We’ve all been there: We skip off to the grocery store armed with 5-day menus and visions of becoming meal-prep pros. Then we discover midweek that most of the fresh food we’ve bought has turned wilted, moldy, and stinky.

Depending on how you go about it, meal planning can be the bane of your existence or your weekly lifesaver. No question, it does require a bit of thinking ahead.

We’re all about helping you with ideas to save both time and money. The first step is to choose foods that will keep for more than just a couple of days.

Get started with this handy guide of 19 foods, from pulses to produce to proteins, that will last at least 4 days once prepped. Plus, get tips to keep your food in the best possible condition throughout the week.

1. Eggs

Living up to their nickname, these incredible edibles can be prepped in several ways that last you through the week. Here are some meal prep methods:

  • Hard-boil. Refrain from peeling them until you need them so that they keep for the full week.
  • Bake. Turn a dozen of them into a giant frittata for an easy dinner option on busy nights. Or, make individual egg muffins to have as a portable breakfast throughout the workweek.
  • Devil. Amp up hard-boiled eggs by mashing the yolks with mayonnaise and spices like salt and pepper. Then add bacon or whatever topping you choose.

How to keep them fresh

However you prepare your eggs, protect them from absorbing smells and flavors from other foods in the fridge by keeping them in separate cartons or airtight containers.

You can store hard-boiled eggs, shells still on, in their original cartons to use in lunchtime salads or sandwiches.

How long they last

Hard-boiled eggs should last you about a week. Be sure to eat your baked eggs within 4 days or so. After that, the frittata just won’t taste as good.

Why eat them

Eggs have gotten a bad rap for their high cholesterol content. But they’re worth reconsidering for all the protein, healthy fats, and other nutrients packed under their shell.Miranda JM, et al. (2015). Egg and egg-derived foods: effects on human health and use as functional foods. DOI: 10.3390/nu7010706

2. Lentils and other pulses

No clue what we mean by pulses? We’re talking about the edible seeds in the legume family. So yes, lentils are a pulse, and so are chickpeas, dry peas, kidney beans, pinto beans, and more.

They’re perfect for meal prep methods like these:

  • Soak. Soaking dried pulses overnight will help them cook faster and give them a creamier texture. You don’t have to soak lentils and split peas. If you do, they might lose their shape.
  • Precook. Add 1 cup dried lentils to 1 1/2 cups water or broth and a pinch of salt (plus some herbs to add flavor) and bring to a boil. Simmer for 20 to 30 minutes and let stand before packing the lentils into sealed containers.
  • Chill. Toss those containers into the fridge or put them in the freezer to save for a future soup, salad, or stew topping.

How to keep them fresh

When storing pulses, fill the containers with the cooking water to keep them from drying out. Make sure they’re in an airtight container, away from light and heat.

How long they last

Pulses will stay fresh in the fridge for about 3 days. They’re good for up to a few months when frozen, but too long of a deep freeze could ruin their flavor.

Why eat them

Lentils are a potent source of healthy plant chemicals called polyphenols. Research shows they may protect against diseases like diabetes, cancer, and cardiovascular disease. All that for a lot less money than prescription meds.Ganesan K, et al. (2017). Polyphenol-rich lentils and their health promoting effects. DOI: 10.3390/ijms18112390

3. Ground meat

Ground beef is good for more than building the ultimate burger. You can use it in sauces, stews, and to make your mama’s famous meatloaf.

  • Precook. Warm a skillet, then add the meat, cooking it until it’s evenly browned. Once cooled, pack 3-ounce portions into several airtight containers.
  • Shape. Form the ground beef into patties (or meatballs, if you’re big on the sauce). Place them in a single layer in a freezer bag. Then refrigerate or freeze until you’re ready to get your burger on.

How to keep it fresh

Pack anything you won’t use within a few days into freezer bags. Squeeze out as much air as possible before sealing and freezing.

Make frozen ground meat last longer by thawing it in the fridge rather than the microwave.

