The Make-Ahead Meal Plan

Plan ahead and make these healthy and hearty meals that go quickly from fridge to fork — just heat and eat!
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Imagine a life where dinner is ready when you get home from work, where snacks are grab-and-go and breakfast miraculously appears from your freezer. No more greasy takeout. No more cardboard frozen pizza.

Yes, that life could be yours.

Make-ahead meals are timesaving treasures. With a little planning and a dash of foresight, you can create nutritious fare for every meal all week long!

Woman cooking in the kitchen

Learn how to master meal prep and make dining at home easy.

Make-Ahead Metrics

Mastering meal prep allows you to stay on top of your nutrition game, whether your goals are fat loss, building muscle or maintenance. Here’s how to make it happen.

Create a Menu

Meal prepping doesn’t mean you have to eat the same things all the time. That’s the beauty of building a menu. First, write down things you like to eat for breakfast, lunch, snacks and dinner, including a couple of different options to prevent boredom. Then see how they could fit into a weekly table that complements your schedule.

Make a Grocery List

Create a grocery checklist based on your menu, and be sure to include the amounts of each item you will need to buy to accurately create your recipes without wasting food. For example, the Make-Ahead Meal-Plan Grocery List includes enough food for a week’s worth of meals and snacks.

Shop for Supplies

Hit the store, grocery list in hand, and buy your needed items. In addition, make sure you purchase plenty of zip-close bags and airtight food containers to store your prepped food, as well as masking tape or stickers to label and date your meals.

Prep, Prep, Prep

Once home, it’s time to get busy. Lay out all your ingredients and containers and give yourself about two hours to prepare all your food. Some recipes make more servings than others, so pay attention to the directions in the Make-Ahead Recipes (as well as your own), doubling them, if necessary, to ensure you have enough food for an entire week. Once cooked, parcel out your meals into individual containers or baggies, and label them with a name, portion size and date.

Allot Snack Space

Many snacks don’t need cooking, so assign these to a large drawer in your refrigerator or a shelf in your pantry. Stock these spaces with healthy grab-and-go snacks such as apples, string cheese, sliced veggies, yogurt, hummus, raisins, popcorn, natural fruit leathers and the like.

Create a Meal Plan

Once your prep is complete, outline a weekly schedule that delineates what you’re going to have for breakfast, lunch, snacks and dinner every day of the week. For an example, look over the sample Make-Ahead Meal Plan. Before bed, organize everything you’ll be eating the next day so you’re ready.

Monitor Inventory

Like a restaurant manager, it’s your job to keep track of your meal supply and to replenish your inventory before you run out so you don’t leave your nutrition up to chance.

Family-Style Meals

These tasty and nutritious meals are an easy sell, and because they’re so easy to make ahead, you’ll have more time to spend with your fam! Double the ingredients for a family of four or to have leftovers for extra meals during the week.

Slow-Cooker Shredded Chicken Breast

Add your seasoning blend of choice to this shredded chicken breast recipe.

Slow-Cooker Shredded Chicken Breast

Makes: 10-12 Servings

Prep Time: 10 Minutes

Cook Time: 4-6+ Hours

INGREDIENTS

  • 6 boneless, skinless chicken breasts, cut in half
  • 2 cups low-sodium chicken broth
  • 2 tbsp seasoning blend of choice (e.g., Montreal chicken or garlic and herb blend)
  • 2 tbsp salted butter

DIRECTIONS

Place chicken in a slow cooker. Add broth and seasoning to a bowl and stir. Pour over chicken. Place butter in center, cover and cook on low at least 6 hours (4 if cooking on high). Remove chicken with a slotted spoon and place in a large airtight container. Use 2 forks to shred, then pour some of the remaining liquid from the pot onto chicken, if desired. Allow to cool before refrigerating.

Tip: The longer and slower the chicken is allowed to cook, the juicier it will be.

Nutrition Facts (per serving= 5.4 ounces): calories 157, fat5 g, protein 26 g, sodium 84 mg, carbs 0 g, fiber 0 g, sugar 0 g

Sheet Pan Chicken and Asparagus

Sheet Pan Chicken and Asparagus

Sheet Pan Chicken and Asparagus

Makes: 2 Servings

Prep Time: 5 Minutes

Cook Time: 20-22 Minutes

INGREDIENTS

  • 3 tbsp lemon juice
  • 2 tbsp honey
  • ¼ tsp ground black pepper
  • ¼ tsp sea salt
  • ¼ tsp chopped or crushed garlic
  • 2 (4-6 oz each) boneless, skinless chicken breasts
  • 12 large asparagus spears, trimmed
  • 5 lemon slices (optional)
  • 2 tbsp grated Parmesan cheese

DIRECTIONS

Preheat oven to 450 F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper or aluminum foil and coat lightly with nonstick cooking spray. In a medium bowl, combine lemon juice, honey, pepper, salt and garlic. Add chicken and toss to coat. Place chicken and asparagus on prepared sheet and drizzle remaining marinade over top. Place lemon slices on both chicken and asparagus, if using, then sprinkle cheese on asparagus. Cover with foil and bake 15 minutes. Remove foil, flip chicken and stir asparagus and cook another 5 to 7 minutes, or until chicken is cooked through.

