These meal prepping tips are perfect for those weeks when you don't have time to meal prep. 7 quick meal prep wins for busy weeks!
In an ideal world, I love setting aside an hour or two on the weekend to get my weekly meal prep done. This is definitely the most efficient way to go about it – washing and chopping everything at once, making sauces and marinades while select items bake in the oven. There's also something about the feeling of accomplishment of prepping the whole week's healthy meals.
Still, we all know this isn't always possible. There are stages of life or even just particularly hectic weeks when the idea of even 1-2 hours of meal prep is majorly stress-inducing. Those are the weeks I want to address today.
Like so many good habits in life, meal prep doesn't have to be all or nothing. Don't give up just because your meal prep doesn't look perfect that week. There are little things you can do in small pockets of time what really will make the whole week's meals easier.
I've gained so many meal prepping tips from YOU over the years! I'd love to hear your best tips for crazy weeks. What are the little tasks you manage to fit in when regular meal prep just isn't in the cards. Share with me in the comments, on Facebook or on Instagram @prepdish.
7 Quick Wins – Meal Prepping Tips for Crazy Weeks
1. Wash Your Produce
If you do just one thing, wash your produce when you get home from the grocery store, before putting it away. (Here's my favorite method!) It's amazing how much more likely you are to choose fruits and veggies throughout the week if they're already washed.
One exception – you may want to wait to wash fragile items like berries, which tend to go bad more quickly once washed. I recommend washing these right before using whenever possible for maximum shelf life.
2. Chop Ahead
Similarly, chopping your veggies ahead of time is one of the best meal prepping tips out there. If you think about it, much of the time required to cook healthy dinners is spent chopping veggies. It's way more efficient to chop all at once. That way you're not constantly getting out your knife and cutting board and having to wash them every single day.
Some weeks though, you may not have time to chop all of your produce at once and that's okay. Try this hack – set a timer for just 15 minutes when you get home from the grocery store. Chop as much of the week's produce as you can in that time. Then save the rest for little pockets of time. One note – no speed chopping! Safety first 🙂 Just chop at your normal speed and see what you can get done.
You may also want to choose pre-chopped veggies if you know you're going to have a crazy week. Yes, they're a bit pricier, but some weeks it may be worth it to you! You can also opt for produce items that don't require chopping like cherry tomatoes, baby carrots, sugar snap peas, clementines and baby spinach. Reducing the week's chopping is a major step toward quick meal prep!
3. Make a Salad Dressing / Marinade
Once your produce is washed and chopped, prioritize making a salad dressing. Bonus meal prepping tip – choose a salad dressing that can double as a marinade!
A simple balsamic dressing or my lemon herb vinaigrette are delicious on salads but work equally well as a simple marinade for chicken. Maximize your time by making a double batch, which takes virtually no extra time, and letting it do double duty for your meal prep this week.
You can find ten of my favorite 3-ingredient marinades here, many of which can double as salad dressings!
4. Use Batch Cooking
This is one of my very favorite fast meal prep hacks, especially on extra busy weeks.
Batch cooking is just what it sounds like – you'll make a big batch of something and use it throughout the week. This does NOT have to mean you're eating leftovers all week though! You can batch cook an item and use it in totally different ways throughout the week so your meals are still fun and interesting.
For example, you may make a big batch of quinoa or roasted sweet potatoes and serve them as side dishes for different proteins on different nights.
Or, you might make a big batch of homemade pesto and use it to marinade chicken one night, then on pasta or zoodles another night.
Alternatively, make a big batch of protein, like chicken or a large roast, to serve different ways. I like to do this in the slow cooker. You can serve it in tacos one night, on salads the next and in wraps a third night. Three different meals, but so easy!
If you're intrigued, you can read more of my tips on batching here!
5. Keep a Meal Prep Checklist
If you don't have time to do your weekly meal prep all in one go, keep a checklist of the remaining meal prep tasks you hope to accomplish.
This is helpful for two reasons. First, it makes it easy to hand off a few meal prep tasks to a family member or willing babysitter. You won't have to waste too much time explaining what need to be done!
Second, whenever you find yourself with a few extra minutes, it will be easy to glance at your list and see which quick meal prep tasks you can check off the list. You'd be surprised how much you can get done while you wait for tonight's dinner to finish baking in the oven!
If you're a Prep Dish subscriber, we take care of this for you! On busy weeks I use the “Prep Day” page like a checklist, checking off the various tasks throughout the week.
This one may seem obvious but it's easy to keep on doing what we always do – making that homemade marinara, preparing from-scratch hummus, etc. – even on weeks when there's really not time for these tasks. This can leave us feeling frazzled and stressed.
Instead, take a few minutes to think about how you can simplify the week's meals. Can you buy pre-chopped broccoli florets instead of chopping them yourself? can you buy a fruit like apples or clementines that requires very little prep? Can you skip that fancy new recipe and make some simple Salt & Pepper Drumsticks instead?
Recognizing when it's time to simplify and cut back is key to avoiding burnout and keeping your meal prep habit going for the long term!
7. Prep Breakfast During Dinner Cleanup
This is something I love to do. It's much easier to spend a few minutes chopping veggies for a breakfast hash, throwing together a family-sized batch of overnight oats, or assembling a quick smoothie bag when you're already in the kitchen cleaning up dinner.
Bonus – Use Your Freezer!
Okay, this one won't help you when you're in the midst of a super crazy week. BUT, it's an absolute game changer once the chaos subsides and you want to prep ahead for the next busy season.
There is no better feeling than pulling out a homemade lasagna or big batch of chili from the freezer on a week when you have no time to cook.
Want a quick win? Make a couple of freezer marinade bags! All you have to do is combine a protein with a marinade in a freezer container or freezer bag and store in the freezer. Then it's ready for the crock pot or Instant Pot when you need a meal FAST!
I also like to keep a few frozen veggies on hand for when I have no time to chop. This Herbed Corn and Frozen Kale recipe is a great one to keep the ingredients for.
More Resources for Fast Meal Prep
Want more meal prepping tips for FAST meal prep? Check out a few of my favorite resources:
- Quick Meal Prep – Prep 5 Healthy Dinners in 1 Hour
- 5 Ingredient Dinner Recipes
- How to Create Easy Sheet Pan Meals (9 Recipes)
OR, take all of the guess work out of it and let Prep Dish take care of it for you! We've perfected the art of super efficient, quick meal prep and love nothing more than passing on these time saving hacks to our subscribers. Just click below and try our 1-Hour Super Fast meal plans for free!