How long it lasts

Like chicken, ground meat won’t last longer than 4 days in the fridge. Ground meat preserves better cooked than raw. Be sure to remove it from the store packaging and cook it as soon as possible once you’ve bought it.

Why eat it

You don’t want to make burgers a daily habit — they’re high in saturated fat, after all. But they do pack enough nutrition (B vitamins, iron, zinc, and selenium) to make them a worthy (if occasional) menu addition.

4. Chicken

This versatile protein source can give you a whole week’s worth of sandwiches, salads, pasta dishes, and grain bowls if you prep it right.

Chicken breasts may be the leanest, but for meal-prep purposes, thighs won’t get as dry in the fridge. Plus they’re cheaper!

Here are a few tips:

  • Bake. Coat it in 1 or 2 tablespoons of oil, season it, and bake in a 360-degree oven for about 30 minutes. Once baked, let it cool slightly, then divide 3-ounce cuts into multiple airtight containers.
  • Slow cook. Soak it in some chicken stock or water and let it sit in the slow cooker. After a few hours, shred it. You’ll have a mound of meat ready for whatever chicken-based recipe you have in mind.
  • Poach. This is one of the simplest ways to get juicy, flavorful chicken. Heat a few boneless, skinless chicken breasts in water on the stovetop. Throw a few seasonings like garlic or ginger into the pot for added flavor.

How to keep it fresh

Since cooked chicken can’t quite last the full week in the fridge, cut up anything you plan to use after day 4 and place it in individual freezer bags. Then freeze until it’s time to eat.

To reheat, spread the pieces on a cookie sheet, cover with aluminum foil, and place in a 450-degree oven for about 10 minutes. Warm only the amount you plan to eat.

How long it lasts

Keep precooked chicken in the fridge for only 3 or 4 days. Don’t leave it out on the counter for more than a couple of hours after you cook it. Any longer and your chicken could turn into a bacteria incubator.

Why eat it

Protein, unsaturated fat, B vitamins, and minerals like iron and zinc make chicken a winner winner for dinner. To lighten up your meals, trim off the skin. You’ll cut 25 to 30 percent from your calorie count.Marangoni F, et al. (2015). Role of poultry meat in a balanced diet aimed at maintaining health and wellbeing: an Italian consensus document. DOI: 10.3402/fnr.v59.27606

5. Brown rice

Brown rice is a more nutritious counterpart to the white, processed variety. It makes the perfect foundation for fried rice, veggie burgers, or jambalaya.

How to prep it:

  • Boil. Rinse 1 cup of short-grain brown rice in cold water. Add 1 1/2 cups boiling water and cook for about 30 minutes covered. Let it sit for another 10 minutes, then fluff with a fork. Cool and store in shallow, airtight containers.
  • Use a rice cooker. If you’re willing to invest a few dollars, this is the easiest and most foolproof way to cook rice. Measure out 1 cup of water per cup of rice. Close the lid and let it cook away.

How to keep it fresh

Cool the rice by spreading it out on a baking sheet. Then, put it into an airtight container or resealable plastic bag (let out the air first), and pop it into the fridge.

Use a microwave-safe dish for speedy reheating. Sprinkle a few drops of water over the top and cover the dish with a wet paper towel. Nuke on high heat until the rice is back to its steamy, springy old self.

How long it lasts

Cooked brown rice will keep for 4 to 6 days in the fridge. To make it taste fresher, reheat only the portion you need for a given meal during the week.

Why eat it

Rice is a food staple for half the world’s population,Mahender A, et al. (2016). Rice grain nutritional traits and their enhancement using relevant genes and QTLs through advanced approaches. DOI: 10.1186/s40064-016-3744-6 but most Americans stick with the white variety.

Brown rice is by far the more nutritious option. That’s because it’s a whole grain, which means it hasn’t had its nutrient-rich layers stripped away like white rice.

