HOW DO YOU MEAL PREP?

Please pardon the fact that I’m pairing outfit pictures with a completely unrelated discussion about meal prep, but it’s a quandary that happens to be on my mind lately and I consider myself insanely lucky to have a community of women whose brains I can pick about book recommendations, bucket list travel, goal setting, name changingwedding traditions, and so on.

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If you’ve read my blog for a while, you know that I have zero — and I mean zero — confidence in the kitchen. My diet consists of daily trips to Starbucks and Chopt followed by a nightly debate about what to pick up for dinner (“what are you feeling?” and “I don’t know, you choose” back and forth until we narrow it down through process of elimination — please tell me we’re not the only couple who does this literally.every.single.night).

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I tip my hat to girlfriends who whip up dinner for themselves and their husbands every night or who can pull together a dinner party for six friends at a moment’s notice. I’m truly in awe of them, but this is less about me wanting to become a domestic goddess and more about me craving a new routine that helps me make healthy choices, eat on a regular schedule (any other self-employed people guilty of forgetting to eat lunch until the hanger has set in?), and maybe even save a little money in the process. I’m sure this sounds ridiculous to those of you who cook all the time (especially if you’re also cooking for children or coping with dietary restrictions) and it’s definitely embarrassing to admit my total lack of experience (and honestly, longtime lack of interest) in this arena.

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I’m drawn to the idea of preparing a few foods a couple times a week and was super inspired by this guest post on my friend Grace’s blog about healthy homemade (and vegetarian!) lunches. In addition to being an inexperienced cook, I’m also a very picky eater, so the idea of cooking quinoa or rice and roasting a bunch of veggies at the beginning of the week seems like a reasonable starting point.

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I’d love to hear how meal prep works for you/your household. How many times a week do you grocery shop? Do any of you order groceries online? Do you cook every night or just a couple times a week? How often do you pick up prepared foods or order takeout? I can’t wait to learn from all of you!

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Banana Republic peplum utility jacket (wearing size XS)  //  Frame jeans

Céline sunglasses  //  Tory Burch satchel  //  Joie booties (similar here)

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51 thoughts on “HOW DO YOU MEAL PREP?

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  1. I like to cook, but I have so much trouble with meal planning – plus groceries for two is a challenge (I don’t want to buy a whole loaf of bread if I only need two slices), compounded by the fact that we live in an NYC apartment with a tiny fridge and freezer.

    A really good solution for us has been Plated – we do two meals a week from Plated, and then order-in and eat out the rest. Plated helps me avoid the dreaded meal planning, and I’ll pick up other grocery staples (yogurt, eggs, cheese, etc.) at Trader Joe’s on Fridays when I work from home. Sometimes we do get our groceries delivered from Fresh Direct, since we live on a 5th floor walk up, I always love when someone else has to carry it all up!

  2. Think of meal prepping as packing for a week long trip. Theme for the week is equivalent to destination planning; outfits are meals, etc. If you think of.it this way, you won’t feel so overwhelmed.

  3. This isn’t meal prep. But, I suggest you buy pre marinated and seasoned proteins from the butcher section of a grocery store and cook plain rice. It helps build confidence using Pots and pans.

  4. I was the worst at meal planning until I did The 30 Clean (the30clean.com) program. It taught me how to plan and prep so I always had protein and veggies cooked/prepped to make healthy choices. Now it has become second nature to shop and prep twice a week and I’ve learned so many easy meals. My whole family appreciates it too (3 teenage boys to feed!) Good luck!

  5. Use your freezer! I prioritize recipes where the leftovers freeze well. Soups, beans, and sauces are all winners (and good for a beginning cook). My husband pokes fun at our large collection of Mason jars, but they are perfect for individual servings of soup or a pasta sauce to toss in the freezer. I even bought a weird Mason jar funnel to make it easier to portion. It’s nice to be able to pull out a jar and have an easy, tasty meal ready to go. You know, after defrosting.

    Don’t feel like everything has to be homemade or super healthy, especially as your start out. It’s fine to make a vegetable side to go with a frozen veggie burger. Making your own pesto to serve with boxed pasta is great. Make a salad dressing and use pre-chopped veggies for the salad. It takes a while to find your cooking rhythm, build kitchen confidence, and figure out what works for your family.

    I meal plan rather than meal prep. I try to give myself some grace with this plan- using things that I’ve made and frozen for a couple meals, keeping meals pretty simple, taking leftovers to work for lunch, buying pre-made things to save time (we hit up the pre-assembled-but-fresh fish section of Whole Foods often). Sometimes it’s hard not to compare myself to people on social media who flaunt perfect, complicated, 100% homemade meals on a random Tuesday, or a week of perfectly organized lunches. But that’s just not what works for me and my family, and that’s fine.

