Starting the meal-prep process can be daunting. Add to that 90-degree weather, humidity only a swamp creature should have to endure, and the fact that you'd much rather be by the beach than by the oven... and let's face it, there's no way you're stepping into the kitchen—with the exception of sticking your face in the freezer to cool off.
But before you crank the AC and retreat to your happy place (a.k.a. takeout), know that you can still meal-prep without firing up the stove. We've gathered the best foods for a no-cook guide to meal-prep that won't make you break a sweat—no matter the heat (or the nerves).
Not only do these perfectly seasoned birds make meal prep easy, but a single roast stores enough white and dark meat to get you through the week.
Our method: Buy a precooked chicken; rid the carcass of its protein; chop the meat into chunks; add to mason jar salads, toss with Greek yogurt and herbs for a quick chicken salad (minus the mayo), and drop over crushed plantains and shredded lettuce with mashed avocado for the easiest taco salad that you don't have to stand in line for. Store any leftover goodness in the fridge for end-of-the-week pita stuffing.
Overnight oats are all the rage, and it’s easy to see why. Just soak oats in yogurt and/or nut milk, dress them up however you'd like, then wake up to a sweet (drizzled with light maple syrup) or savory (topped with nuts and turmeric) breakfast. Make a variety of recipes in one go; they’ll keep in the fridge for up to five days.
The versatility of oats extends to snack time too: Bite-size energy truffles store well and are good company for your afternoon coffee runs. A dumbed-down recipe: Toss a handful of oats with a nut butter, some fruit, seeds of your choice—chocolate chips if you’re feeding a craving. Roll into balls, and after a brief sleepover in the fridge, they’re ready to go.
If it’s in a can, you can turn it into a meal. Transform a can of chickpeas into a dreamy hummus spread: Give the peas, olive oil, and seasonings of your choosing a whirl in a food processor or blender, then spread onto sandwiches, pack into wraps, or dip anything from your crisper (we see you, orange bell peppers) into it.
Canned beans and lentils add bulk to salads and Buddha bowls. Canned tuna in water mixed with sliced almonds and a little Dijon mustard is a satisfying filler for Bibb lettuce wraps. Canned olives are nature’s salt. Canned tomatoes can become feisty gazpachos. Canned beer pairs well with all.
You love smoothies, but by the time you get to day four, the berries and bananas you bought are a nice shade of rancid. Here’s where frozen fruit is a smoothie-saver. Not only is the abundance of fruit available in the frozen section of the grocery store more bountiful than some farmer's markets, but buying frozen allows you to finally sample all of those perplexing mystery fruits you don’t know whether to peel, bite, slice, or slay (it must be called dragon fruit for a reason, right?).
Just drop your favorite frozen berries, mango, pineapple, or whatever you have on hand into a mason jar with fresh spinach leaves and a healthy glug of coconut water, store in the fridge, and repeat. With minimal effort, you have a week’s worth of breakfast or liquid lunch prepped and ready to blend. Pro tip: As the days go by, the fruit will thaw, so just add a few ice cubes into the blender for a better texture.
Sometimes you feel like a nut butter because they make everything better. They've got that creamy factor that crushes the strongest hunger pangs just by dipping your spoon into the open jar. So go for almond, cashew, macadamia, or all of the above, and add them to everything, from your overnight oats to those frozen fruit smoothies. Store a few tablespoons in sauce containers and keep those for apple slices, bread, and even those shunned baby carrots in the back of the fridge.
These green goddesses turn every.single.daily.meal. into bon appétit fare. Of course, you’ll want to prep them in a way that keeps the 'cado from turning to brown mush.
Here’s what you do: Slice an avocado in half, keep the pit intact, close it back up, then put the entire thing in a plastic baggie with a halved lime. Then, with every meal that calls for it (so, every meal), just scoop a little flesh out as needed: Top off savory overnight oats or smash some up for dipping pita. Another use: Green goddess dressing. Pulverize half with buttermilk and spices to kick up a boring salad.
For dinner, stuff a pre-sliced avocado with rotisserie chicken salad, douse with lime juice, then store in a sealable container in the fridge until ready to eat.
We won't beat around the (kale) bush. You want veggies that hold up well over time: Diced cucumbers and seeded tomatoes are perfect for throwing into Israeli salads; julienned carrots and zoodled zucchinis easily add bulk to wraps; shredded cabbage and romaine bathed in oil and vinegar add zing to every dish, like salads, wraps, or salad wraps; spring for collard greens or Bibb lettuce for an alternative to flimsy tortillas that can get soggy once slathered in sauce and tossed in the fridge; and tri-colored peppers make for handy hummus dipper snacks or vehicles for avocado dressing when that 4 p.m. hangry hits.
You can find banana’s starchier cousin already roasted with sea salt and ready to go in the chip aisle or the specialty foods area in your local grocery store. Hunt them down, because they’re a healthier option than fried tortilla chips and better crunchy complements to salads than bready croutons that’ll be mush by the time you get ready to dive into that Panzanella.
But the function of the humble plantain goes beyond a snack and salad topper: Crush them up with black beans, cheddar cheese, rotisserie chicken, and romaine for the easiest taco salad night ever.
Salsas and Sauces
Getting sauced is a meal-prep must, as just a dollop of the good stuff can turn even the blandest veg wrap into a flavor bomb. You can either pre-pack single servings into small jars or just add directly on top of your dish and store.
More power to you if whirling the blades of your food processor into oblivion for DIY condiments is your thing. But the grocery aisle’s bottled-condiment oasis is good enough for us. Stock up on ready-made salsas and sauces that will turn chicken-and-veg combos into completely different cuisines. Monday, whip up some peanut sauce for your favorite stir-fry. Tuesday, try Southern with a fiery Nashville hot sauce. Love ranch? There’s a Paleo version made with avocado oil that’s better than the real thing.
Fluffier than a tortilla, cooler than sliced bread—think of these doughy pockets like catchalls for anything left over at the end of the week. Just shove whatever remaining chopped veggies and rotisserie meat is left into a pita, slather with your favorite sauce, and open wide. If a role reversal is in order, top chopped veg with torn-up pieces of pita for a new take on croutons. Trust us, the pita will hold up as long as you add the dressing just before eating.
The sturdy flatbread can also pull double duty as dessert: Cut into strips, dust with cinnamon, top with thawed berries, and you've got a makeshift summer cobbler.