Recipes are essential when you want to take on something big 鈥 like fancy surf and turf date night dishes 鈥 but most of the time we have greater success cooking with our own instincts and inspirations. Since meal prep is viewed as a way to save time, we shouldn鈥檛 have to worry about exact measurements and timing things, amirite? As long as you stick to a basic formula of protein + vegetables + (sometimes) starches, you鈥檙e good to go. Here, everything you need to know.

CHOOSING YOUR聽ingredients

Once you get a list of proteins, veggies, and starches going, the fun begins! You can mix 鈥榥鈥 match and get super creative with your meals without running out of combinations which, in turn, will help you stick to your meal-planning commitment. Win/win.

We鈥檝e drafted some example lists to get your wheels turning.

Proteins: Hardboiled eggs, nuts, chicken, cottage cheese, Greek yogurt, lean beef, chicken, turkey, pork, fish, shrimp, tofu, seitan, tempeh, beans, and chickpeas, to name a few. And believe us, you don鈥檛 have to follow a plant-based diet to enjoy plant-based proteins.

Vegetables: The options are endless with veggies, but some extra nom-worthy picks that pair easily with other foods are broccoli, zucchini, onions, squash, asparagus, tomatoes, carrots, eggplant, peppers, string beans, and tomatoes. Most of the time, all these veggies need is a light toss in some olive oil, salt, and cracked black pepper, then a trip into the oven for about 15-20 minutes. If you want to add a bit of 鈥渃heesiness,鈥 nutritional yeast does magical things.

Starches: You may not always want to add a starch, but when you do, sweet potatoes, quinoa, brown rice, whole grain pasta, bulgur, barley, millet, couscous, and farro are healthy options. Adding a starch might be the defining factor with your dish by elevating your salad to grain bowl status in seconds.

CHOOSING AND PREPARING YOUR MEALS

With a tasty combination of proteins, veggies, and starches, the meal prep world is your proverbial oyster. Widen your horizons with these easy dishes:

Bowl Meals: They might look fancy, but grain bowls, Buddha bowls, and rice bowls are all simple AF. Just throw a starch in and top it with a mix of cooked and raw veggies, your choice of proteins, and a bomb dressing. Fill a bunch of containers this way for a week鈥檚 worth of substantial lunches.

Sheet-Pan Dinners: The beauty with sheet-pan dinners is that you can cook most proteins and starches like sweet potatoes alongside your veggies for the same amount of time 鈥 and on one pan for minimal cleanup! Helloooo, timesaver. If you鈥檙e bringing grains to the party, you can cook them on the stovetop simultaneously and portion everything into containers once done. BOOM.

Homemade Soup: If you don鈥檛 already have a thermos, this is a great excuse to buy one. Homemade soup can be made in large batches and it freezes well 鈥 if that doesn鈥檛 sell you, it also allows you to empty that crisper, using up odds and ends before they go bad.

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Jar Salads: Stack it, top it, and shake it. Jar salads are one of the most convenient ways to meal-prep without a recipe because all it calls for is filling a jar with your fave leafy greens, veggies, proteins, etc., and heading out the door with it. They make for a great desk lunch or on-the-go meal when you don鈥檛 have time to mow down between work and spin class.

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