    The cost savings of meal planning are AWESOME, which is my main motivator for doing it. I go to the grocery store once a week and spend $80 on average, which covers 80% of our meals for the week. It also helps keep our weight in check as I control ingredients, salt level, and portions.

  6. My boyfriend and I recently received a few months of blue apron as a gift and I feel like it could be what your looking for as well. I’m not a very good or enthusiastic cook so at first I was pretty dismissive (you pay this much and still have to cook your own meal??) but over the last month it has really grown on me. We do two meals per week and the best part is that we usually end up cooking them together and it’s a lot of fun. Cooking a wholesome meal together at 7:30 on a Wednesday is not something that we would ever have the energy for otherwise but since everything is already there ready to go it makes it pretty doable. We have decided to extend past the months that were gifted us and while Blue Apron is certainly much more than the it would be to just buy groceries and make a meal I think it’s actually saving us money because realistically the nights that we eat Blue Apron we wouldn’t be making our own dinner…. we would be getting a small fortunes worth of food on Uber eats if we weren’t making a Blue Apron meal. Plus, we need to go to the grocery store less often and not spending my sundays in an overcrowded supermarket is worth something to me as well. Sorry this was sooo long- just reading your post I felt like I had to share as I am in a similar position of not being a very strong cook and wanting to eat out less!

  7. HI Mackenzie! If you plan to meal prep (or make larger batches than you need) I would definitely invest in some quality storage containers. I have glass pyrex dishes in a variety of sizes with leakproof snap-on lids (they came in a set from Costco but are also sold separately in some supermarkets.) . I’ve found this helps both portion and store things. For example, I’ll make a large stuffed shells recipe and divide it up between a few glass trays. Some may have enough for a 1 person dinner while others could be for 2 or 4 people. Everything gets labeled with dry erase marker including the date, what it is, and cooking instructions. I might cook one tray that night and put the rest in the freezer. The best thing about the glass is they can go from fridge, to microwave, to freezer, to oven (and then in the dishwasher.) . On nights when I’m busy, it is really nice to take out one of my favorite pre-made meals follow the time and temp and have it ready to serve. This also works well for slow cooker recipes if you don’t want to be eating the same thing all week – freeze it and defrost/ reheat it another time.

  8. If you’re not comfortable making complicated meals (I am certainly not), the crock pot is your best friend. I make things on sundays, and we are usually able to eat whatever I make for the next 3 nights. By then you’ll probably get sick of it anyway. Chili, soup, shredded chicken for tacos or burrito bowls, etc. And it’s so easy!

  9. I love meal prep! I honestly hate cooking and was not experienced whatsoever but needed to stop eating out/relying on take out all the time. So I started to batch cook twice per week. On Sunday (occasionally Saturday) I grocery shop for veggies, fruit, and protein. Then I head home and create meals to last through Wednesday when I prep the remaining groceries for the rest of the week.

    I roast potatoes (white and sweet), brussels sprouts, carrots, mushrooms, and butternut squash, etc.., cook up some meat, and hard boil some eggs. Then I split up the veggies between breakfast and lunch and top with corresponding protein (egg, chicken, filet, fish) depending on the meal and top with a healthy fat (avocado, olives, nuts…). Then I just grab and go since I eat both breakfast and lunch while at work. However, I find that having food prepared leads to less temptation on days off or weekends and if I’m not motivated to cook, I have something ready to heat and eat.

    For dinners I like to use subscriptions like Plated (my fav!), Home Chef, and Blue Apron. This has helped me gain confidence in the kitchen and made cooking a little more fun! They are an easy way to add variety to the week and gives me something to look forward to especially since I eat mostly the same week to week for breakfast and lunch. I don’t get the boxes delivered every week because I do remake my favorites pretty easily by purchasing the ingredients and following the recipe again!

    Good luck with your start to meal prep! For me just jumping and perfecting as I went worked best and I don’t use anything fancy just a quick list on a scrap of paper before heading to the store.

  10. I meal prep for lunches by buying enough dinner-making materials to make an extra 2-4 portions for my fiancé and I. Beyond that we’re not a huge meal-prep house, but I’m a 100% needs breakfast kind of person, so our weekly shop is inclusive of the many-portions dinners and daily breakfast items!
    This year we’re trying to do Meatless Mondays and using lots of recipes from here: http://areweadultsyet.com/2018/01/01/resolve-make-meatless-meals/

    http://www.areweadultsyet.com

  11. I try to meal prep for the week and leave the weekends for eating out or eating what I planned during the week but didn’t get to! Sunday nights my husband is in charge of dinner wether he chooses to cook or go heft ya take out is up to him. That way on Sunday I pick out meals for the week and do online shopping. I usually do online shopping for food once then run by the store once during the week to pick up extra produce etc.

