Whether you’re through lunch together before rushing out the door in the morning or taking a noontime break from the computer to pull together a quick snack, the midday meal can be a challenge. When you’re busy with work, some juggling kids and work, finding the time to scrape together a healthy midday meal likely just doesn’t rise to the top of your to-do list.
Tracy Benjamin, the blogger behind the super popular blog and Instagram handle, Shutterbean, has your solution: meal prep. Though Tracy initially shared meal prep with us as a way to navigate busy mornings with family members flying in different directions on their way out the door, her make-ahead tips are just as relevant for the busy work-week days we now spend together at home.
But before you start prepping anything, you’ll want to make sure you have plenty of containers ready. The fruits of your labors have to go somewhere! Tracy recommends glass Pyrex containers (“I like them because I feel better about microwaving glass over plastic.”) and, of course, Mason jars.
And now, onto Tracy’s top picks of things to meal prep for the week:
1. Roasted Vegetables
“Sunday nights are roast nights at my house,” Tracy says. “I go through the fridge and pantry and roast any vegetable that needs to be used up.” She’ll later put the roasted veggies into salads or just mix with vinegar and oil to eat as a snack.
While some of your produce is in the oven, use the down time to wash and cut up other vegetables and lettuce so that it’s ready to go for lunches or easy snacks. “If I’m not careful, I can easily make some bad food choices out of raging hunger while I’m making dinner. I can turn into a snack monster! If I have cut up vegetables with a dip (hummus or a ranch dip), I can arm myself for that moment and bypass the situation completely!” She’ll also put vegetables out for her son to snack on. “No arguments from anyone who is super hungry!” she jokes.
2. Hard-Boiled Eggs
While you don’t need much when it’s time to meal prep, you really do need an Instant Pot. For hard-boiled eggs at the very least. “I make my hard-boiled eggs with my Instant Pot because the shells slip off in an instant,” Tracy says. “If I am too busy to sit down to make something to eat, a hard-boiled egg is an easy way to get protein in during the day.” Plus, hard-boiled eggs can always get sliced up to go into a salad or grain bowl for an added dose of protein. No Instant Pot? No matter! A stove-top egg will certainly do!
3. Cooked Grains
“Cooked grains add bulk to a salad, and my goal is to eat at least one salad a day, so this helps!” Tracy says. She always preps some quinoa or farro, and beyond salads, she says these grains make great bases if she happens to have any leftover meat or vegetables.
4. Tuna Salad
Tuna salad (or chicken salad) can be eaten in sandwiches or on top of salads. It’s even one of those things that’s good for a forkful here and there. Have some small rolls on hand to fill for a healthy snack in the midafternoon, or for kids to use when they’re making their own lunches.
Here, Tracy’s talking about any type of salad dressing. “I make my mom’s vinaigrette every week. If I don’t get around to using it all up, sometimes I toss it into a potato salad.” If you’re wondering what’s so great about her mom’s vinaigrette, you should know that it’s made with an egg yolk (which you can sub for a dollop of plain yogurt, if you’d rather), garlic, Dijon mustard, oil, salt, and pepper — and that’s it. Making it even more brilliant: She mixes it all up in a recycled jar. Easy!