I didn’t really start appreciating doing lunch meal prep until I got to college and started adding on jobs and extra curricular stuff. No time! Dinners and lunches. I would barely have time for breakfast and be out of the house until dinner time. Most of the time, I would just hope that I would make enough dinner that I could have extras for both my husband and me to have lunch the next day! ….and that was if I didn’t give up and go out to eat for dinner. It worked, but it wasn’t the most solid plan in the world.
Long story short, we needed to find a better way if we were going to expect ourselves to keep up with our eating goals. But there was never enough time in the morning! So here it is… lunch meal prep!
In this meal prep, we focused on just doing lunch. I do a different meal prep for dinners, which is outlined here.
Doing a solid lunch meal prep doesn’t need to be hard or difficult. It just requires some basic healthy foods and a little bit of fun! If you watched my Instagram stories when I did this, you saw a couple dance party clips…. 😉
In addition, you don’t need to think of lunch as a formal meal (if I can say it that way). Of course, you can make some chili or stir fry or pasta or whatever you want and freeze that! But my goal here was to minimize. Doing separate meals for just means I have that many more directions I’m going and that many more dishes to do. I want it to be efficient. Lunch doesn’t need to be fancier than some solid protein and a bunch of veggies, so that’s what I did.
Prepare to Lunch Meal Prep
Lunch Meal Prep starts by carving out a block of about 2 hours. Maybe more or less, depending on how quickly you work or how much you intend to do. But 2 hours is a good place to start with.
Next, pick out a few things you would like to choose from! Choose about two meats and a couple different kinds of veggies. In this example, I chose some chicken breast and some pork that was on sale. You can also consider turkey, sausage, beef, salmon, or anything else that strikes your fancy. As far as vegetables, I chose sweet potatoes, spaghetti squash, and a variety of veggies to roast that I already had on-hand in my fridge.
The Meal Prep Action
In this meal prep, I started with the spaghetti squash because it takes so long in the oven. I can have that cooking while the rest of the food is being prepared. To prepare the spaghetti squash, cut it in half lengthwise and use a spoon to scrape out the guts and seeds. Place the halved squash on a cookie sheet, center-side up, and prepare with some seasonings. Start by drizzling on some olive oil, then adding some salt, pepper, and cayenne pepper. Flip it upside down and put in a 400° oven for 40-50 minutes.
Next, I moved on to the sweet potatoes for a simple sweet potato mash. Since I was trying to move quickly, I left them unskinned and cut the sweet potatoes into a few rough pieces each. No need to worry too much about making it pretty, we’re just trying to move quickly here! Throw the pieces into a pot of boiling water and let them boil about 20 minutes, or until fork tender. When the sweet potatoes are cooked, drain the water out and mash them. To see how I seasoned the sweet potatoes, take a look at my Nostalgic Sweet Potato Mash recipe.
After that, I decided to move on to the meats. To make the chicken cook faster, I cut the breasts into bite-sized pieces and cooked them over medium-high heat in a little olive oil, seasoned with some salt, pepper, Italian seasoning, and cayenne pepper. Once the chicken is cooked through, I moved it to another dish and used the same pan to cook the pre-seasoned pork steaks (I’m all about dish preservation!).
At about this time, the spaghetti squash is done cooking in the oven. If you aren’t sure whether or not it is done yet, stab the squash with a knife or fork to see how tender it is. Remove them and let them cool for a while. Once they are done cooling, use a fork to separate out the spaghetti strings and put it into a bowl. Add additional seasonings as needed.
Adjust the temperature on the oven to about 425° to heat for roasting the vegetables. I didn’t really plan this part- I literally raided the fridge to see what vegetables I had that I wanted to roast, or that I needed to use up. That ended up giving me broccoli, red and yellow bell pepper, carrots, zucchini, yellow squash, and green beans. After roughly cutting them (shoot for bite-sized pieces), I put them in a bowl, drizzled olive oil over them, seasoned them with salt, pepper, and Italian seasonings, and tossed them. Put them on a baking sheet and roast in the oven for a while, about a half hour or so, stirring once or twice. One thing to keep in mind here is to not cook the vegetables all the way- keep them a touch raw when you take them out of the oven. This is so that they won’t turn out so mushy when you microwave them later on in the week.
Divide the Food Out
After everything is cooked and cooled down a little, it’s time to divide them out into the Tupperware! My husband and I do the Zone Diet, so this was a great time for us to measure out our lunches ahead of time. If you aren’t measuring out your food, no worries! Just do whatever you want 🙂 What I would recommend, though, is to make meat about a third or a fourth of your meal, and have the veggies take up the majority. The fun thing about this part is that you can mix and match the meats and veggies. That’s to help you from feeling like you are eating the same thing every day for lunch.
If you aren’t measuring out your food, no worries! Just do whatever you want 🙂 What I would recommend, though, is to make meat about a third or a fourth of your meal, and have the veggies take up the rest, making vegetables the majority. The fun thing about this part is that you can mix and match the meats and veggies. That’s to help you from feeling like you are eating the same thing every day for lunch.
The fun thing about this part is that you can mix and match the meats and veggies. That’s to help you from feeling like you are eating the same thing every day for lunch.
Once the food is all divided out, make sure the lid is on tightly and either put in the fridge or freezer. In the fridge, the meals will keep for a couple days. In the freezer, they will be good for a few weeks. But, if you put them in the freezer, don’t forget to take it out the day before you expect to eat it so you can have it thawed out by the time you get to it. I know this from personal experience… No one likes an icy brick of meat and veggies for lunch! ;P
This particular meal prep that I did lasted my husband and me two weeks. It resulted in about five meals for each of us and was terrific in helping to supplement our leftovers-for-lunch routine. If we didn’t have leftovers, we had something we could fall back on for lunch, instead of going out or resorting to some less healthy options. Again, my goal here was to have delicious, healthy, and filling lunches on-hand for work/school five days out of the week. Dinners were ‘meal planned’ separately using the outline I suggest in this post.
Try this method out and see how it works for you! Don’t be afraid to experiment with different kinds of meats or vegetables. Instead of roasting the vegetables, you can steam a broccoli/cauliflower combo. Instead of using Italian Seasoning, try something with some Mexican or Asian flavor. Instead of using chicken and pork, try out some fish! Literally, the options are only as limited as you are. Think outside the box and have some fun with it.
What will you do for your next lunch meal prep?
AND, if you read to the end of this post, you deserve a meme. While I wouldn’t consider myself a bodybuilder, this is oh, too true… #storyofmylife #cantstoplaughing #thetruthhurts