  12. I don’t meal prep but I cook every single day for myself (and for a living)! Like many of the other comments, I’d recommend making rice/quinoa/farro and roasted veggies on Sunday…but that will quickly get boring. Once a week, try making a big batch of soup (roasted tomato, butternut squash, french onion) and save it in mason jars- super easy to heat up for lunch! Also, making soup might sound intimidating but truly all you need is a big pot and an immersion blender! You could also try making different sauces for pasta (marinara, pesto, etc.) and if you roast veggies, shrimp, or chicken in advance, you could easily throw together an easy pasta dish that still feels elegant and special! Hope this helps! Happy cooking!

  13. My younger brother & the worlds most hopeless cook recently moved out from home & we set him up with a hello fresh subscription for a few months to get him going. He works super long hours so it’s convenient for everything to arrive pre-packed & ready to just put in the fridge. Moreover, the recipe cards talk you through each step & as they come with pictures, it’s pretty much fool proof – honestly if he can do it, a semi trained zoo animal probably could too!

    It is definitely a more expensive way of going about things, but the ease/quickness of delivery makes it worthwhile to him, though he said in a few months when he feels more confident about it all, he’ll stop the subscription but can definitely use the recipe cards again. Also the buzzfeed ‘tasty’ channel on youtube is great for easy to follow, well produced videos & also have some good ‘skill’ videos too, like knife skills, fish filleting etc. Some of the recipes are a little crazy, but theres good basic ones for stuff like pasta, stir-fry etc

  14. Hi! I do not meal prep as frequently, but when I was in grad school and interning, I meal prepped every week. I would buy groceries and cook the same day. I’d do the prep while I did other things, like laundry. I would usually roast or pan sauté a mix of veggies (sweet potato, broccoli, zucchini, summer squash, cauliflower, carrots, eggplant, tomatoes, onions, peppers etc.) I’d also cook up white beans or quinoa. Then during the week, I would add the vegges to whatever I felt like that would be really quick to whip up: brown rice pasta, scrambled eggs, a green salad, etc. Another favorite is soup. I really like making a chicken soup on a Sunday but I add tomato paste, green beans, and zucchini for some extra crunch and depth of flavor. It makes for a great meal during the week – you just need to warm up the soup 10-15 mins before you are ready to eat. Add a salad or some bread (I’m celiac so I have to go for salad) and it makes a great meal. You could also cook up some pasta to add to it too. Another favorite for the fall is pumpkin soup with white beans or butternut squash soup with brown rice pasta. Fish is also really easy and quick to cook. It takes like 25 mins for prep and cooking. I like to roast salmon in the oven with olive oil and lemon juice. Another great thing to do is roast a chicken (or buy one from the grocery store). You can shred it and add it to salads for dinner another night. I’m admittedly really bad about meal prepping for lunch, even in grad school it would just be almonds, a piece of fruit, and coffee most days. Now, I usually go for brown rice cakes and peanut butter, a salad, or a smoothie.

  15. My boyfriend and I do more meal planning than meal prepping, which really works well for us (I work from home and have flexibility and time to do prep during the week). We made our own spreadsheet that has the days of the week and the lunch and dinner plan for each day – this allows us to account for social plans, meetings, etc. We usually plan on leftovers for lunch the next day, which makes things SO EASY. The bottom half of the sheet has our grocery list- I take the whole sheet to the store so I can make adjustments if they’re out of stock/something else is on sale/etc

    Basically, my recommendation would be to start meal prepping OR meal planning until you get into the habit of things and you develop more confidence 🙂

    1. we also always leave a day open! Sometimes recipes make more than I realize or something comes up and we have extra food sitting around.

  16. I personally love to cook and due to some health issues I’m always trying to plan meals in advance and be sure I have enough snacks on hand (especially when I’m in need of calories, quickly) so my tips are more personally specific but a friend of mine has a great blog for meal prep ideas and places to start — tatichin.com — she’s a recipe blogger and always features meal prep with super easy instructions. Definitely check it out!

