Having a full time job, being a full time student, and/or an active parent can make it hard to get balanced meals on the table daily. Every Sunday, I set aside 1-2 hours (depending on the recipes) to cook a meal or two in bulk for the week. Meal prepping helps me to save money by avoiding eating out, and to take control of what I am eating. It also allows me to relax at the end of long workdays.
Meal prepping can seem daunting and time consuming at first, but it doesn’t have to be. It gives you a headstart on the week, and should make feeding yourself or your family easier. Below are some quick tips to get started.
Assess mealtime stressors – Do you want healthier breakfast options? Are you wanting to avoid eating takeout during your lunch break? Or maybe you’re just too tired to cook dinner at the end of the day? Think of a mealtime stressor or need that would be made easier by having a pre-made, ready-to-go meal.
Choose your recipe – look for easy or quick make-ahead recipes or prepare different veggies, grains and proteins to mix and match. A good meal prep recipe is one that will keep well in the fridge or freezer and tastes good reheated. Once your recipe is chosen, add the ingredients to your shopping list.
Set aside time – I recommend setting aside at least 30 minutes but depending on your recipe and number of meals to prepare, 1-2 hours may be necessary.
Storage containers – make sure you have enough! Choose containers that hold up well to repetitive use and are a good size to pack on the go.
Don’t try it all at once – Trying to prep every meal ahead of time can be overwhelming. Start with one recipe for the week to get started.
A lot of my go-to meal prep recipes are sheet pan recipes. I love these because they require less prep time and minimal clean up. My new favorite is sheet pan gnocchi with sausage and veggies which can easily be doubled to feed the whole family. Try it for yourself!
Sheet Pan Gnocchi with Sausage and Veggies (Serves 4)
Prep Time: 10 min
Cook Time: 25-30 min
1 16-17.5 oz package of shelf-stable or frozen potato gnocchi
1 12 oz package of chicken sausage (I like Applegate or Aidell’s)
1 pint of grape or cherry tomatoes
1 medium zucchini
1 medium yellow squash
¼ cup of olive oil
1 tsp garlic powder
1 tsp paprika
2 tsp italian seasoning
Salt and pepper to taste
- Place the oven rack in the middle position and preheat oven to 450°F
- Wash and dry all produce. Slice tomatoes in half lengthwise. Trim and cut the zucchini and yellow squash in half lengthwise and then slice crosswise in ¼ inch pieces. Then slice chicken sausages into ¼ inch rounds.
- Add gnocchi, sausage, tomatoes, zucchini, squash, spices, and olive oil into a medium bowl. Mix until combined.
- Line one or two baking sheets with aluminum foil or parchment paper. Spread the mixture evenly over the baking sheets.
- Place baking sheets on the middle rack and bake for 20-30 minutes until sausage is lightly browned and gnocchi are plump.
- Divide food into storage containers and keep in the refrigerator for up to 4 days.
Content Submitted by Jessica Roy, WOAC Dietitian and Nutrition Counselor & Katie Woznick, Dietetics Student at Simmons University