These Thrive Market products and grocery tips can help you achieve the quick meal prep you need for a week's worth of healthy meals.
I've been helping families establish a meal prep habit for years now. One thing I've seen time and time again is the desire, and real need, for quick meal prep.
The ongoing challenge of meal prep is that the people who need it most are the ones who have the hardest time fitting it in. If you're busy to the point where takeout seems like the only viable option, it's hard to imagine carving out a few hours every week to cook.
Meal prep really does save time in the long run (SO much more efficient!) but knowing that doesn't magically give you extra time in your day.
The challenge gets even harder when you talk about healthy meal prep. This means no more processed junk and convenience foods, right?
Well, yes and no. Healthy meal prep definitely means limiting processed food, but there are certain healthy “convenience foods” that can really help you out, without sacrificing anything nutritionally.
Even as a chef and RD, there are certain products I find to be completely nutritious and tasty shortcuts to a healthy homemade meal. Below, you'll find my favorite grocery tips for fast meal prep. I included a roundup of my favorite Thrive Market products at the end because that's where I get all of my pantry staples!
Quick Meal Prep Tip #1: Fruits and Veggies
Eating more healthily pretty much always means more produce. But washing and chopping all of those beautiful fruits and veggies can be super time consuming! I have three ways of cutting that time, without sacrificing either nutrition or flavor.
1. Buy pre-chopped
If it's in your budget, there is nothing wrong with buying pre-chopped fruits and veggies. Chopping is often the most time consuming part of meal prep, especially if you're new to the kitchen! So if you know you won't have time to chop that pineapple or make your own zoodles, by all means, buy pre-chopped!
I particularly love buying pre-shredded cabbage bags (sometimes labeled “coleslaw”), cauliflower rice and stir fry veggie mixes (no sauce, just veggies!)
2. Buy “no-chop“
A similar strategy I use is choosing “no-chop” fruits and vegetables. These are things like clementines, apples, pears, bananas, berries, baby carrots, cherry tomatoes, sugar snap peas and baby spinach that simply don't require any chopping to begin with. If you know you have a super busy week ahead, strategically select your produce to minimize prep time.
3. Buy frozen
Frozen fruits and veggies can get a bad rap but they're actually often even more nutrient dense than their fresh counterparts and they are so incredibly convenient! Like many of you, I experimented a lot with frozen produce in 2020 and I really think this is the key: try different frozen veggies and see what your family likes. Try roasting them or adding them to soups to avoid the mush factor.
And when it comes to frozen fruit, don't feel limited to smoothies! Frozen mango and frozen raspberries are delicious straight out of the freezer. Such a healthy frozen treat!
The other bonus to frozen produce is of course that it doesn't go bad. If you want to eat a lot of veggies but find yourself throwing them away week after week because you never had time to prep them, definitely give frozen a try.
Quick Meal Prep Tip #2: Healthy Snacks
Brainstorm a few no-prep snack options that you and your family enjoy. Fruit with nut butter, nuts and dried fruit and veggies with hummus are all quick options you can have on-hand.
You can find a list of my favorite easy gluten free snacks here!
Quick Meal Prep Tip #3: Cuts of Meat
Strategically choosing cuts of meat that require minimal prep can significantly decrease meal prep time.
From peeled, deveined shrimp to pre-portioned salmon filets, think about proteins that require very little prep. One of my favorite options for this is my Salt and Pepper Drumsticks. You literally just season drumsticks with salt and pepper and roast at 425 F for 35-40 minutes (until internal temp reaches 165 F). The prep time is incredibly short and they're delicious.
Quick Meal Prep Tip #4: Sauces
A sauce definitely elevates a meal to the next level. Sauces can be time consuming to prepare though and they're understandably one of the first things to be cut from the meal plan on a busy week.
I have two strategies I use for sauces.
The first is to freeze extra! I love freezing things like pesto, romesco or chimichurri whenever I make them homemade. I am always so happy to pull one of these out of the freezer when I'm strapped for time.
The second strategy is of course to buy pre-made. The key here is to take some time up-front to find a few sauces where you're okay with the ingredients, and of course the taste!
For me, I don't buy bottled salad dressing, but I do buy jars of salsa, marinara and curry sauce. This is simply because there are options for these that I find both healthy and tasty. That will of course vary for each family. Be careful of things like sodium content, added sugar, preservatives, gluten and ingredients you're not familiar with. Once you find a few items you feel good about, stock up and you'll always have a quick dinner option on-hand.
My Favorite Thrive Market Products
As mentioned above, I've found a few pre-made options that I feel good about serving my family. For me, these are pretty much all Thrive Market products. I love the convenience of having the items delivered to my door. Deciphering the ingredients lists is also so much easier on the computer than standing in the grocery store.
I also find that using Thrive Market products for all of my pantry staples saves me a ton of time when making my weekly grocery list and shopping. I use a pantry inventory system and place an order every 6-8 weeks. That way I don't have to worry about including things like almond butter or diced tomatoes on my weekly grocery list. This is one of my best time saving grocery tips!
Here are a few of my personal favorite Thrive Market products:
Having easy, healthy snacks on-hand when life gets busy is crucial for maintaining healthy eating. For many of us, taking more than a few minutes to get a snack together when hunger strikes is just not feasible. Here some super simple Thrive Market products I like to keep on hand for snacks.
While I mostly rely on fresh or frozen proteins, I love canned seafood for quick lunches. If you don't have time to meal prep your lunches, stock up on some high quality canned seafood! It's the easiest way to make sure you have some high protein lunch options on-hand, even on the busiest of days.
For more tips, check out my podcast episode on how to use canned seafood here!
Sauces & Condiments
I love homemade sauces, and even condiments, but for certain items it's not always worth the time. These are a few that I like to buy pre-made.
Grains & Pasta
If you (or your kids!) eat grains, stock up on them all at once so you don't have to worry about adding them to your grocery list. I also love how Thrive Market makes it so easy to see what's Gluten Free.
Oil & Vinegar
These are essential for cooking and for throwing together simple homemade salad dressings!
I love adding nut butter (or sunbutter for those with nut allergies!) to energy bites but I've definitely relied on a simple spoonful of almond butter for a quick snack as well. Nut butter is also of course great on apple or pear slices, carrot sticks or celery. I like to keep a variety on-hand.
General Pantry & Extras
Keeping a few pantry extras like coconut milk and pine nuts on hand ensures that I always have something to make for dinner, even if my meal prep fell through. And of course, don't forget the healthy treats!
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