How to Easily Meal Prep Your Lunch With Simple Recipes
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How great would it be to know that your whole week of lunches is healthy and ready to go on Monday? You can totally do this with these easy strategies and simple recipes to meal prep your lunch.
Why should you meal prep your lunch?
Meal planning and prep is a fantastic way to cut down on the time you spend in the kitchen. And it works for more than just dinner.
3 Benefits to meal prep your lunch
- Save money by eating your prepared lunch instead of spending money at a restaurant.
2. Stop wasting time driving around and looking for somewhere to eat.
3. Your body will be better nourished and will be able to stick to your healthy eating goals.
4. Avoid that afternoon slump in energy and brain power by having a lunch that perks you up rather than takes you down. It will do wonders for your productivity!
#1 Utilizing Leftovers to Meal Prep Your Lunch
There isn’t enough love for leftovers. People often waste a lot of food simply because they keep leftovers in the fridge, and never touch them. I used to be such a food waster!
Instead of just scraping them into the trash bin, you should utilize those leftovers for your meal planning! There can be a very happy relationship between leftovers and meal planning.
Make Leftovers Your Lunch
If you typically use a single day of the week to do the bulk of your cooking, then you should make that meal large enough for leftovers. Something like a casserole can easily feed a family of four and then leave enough to use throughout the week. It makes for a great quick-grab lunch that you don’t have to worry about cooking.
Another example might be that you just have extra meat leftover from dinner. For example, you can just heat up some veggies to go with that leftover steak for a super quick lunch throughout the week.
Meal Prep Your Lunch by Repurposing Leftovers
Let’s say you cook something in bulk on Sunday and you’re left with a lot of leftovers. However, you’re not the type of person who can eat the same kind of meal every day. You don’t have to toss it out. Instead, repurpose them into a new meal for lunch. Let’s take the example of steak again.
Sure, you could just warm up the steak and use it as a meal with new veggies. Or you could cut it up a bit more and make a steak burger out of it. Throw those pieces of meat between two buns and load it up with all of the extras that you desire.
Or you can dice it up to add to a salad or a cheesy soup (think Philadelphia cheese steak soup) This is a chance to become a little creative in the kitchen. It will not only ensure you have a lot less cooking to do overall but you’ll also never get tired of your brand new lunch.
Cook Large Meals on Purpose
Finally, you can purposely cook in bulk so you can plan several meals from one cooked recipe. Sometimes a really good pizza is what you want to get through the week. Why not make a veggie supreme pizza? Veggie-packed and large, it can easily feed you throughout the entire week for lunch with only one hour of cooking.
# 2 Salads to Meal Prep Your Lunch
Salads are a great option when trying to eat healthy and get adequate servings of the nutrients your body needs, especially vegetables. They can be simple to make, catered to meet your taste preferences, and a great meal to pack for lunch.
Keeping It Fresh
Often, salads are not thought of something that you can plan and pack ahead of time because it can be difficult to keep it fresh and not soggy. One tip is to pack the salad dressing on the side. Much of the sogginess comes from the salad dressing sitting.
Another way to keep salads fresh is by choosing your containers wisely. It is best to use airtight, leak-proof containers. Some people opt for using mason jars, which can be a cheaper choice.
Have you heard of them? When I did I literally went out the very next day and bought a package of 12 Big Mouth Mason Jars and started in. One thing about me is I don’t usually sit on ideas. When I hear ideas I act on them asap, because otherwise I forget and it gets lost somewhere in my mind. Mom-Brain?
Basics of Salad Jars
The important thing about fresh salads in mason jars is to prevent them from being soggy! There is an order to what should go in first to last. Let me break that down for you before I share some Mason Jar recipes to use to meal prep your lunch.
Order of Ingredients in Jar
- Start with a clean and very dry mason jar.
- Salad dressing goes in first at the bottom.
- Next goes any proteins or grains. This is where you would put eggs, diced ham or turkey, bacon, quinoa, etc. This will put a barrier between your dressing and the lettuce.
- Now add seeds, nuts, and cheese.
- Next add any other veggies like carrots, zucchini, and cucumbers. You could put tomatoes here if you don’t mind the texture changing. Tomatoes usually turn mushy in the fridge. I usually just keep them separate all together and just cut one right before I eat the salad or that morning.
- Next would be any fruits. Fresh fruits are delicious but you’ll want to make sure to eat them sooner than later. They usually won’t last a whole week. Soak sliced fruits like apples and pears for a few minutes in salted water before adding them to the jar to prevent browning.
- Time for all the leafy lettuce. Make sure it is clean and very dry. The wetter it is the more likely it will be soggy. Use a salad spinner to remove excess water from your lettuce after you wash it.
- Fold a paper towel and put this between the lettuce and the lid at the top of the jar.