Those layers are an abundant source of phytochemicals. That’s good for anyone trying to prevent heart disease and diabetes (like, who isn’t?).Ravichanthiran K, et al. (2018). Phytochemical profile of brown rice and its nutrigenomic implications. DOI: 10.3390/antiox7060071

6. Quinoa

Your mouth might trip over the word (it’s pronounced “keen-waa”) but this whole grain with the funny name is a powerhouse of flavor and nutrition. Here’s how to prep quinoa:

  • Rinse and soak. Rinse 1 cup of quinoa. Then put it in a pot with 2 cups water. Soak for at least 2 hours, or overnight.
  • Boil. Place the quinoa in a pot with 2 cups of water and a pinch of salt. Boil, then cover and reduce the heat, simmering for about 15 minutes until all the water is absorbed. Let it sit for 5 minutes before fluffing with a fork. Cool, then store in airtight containers.
  • Use a rice cooker. Short on time? Let a rice cooker do the work for you.

How to keep it fresh

Store cooked quinoa in an airtight container in the fridge or freezer. Make it last longer and taste even better by reheating it on the stovetop.

Add about 2 tablespoons of water for every 1 cup of quinoa, plus a teaspoon of olive oil, and heat for 10 minutes.

How long it lasts

Quinoa stays fresh in the fridge for about 5 to 7 days. You can keep it in the freezer for 1 month or more.

Why eat it

Whole grains are good for your health and quinoa is no exception. One cup contains 8 grams of protein and 5 grams of fiber.U.S. Department of Agriculture. (2019). Quinoa, cooked. https://fdc.nal.usda.gov/fdc-app.html#/food-details/168917/nutrients It’s also naturally gluten-free for anyone who’s sensitive to this plant protein.

7. Oatmeal

This isn’t grandma’s breakfast. Oatmeal has gotten a modern makeover with all the latest accessories: berries, chia seeds, and almond milk. But making it from scratch can be time-consuming. Here are some short cuts:

  • Precook. Simmer 1 1/2 cups of steel-cut oats in 4 cups of water and a pinch of salt for 3 minutes, then turn off the heat. Once the mixture comes to room temperature, place the oatmeal into an airtight container.
  • Soak. Soak rolled oats in regular milk, soy milk, or yogurt while you sleep. You’ll wake up to a cool, smoothie-like concoction.
  • Slow cook. Pour your oats, the right amount of water or milk, plus toppings like dried fruit into the slow cooker. In the morning, breakfast will be served with zero effort on your part!

How to keep it fresh

Once the oatmeal is cooked, pack it into individual containers. Store them in the fridge or freezer, and reheat when ready in the microwave.

How long it lasts

Cooked oatmeal stays fresh in the fridge for 4 to 6 days. Whip up a batch on Monday, and it will take you through an entire workweek of breakfasts.

Why eat it

Oatmeal is rich in both soluble and insoluble fiber. It not only fuels you up for the busy day ahead, but it helps to lower your cholesterol.Whitehead A, et al. (2014). Cholesterol-lowering effects of oat β-glucan: a meta-analysis of randomized controlled trials. DOI: 10.3945/ajcn.114.086108 And that’s good news for your heart.

8. Pasta

Whether you like it al dente or mushy, pasta is simple to prepare. If you want to cut down on the cooking time even more, try these make-ahead tips:

  • Leave it undercooked. Cook pasta according to the package directions, but leave it al dente so it’s not mushy when you reheat it. Drain and rinse with cold water to stop the cooking process.
  • Add olive oil. Toss the pasta with a splash of olive oil to keep it from sticking together. Place it into a sealed zip-top bag in the fridge.

How to keep it fresh

Store pasta separately from sauces and toppings to make it last longer. To reheat quickly, put your pasta in a metal strainer and dip it into a pot of boiling water for about 30 seconds, or until warm (but not soggy).

How long it lasts

Cooked pasta stays fresh for up to 5 days in the fridge. Pop it into the freezer and you can make spaghetti and meatballs with it 2 or 3 months from now.

Why eat it

Pasta can be a nutritional friend or foe, depending on which type you choose and how you cook it. Whole-grain varieties are better than white pasta for boosting your daily fiber intake.

