Just the thought of meal prepping conjures up horrific visions of 50 Tupperware containers filled with baked sweet potato and plain chicken breast. But preparing your meals ahead of time isn’t an activity just reserved for your newly minted paleo roommate or sister who recites clean eating mantras.
It’s also a smart move for those of us who want to save money (bye $10 salad), eat a little healthier, and save time (thinking about what you’re going to eat, reading through 25 menus on Seamless, and waiting for the delivery guy while your stomach grumbles really adds up).
The key is to choose hearty ingredients (that won’t get mushy and gross come Friday—and end up in the garbage while you inhale your five-dollar footlong), and employ some clever kitchen tricks for cooking, storing and transporting your lunch.
Here a few recipes to get you started (warning: they will cause some major lunch-envy in the office.)
Anyone who has mixed up salads in advance knows what a soggy mess they become after a few days. Strategically layering your ingredients in a mason jar solves that problem, and makes it super-easy to transport.
Throw the ingredients in a slow cooker, and go watch football for four hours.
Make these portable, filling burritos in a big batch and freeze. Then just pop one in the microwave at lunch. It’s like your own healthy, grown-up version of a hot pocket: Your inner 12-year-old thanks you.
No one said salads have to be lettuce based. If you have a morning workout planned and will be famished by lunch, or just need something heartier during the winter, try a grain-based salad instead.
Swap in a leaner cut of meat—like chicken—and use whole-wheat noodles (or zoodles!) if you’re watching your figure.
A healthy, homemade version of your favorite flavored yogurt (which has gotten the axe because it contains half a days worth of sugar). Top with sliced fruit and nuts for a breakfast-inspired lunch.
Does the guy at the falafel cart know you by name? He’s about to start missing you terribly, since you’re about to realize how easy (and how much healthier and cheaper) it is to bake your own at home.