Nutrition Facts (per serving): calories 253, fat 5 g, protein 31 g, sodium 416 mg, carbs 24 g, fiber 3 g, sugar 19 g

Sheet Pan Protein Pancakes

Sheet Pan Protein Pancakes

Sheet Pan Protein Pancakes

Makes: 6 Servings

Prep Time: 5 Minutes

Bake Time: 15 Minutes

INGREDIENTS

  • ¾ cup oat flour
  • ¾ cup buckwheat flour (You can sub rolled or ground oats.)
  • ½ cup vanilla whey protein powder
  • ¼ cup sugar
  • 2 tsp baking soda
  • ½ tsp sea salt
  • ½ tsp ground cinnamon
  • ¼ tsp nutmeg
  • 2 cups low-fat buttermilk or milk of choice
  • 1 large egg
  • 1 large egg yolk
  • 2 tbsp unsalted butter, melted
  • 1½ tsp vanilla extract

DIRECTIONS

Preheat oven to 425 F. Line an 18-inch-by-13-inch rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper and coat with nonstick cooking spray. Add dry ingredients to a large bowl and stir to combine. In a separate bowl, whisk together buttermilk, egg, egg yolk, butter and vanilla. Slowly pour milk mixture into dry ingredients, whisking until combined. Pour batter onto prepared sheet, tilting sheet to spread evenly. Bake on middle rack 10 to 12 minutes, rotating halfway through, or until pancake is slightly golden. Remove and slice into 12 squares. Refrigerate in an airtight container.

Nutrition Facts (per serving= 2 squares): calories 251, fat6 g, protein 20 g, sodium 847 mg, carbs 30 g, fiber 5 g, sugar 13 g

French Onion and Mushroom Quinoa

Makes: 4 Servings

Prep Time: 5 Minutes

Cook Time: 35-40 Minutes

INGREDIENTS

  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • ½ cup baby portabella mushrooms, sliced
  • dash salt and pepper
  • 2 cups dry quinoa
  • 1 packet French onion dip mix
  • 3½ cups water

Tip: A French onion dip mix has less sodium than a French onion soup mix, so read the labels carefully if you’re watching your salt intake.

DIRECTIONS

Heat olive oil in a large soup pot over medium-high. Add mushrooms, salt and pepper and saute until mushrooms are soft, about 3 minutes. Add water, quinoa and French onion dip mix and bring to a rolling boil. Reduce heat to a simmer and cook, uncovered, 15 minutes. Reduce heat to lowest setting, cover and cook an additional 15 minutes. Remove from heat, cover and let stand 5 minutes. Fluff with a fork.

Tip: If any liquid remains or the quinoa is still crunchy, return it to the pot and cook on low 5 more minutes, or until all the water has been absorbed.

Nutrition Facts (per serving= 3 ounces): calories 292, fat7 g, protein 9 g, sodium 516 mg, carbs 49 g, fiber 5 g, sugar 0 g

Make-Ahead Meal-Plan Grocery List

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Freezer Meals

Your freezer is good for more than just ice cream. These recipes are healthy and hearty, and since they’ve already been prepped, they are easy to heat and eat in a pinch.

Bacon, Egg and Cheese Breakfast Burrito

Bacon, Egg and Cheese Breakfast Burrito

Bacon, Egg and Cheese Breakfast Burrito

Makes: 6 Servings

Prep Time: 10-15 Minutes

Cook Time: 30-60 Seconds

INGREDIENTS

  • 12 large eggs
  • 1 tbsp milk of choice
  • dash salt and pepper
  • 6 low-calorie 9-inch whole- wheat tortillas*
  • 6 oz shredded low-fat American cheese
  • 6 slices bacon, cooked

DIRECTIONS

Add eggs, milk, salt and pepper to a large bowl and whisk lightly. Coat a large skillet with cooking spray and heat over medium. Add egg mixture and cook, stirring continually, until no liquid remains, 3 to 5 minutes. To each tortilla, add 1 ounce cheese and 1 slice bacon. Divide eggs evenly between tortillas and fold in sides. Roll up and place seam-side down to cool. Then wrap tightly in plastic wrap and place in a large zip-close bag to freeze. When ready to eat, remove wrap and microwave 60 to 90 seconds, or until warmed through.

These burritos can last up to three months in the freezer!

Nutrition Facts (per serving): calories 320, fat 18 g, protein 31 g, sodium 1,028 mg, carbs 21 g, fiber 14 g, sugar 2 g 

*Low-carb, 60-calorie tortillas were used in the nutrition analysis.

PB and Banana Sandwiches

PB and Banana Sandwiches

PB and Banana Sandwiches

Makes: 10 Sandwiches

Prep Time: 10-15 Minutes

INGREDIENTS

  • 20 slices soft wheat bread*
  • 10 tbsp all-natural peanut butter
  • 5 medium bananas, sliced

DIRECTIONS

Spread 1 tablespoon peanut butter on each of 10 slices of bread. Evenly divide banana slices on remaining 10 slices. Place peanut-butter bread on top of banana bread and press together lightly. Cut in half and place each sandwich in a zip-close bag to freeze. Thaw at room temperature 30 to 60 minutes before eating.

