Here comes the school year… homework, tests, quizzes, midterms, finals, internships, extracurriculars, job hunting… the list really goes on. And on. And on! With the beginning of the school year and as it continues throughout the semester, it’s no secret that time management might be a slightttttt issue. But that’s totally okay! Because there are so many steps you can take to create systems within your own lifestyle to manage your time just that much better.
One way to start focusing on managing your time to optimize your productivity with those countless commitments you’ve made: meal prep. Meal prep is subject to both praise and intense criticism because it works really well for some, and not at all for others. But if you have never tried meal prepping before, it is definitely a great way to get the cooking and cleaning out of the way at the beginning of the week so you can avoid it all week long.
Meal prep is a great way to keep track of what you’ll eat for breakfast, lunch, dinner, snacks or whatever you decide to prep that week. And it allows you to grab and go whatever meals you need to. For those of you in school or even work, here are 5 recipes of great meals to prep this year.
1. Seared Tofu & Veg Over Rice
Tofu, veggies and rice are all great options for meal prep. All ingredients are easily reheated and great for lunch or dinner. The best part about this meal prep meal is how good it tastes! Just different enough from many of our daily meals, but easy enough to make at least once a week- and even easier once it’s already meal prepped! Here’s a delicious recipe for a tofu-veg meal prep meal.
What you’ll need:
- 1 pack of Tofu (this trader joe’s kind is amazing!)
- 2 Bell Peppers
- 1 Onion (red or white is fine)
- Soy Sauce or Coconut Aminos
- 1tbsp Oil (of your choice)
- Snap Peas, Broccoli, Squash (highly recommended), or whatever other vegetables you want to add
- ½-1 c White or Brown Rice (uncooked)
How to make:
- Prepare your rice… rinse ½ to 1 cup of uncooked rice under running water.
- Pour the rice into water and bring to a boil. (The water:rice ratio is 2:1, so if using 1 cup of rice, pour it into 2 cups of water.) Lightly stir a few times.
- Once the water has come to a boil, lower to a simmer and place a lid on top. Don’t Peek!
Onto the tofu…
- Cut the tofu into chunks or slices, whatever you prefer. (Just remember, chunks will be slightly harder to cook evenly.) Chop up your peppers, onions and whatever other vegetables you will add. Set all of this aside for a moment.
- On a medium to large sized pan, pour about 1 tbsp of oil and bring the stove to medium-high heat.
- Once the oil is hot, add the onion to the pan for it to brown.
- Next, drop the tofu into the pan (sizzle!!!). Pour over some soy sauce or coconut aminos. Once the tofu has turned a bit brown, flip the pieces to the other side and pour coconut aminos or soy sauce on top once again. (If you want to get really into the meal prep, you can marinate the tofu beforehand instead of pouring the sauces on here. But either way will add the flavor you need!).
- After both side of the tofu are slightly browned, turn the heat to medium and add in the other veggie ingredients. Pour more soy sauce as needed.
- Check on that rice! It might be done by now if it has been cooking for 10-15 minutes. If it’s not done, stir once and place the lid back on!
- Stir the tofu-veg pan around a few times, adding salt, pepper, or any other spices you want.
- Remove both the pot and the pan from the heat once both the rice and the combo are done.
- Serving time! Serve yourself a nice scoop of rice & veggie toppings. But before eating…
- Meal prep the rest! You should have made enough in this recipe for 4-6 meals worth. So grab your tupperware and meal prep it out by evenly distributing the goods into those 4-6 containers.
This dish is a great meal to meal prep because it is super easy and super tasty. This tofu-veg dish can be eaten for lunch or dinner (or breakfast for that matter!) and packaging it up into ready-to-go containers for the week makes the already perfect dish just that much more convenient!
Up next on the list of best meal prep meals is none other than fajitas. This meal prep dish can be made for the meat-lover or the vegan because of how versatile the ingredients can be! Here’s a recipe (with tons of options for variation) for a meal prep friendly fajita.
What you’ll need:
- Tortillas (corn or flour!)
- 1 c Brown rice
- 1 can Black or Refried Beans (or both?!)
- 2 Tomatoes
- 2 Bell Peppers
- 1 pack White or Button Mushrooms
- Meat of your choice (if wanted)
- 1 Avocado
- 1 Lime
How to make:
- Cook the meat… this can be done on your stove, grill, oven, or even in a crock pot. Whatever your method, try and keep it tender and easily pulled apart. For this reason, the crock pot method is encouraged if you have the time (and remember, meal prep will save you tons of time throughout the week, so even if this takes a bit longer, the already prepped meal will definitely worth it in the long run!)
