Meal prep is meant to be a simplifying strategy, designed to make healthy eating quick and effortless throughout the week. But when you’re spending your one free weekend afternoon stuck in the kitchen, slicing veggies, boiling rice, and roasting chicken for upwards of three hours, the whole meal-prep thing can start to feel more like it’s adding to your stress instead of alleviating it.
Time to bring meal-prepping back to what it’s really all about: ease; efficiency; and tasty, nutritious eats. These 23 easy meal-prep recipes equip you with wholesome meals to enjoy throughout the week, but take 30 minutes or less to put together in one go.
Your grab-and-go meals are as attractive as they are tasty with these mason jar noodles (you could also just put them in regular containers, but this way is more fun). With spicy chicken on the bottom, cooling vermicelli on top, and fresh veggies sandwiched in-between, they’re a healthier and more refreshing alternative to fried spring rolls.
With turkey as their base and a lightly sweet and spicy glaze, these meatballs can be a tasty protein component of your make-ahead meal. Repurpose them as you need through the week—they work great as a topping for salads, rice (cauliflower or regular), or tucked into a sandwich.
Pasta salads are a no-brainer for meal prep—not only do they last for a few days, but the flavors get even better as the different ingredients have time to hang out together. You’ll love the sweet and tangy sesame dressing of this dish even more on the fourth day than you did on the first.
Use a no-sugar-added orange juice and just three tablespoons of honey, and your sweet and sour chicken will have zero refined sugar. This big batch makes enough for six servings, is Tupperware-friendly, and super delicious reheated throughout the week.
Short on groceries and on time? Turn to this five-ingredient skillet meal to save the day(s) ahead. Salsa adds plenty of flavor so you don’t need to use individual spices, while plenty of veggies and turkey keep the dish lower in carbs but still satisfying.
Even counting the time to cook the chicken, this recipe comes together in 20 minutes flat. Tuck the shredded meat into tortillas along with broccoli slaw and a Sriracha-spiced peanut sauce, and cross off four lunches from your to-do list this week.
Beef and Pork
No need to wait for rice to cook with this meal when you’ve got frozen riced veggies to keep the prep time short (and the carb count light). Top the colorful bed of faux grains with tender chunks of beef, and store the peanutty hoisin sauce separately to drizzle over everything right when you’re ready to dig in.
This recipe calls for pork sausage, but you can just as easily use the chicken or turkey variety to keep things lighter. Grilled squash on the side is a warm alternative to salad, and with everything tossed in a light lemony dressing, the marinated dish only gets tastier with each passing day.
Unless you already have cooked rice on hand (or are using the boil-in-a-bag kind), cooking the grain will add some time to this 15-minute meal, but trust us, it’s worth it. There’s no guac or cheese, so you don’t have to worry about weird browning or funky smells, and you won’t even miss them—the salsa verde, plus spices such as cumin and oregano, give the ground beef and veggies plenty of flavor.
Meal prep goes gourmet—sorta—with this simple but refined steak salad. As long as you keep the dressing, veggies, and meat separated until it’s time to eat, you can enjoy a bistro-style lunch or dinner several times a week.
Lettuce wraps like these are perfectly designed for meal prep, given that the leaves and the filling are supposed to be kept separate until chow time, so there’s no chance of sogginess. With the spicy beef paired with the cool and crisp green lettuce (or cabbage), the meal is filling but light and a perfect balance of protein, fiber, and healthy fats.
Cod may not seem so meal-prep friendly, but once cooked, it stays good for about four days. This sheet-pan recipe thoughtfully makes four servings, so despite its ingredients, there’ll be nothing fishy about your meal by day four.
Check out our previous note on brown rice and apply it here too—having it already cooked is key to making this a complete meal within 30 minutes, but if you simply don’t have it on hand, the fish and veggies go equally well with faster cooking grains such as quinoa, orzo, or couscous.
This bright and fresh noodle bowl is basically an unraveled summer roll, except without the constraints of the wrapper. You can really go nuts with the veggies, shrimp, cilantro, and thin rice noodles. The peanut sauce, usually used for dipping, works here as a dressing instead; keep it in separate containers until you’re ready to eat.
As everyone else orders greasy takeout, do an evil laugh as you dig into your cleaner version of teriyaki noodles. With spiralized zucchini, it’s practically a salad in noodle form. A homemade sauce with just two tablespoons of honey makes sure that your diligently prepped meal isn’t an accidental sugar bomb.
Quinoa cooks up in less than half the time rice does, so it’s a great meal-prep candidate. Here, the fluffy, protein-rich “grain” is topped with more nutritional powerhouses such as salmon, avocado, and pumpkin seeds, so you’re guaranteed to be properly fueled throughout your day.
Tuna salad is usually what people whip up when they haven't meal-prepped, but make it in advance, and life gets even easier. In this version, it gets tucked into containers along with tomatoes and hard-boiled eggs, so plain ol’ tuna salad becomes a bit more of a balanced meal.
Go back to basics with these simple, straightforward meal-prep bowls. Calling for neat and colorful rows of veggies, chickpeas, quinoa, and feta, the recipe makes it easy to eat your rainbow and your macros.
Cutting veggies is probably the least fun part of making a stir-fry—get it over with once and be set for the week. Plus, a stir-fry is only meant to take a few minutes to put together, so make this fast, nutritious meal and pack it away in advance, and you pretty much win at the whole healthy eating thing.
With vitamin-rich kale; crunchy cucumbers; savory olives; crumbly, protein-packed feta; creamy hummus; chickpeas; and fluffy quinoa for some satisfying fiber-filled carb action, all the main ingredients of this salad have important roles to play when it comes to both taste and nutrition. Plus, there’s so much to enjoy here, you definitely won’t get sick of eating the same thing for lunch every day.
Chipotle sofritas will have to step aside—the spiced tofu mixture in these burrito bowls is tastier, probably healthier, and takes just 15 minutes to make. Plus, with one batch yielding enough for five meals, the cost of making this meal is just a fraction of what you’ll pay if you eat the same thing outside.
Without cheese or meat in the recipe, these vegan fajitas get their protein by piling the veggies onto quinoa instead of inside tortillas. Fajita seasoning and jarred pepperoncinis are smart shortcuts that help this meal come together even more easily.
Meal-prep this one-pot meal in two ways: Combine all the sauce ingredients in advance so all you have to do is dump them in a pot with the pasta come dinnertime, or make the whole thing on Sunday night, portion the meal out into individual containers, and enjoy the fruits of your easy labor all week. Either way you choose, all you need is 20 minutes.