- Keep in mind you want as little air as possible between layers to help your salad stay fresh longer. So pack them tightly!
- When storing or transporting, keep jars upright to prevent the dressing from reaching the greens.
For Lettuce Haters
Not everyone likes lettuce and often shy away from salads because of this. However, not all salads need lettuce. There are many salad recipes that call for noodles in lieu of lettuce.
Pasta salad can be healthy if you use whole wheat pasta or create noodles out of vegetables. For example, spaghetti squash or zucchini can replace regular noodles for any pasta salad recipe.
There are also salads that call for beans as the main ingredient. Then there is taco salad which can be created to meet your taste preferences.
Unique Ideas for salads
Salads can get boring if you are using the same ingredients every day. To keep it unique, try a variety of salad recipes. I’m sharing some with you below.
You can use different toppings other than croutons. For example, you can try topping with Tostitos or pita chips. Nuts, seeds, and dried fruit are also healthy options.
You can change it up by using a variety of meats. Try shredded chicken, tuna, seafood, boiled eggs, beans, and different cheeses to add protein to your salad. It can be fun to try different things and give your taste buds a surprise.
A salad using zucchini noodles instead of lettuce. It also has a creamy avocado and yogurt dressing.
Lots of variety to this mason jar salad. You can change up the cheese, the fruit, and the type of lettuce.
Cobb Salad in a Jar (serves 1)
1 wide mouth quart size mason jar
2 T ranch dressing (homemade see below)
¼ cup cherry tomatoes, halved
¼ cup cucumbers, sliced
1 T red onion, chopped
A hard boiled egg, sliced
1 slice of turkey bacon, cooked and crumbled
2 T plain Greek yogurt
2 slices of turkey, chopped
1 cup chopped romaine
Dressing: Mix 2 T Plain Greek Yogurt with a sprinkle of ranch seasoning.
Start with dressing in jar, then add tomato, cucumber, onion, egg, avocado, turkey bacon, turkey, and end with romaine. When ready to eat shake and pour into a bowl.
Chef Salad in a Jar (serves 1)
In bottom of mason jar whisk together:
1.5 tsp red wine vinegar
1.5 tsp Dijon mustard
1/8 tsp thyme
pinch of sea salt
pinch of ground black pepper
1.5 T extra virgin olive oil
¼ tsp of raw honey
Mix ingredients then layer in THIS order:
½ cup carrot matchsticks, 1/3 cup black olives, sliced, ¼ cup diced cucumber, 1/3 cup diced tomato, ¼ cup chopped bell pepper, 2 hard boiled eggs diced, romaine to fill to top. When ready to serve shake and serve in a bowl.
Rainbow Salad (4 servings)
1⁄2 cup white balsamic vinegar
2 Tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil
2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
1⁄4 cup finely chopped fresh flat leaf (Italian) parsley
Sea salt (or Himalayan salt) and ground black pepper (to taste; optional)
2 cups chickpeas, drained, rinsed
1 cup sliced carrots
A med red bell pepper, chopped
1 medium yellow bell pepper, chopped
2 cups chopped red cabbage
1 cup chopped cucumber
8 cups assorted salad greens (like mixed spring lettuce)
1⁄2 cup raw sunflower seeds
Directions: Combine vinegar, oil, garlic, and parsley in a small bowl; whisk to blend.
Season with salt and pepper if desired; mix well. Evenly divide dressing between 4 one- quart Mason jars. Set aside. Evenly layer chickpeas, carrots, bell peppers, cabbage, cucumber, salad greens, and sunflower seeds on top of dressing in jars. Serve immediately or cover and refrigerate for up to 3 days. Shake before serving. Makes 4 servings.
Chicken and Black Bean Burrito Salad (4 servings)
1⁄2 cup fresh lime juice
2 Tbsp. + 1⁄2 cup coarsely chopped fresh cilantro, divided use
1 clove garlic, coarsely chopped
A medium jalapeno, seeds and veins removed, coarsely chopped
1 Tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil
2 cups canned black beans
4 oz. shredded cooked chicken breast
1 cup chopped jicama
1⁄2 cup thinly sliced radishes
1 cup thinly sliced red onion
1⁄4 cup shredded cheddar cheese
8 cups chopped romaine lettuce
Directions: Place lime juice, 2 Tbsp. cilantro, garlic, and jalapeno in a blender; cover. Blend until smooth. Slowly add oil, blending continuously, until well mixed. Evenly divide dressing between 4 one-quart Mason jars. Set aside. Evenly layer beans, chicken, jicama, radishes, onion, tomatoes, cheese, lettuce, and remaining 1⁄2 cup cilantro on top of dressing in jars. Serve immediately or cover and refrigerate for up to 3 days. Shake before serving. Makes 4 servings.