  17. My husband and I live in New York City. He cooks most nights for us and I am super inexperienced in the kitchen. I so appreciated the opportunity to read the helpful tips in this comments section. I’m hoping to improve my cooking skills so that I can contribute to meal prepping. Thanks for your openness and this post! <3

  18. I’m actually a pretty good cook, but I have energy issues that are helped by eating healthy, but often I’m just too tired. I did Whole30 recently and loved the one day meal prep aspect of it. Making a big batch of rice or quinoa, chopping vegetables (and always wash them as soon as you buy them), and even precooking meat all in one day we’re super helpful for me. I love grocery shopping daily at a small market (Fresh Market is my favorite but we don’t have one close to us anymore), a habit I picked up in France. You just have to try it all and see what fits your personality and lifestyle. I also love keeping a healthy frozen pizza on hand if things turn south, either I just get too tired or the meal wasn’t good.
    http://www.holycitylife.com

  19. You should try a meal subscription service like Blue Apron, Hello Fresh, Purple Carrot etc. There are tons of them now and you can customize your meals to make them vegetarian, low calorie etc. For someone who wants to cook but doesn’t feel extremely confident in the kitchen; these are perfect. The price is better then take out and not quite as inexpensive as grocery shopping and meal prepping; but it might be a good place to start for you. They also make for a fun “date night” to cook together and drink wine at home instead of going out or ordering in. My sister is not a big cook but she loves Blue Apron and she and her boyfriend have really enjoyed their nights in the kitchen together following a recipe.

  20. I do partial meal prep, enough so that I know I’ve got healthy options ready to go and can mix and match based on what I’m feeling. I also don’t really mind eating something similar a few times a week, knowing there will be a lunch pickup when I’m at the office or a happy hour that turns into dinner at least once. Generally at some point over the weekend I’ll take a look at my calendar for the coming week, note how many days I’m traveling for work and any social plans, and prep for about 80% of meals I don’t have a set plan for. That usually means carving out time on Sunday to shop and prep, although I’ll inevitably end up back at the store during the week if I need something specific for a recipe i want to try or to restock anything I’m low on. I keep a list of my go-tos on my phone so I know I wont miss any basics (modified from this article: http://theeverygirl.com/the-only-grocery-shopping-list-youll-ever-need/). I also love Thrive Market for ordering nonperishables online. On Sunday I’ll usually get a bunch of veggies to roast, make a batch of quinoa, maybe roast a chicken (way easier than you think for the non-vegetarians), chop a bunch of parsley or cilantro (somehow makes everything feel more exciting/fancy), and shake up some salad dressing (literally dump oil, vinegar, salt, pepper, garlic, maybe some mustard in a jar and shake). That usually covers lunches, and if anything I’m planning for dinner during the week is going to take a lot of time, like roasting whole squash, I’ll knock that out too. I prep dinners a few nights a week and eat the leftovers for the next day or two. Whatever prepped veggies are leftover at the end of the week usually turn into a frittata on Saturday morning. A friend sent me the Bon Appetit Feel Good Food Plan (https://www.bonappetit.com/collection/welcome-to-the-feel-good-food-plan) a few weeks ago, and I keep coming back to it. The lunch prep plan is pretty similar to my usual routine, but the dinner recipes I’ve tried have all been delicious and a bit more exciting than my usual go-tos while still being easy and quick.
    I know this is getting long but one more thing I’ll mention: for about 2 years some friends and I had a cooking club, where we’d meet once a month and try a new recipe. The idea was to get us all to change up our home cooking routine, teach some skills to those less comfortable in the kitchen, and catch up with girlfriends at the same time. It fell apart when half the group had babies but was fun while it lasted!

  21. Meal prepping has made my life SO much easier. My fiance and I are both lawyers and get home pretty late so having something easy to heat up or stick in the oven makes it a lot easier to be healthy – otherwise we’d just order out every night. We do all of our food shopping and prep on Sundays – usually in the afternoon after a workout and brunch (going food shopping hungry is the worst). I normally take twenty minutes or so to make a big list of everything we need and bring a pen to tick off all the items once we’re in the store.

    We commit to making four dinners and four lunches a week – this means we don’t feel tremendously guilty about wasting food when things inevitably come up or we just want to eat out. We make one big salad for lunch all week. I usually just try to replicate my favorite Sweetgreen or Chopt recipe – this is usually some combination of greens/whole grains/chicken and vegetables. I prefer warm salads in the winter and package my chicken and grain separately to be able to heat it before sticking in all of the veggies and dressing. These containers work very well for that and in general: OXO Good Grips Leakproof On-The-Go Lunch Container.

    For dinners, we usually make a big instant/crock pot meal for two weeknights and we try new recipes on Sundays when we have the time to mess up and experiment. We have Salmon and Asparagus as one of our meals every week – super random but very easy – you just stick it in the oven for 20 minutes when you get home. Even better if you remember to stick the fish in a marinade the night before (we like teriyaki sauce).

    My best advice would be to start small so you don’t get overwhelmed and give up. Also get your husband to help! Having two people chop and prep makes everything so much faster. Do whatever you need to make this fun – maybe listen to a podcast or even crack open some wine (bonus points if you cook with it, too!). Good luck!

