5 Tips for Saving Your Week When You Forgot to Meal Prep
For those of us trying to eat a little healthier, save money, or cut back on time spent in the kitchen, meal prepping is key. Some dedicated people will hunker down in the kitchen for a few hours, break out their meal prep tools, cook a few big-batch meals, and eat well all week long. But for us mere mortals, that doesn’t always happen.
Sometimes the kids need to go to soccer practice, or your husband has the flu, or your girlfriend drags you to that birthday party you really don’t want to go to. And other times you just want to sit on the couch, queue up Netflix, and not move for the whole weekend (we don’t judge!).
The downside? Meal prep can easily get lost in the shuffle, and it can be hard to get back into the healthy eating groove when you’re wondering how to source your next nutritious meal. I’ll set the scene: It’s 1 p.m., your stomach is growling, and you forgot to make a lunch...so you start thinking about swinging through the drive-thru to order a not-so-great-for-you meal. (You have no choice, right?)
But, hope is not lost. These tips will help you get back on the healthy eating horse and crush your goals for the week...even if you forgot to plan ahead.
Keep a Desk Stash
My most forgotten-about meal is breakfast, so I always keep a canister of quick-cooking oats at my desk, along with a box of light brown sugar, peanut butter, and a few apples (yes, seriously). I know it sounds crazy, but in the morning, all I need to do is add hot water, mix in some nut butter, and chop up an apple. It tastes great, it’s nutritious, and I know I won’t be tempted to swing through the drive-thru for a bagel on my way to work. (If you'd rather just buy packets of instant oatmeal, we found the tastiest healthy ones).
Cheat a Little
Those big trays of pre-cut veggies might be a little pricier than if you’d bought whole vegetables and cut them yourself, but they’re incredibly convenient and make for a healthy snack option.
Bagged salad kits are another great no-cook, grab-and-go meal option from the grocery store. If you’re really short on time, you can buy a few and keep them in the fridge at work for easy lunches. Add a can of salmon to make it a complete meal (just don’t blame us if your coworkers hate you for the smell).
Jazz up Leftovers
Keep flavor-boosting ingredients, like a block of Parmesan or feta, lemons or limes, spices, vinegars, ginger, garlic, or Sriracha on-hand to liven up any dish. That way, even if you haven’t had time to put much thought into meal prep, you can toss whatever veggies, grains, or proteins you do have together and liven it up. Bonus? You can take the same leftover protein (say, baked chicken breasts) and switch it up a dozen different ways with spices and sauces so you don’t hit the mid-week meal prep slump.
Have Pantry Staples
Our editors swear by keeping a few staples in their kitchen for easy assembly meals. Their favorites? A bag of apples, nuts, eggs, frozen English muffins, frozen veggies, carrots, hummus, pasta, and sauce. These ingredients will last a while in your fridge or pantry, and they’re great for throwing in your bag when you don’t have time to put a meal together. For example: Make a snack meal out of apples, nuts, hummus, and veggies; breakfast from a frozen English muffin and eggs; or dinner out of pasta, jarred sauce, and frozen veggies. It may not be “meal prep” in the traditional sense, but it gets the job done!
Make Extra Dinner
If you really can’t find time to meal prep, that’s ok! When you’re buying ingredients for tonight’s dinner, buy two or three times your normal amount and make enough for lunches during the week. It’s never too late to get back on track.