Meal Prepping: Conquering 4 meals at once for an easier week

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It’s usually about Wednesday when I start to give in. I’ll stop and grab a burrito on my way home or a bag of chips out of a vending machine during the last couple hours at the office. It’s easy to justify it: Usually I have been working all day, and I am feeling way too tired to get the motivation up to make a healthy meal at home, or even to wait long enough to cook one.

Balance has become such a trending phrase when it comes to everyday time management. The idea is noble: Make time for your job, your health, your loved ones, your sanity. It sounds great. But is it doable? Ehh, for me, not always. Sometimes the best I can do is survive. But I have found that if I can do some minor prep on the front end, my life flows much more easily. And I can devote time to resting instead of rushing to cram in all those components of being balanced.

So I decided to take on meal prepping. The idea is you pump out a handful of meals in a couple hours and then sit back and enjoy the fruits of your labors for the rest of the week. Sounds appealing, right? I chose hearty, healthy meals that aren’t too complicated to put together and that keep well in the refrigerator for a few days: hummus, chili, lasagna and date balls that taste like Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups. My versions are all vegan, but you can easily add a cheese or a butter here and there if you’d rather include some animal products.

While I did make sure to make a trip to the store beforehand for supplies, I did not obsess over perfection for these meals. The key is use what you have to make yummy dishes in advance. You really don’t have to impress anyone but yourself here, so don’t put too much pressure on yourself when it comes to presentability. Remember, the goal is to make surviving the week easier not harder.

 

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First up, a simple version of my delicious chili. I worked on this dish first so that it could simmer on a back burner and get more flavorful throughout the meal prep. The great thing about chili is that the flavor comes from all the ingredients melding together, so it’s really not very technical to prepare. I ended up eating this for dinner the same night.

Simple & Delicious Vegetarian Chili

  • 4 cans beans (pinto and black are my favs, but you can use any kind really)
  • 1 can crushed tomatoes
  • onion, minced
  • green bell pepper, minced
  • jalapeno, minced
  • corn kernels
  • chili powder
  • balsamic vinegar
  • molasses
  • salt and pepper
  • olive oil
  1. Turn a large pot on med-high heat and add olive oil.
  2. Add onion, bell pepper and jalapeno. Cook for about 5 min., or until onion is translucent.
  3. Add beans, tomatoes, corn, vinegar, molasses and spices. Stir together.
  4. Simmer on medium heat for an hour.
  5. Wallah! Chili is ready. I recommend adding a dollop of sour cream and a handful of Fritos on top. Enjoy 🙂

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Next, a tangy and satisfying hummus. I cut up a few carrots and stalks of celery as well so that I had a healthy vessel with which to eat this spread, but you could eat it on pita chips or crackers as well. You will need a food processor for this, but if you don’t have one already, you should get one–seriously, it’s my favorite kitchen tool.

Jalapeno-Olive Hummus

  • 3 cans of chickpeas, drained
  • 4 cloves garlic
  • 1 lemon
  • 1/4 cup olives
  • 1/4 cup tahini
  • 1 jalapeno
  • 1/2 to 1 cup olive oil
  • salt and pepper
  1. Cut up jalapeno (DON’T TOUCH YOUR EYES AFTER) and garlic and place in food processor.
  2. Add chickpeas, olives, tahini, olive oil, salt and pepper.
  3. Churn, churn, churn, until smooth. Add more olive oil if mixture is too dry.
  4. Add lemon and churn a bit more.
  5. Enjoy on sliced veggies, pita chips and more!

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This is the most complicated of the recipes in the set, but it’s great because it invites variation. You can use the vegetables you have in your fridge or whatever tastes are your favorite. I used mashed potatoes instead of ricotta (a trick I learned from my wise friend Laurel), which gives the dish a bit of a shepard’s pie flavor. I also added a layer of homemade pesto to make the flavor more rich. The convenient thing about this meal prep is that I had extra mashed potatoes and pesto after assembling the lasagna, so that was two more dishes to help sustain me throughout the week.

Veggie Lover’s Lasagna

  • 1/2 box Lasagna noodles
  • 1 jar Tomato sauce
  • 1 cup Arugula pesto
  • 2 cup eggplant
  • 1 cup sliced mushrooms
  • 1 onion minced
  • 1 red bell pepper minced
  • 4 cloves garlic minced
  • 2.5 cups mashed potatoes (see recipe below)
  • olive oil
  • salt
  • pepper
  1. Bring water to boil in a large pot. Throw in cubed potatoes (I used sweet and Yukon gold) and let boil for about 10 minutes or until soft. Drain water, add milk (I used soy milk), butter and salt and pepper. Mash until creamy!
  2. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Bring out any large casserole dish. Add a layer of tomato sauce first, then noodles (I used the kind you don’t have to boil in advance, but either work), then mashed potatoes. Make sure to spread mashed potatoes across the noodles. Sprinkle cut up veggies on top of potatoes and then add more sauce, covering the dish.
  3. Add a second layer of noodles. Spread mashed potatoes and then add a layer of pesto. Really glob it on, this stuff is good. Sprinkle veggies on top, the tomato sauce.
  4. Cover with more layer of noodles and then tomato sauce. Pour a couple tbsps of olive oil on top. Salt and pepper to taste.
  5. Cook for about an hour, or until veggies are soft and throughly cooked.
  6. Enjoy!! 

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These little guys are so good. They taste just like Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups, but are infinitely healthier. They also provide some needed energy when you are feeling a little tired, and they are certainly a satisfying dessert. Store in the fridge and bust em out to reward yourself at the end of the day.

5 Ingredient Peanut Butter Cup Energy Bites

  • This dish is from the amazing Minimalist Baker. Check out the recipe here.
  • This was the first time I made this recipe, and I was very pleased! It was very easy and there are a million delicious variations that these yummy little balls, which taste like Reese’s Peanut Butter cups, inspire.
  • Enjoy!

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All in all, this dishes took me about 2 hours to create and about a week to eat, with the help of my boyfriend and some friends. It was definitely a doable experience, and while the cooking was an endeavor, having a stock of healthy meals in the fridge was most definitely a help. I hope these recipes work for you and that your meal prep is a success!  Feel free to share your experiences with us.