Tip: Place a frozen sandwich in your cooler bag in the morning — it will be thawed and ready to eat at lunch!

Nutrition Facts (per sandwich): calories 343, fat 17 g, protein 14 g, sodium 361 mg, carbs 37 g, fiber 9 g, sugar 9 g

*The bread used was 45 calories per slice.

Taco Lasagna

Makes: 9 Servings

Prep Time: 15 Minutes

Cook Time: 20-25 Minutes.

INGREDIENTS

  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 2 lb ground beef (90-93% lean)
  • 1 packet low-sodium taco seasoning
  • 9 low-calorie 9-inch whole- wheat tortillas*
  • 1 (16-oz) can fat-free refried beans
  • 16 oz low-fat shredded Mexican-style cheese

DIRECTIONS

Heat olive oil in a large skillet over medium-high. Add ground beef and seasoning packet and cook until browned. Drain and set aside. In a large casserole or baking dish, assemble lasagna: Lay 2 tortillas in the bottom side by side. Spread refried beans on top and then evenly spread meat and cheese on top. Continue layering in this manner with remaining ingredients, finishing with a layer of tortillas and some reserved cheese to sprinkle on top. Cover and freeze. When ready to eat, preheat oven to 350 F and cook, covered, 20 minutes. Then remove foil and bake an additional 5 minutes, or until cheese is golden brown.

Tip: Pop this recipe out of the freezer 30 to 60 minutes before baking or allow to thaw in the refrigerator overnight.

Nutrition Facts (per serving = 8 ounces; does not include toppings): calories 351, fat 17 g, protein 39 g, sodium 792 mg, carbs 16 g, fiber 9 g, sugar 0 g

*Low-carb, 60-calorie tortillas were used in the nutrition analysis.

Optional Toppings

  • Shredded lettuce
  • Tomatoes
  • Guacamole
  • Mexican-style corn
  • Hot sauce
  • Pico de galloScallions
  • Low-fat/fat-free sour cream
  • Scallions
  • Cilantro

Snack Attach

Having healthy foods on hand is key for preventing a snaccident. These recipes are quick and easy to make and to help keep you on track.

DIY Power Bento Box

Makes: 5 Servings

Prep Time: 10-15 Minutes

INGREDIENTS

  • 5 Babybel cheese rounds (original flavor)
  • 5 small apples, sliced
  • 5 packets peanut or almond butter
  • 5 100-calorie snack bars
  • 1¼ cups sliced fresh veggies of choice

DIRECTIONS

Divide ingredients evenly into compartmented containers. Refrigerate until ready to use.

Nutrition Facts (per serving): calories 501, fat 32 g, protein 18 g, sodium 455 mg, carbs 39 g, fiber 11 g, sugar 22 g

Tip: Place a paper napkin in each bento container for a tidy snack!

Froyo Bites

Makes: 12-14 Bites

Prep Time: 10-15 Minutes

Freeze Time: 2+ Hours

INGREDIENTS

  • 2 tbsp honey
  • 1 oz cashews
  • 1 oz blueberries
  • 1 cup low-fat plain Greek yogurt

DIRECTIONS

Combine all ingredients in a bowl. Divide mixture evenly in mini muffin pan cups or an ice-cube tray. Freeze at least 2 hours. Let sit 10 minutes at room temperature before eating.

Nutrition Facts (per serving = 1 bite): calories 37, fat 1 g, protein 2 g, sodium 12 mg, carbs 5 g, fiber 0 g, sugar 3 g

Make-Ahead Yogurt Parfaits

Make-Ahead Yogurt Parfaits

Make-Ahead Yogurt Parfaits

Makes: 5 Servings

Prep Time: 10 Minutes

INGREDIENTS

  • 1¼ cups diced fruit of choice
  • 1¼ cups low-sugar granola
  • 1 (32-oz) container nonfat plain Greek yogurt

DIRECTIONS

To each container, add ¼ cup fruit and ¼ cup granola and top with 6 ounces yogurt. Cover tightly and refrigerate.

Nutrition Facts (per serving): calories 238, fat 2 g, protein 21 g, sodium 178 mg, carbs 34 g, fiber 3 g, sugar 14 g

Smooth Move

Are smoothies your jam? You can make these ahead, as well. Fill a baggie with your favorite smoothie ingredients — Greek yogurt, fruit, spinach, protein powder, flaxseeds, etc. When you’re ready to eat, just dump the contents into your blender and whip away. You also can make a large batch of smoothie ahead of time and portion it out into small freezer bags, ice-cube trays or muffin tins for use later on.

Stock Your Staples

To go with the Make-Ahead Recipes and Meal Plan, you’ll need to execute these tasks:

  • Hard-boil a dozen large eggs.
  • Steam 1½ cups of dry brown rice.
  • Cook 1 cup dry high-protein pasta.
  • Steam 5 to 8 cups veggies of choice.

Make-Ahead Meal Plan

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