion
- 4 cups salad greens
- 2 red bell peppers
- ½ pint cherry tomatoes
- ½ cup pomegranate arils
- 1 head garlic plus 4 cloves
- olive oil, about 1 cup total
- 3 cups chicken broth
- 2 cup pearled Israeli couscous
- 3 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
- 1 tablespoon honey
- 1/4 cup mayonnaise
- 1 tablespoon light brown sugar
- 1 14-ounce can diced red tomatoes with green chilis
- 1 14-ounce can red kidney beans drained
- 1 cup amber beer
- 1/4 teaspoon chili powder
- 1 teaspoon ground cumin
- 1 teaspoon ground paprika
- 1/4 teaspoons red chili flakes
- 4 pounds boneless skinless chicken thighs
- 1 pound thick-sliced bacon
- 1.5 pounds ground beef
- 2 eggs
- 1 cup buttermilk
- 4 oz crumbled blue cheese
Here’s how I’ll prep everything together:
Start the oven things first
- Preheat the oven to 375*F and line two full-size sheet pans with aluminium foil or parchment paper.
- Slice 3 of the the butternut squash in half, scoop out the seeds, drizzle them with olive oil and a sprinkle of salt, and lay them skin-side down on one pan.
- Slice off the top of the garlic head, drizzle that with olive oil and salt too, and nestle it in between the squashes.
- Line the other pan with the bacon, laying the strips side by side. Make the sugar mixture from the Kale Salad recipe and spread it on half of the bacon, leaving the other strips bare.
- Place both pans in the oven and bake the bacon until it’s crispy, about 10 minutes, and the squash until it’s cooked through and soft, about 40 minutes.
While those are are baking, start prepping the chicken and couscous.
- Bring a salted pot of water to a boil over high heat.
- Once boiling, add 1 cup of couscous and turn the heat to low.
- Add the eggs to the pot and let them hard-boil with the couscous.
- Cook until the couscous is al dente, about 12 minutes.
- Remove from the heat and fish the eggs out of the couscous; set aside to peel later.
- Peel and roughly dice the remaining butternut squash.
- Thinly slice the red onion.
- Liberally sprinkle salt and pepper on all the chicken, seasoning both sides.
- Heat a few tablespoons of olive oil over medium heat and add the butternut squash and red onion to the pan. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the squash has started to soften, about 8-10 minutes.
- Heat another pan with the remaining olive oil over medium heat until the oil is shimmering.
- Push the butternut squash and onions to one side of the pan.
- Divide the chicken in half and place one half in the pan with the butternut squash, and the rest of the chicken in the other pan.
- Sear the chicken, turning it after a few minutes as it browns on each side.
- While the chicken is searing, mix the sweet and sour sauce in the Sweet and Sour Chicken recipe.
- Add 1 cup of the couscous to the pan, then add the sweet and sour mixture and the chicken broth, Add a lid and turn the heat to low and cook until the chicken and squash are soft and cooked all the way through and the couscous is cooked al dente.
- When the other pan of chicken is seared, remove form the heat and set aside until cool enough to handle. Slice the chicken into bite-sized pieces.
Then, prepare the salads.
- Divide the salad greens into 6 individual-serving containers.
- Add the chopped, seared chicken to all 6 bowls, dividing the chicken evenly between the bowls.
- Chop the bell peppers. Set half aside for the chili and divide the remaining half between 3 of the salad bowls.
- Divide the pomegranate arils between the remaining three salad bowls.
- Chop the bacon, adding the sugary bacon to the salad with the pomegranates, and the regular bacon to the remaining bowls.
- Add the cooked couscous to the salad bowls with the pomegranates and bacon.
Prepare the salad dressing
- Mix the blue cheese dressing in a separate jar and store in the fridge until ready to eat.
Prep the chili ingredients
- Chop the remaining yellow onion and add to a large resealable bag or container.
- Mince the remaining 4 cloves of garlic and add to the onions.
- Add the remaining chopped red bell peppers to the bag.
- Then, add the ground beef, diced red tomatoes with green chilis, red kidney beans, amber beer, cumin, paprika, and red chili flakes to the bag or container.
Label everything, store in the fridge, and you’re done!
Annnnnnd you’re done! See how I combined forces of effort, combined vegetables, putting things together with “like” things? It makes your workload SO much easier, and the time goes faster.
I hope this helps! If you wind up making some meal prep lunches from this list, PLEASE tag me on Instagram or TikTok at @percolatekitchen!