Preparing your lunches in advance for the week is a strategy to save time cut costs and maintain a healthier diet. By having pre prepared meals readily available to grab and take with you you can effortlessly stay committed, to your objectives during hectic workdays.This beginner’s guide will walk you through everything you need to know to start meal prepping lunches like a pro.
Pick The Right Meal Prep Containers
The first step in meal prepping lunches for the week is to invest in some high-quality meal prep containers. Look for BPA-free plastic containers or glass containers that have separated compartments. This will allow you to pack the optimal macros and keep food groups separated.
Make sure to get containers that are microwavable so you can easily heat up your food at work. It’s also handy to get containers that are leak-proof with tight sealing lids. This prevents spills and keeps food fresh until you’re ready to eat it.
Some popular and affordable meal prep container brands are:
- Rubbermaid Brilliance Food Storage Containers
- Glasslock Assorted Oven Safe Container Set
- Bentgo All-in-One Stackable Bento Lunch Box Container
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Plan Out Your Weekly Lunch Meals
Once you’ve got your meal prep containers, it’s time to plan out what you’re going to make each week! Take a moment to review your schedule and consider the kinds of lunches that would be convenient, effortless and suitable, for taking to work or school.
Try to come up with 5-7 different lunch meal ideas that incorporate a lean protein, complex carbs, and veggies. This ensures your lunches are balanced and nutritious. Here are some easy go-to meal prep lunch ideas:
- Chicken or turkey wraps
- Mason jar salads
- Burrito bowls
- Chicken or tuna salad with crackers or pita
- Quinoa power bowls
- Adult lunchables (nuts, cheese, deli meat, crackers)
Create a list of lunch options for the week. Having a structured plan, in place significantly streamlines the grocery shopping and cooking procedures.
Make A Grocery List
The next important step in meal prepping lunches for the entire week is to make a comprehensive grocery list. You’ll want to make sure you have all the ingredients needed for each lunch recipe on hand.
Go through each lunch meal you plan to make and list out the exact ingredients and quantities you’ll need to purchase. Some staple meal prep lunch groceries include:
- Protein sources: Chicken, turkey, tuna, eggs, Greek yogurt
- Whole grains: Bread, wraps, rice, quinoa
- Veggies: Spinach, lettuce, tomatoes, onions, peppers, carrots
- Fruits: Apples, berries, bananas, avocado
- Healthy fats: Olive oil, avocado, nuts, seeds
- Herbs/spices: Salt, pepper, oregano, basil, cumin
- Condiments: Mustard, mayo, salad dressing, salsa
Make sure your list is thorough so you can purchase everything in one shopping trip. This prevents you from realizing mid-cook that you’re missing an ingredient!
Meal Prep Your Lunches
Once you’ve done your meal prep lunch planning and grocery shopping, it’s time to start cooking! Set aside a few hours one day a week to fully prep all your lunches for the week ahead.
If you’re cooking proteins, bake or grill chicken, turkey, or fish in bulk. You can keep it basic with salt, pepper, olive oil and herbs or get creative with marinades and rubs. Cook a big batch of whole grains like quinoa, brown rice, or farro. Chop up all your vegetables and store them in containers so they’re ready to assemble each lunch.
Cook any other elements your lunches need like hard boiled eggs, roast vegetables, or make batches of healthy dips and dressings.
Assemble each lunch meal in your prep containers as you go. Try utilizing things like mason jars and bento boxes to keep foods separated. This makes lunches easy to pack in your work bag.
Store and Reheat Your Meals
Proper storage of your meal prepped lunches is crucial for safety and freshness. Let any cooked foods cool completely before sealing in airtight containers. Store containers in the fridge and try to eat within 3-5 days for the best quality.
The great thing about many meal prep lunches is you can eat them chilled or reheat them if preferred. To reheat at work, remove the lid and microwave your container on a microwave-safe plate 30-60 seconds until heated through.
Some good make-ahead lunches like wraps and salads can be eaten chilled. Just be sure to pack an ice pack and insulated lunch bag to keep cold foods at a safe temperature.
Don’t Forget Healthy Snacks
While fresh lunches are the focal point of your meal prep, don’t forget to also prep some healthy snacks! This gives you something additional to pair with lunches and curb hunger between meals.
Some easy and portable meal prep snack ideas include:
- Fresh fruit like apple slices, berries
- Vegetables with hummus
- Hard boiled eggs
- Cheese sticks
- Roasted chickpeas
- Nut mixes, trail mix
- Protein bars, granola bars
- Greek yogurt
- Nut butter packets
Pre-portion these into snack-size containers alongside your lunches for grab-and-go ease.
Make a Master Meal Prep Schedule
The key to staying on track with meal prepping every week is to create a master meal prep schedule. This should outline which days you grocery shop, meal prep, and package everything up.
Here’s an example:
- Saturday: Grocery shop
- Sunday: Cook proteins, grains, snack foods
- Monday: Chop vegetables, make dressings, assemble lunches
- Tuesday: Pack lunches
Set reminders on your phone, mark it on your calendar, and turn it into a consistent weekly routine. Planning it out ahead of time makes the process feel more manageable.
Clean as You Go
No one wants to face a mountain of dirty dishes at the end of a day of meal prepping. Make your cleanup easier by washing dishes, wiping counters, and taking out trash as you cook.
Soak pots and pans as you finish using them. Use paper towels to quickly wipe up spills. Take breaks between cooking tasks to wash loaded up sinks of dishes. This will keep your kitchen tidy and prevent a dreaded cleanup session once you’re exhausted from cooking.
Change Up Your Grocery List Each Week
It can get boring eating the exact same meal prepped lunches every week. To keep things interesting, switch up your grocery lists and meal recipes each week.
Browse online sources like Pinterest and food blogs for meal prep lunch inspiration. Find 4-5 new recipes you want to try each week and make your grocery lists reflect the ingredients needed.
Rotate through recipes so you don’t repeat the same ones for at least 3-4 weeks. This keeps your lunches exciting and provides more variety in your diet.
Adjust as Needed
It may take a few weeks to get your meal prep system honed in perfectly. Expect to make adjustments and improvements each week.
Pay attention to which recipes were your favorites and which lunches ran out before Friday. Consider if you needed more snacks to fill you up or if certain ingredients went bad before you used them.
Tweak your process week-by-week so it fits your needs and preferences. Meal prepping gets easier the more you do it and figure out what works for your lifestyle.
Preparing your lunches in advance is a way to cut down on expenses while also enhancing your well being and nutritional intake. Following these beginner tips will set you up for meal prep success. Soon you’ll have perfectly portioned, home-cooked lunches ready to grab whenever hunger strikes. Give it a try this week and your future self will thank you!