- *for the chicken crock pot recipe:
- Place the chicken breast (or other meat) in the crock pot
- Pour chicken broth and seasonings (of your choice) over the meat
- Cook on high for 3-4 hours
- Remove the chicken from the pot and shred using forks
- Prepare the rice (similarly to the way we made the tofu-veg dish rice above! So refer there if you need a refresher!)
- Cut the peppers and mushrooms.
- Pour a bit of oil onto a medium-large sized pan. Turn the heat on medium. Once the oil is hot, toss in the cut veggies and stir and shift them around a few times. Keep the heat on medium and occasionally stir so that the veggies don’t burn.
- While the veggies, rice and meat is still cooking, prepare the cold vegetables. Shred and dice the lettuce and tomatoes, respectively.
- Cook the beans! This can be done in the microwave to save time (because that’s what meal prep is about, duh!), or in a sauce pan on the stove!
- Cut and core the avocado. Mash it up with a splash of lime and salt.
- Once everything is cooked and prepared, voila! You have a ready-to-assemble-at-any-time meal prepped fajita!
Fajita recipes are great for meal prep because you can store them in a variety of ways. You can split the ingredients from each other- pack up the beans with the beans, the veggies with the veggies, the rice with the rice, you get the point. This way you can create a fajita with whatever ingredients you’re feeling that day. Or you can meal prep them by meal- layer the rice, beans, veggies and toppings in one container and just grab a tortilla to add day-of! Whatever option you are going for is the perfect meal prep solution to a fajita lunch or dinner. (p.s. It isn’t totally necessary, but if you are going to reheat the meal before eating, keep the cold veggies and avocado out of the mix. Package those and anything else you don’t want heated separately so you can top it off without compromising their cooling crunch!)
3. Overnight Oats
Last on the list of best meal prep meals comes Overnight Oats. Surely you’ve heard of them, they were all the rage for a while. But regardless of their popularity, overnight oats really are a great meal prep meal. It is super easy (like the easiest yet) and can be eaten for breakfast or lunch, so perfect to take into the office or class. Need some inspo for this meal prep meal? Here’s a simple and delish recipe below.
What you’ll need:
- Oats (these can be steel cut, rolled, or minute-oats. Dealers choice, really)
- 1 Banana
- Coconut Shreds
- Agave or Honey
- Raisins or Cranberries
- Almond, Oat, or other Nut Milk
- (optional: chia seeds to sprinkle into the oats & nut butter to drizzle on top!)
How to make:
- Get a container that equals the size of the portion you will want to eat. Or multiple of them if your meal prepping for multiple days.
- Dish out your preferred amount of oats into the container.
- Pour about 1.5 the amount of milk on top of the oats (a little less liquid than that 2:1 water:rice ratio!), or opt for a thicker or more runny dish with more or less milk.
- Cut up a banana and plop the slices into the milk-oat mixture. Only ⅓-½ banana is needed. So use the other banana parts for your other servings or just as a mid-meal prep snack:)!
- Drizzle on some agave or honey. No more than 1 tbsp is needed depending on the amount of oats used. But remember, a little goes a long way with those sweet flavors!
- Add some cinnamon- amount based on how much you need this break to taste just like fall.
- Let sit overnight in the refrigerator. No cooking or heating needed. Just let it rest.
- In the morning, top it with some berries, raisins, and nuts. Do NOT forget to add the shredded coconut (unless you are allergic, of course). But if you can, add it! It adds a great flavor and crunch!
- ENJOY! This can be eaten as a quick breakfast before you run out the door or as a snack or lunch at work!
Overnight oats are great for meal prep because they take up such little space (literally 1 small tupperware’s worth), and it tastes amazing.
Meal prep is a great way to save some time and have delicious meals throughout the week. Meal prep takes away the stress and effort of having to cook every meal, but still allows you to enjoy what you’re eating. Plus, if you have already meal prepped meals at home, it’s way less likely you’ll find yourself grabbing those McChicken Nuggets on a stressful day home! Whatever your reason for meal prepping, it’s a convenient and productive way to stay on top of what you’re cooking and loving every minute of eating it too!