A few other varieties
2 Tbsp. vinaigrette dressing, ½ cup cherry tomatoes, ½ cup purple cabbage, ½ cup bell peppers, 6 oz. seasoned ground turkey, ¼ cup white onions, ¾ cup spinach
Use 2 Tbsp. vinaigrette dressing, 6 oz. seasoned ground turkey cooked in 1 tsp. oil, ½ cup black beans, ½ cup corn, ¾ cup bell peppers, ¼ cup white onion, 1 cup spinach, ½ chopped jalapeño
2 Tbsp. vinegar-based dressing, 1 cup cherry tomatoes, ½ cup bell peppers, ¼ cup onion, ¾ cup cooked chicken breast (about 4 oz.), ¾ cup baby spinach
Meal Prep Lunch Soup Recipes
Soups are another thing you can meal prep. Make a big pot have some the day you make it. Then take the rest divide into containers to stick in the fridge or freezer. Here are some recipe ideas:
This clam chowder has been modified to make it a little healthier. It is great on a cold day.
Looking for a way to add in more kale? This soup is a great way to do it.
Nothing beats some classic chicken noodle soup. Check out the special recipe.
Try this classic Italian soup with white beans and pasta. You can really stock up on all kinds of veggies to this soup.
Meal Prep Your Lunch With a Shake or Smoothie
When you are really low on time the quickest lunch you can have is a shake or smoothie. It is my favorite way to meal prep lunch! Now, I also like to “chew” my food so I normally have my shake as my healthy dessert after eating my salad or soup I prepped for the week. The main ingredient in my shake with all the nutrients as well as plant based protein is SolleComplete. Just click on the name to read about the ingredients.
SolleComplete can be prepared in more than just a shake or a smoothie. I have put it into pancakes, made cookies and pudding with it. My favorite is my daily Peanut Butter Chocolate shake though because it tastes like a Dairy Queen blizzard, but I know it is full of vegetables a little protein and is just what I need to get over that middle of the day energy slump.
It also has prebiotics and probiotics (read my blog Everything You Want to Know About Probiotics Here) and only all natural ingredients that will leave you feeling full and satisfied.
You don’t lose weight by starving your body of food but by only giving it the right food! In a nutshell, it staves off hunger, cuts cravings, and keeps you healthy during this journey.
No need for a daily multivitamin either it is all in here in a much more bioavailable form, unlike the tablet which your body has no idea how to absorb.
Other Ideas to Meal Prep Your Lunch
Turkey Taco Bowl
One of the easiest meals that you can ever make is a turkey taco bowl. All you need is to cook some ground turkey, a good dose of brown rice, and then fill the bowl with your favorite toppings. You don’t even need a taco shell to eat this delicious meal. Just take a spoon or fork and gobble it up. Perhaps one of the coolest aspects about this lunch is that you can add or remove ingredients as you wish to ensure that you never become tired with it.
Chicken Avocado Burritos
For those who want a delicious meal but also an easy meal to cook, then you have to try the chicken avocado burrito. All you need to do is wrap chicken, avocado slices, sour cream, salsa verde, and cheese in a tortilla. You can obviously add anything else you want to the burrito, too.
The cheese should be placed on either the top or bottom to ensure that it melts into the rest of the burrito. Then, grill it up!
That’s all you need to do for this meal. You can make as many as you want for your lunches. Not only will this meal keep you full but it’s also packed full of veggies and protein to keep you healthy and energized.
Chicken and Broccoli Shells with Cheese
If you love health and comfort for lunch, then you need to try out this chicken and broccoli shells with cheese idea. It’s basically like mac and cheese except for grown-ups. All you need to do is cook your shells, broccoli, chicken, and cheese sauce for a mouth-watering meal.
Flour tortillas are a great choice for all types of healthy wraps. Be creative with versatile ingredients such as rice, chicken and quinoa and healthy veggies. They’re also easy to eat and less messy than many choices.
Don’t forget the old standby, sandwich, choice. You can prepare them ahead of time and choose ingredients that are low in calories and rich in nutrients. Tomato, hummus and spinach or low-calorie chicken salad on whole grain bread are great lunchtime choices.
Are you ready to meal prep your lunch now?
Remember, you never have to let your lunches become boring. There are so many great choices from which to choose – and they’re easy and less time-consuming to prepare. Let your imagination soar and you’ll never dread having to eat a boring lunch again.
Whether you’re having lunch at your desk or overlooking a beautiful waterfall, a little planning ahead will make it a more enjoyable – and nutritious experience. It’s also likely you’ll save money by avoiding those expensive lunches at nearby restaurants – or drive through fast food.
What will you meal prep for lunch this week? Share in the comments below.