  22. I follow workweeklunch.com. Talia makes amazing foods and focuses on simple, delicious meal prep recipes-not complicated gourmet meals that take forever to make! My favorite to make is the salmon, zucchini, and potatoes recipe, but she also has a lot of vegan and vegetarian recipes. It is so worth checking out!

  23. HI Mackenzie! This is a great post! I think the best advice I can give you before you even start meal prep stuff is to get a really solid pantry of staples. You want to have a wide range of spices, and core items, like stocks and canned goods on hand. That way, you always have those staples that can make something fast for dinner or lunch. I can’t tell you how much easier cooking is when we have most pantry items already in the house that we can pull out to make a quick meal when we’re running low on supplies but don’t have time for a grocery store run until the weekend. We’re vegetarian, and I think that gives us more of an edge in terms of meal planning…we literally skip an entire grocery store section and that’s HUGE, and also we don’t have to worry about meat going bad or eating it in a timely manner, since a lot of veggies have multiple uses across a few dishes and we use them more quickly. We will choose 4 dinner recipes to make, and shop for those recipes, and eat the leftovers for dinner the next night. We eat smaller lunches (PB&J, yogurt, quick salad, etc). This system works great for two people, since most recipes you’ll find online will feed 4-6 people anyway, so you’ll definitely have enough for 2 people for 2 nights worth of dinner. Since building up our pantry of staples, we only need to go to the grocery store every 10-14 days, and we rarely eat out. I know that sounds like a long time, but those trips are big hull type trips, and then we’re set for a while. It helps that we have a smaller grocery store in our neighborhood we can walk to if we need 1 or 2 ingredients to make a meal too. Not sure if this is helpful, but here are what I make sure to always have in the house…the things I buy every grocery store trip regardless of what we’re making: cans of chick peas, cannelloni beans, black beans, and kidney beans, vegetable stock, rice, quinoa, farro, couscous, tofu, big cans of diced tomatoes and the soup size can of diced tomatoes, big cans of whole peeled tomatoes and crushed tomatoes (perfect for soup!), onions, garlic, broccoli, carrots, celery, spinach or arugula, lemons, a few different kinds of pasta and a large range of spices (seriously raid the TJ spice aisle…they have pretty much everything you’d need). Your pantry of staples would really depend on what kind of food you make the most…I omitted a few ingredients on this list I always buy at the store because I do a lot of Asian cooking, so those specialty items are staples in my kitchen. Once you figure out what kind of food you want to make the most, that will really guide you to what your pantry staples are. This system has really worked well for the 2 of us…I hope this helps!!

  24. Love this topic & hope to learn from everyone commenting. I apologize in advance for the novel!

    My husband & I both work full-time out of the house, so meal prep or at least meal planning, is essential or we’d be ordering thai or pizza every night (which sometimes happens more than it should, especially on busy weeks where we don’t shop or have been out of town). Since its easy to get in a rut eating the same things over and over, we made a list of 10-15 of the meals that we both like that are easy/quick to make (chicken fajitas, lemon chicken with broccoli, salmon in a foil pouch with asparagus, things like that), and it hangs in our pantry. When we’re prepping our grocery list for the week, we usually pick one or two meals from our go-to list, and almost always one night a week is a salad with chicken (box of spring mix, add chopped veggies, cook marinated chicken, done!). Making this list has made grocery shopping so much easier – no more of the “what sounds good to you?” conversations that seem to go on for hours because neither of us can come up with anything! Our goal is to make something healthy that tastes good and doesn’t take forever, because no one has time for that after a long day. We probably cook on average 3 nights a week, if one of us has something after work, the other fends for themselves, which for me usually means cheese & crackers or cereal 🙂

    We grocery shop together on Sundays. I would love to have a flexible schedule and be able to go on a weekday, but only being able to go on a weekend forces us to get organized, and I’ve found we spend less and eat more of what we buy than when I used to go multiple times a week. Whoever gets home first starts cooking, and whoever doesn’t cook cleans up after. This has worked out super well for us as newlyweds, and though I’m sure it will change eventually, I’m glad we both take on some of the work in the cooking department.

    We have pantry/freezer staples like brown rice (in the packets that cook in 90 seconds), chicken meatballs, pasta sauce, etc., so that in a pinch we can throw something together. I also like to prep certain items for myself in bigger batches, like whole wheat banana muffins or quinoa egg cups that I freeze and pull out for breakfast and eat at my desk at work (real life!). Having less to think about in the morning is always a win for me, and helps me not buy breakfast on my way to the office. We also always buy clementines, string cheese, carrots, celery, etc. for snacks. I try to cut up the raw veggies on Sundays so they are easier to grab throughout the week. While it can be annoying, spending a little time planning and shopping makes a huge difference for us throughout the work week, then we get to enjoy eating out on the weekends. It’s all about finding what works for you!