When you cook pasta, go al dente. Your body will digest it slower, keeping you full for longer. Top it with tomato sauce (a good source of lycopene) rather than high-fat cream sauces.Fulgoni III VL, et al. (2017). Association of pasta consumption with diet quality and nutrients of public health concern in adults: National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey 2009–2012. DOI: 10.3945/cdn.117.001271

9. Bulgur

Bulgur may not be a staple of every American pantry, but it’s essential in Middle Eastern cooking. Here’s a little secret: If you’ve ever eaten tabbouleh or kibbeh, you’ve tasted bulgur.

To cook it in advance:

  • Boil ahead. Add 2 cups of bulgur to 4 cups of cold water or broth. Bring the mixture to a boil, then simmer for 15 minutes. Let it stand, covered, for at least 5 minutes, and drain any remaining water before fluffing.
  • Stuff and save. Stuff eggplant or peppers with a mixture of cooked bulgur, chopped tomatoes, and spices. Cover and store in the fridge.

How to keep it fresh

Refrigerate bulgur within 2 hours of cooking. Keep it in an airtight container so it doesn’t get soggy.

How long it lasts

Properly stored bulgur will last for 3 to 5 days. Use it for warm meals at the beginning of the week. Then, toss it into colder dishes once it’s a bit drier during the latter half of the week.

Why eat it

Unlike some grains that come in highly processed varieties, bulgur is 100 percent whole grain. That means it’s naturally high in fiber and nutrients.

10. Apples

Why stick to the old “apple-a-day” adage? Have a few of them! Apples are one of the healthiest and lowest maintenance fruits out there.

To prep them ahead of time:

  • Leave them whole. Don’t do a thing to them. Just refrigerate them in the crisper drawer to keep them fresh for up to 4 weeks.
  • Slice or chop them. Put the pieces in a glass container filled with cold water, honey, or pineapple juice to prevent browning.
  • Sauce them. Mash up the apples with water, sugar, and cinnamon and cook into applesauce. Use it to top ice cream or potato pancakes, or add it to oatmeal or brownie batter.

How to keep them fresh

Place a damp paper towel over whole apples in the fridge. The moisture helps them stay fresh longer.

You can also put them in sealed plastic bags and separate them from other produce. That will prevent ethylene gas from releasing and causing spoilage.

How long they last

Whole apples stay fresh in the fridge for 4 to 6 weeks. Once you cut them, you’ll only get 3 to 5 days out of them. Increase their longevity to 8 months by sticking the slices in the freezer.

Why eat them

One of these a day might not keep the doctor away, but apples do make for a healthy snack option. Here’s a tip: Keep the skin on. That’s where most of the fiber and nutrients are housed.

11. Grapes

If you mainly consume grapes through glasses of vino, give these purple, red, and green globes another chance. They’re great for snacking on their own or for making into jams and jellies.

To prep your grapes for later:

  • Add paper. Line an open container with a paper towel and place the grapes on top. The towel will help draw out any extra moisture from the fruit and keep out bacteria or mold growth.
  • Chill. Keep the grapes in the back of your fridge where it’s coldest or stick them in the crisper drawer.

How to keep them fresh

Don’t rinse your grapes or remove the stems until you’re ready to eat them. Both will rev up the ripening process.

How long they last

If you store grapes properly in the fridge, they’ll stay fresh for a week or longer. You can keep them for nearly a year if you use the freezer instead.

Why eat them

Anyone who’s into wine is probably familiar with resveratrol. This antioxidant in red wine may help reduce LDL cholesterol (aka the “bad” kind) and prevent blood vessel damage.

You don’t have to get a buzz to benefit from resveratrol. It comes from the skin of grapes, so munching a bunch could have the same heart-healthy effects as drinking a glass of wine.

12. Bananas

Whether sliced on your cereal, baked into bread, or eaten whole, bananas are a worthy addition to any diet. Left on the counter, they can ripen fast enough to erase your window of eating opportunity.

