Easy Meal Prep Ideas for Beginners

Mary Massey is a passionate Personal Trainer, Wellness Coach, Entrepreneur, and Educator on a lifelong mission to empower women to pave the road to a healthier, happier, and more fulfilling life. Follow her on Instagram @marymasseyfit and read more of her advice, stories and food recommendations.

When it comes to staying on track with your nutrition, meal prepping ahead of time is the way to go. And if you’re a busy mom like me I don’t have to tell you how important it is to plan ahead in between kids’ activities, your job, appointments, etc. - I have to pay extra attention to my nutrition. As a fitness instructor and trainer, I’m always putting my body to the test. Packing my meals ensures I’m eating well no matter what.

And because life is life there will always be something going on. As the saying goes, “if you fail to prepare, you prepare to fail”.

So let’s dive into some great ideas on how you can meal prep, what you’ll need and some bonus recipes to set you up like a boss for the week!

What you’ll need for storage:

  • Lunchbox: A Bentgo is most convenient and compact
  • Zip-lock bags
  • Dry-erase markers
  • Lunch bag
What you’ll need for planning:
  • A calendar
  • Recipes
  • Your grocery list
  • A little creativity!
Here are your action steps:
  • Look over the recipes and write out your grocery shopping list
  • Wash all produce and let dry on a kitchen table
  • Chop what needs to be chopped
  • Roast your veggies
  • Grill your meats
  • Hard-boil your eggs
  • Cook your quinoa
  • Blend your salads without dressing and place in containers topped with a paper towel to absorb moisture. Use a combination of romaine, green leaf, spinach, baby kale.
  • Let your cooked food cool before storing
You can either portion off your meals now or store in large containers and prep your lunch box the night before which is what I do because I have a little more time.

What should you pack for optimal nourishment?

I like to focus on always packing a mix of fiber, complex carbs, protein and some fat. As you can see in the image below it’s not so difficult. For example, you can focus on packing a salad with mixed greens, grilled chicken, pork or steak, half of an avocado or some roasted root vegetables, quinoa salad and a couple hard-boiled eggs. If you use this formula you’ll always have something healthy to eat. You can load your salads with garbanzo beans, shredded carrots, perhaps dried cranberries, nuts, and a little goat cheese. Always pack your dressing on the side. See below for some super simple and delicious ideas. Toss those bottles of old dressing away!

My go-to Bentgo lunch box is the Bentgo Fresh. When you have a bento style lunch box it takes the guessing work out of portion sizing. Make sure your lunch box is designed to keep your food fresh for several hours, is leak proof and dishwasher safe. Here’s what I put in my Bentgo: a super healthy post-workout meal with roasted sweet potato, hard-boiled eggs, and salad.

Recipes that are perfect to-go!

Roasted Sweet Potatoes and Beets
  • 1 large sweet potato cut peeled and cut into large cubes
  • 2 small beets peeled and cut into cubes
  • Zest of an orange
  • Vegetable oil and a little salt
Pre-heat oven to 400 degrees. Toss ingredients together. Spread evenly on baking sheet and roast for 45 minutes tossing half-way through. Tip: I like to use my toaster oven rather than the big oven when I’m not roasting large quantities!

Quinoa Salad
  • 1 cup cooked quinoa: bring 1 and 3/4 cups of water to a boil. Add quinoa with a pinch of salt. Cover and simmer on low heat for 15 minutes or until water is absorbed. Let cool. Tip: If I’m in a hurry I’ll spend the quinoa over a cookie sheet to cool faster.
  • 1 can drained garbanzo beans
  • 1 can drained kidney beans
  • 1/4 cup chopped parsley and 1/4 cup chopped cilantro
  • 1 small can of drained corn
  • 4 tablespoons red wine vinegar
  • 6 tablespoons olive oil
  • Salt and pepper to taste

Mix all ingredients together and boom. Yes, that’s it! This is a favorite. You can top this quinoa salad with avocado, serve it as a main meal or side. You can also add halved cherry tomatoes and shredded carrots. Get creative.

Perfect Marinade for Chicken

I love using chicken tenders for meal prepping because they cook super fast and if you make sure not to overcook them they will be nice and tender. Tip: I slightly undercook my chicken tenders and then place in a plate and cover with tin foil. The residual heat will continue to cook the chicken without drying it out.

  • 1 package of chicken tenders: about 6 pieces
  • 3 crushed or thinly chopped garlic cloves
  • Juice of one small lime or half of a lemon
  • Zest of said lime or lemon
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1/4 cup chopped cilantro
  • 1/2 teaspoon cumin
  • Salt and pepper to taste
Toss all ingredients together. Let the chicken sit in the fridge for 30 minutes or you can cook right away. Use medium to high heat on a non-stick pan. Cook for 4 minutes on each side, careful not to overcook or burn. Transfer to plate and cover with foil until cool.

Simple Salad Dressings

You can whip these up in no time. If you want to plan ahead do it on Sunday. Adjust the flavor as you wish.

Sweet balsamic
  • 1 part balsamic
  • 2 parts olive oil
  • Pinch of salt
  • Pinch of Mrs. Dash garlic and herb

Orange Dijon

  • 1 teaspoon dijon mustard
  • 4 tablespoons orange juice
  • 4 tablespoons olive oil
  • Pinch of salt and pepper

Honey Apple

  • 1 part apple cider vinegar
  • 2 parts olive oil
  • Drizzle of honey
  • Pinch of salt

Lemon and Herb

  • Juice of one lemon
  • Zest of said lemon
  • Double the amount of olive oil
  • Mrs. Dash garlic and herb
  • Salt and pepper to taste

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