  25. I’ve been meal prepping my lunches for about a year now and the biggest thing I would recommend is Trader Joe’s precut veggies and pre-cooked quinoa/rice. It sounds stupid but the not having to cut up a million vegatables is how I have the time to squeeze it in every week. You can find a great selection of veggies like pre-riced califlower, diced onions, shreeded carrots and pre-cut sweet potatoes (100% natural, nothing added). So all I have to do is take them out, put them on the pan with my chicken, season, slide into the oven and 25 minutes later everything is pratically done (I do cut up peppers as well)! TJs also has quinoa and brown rice that you just pop into the microwave for 3 minutes — couldn’t be easier to add in as well. TJs has been a life saver!

  26. My boyfriend and I are HUGE meal prep advocates! Both of us work in architecture and between the long hours and lengthy periods of time sitting at a desk staring at the computer it really is the only way we find we can eat healthy and live a balanced lifestyle. For us breakfast and lunch are usually planned out on Sunday nights and prepped for the week. Breakfast is either oatmeal with cinnamon and berries, yogurt with honey and fruit, or egg muffins with mixed veggies and cheese. All quick to grab and eat while checking the first round of morning emails. For lunch I am a big fan of bowl food (re: burrito bowl, salad bowl, Buddha bowl, quinoa bowl, the list goes on forever). They are super easy to assemble en mass and are super filling, plus you can make any combination of things. Also great for picky eaters/kids who can easily assemble their own with the goodies they like, or hide something new in there to try. My current favorite: farro bowl with roasted Brussels sprouts, sweet potato, beets, and asparagus with Italian herb chicken and rosemary lemon vinaigrette. sounds complicated, but you literally throw it all in the oven on two baking sheets, boil the farro and voila! I have always been a big snacker, so I tend to also keep a tupperware filled will sliced veggies and hummus in the fridge at work, plus you can always find a bag of nuts (almonds or cashews are my fave!) and some dark chocolate hiding in my desk! Dinner is always more complicated because we often don’t know who is going to be home when/first/last/never (seriously we work too much). To combat excess food buying/making we have a chart where we write meals for the week, and if there are any events where we know we won’t be home for dinner. At the end of the day we have a quick chat to see who is getting home first and can pick up food/start cooking. So far its worked pretty good, and our grocery bill/excess food has really cut down now that we have a game plan! The only other thing we do is every month make a bunch of bulk meals for the freezer. Since its winter we currently have Italian wedding soup, chili, beef stew, and bolognese sauce, all set in individual portions. If one of us is out, or we don’t feel like cooking there is always something to eat! Can’t wait to hear more about your meal planning- good luck!

  27. Hi Mackenzie! One suggestion – if you are honestly not cooking at all, it might be a big jump to try to move immediately to planning or prepping 4-5 meals per week. You could start with an intermediate step like cooking a meal on Sundays to have on Sunday and Monday nights. That way at least you start the week off on the right foot. Also, I don’t know if you have a slow cooker, but as a novice cook I find it to be a very helpful tool since precision is unnecessary. You could easily make a slow cooker vegetarian chili that would be hard to mess up and still delicious to have for a few nights! For easy, healthy recipes, I love the blog Skinnytaste.

    1. I was going to say basically the same thing! When my husband and I first moved in together I wanted to be better at this so I started small, and that made a huge difference.

      I set the goal to cook one new meal a week- and it didn’t have to be complicated either. I found recipes on Pinterest and added them to my calendar for the week. It also became sort of a mid-week date night. We turned off phones and TV and the plan for the evening were to just hang out and cook.

      Some of them were delicious and became staples, and some we made once, but it was great to be able to make cooking fun and try new stuff. We cook a lot now- him more then me- but it made the whole thing more approachable

      1. To build on this – you could try to recreate one of your restaurants favorites. Between Pinterest and the rest of the internet, you could find a similiar recipe to use as a guide (if you dont want to wing it.)

  28. First, I meal plan, so is rote down what’s for dinner every night, even if it’s “getting take out” we decide which nights we are going to do that and which we are going to cook. And when we cook we always make enough for leftovers to eat for lunch or dinner the next day. Making a lot of everything will cut down on the meals you have to cook.