Here are some tricks for prepping your bananas so they last all week:

  • Separate. Divide each banana from the bunch. Wrap each stem in plastic wrap and place it in the fridge. Wrapping prevents the ripening and browning agents from spreading to the rest of the banana too quickly.
  • Add citrus. Cut the bananas into chunks. Put them in a bowl with a squeeze of lemon, pineapple, or orange juice. The acid in the juice will keep them from browning.
  • Chop and freeze. Make bananas last even longer by peeling and cutting them into 1-inch chunks. Then place them on parchment paper and freeze.

How to keep them fresh

Buy your bananas a little green. You’ll get a few extra days to come up with some recipes before they ripen.

Take them out of the plastic bag you bought them in. They’ll ripen more slowly that way. Or, buy a banana hanger (no, it’s not what you’re thinking!). Hanging your bananas helps them ripen more evenly.

How long they last

You’ll get 5 to 7 days out of whole bananas in the fridge. Cut ones only last a couple of days. Once frozen, they’ll keep for up to 3 months. Throw frozen bananas into smoothies, baked goods, or one-ingredient “ice cream.”

Why eat them

Bananas are no slouches when it comes to having healthful nutrients. In addition to vitamin C, vitamin B-6, and fiber, they’re a good source of potassium, which your heart needs to keep beating in rhythm.Gijsbers L, et al. (2016). Potassium supplementation and heart rate: A meta-analysis of randomized controlled trials. DOI: 10.1016/j.numecd.2016.05.003

13. Berries

Strawberries, blueberries, raspberries, and blackberries are a healthy topper to any bowl of cereal or frozen yogurt. While these jewel-colored fruits are notorious for spoiling easily, there are easy ways to keep them fresh all week:

  • Soak. Add 1 cup of vinegar to 3 cups of water in a large bowl and soak for 5 minutes. Drain, pat dry, and place them in an airtight container.
  • Make jam. Cook berries with sugar over low heat. Cool and store in jars. Then, spread it on your toast all week.
  • Cube. Place berries in ice trays and fill them with water. Freeze overnight, and the next day you’ll have colorful and delicious cubes to cool your cocktail or lemonade.

How to keep them fresh

Place berries in a container lined with paper towels. To prevent bruising, keep them in a single layer rather than piling them on top of each other. Crack open the lid to let moisture escape.

How long they last

Fresh berries should last in the fridge for 5 to 7 days and in the freezer for several months. Keep in mind that certain berries (strawberries, blueberries) hold up better than others (blackberries or raspberries).

Why eat them

Those brilliant red, purple, and blue hues aren’t by accident. The colors come from phytochemicals, which make berries not only lovely to look at, but also good for you.

Studies show that eating berries on a regular basis might protect against cardiovascular disease, diabetes, and dementia. Eating a bowl of berries could also be helpful for weight loss.Kalt W, et al. (2019). Recent research on the health benefits of blueberries and their anthocyanins. DOI: 10.1093/advances/nmz065

14. Carrots

Bugs Bunny was definitely onto something. Carrots are delicious and nutritious, whether you roast them, mash them, or eat them raw. To properly prep them:

  • Wash and chop. Remove the green tops from your carrots, wash and peel them, and chop them any way you’d like. Chopping will help them freeze more evenly if you go the freezer route.
  • Submerse. Put peeled and cut carrots in a container of cold water and refrigerate them until you need them. Swap out the water whenever it starts looking murky.
  • Blanch. Throw the carrots into boiling water for 2 minutes, then place them in ice water so they don’t overcook. They’ll retain their crunch and color, but they’ll last for much longer.

How to keep them fresh

Wrap the carrots in a damp paper towel and place them into an airtight container. Re-dampen the towel each day you don’t use them, so the veggies don’t dry up.

How long they last

Putting carrots in the fridge will extend their longevity to 3 or 4 weeks. You can keep them for several months in the freezer.

Why eat them

Carrots are high in beta carotene, an antioxidant that will keep you bright-eyed (if not necessarily bushy-tailed). They’re helpful not only for preserving your vision but also for maintaining a healthy immune system.

