A lot of people like the idea of meal prepping, but they get sick of eating the same thing more than two or three days in a row. A way around this problem is to make one protein and use it three different ways. The key to making each meal feel like different meals is to have a few pantry staples to go to.
Some of the pantry or fridge staples I usually have in the house are:
- burrito tortillas (good for tacos, burritos, fajitas, quesadillas or small wraps)
- salad mix/lettuce (good for salads, sandwiches, or wraps)
- some hearty vegetables like broccoli, onions, potatoes, bell peppers, or cauliflower (roasted or sauteed)
- some grains or pasta like quinoa, brown or white rice, barley, farro or penne pasta
- Blocks of cheese like cheddar, gouda, feta, goat cheese or parmigiano reggiano
These staples are all good ways to bulk up meals and avoid having to buy a ton of stuff every week. IWhen I buy lettuce, I buy types that I know are multi-purpose like butter lettuce, spinach, kale or arugula. Personally, I’m afraid of buying romaine lettuce after the recent health concerns and iceberg lettuce just doesn’t have any flavor or nutrients. The other vegetables typically last long enough that I can use them next week if needed.
Once you have these staples you’ll be in good shape to whip up some meal prep for the work week. Next is the proteins! As I’m not a vegetarian, I’m going to be focusing on pork, chicken and beef. For vegetarian options, try Making chickpeas the star of a meal.
Proteins – 3 Ways
You want to cook the proteins in a versatile way. Typically, I always add salt and black pepper and then add sauces later in the week. You can definitely just cook up a bunch of chicken breast with salt and pepper in the oven but that gets pretty boring pretty quickly. I’ll focus on some more flavorful options. All of the meal options have the proteins already cooked. You’re just tossing it in sauce or adding it to a salad.
One of my favorite ways to make pork is to make it into pulled pork. You can do this in a pressure cooker, slow cooker or in the oven. A good cut to use is a pork shoulder or pork butt because it’s pretty cheap and easy to find. I’d recommend cooking it with limited seasoning (just salt and pepper).
- Salad: Toss the pork in balsamic vinaigrette and add it to a salad with spinach, goat cheese, quinoa and roasted cauliflower.
- Burrito bowl: Mix pork in enchilada sauce and make a burrito bowl with brown rice, black beans, roasted onions and peppers and your favorite burrito toppings.
- Sandwiches: Add favorite BBQ sauce to the pork and bring a bun to work with you and a side salad. Heat the pork up and put it on a sandwich and have a side salad.
One of my favorite ways to make chicken taste more exciting is to roast a whole chicken. Or you can even buy a rotisserie chicken at the store. I typically get at least 3-4 meals out of it and then can make stock with the leftover bones. Roasting a whole chicken gives a much deeper flavor than just baking chicken breasts in the oven. After you’ve roasted the chicken pick all the meat off the bones and shred into bite sized pieces. I then save it in a container in the fridge and use it throughout the week.
- Roasted Chicken: Cut off one of the breasts or your favorite cut and eat the roasted chicken as is with roasted vegetables (potatoes, carrots etc). Maybe make a gravy.
- Salad: Mix the chicken with buffalo sauce and add it onto a salad with kale, roasted onions and pepper, blue cheese or feta and some sunflower seeds. The roasted chicken flavor will come through but also work well with the buffalo sauce.
- Pasta: Toss the chicken in pesto and combine with pasta, roasted vegetables and top with some grated parmigiano reggiano.
You have to be careful with beef because if you originally cook it to medium rare, once you re-heat it, it can become over-cooked. To get around that problem, I like to make shredded beef in the slow cooker or pressure cooker. I prefer to use chuck roast because it’s easy to cube up and is very flavorful. Always season with at least salt and black pepper.
- Teriyaki bowl: Toss the beef in a teriyaki sauce, add roasted broccoli and carrots and then put it over a bed of brown rice.
- Quesadilla: Shred the beef into bite sized pieces and combine with fajita vegetables to make beef fajita quesadillas. These won’t be as crispy as when they are fresh but they re-heat pretty well in the microwave. Serve with a side of salsa and sour cream.
- Salad: Make a caesar salad with butter lettuce, croutons, roasted cauliflower and some shredded cheese.
These are all ideas to show you how you can make one batch of protein and turn it into three separate meals. I didn’t include seafood because I don’t like being that person who warms up fish in the work microwave. However, if you’re doing this at home, shrimp or salmon are good with a variety of flavors.
Meal Prep Series
Was this helpful? You can check out the rest of the series below!
Part 1: How to Get Started Meal Prepping
Part 2: Meal Prep: The Tips, The Tools and The Execution
Part 3: Slow Cooker Tips for Meal Prepping
Part 5: How to Solve Common Meal Prep Problems
Part 6: How to Meal Prep Like a Pro