  29. Hi Mackenzie! What a great post topic! So, I don’t meal plan super strictly, since I work a 9-5 and rarely have to stay late it’s totally feasible to make dinner the night of. What I tend to do is over the weekend go to the supermarket and buy a variety of veggies, fish, and meat (you could just omit the meat). That may look like brussels sprouts, butternut squash, parsnips, kale, salmon, and chicken. I’ll also keep mixed greens, rice, quinoa, and pasta around. Then each night I can mix and match one protein, one veg, and one side (side salad, quinoa, etc). I typically never order takeout for dinner on weeknights, but my husband will if he’s staying late at work (so I will just cook for myself on those nights). Then I’ll usually package up half my dinner for lunch for the next day! I definitely buy lunch out at least once a week if I had social plans the night before and didn’t make dinner or something like that, but I’ve found that this grocery solution keeps me from having to worry about dinner during the week. On the weekends we’ll usually order takeout or go out to dinner and then it will start all over again! Good luck!! I’m going back to school in the fall and will likely be swamped, so I imagine this system will drastically change then 🙂

  30. Oh please share all of the info! I too am challenged in this area – and I’m feeding my husband and four kids! I have zero interest in cooking. More grilled cheese, kids?

  31. DEFINITELY not just you. I forget where I saw this joke so I can’t attribute correctly but I read once that “marriage is just saying ‘what do you want to do for dinner?’ over and over until one of you is dead,” ha! I ought to be a lot better about grocery shopping and planning. I probably make dinner four nights a week–sometimes more or less, obviously, depending on the week. One thing my husband and I have done that helps is keep a shared Google doc list of some of our favorite meals we can make so when we have those nights where it feels like you can’t even possibly think of a dinner option, we can usually be reminded of something we’re not thinking of.

  32. Great question! I grocery shop once a week, usually on Sundays (in person – I find the higher prices from online services not worth the convenience, since I know my grocery store well and and can find what I need pretty quickly). How often I cook depends on my schedule, so I start by looking at my calendar, figuring out how many lunches and dinners I’ll need, and seeing what I already have in the fridge/pantry. I try to cook no more than two times a week, so I make a big batch of soup, pasta, or stir fry, and prep ingredients for salads/grain bowls. Easy to customize to what you like! I also keep a bookmarks folder of recipes, which I often simplify or use for inspiration rather than do something complicated. Might be easiest to start with lunches – try replicating your favorite Chop’t salad at home!

  33. My fiance and I cook every night- it helps that neither of us are super picky/have dietary restrictions, and we generally agree on a wide range of dinners. My biggest piece of advice is to not feel guilty about taking shortcuts! Stores like Whole Foods and Trader Joes have a ton of ways to save time and effort on weeknight meals, like pre-chopped veggies, frozen brown rice (just 3 min in the microwave, and one of our weeknight saviors!), and even bottled dressings and sauces that are clean in the ingredient department. My other tip would be to plan what you are having for each night at the beginning of the week. I am not big into prepping big batches of stuff on Sundays (it sounds so efficient, I just generally don’t make time for it), but I always know what we are having each night so when I get home from work, I pull the ingredients out and get started. This also cuts down on waste- pretty much everything I buy gets eaten by Friday.

  34. Hi from Portugal! I cook every night monday to friday and go out or order take out on weekends. I plan meals for one week based on a list of favourite, easy and quick recipes and shop online accordingly. I usually double the portions so I can have leftovers for next day’s lunch. And often I still have leftovers on wednesday night so it’s one less meal to cook. I realized that cooking a lot of food in advance wasn’t for me because I would spend to much time doing it and not enjoy my weekends. But of you find it convenient for you, I would advise to freeze some of it because food is at its best within 3-4 days after being cooked. It will be easier once you have that favourite recipe list! Good luck! Love your blog 🙂

  35. I don’t do meal prepping but I do meal planning! I’m weird and don’t love eating food I cooked days ago/eating the same thing every day. I started meal planning week by week and now I do a whole month at a time because it is honestly easier to just sit down one time a month than to figure it out then each week (it was like pulling teeth with my husband to get him to figure out meals each week). I usually plan meals Sunday – Thursday and leave Friday and Saturday open for leftovers/take out/going out/etc. I think I get by doing planning vs. prepping in the way I structure my meals. I save one night a week for a vegetarian meal and at least one night for a crockpot/instapot meal that usually requires less work than normal cooking. Every Sunday morning I make a quick list of what I need to pick up for the week and then head out to Trader Joes and our local grocery store to pick up whatever I couldn’t get at TJ’s. I think the biggest key to this is finding out what works for you and your schedule!

  36. it’s just me and my fiancé (also named Will!), and we usually grocery shop once a week. Every few weeks we do bigger grocery trips and then we just stock up on the things we run out of/fresh produce in between. We definitely order groceries online (usually Instacart, but I am open to trying other services) and get things delivered – it’s my saving grace in a NYC walkup! I try my best to cook enough leftovers so I am not cooking every night (it’s too much work for 2 people to be honest), but I am still trying to find that balance since he and I both frequently eat leftovers for lunch as well. Weirdly, we don’t really do takeout. If we are going to eat out, we like to eat out and leave the apartment. 🙂 On average we probably eat out twice a week – usually something casual once and then something nicer.