15. Sweet potatoes

This versatile vegetable can do so much more than just get baked. It also slices and dices into fries and hashes.

Here are some tips for prepping ahead:

  • Bake. Scrub five or six sweet potatoes and bake them whole, wrapped in foil, with their peels on. Once baked and cooled, put them in a plastic bag or a glass container and place in the fridge. You now have one ready to go for every day of the week.
  • Mash. Once baked, mash by hand or in a food processor with cinnamon and other spices. Refrigerate and use as a side dish or a bed for pork or chicken.
  • Cube. Peel sweet potatoes and then cut them into cubes. Place the pieces into a bowl of cold water and store in the fridge. Dry before using them in recipes.

How to keep them fresh

Wrap baked sweet potatoes in plastic. Put cubes into plastic bags or a sealed storage container. Then, refrigerate or freeze.

Next time you need your sweet potato fix, pop the chilled spud into the microwave. Heat for 2 to 4 minutes until it’s good and warm.

How long they last

Baked sweet potatoes will last up to 10 days in the fridge. If you can’t use them all up within the week, you can freeze them for 4 to 6 months without sacrificing taste.

Why eat them

The bright orange color of sweet potatoes comes from carotenoids and other healthful chemicals. Research shows that these versatile vegetables have anti-inflammatory, antioxidant, and anticancer effects.Wang S, et al. (2016). Chemical constituents and health effects of sweet potato. DOI: 10.1016/j.foodres.2016.08.032 That’s a lot of pros!

16. Cauliflower

This cruciferous vegetable may pale in comparison to its cousin broccoli, but appearances aren’t everything. Cauliflower is also no slouch when it comes to nutrition.

Get ahead of the week by prepping your cauliflower like this:

  • Cut. Remove the outer leaves on a large head of cauliflower and cut it into florets. Put the florets into a loosely sealed plastic bag for easy access during the week when you want to roast or stir-fry them.
  • Blanch. Dip the florets into boiling water for 30 seconds. Drain, then cool off in ice water to stop the cooking process. Once dry, they’ll be ready to toss into a salad or serve with dip.
  • Rice. Pulverize the head of cauliflower with a food processor. Store the “rice” in individual, sealed baggies to get the exact amount you need for each meal.

How to keep it fresh

Cauliflower loses its freshness when exposed to moisture. Seal it up in an airtight container before storing it. Leaving the florets uncooked and as dry as possible will stretch their shelf life. Rinse just before use.

If you’re opting for cauliflower rice, the uncooked version lasts longer. Just pat the granules dry and refrigerate them in individually portioned, sealable plastic bags until you’re ready to sauté (or not — cauli-rice can be eaten raw, too).

How long it lasts

Once cut, cauliflower will last for about 1 week in the refrigerator if you keep it sealed up. Frozen, it will stay good for up to 1 year.

Why eat it

Cauliflower has many of the same assets as relatives like kale and brussels sprouts. It’s rich in vitamin C and folate, and low in fat.

For all friends sticking to plant-based foods out there, good news. When grilled, it can make an impressive substitute for steak, but with an even more impressive nutritional profile.

17. Beets

Beets might not come to mind for everyday meals, but they’re surprisingly adaptable. Their rich texture and hint of sweetness make them a worthy addition to recipes from veggie burgers to brownies.

To prep your beats:

  • Remove and peel. Start by removing the beet greens (which taste great sautéed). They tend to dry out the beets prematurely. Peel the skin, or just scrub the outside thoroughly.
  • Boil. Drop them in water and boil them whole for an hour. When cooled, the skins should rub off easily.
  • Roast. Pack them tightly inside foil and roast in a 400-degree oven for an hour.
  • Pickle. Boil them for 15 minutes and then peel. Cook up a mixture of sugar, beet water, vinegar, and pickling salt. Pour it over the beets in glass jars, and then seal up for longer storage.

How to keep them fresh

Wrap the beets tightly in foil or place them in shallow airtight containers. Keep raw beets in the crisper drawer of your fridge.

