Meal preparation has a ton of upside if you’re willing to put in the time: you’ll eat perfectly portioned meals, minimize food costs, and reduce time spent on cooking throughout the week.
And while there’s all that work – chopping, cooking, portioning, and, of course, going grocery shopping for ingredients – a well-stocked kitchen is the first step to easy meal prep.
“It’s great to have recipes that you don’t even have to think about, that you know the whole family likes, and that you can easily prep in advance, but it becomes easy to fall into a rut when these are all you make,” says Autumn Ehsaei, RDN. She recommends trying a new recipe each week—this diversifies your meal lineup, as well as your nutritional intake.
Regardless of what you decide to cook, there are some foods meal-preppers suggest to always keep on hand. Here are a few nutritionists recommend keeping in your fridge, cabinet, and freezer year-round.
Forget washing, peeling, and chopping veggies – just keep your freezer filled with frozen vegetables.
“They can bulk up any meal easily with extra fiber and nutrients, and they can be thawed and added into dishes, cooked quickly in the microwave, or even steamed and then roasted in the oven for a charred finish in 10 minutes flat,” says Ehsaei.
Meat and Seafood
If you’re a meat and seafood eater, be sure to make some space for meat and seafood beside those frozen veggies.
“Plus, it’s so easy to pop something out of the freezer, throw it in a slow cooker, and have your protein ready to go by the time you are home from work,” says Ehsaei.
Canned or Dried Beans
“If you’re looking for a super-easy way to create heartiness and healthfulness without meat, beans can do the trick,” says Jackie Newgent, RDN, culinary nutritionist, and author of The All-Natural Diabetes Cookbook.
Plus, they’re budget-friendly, full of fiber and protein, can be used in hot or cold dishes, and across an array of cuisines – what’s not to like? We suggest roasting a big batch of chickpeas with paprika in the oven for snacks or in salads if you’re feeling creative.
The breakfast staple is a meal-prep staple, too.
Hard-boiled eggs are ideal as a snack, in salads, sliced into soups, alongside hummus–and countless other ways. Make egg muffins for an on-the-go breakfast option throughout the week, suggests Ehsaei.
And remember eggs don’t have to be limited to morning meals. “Whenever your meal needs a bit more high-quality protein, plopping a fried, poached, or sliced boiled egg on top is always a good idea—and it can be done as a last-minute add-on, if needed,” says Newgent.
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