    I work from home too, and I find that for lunch it usually works best for me to keep easy to grab things around – lots of fruit, baby carrots, hummus, soup, etc or to throw together really simple salads (my current fav is baby spinach, sharp cheddar, apple, and walnuts).

  37. Hi Mackenzie! I meal prep most weekends. I have a pretty tight budget so I bring lunch and dinner to work every day Monday-Thursday (my schedule usually has me at work 9-8 so I need 2 meals.) Anyway, I only cook for myself so on Sundays, if possible, I cook 2 big meals and divide them each into 4 servings and take one of each meal each day. Of course, this means I eat the same things for a week at a time and I’ll be the first to admit that sometimes I get tired of it but it is extremely easy and saves me a lot of money. I also had to learn what kinds of meals reheat well. Like you said, quinoa or rice with veggies would reheat well. I like to use the blogs Pinch of Yum, Cooking Classy, and Gimme Some Oven for recipes and also ask my mom and friends for recipes they love. Oh, and Buzzfeed Tasty has good ideas too.

    As for getting groceries, I alternate between picking them up myself and using instacart! Since I only eat out a couple of times a week I never feel too bad about getting grocery delivery on sundays. On Friday and Saturday I’ll usually order out or go out for a couple of meals! I also get groceries for breakfast and snacks with my grocery order.

    Good luck with your cooking/meal prepping!

  38. Hi Maceknzie! Long time reader but don’t usually comment! I’ve always hated cooking, but in the past year when I was training for a 10k I stumbled upon the Run Fast, Eat Slow cookbook and it’s become my bible! I’ve made almost every recipe in it and they’re simple and easy to follow but also really healthy. I usually take about 30 min every weekend and make a plan for what we’re going to eat for lunch and dinner every day of the week, choose recipes from that book, write down the ingredients I need, and go online to order. Then, I put the meal list on the fridge. That way, I know exactly what I’m cooking every night (usually takes me 20-30 min) and I use the leftovers for lunch. It has been so helpful!! I also love that I use exactly all the food in the fridge and I never have food go bad. Good luck!

    1. (Just realized how long this post was–sorry! Hope it’s helpful :))
      I do this too! I find “meal planning” to be more helpful for my husband and I, since prepping lunches sometimes go unused, due to random work lunches that pop up, or just a general lack of time…plus my husband likes to eat lunch out to get away from his desk for 20-30 minutes.
      By meal planning, I can shop for what I need on Saturday/Sunday, pick up a few other staples that apply for a lot of the things I like to cook (a big tub of greek yogurt, my favorite salsa, cheese, spinach for throwing in salads, or pasta dishes). We also have a set rule of “Taco Monday” because tacos are SUPER easy (pinch of yum has a great veg option) and customizable (salad, rice bowl, actual taco), we always have everything we need on hand, and they can come together in 20 minutes. This way, we start the week off successfully.
      I usually plan 2-3 other meals that we can use for lunch leftovers, and try to have all those ingredients purchased during my Sunday trip, so that I know what the plan is when I get home. We try to save eating out for the weekends, since we’ve decided rather than pay for takeout and eating on our couch, we’d rather go to a restaurant and have the experience of having someone serve us, etc. 🙂
      Also, I second what someone said above, I feel like Blue Apron is a good stepping stone! They teach you technique as well, as I find the hardest part about cooking new things is when I don’t know how to do something/what to do with a specific ingredient. Once you have some basics under your belt, cooking more frequently becomes less daunting. Highly recommend a Taylor Swift playlist and wine to make it more fun!

  39. Hi! Love your blog so much! I’m a law student and thus have a very, very tight budget when it comes to food, so I’ve been meal prepping as a means of saving money ever since I graduated college. I usually pick a night on the weekend to go grocery shopping and cook everything. I use pinterest to pick out a fun lunch to make and a fun dinner to make, then write up my list, shop, and cook. That way all week I can just pop food in the microwave when I get home from school/the gym/my part-time job at Starbucks. I’m definitely not a chef, at all, but I can manage to make some soup or chili, roasted veggies, and chicken every week. I also keep frozen veggies and turkey burgers in the fridge if I ever run out of my prepped food and need to keep myself from ordering pad thai! This works well and I am able keep myself to just one lunch out a week and an occasional dinner of take out or at a restaurant with friends. Budget friendly and so much healthier than eating out!!