How long they last

Cooked beets last for 5 to 7 days in the fridge. Pickled beets will still be good in a couple of months.

Why eat them

No matter how you cook them, beets are good for your heart. They’re high in nitrates, which helps bring down high blood pressure.Bonilla Ocampo DA, et al. (2018). Dietary nitrate from beetroot juice for hypertension: A systematic review. DOI: 10.3390/biom8040134 Plus, they’re super low in calories.

18. Kale

Kale has become the “it” vegetable, starring in every salad role that romaine or iceberg once filled. Fads usually fade, but kale’s healthy status has kept it in vogue. To get it ready ahead of time:

  • Wash. Remove the leaves from the thick stems. Wash them and let them air-dry (or if you’re fancy, use a salad spinner to get the water out).
  • Blanch. Add kale to boiling water and cook for 3 minutes. Transfer to a bowl of ice water to stop the cooking process, then drain.
  • Seal. Place it in a plastic bag or container. Add a paper towel to continue to soak up any moisture.

How to keep it fresh

Cook the greens just when you’re ready to eat, so they still taste fresh. Kale takes mere minutes to cook up in a pan, so you won’t tack on too much extra prep time.

For raw salads, make sure you’re dressing the kale just before you eat. That will prevent the leaves from wilting while sitting in the fridge.

How long it lasts

If you store kale right, you can use it to make salads and soups all the way from Saturday to Friday. It should stay fresh for up to 7 days in the fridge.

Why eat it

Kale, like other cruciferous vegetables (broccoli, brussels sprouts), is armed with plant chemicals called glucosinolates. These compounds protect the plants from dangers in their environment.

Humans don’t normally have to fend off insects and droughts. But the glucosinolates in kale might protect us from diseases like cancer.Fuentes F, et al. (2015). Dietary glucosinolates sulforaphane, phenethyl isothiocyanate, indole-3-carbinol/3,3′-diindolylmethane: Anti-oxidative stress/inflammation, Nrf2, epigenetics/epigenomics and in vivo cancer chemopreventive efficacy. DOI: 10.1007/s40495-015-0017-y

19. Butternut squash

There’s something inherently comforting about biting into this rich, nutty-flavored vegetable. Easing your cooking effort can also be comforting.

If you prep it right, you should be able to get several dishes out of one large squash. Here’s how to prep it:

  • Nuke it. To make cutting into this veggie’s thick rind easier, pierce the squash with a fork. Nuke it for 2 minutes in the microwave. Peel the skin with a knife, split the squash in half, and cube it.
  • Save the seeds. Scoop out the seeds. Save ’em to roast later for a delicious snack.
  • Toss it. Toss your chopped squash with 1 tablespoon of olive oil. Roast on a baking sheet at 400 degrees for about 30 minutes. Put the cubes into an airtight container so you can toss them into salads or grain bowls or purée them into soup during the week.

How to keep it fresh

If you’re keeping it whole, put it into a plastic back and store in your refrigerator’s crisper. Once you’ve chopped it, place the pieces in airtight containers for use throughout the week.

How long it lasts

Chopped and cooked butternut squash both last about 4 to 5 days when stored properly.

Why eat it

Just 1 cup of cooked butternut squash contains half of your recommended intake of vitamin C and 400 percent of your daily recommended intake for vitamin A.

What does the lesser-known vitamin A do? More like, what doesn’t it do? Vitamin A is involved in many functions, from taking care of your skin to supporting new cell growth to keeping your immune system in great shape.Gilbert C. (2013). What is vitamin A and why do we need it? https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/24782580

Even if you’re no Bobby Flay or Rachael Ray, you can cook a week’s worth of pretty respectable meals. Just plan out your meals a little more thoughtfully, and do a little prep work to save yourself time later.

If you have one ingredient prepped from each category — proteins, grains, fruits, and veggies — it’s easy to throw together a simple, balanced meal in no time at all.

To take your adulting skills to the next level, prep some healthy desserts. If you want even more recipes and tips, check out our super-simple meal-prep guide.