You guys know I love a good Sunday meal prep session! Basically, my weeks are busy and I know my future self will thank me for hooking her up with some tasty and healthy food. In this post I walk you through a one-hour vegetarian meal prep from start to finish.
Why is Meal Prepping Important?
I get it. Most of you probably don’t want to spend precious weekend time thinking about the work week but HEAR ME OUT. I did a little experiment to see how much I could accomplish towards a vegetarian meal prep in one hour (even set a timer) and was pleasantly surprised by the results.
No, I’m not vegetarian but a good amount of the meals we cook at home fall into this category and it seems more and more people are leaning towards a plant-based diet. It seems like a lot of meal prepping content floating around is meat-heavy so I wanted to focus on more vegetarian meal prep ideas than your traditional big batch shredded beef or roasted chicken.
The goal is to give you ideas for both WHAT to prep and HOW to make it quicker and easier so you can get back to enjoying your day off and still enter the work week feeling a little bit more prepared and relaxed.
Tip: Be sure to grab the PDF download at the end for a printable step-by-step guide including the menu, shopping list, prep checklist and all recipes.
Let’s get started!
How to Save Time on Weekend Meal Prep
First, let’s talk about efficiency.
One piece of advice that I share over and again with folks who are resistant to weekend prep is to make things more efficient in the kitchen so it’s not as large and daunting a task. There are several ways to do this, but here are a few of my favorites:
Set Yourself Up for Cooking Success by first organizing your pantry and refrigerator, then streamlining your meal planning and shopping routine. It’s not as fun to meal prep when you don’t have room for anything in your fridge or you’re not sure what’s in the back.
Get your mise en place. Start getting in the habit of having everything out and ready before you just dive in to the prepping/cooking. Then use hands-off time to prep other ingredients, or keep your space clean so you don’t end up with a mountain of dirty dishes at the end.
Batch cook. When it comes to staple items like grains and frequently used vegetables, prep more than you think you need so you only have to do the dishes once, but you’ll have more options all week long. You can freeze extra portions if needed, or incorporate into snacks or lunches.
Use a garbage bowl. It seems like such a small and silly thing, but it means you don’t have to constantly go back and fourth (or bend down) for the trash.
Something that also works for me is having a “just do it” mentality. Try getting your shopping done as soon as you get moving in the morning since motivation tends to wane as the day goes on. You could schedule a grocery delivery to save even more time.
Similarly, knock out your meal prep as soon as you get home from the store. Leave everything that you’ll need out on the counter (instead of putting it away only to pull it back out again) and just get going.
One-Week Vegetarian Menu
Here’s a sample menu, plus a step-by-step guide to the prep so you can see exactly what this might look like. Note that I’m not making every single meal in advance, I’m just prepping components that will save me time later. This approach works well because every meal will still be freshly cooked, but will be way less time-intensive than starting from scratch every night.
Meal #1 – Build-Your-Own Mediterranean Orzo Bowls
Meal #2 – Vegetable & Tofu Summer Rolls with Tahini Sauce
Meal #3 – Edamame Fried Rice
Breakfast – Peanut Butter & Cacao Overnight Oats with Blackberries
Snacks – Hummus + Bell Pepper Strips & Crackers, Zing Bars (or your personal favorite!), Apples, Hard-boiled eggs
Are you thinking to yourself, “why only three meals?”. This is because I’m practical and I know that there’s no way I’ll cook seven (even five!) different meals in any given week. Will you? If not, quit setting the bar too high and instead plan for what’s feasible.
To keep things manageable, I shoot for three meals (always cooking 4-6 servings even though there’s only two of us). Then I factor in at least one leftover night and at least one “wing-it” night. That just means we’ll come up with something on the fly. The remaining 1-2 nights, we either go out or supplement with another grocery store run.
Tip: Don’t forget to include breakfast and snack items! Keeping staples like oats, nut butters, milk, eggs and fruit on hand will make for a wide variety of choices but also allow you to mix it up with some fun stuff to keep things interesting. Energy bars, cheese sticks, fun flavors of hummus or dip, unique yogurts, etc. all work great.
Your Vegetarian Meal Prep Checklist
Once home from your weekly shop, take a look at the menu and make a game plan for what you can prep ahead, factoring in how much time you have. Some weeks you might do all of your chopping, and some weeks it might be simply making a batch of your favorite muffins. The goal is to do what makes sense for you and every little bit helps!
Here’s a checklist based on the sample vegetarian menu shared above, broken into categories of cooking, chopping, sauces/dressings, and “other”.
Hard-boiled eggs (snacks)
Jasmine rice (fried rice)
To be chopped:
Cabbage (summer rolls)
Carrots (summer rolls & fried rice)
Red Bell Pepper (fried rice & snacking)
Broccoli (fried rice)
Sauces & dressings:
Tzatziki sauce (bowls)
Overnight oats (breakfast)
A Step-by-Step Guide to Meal Prepping in One Hour
Get your cooked items started first so you can take advantage of the down time. In this example we have rice and hard-boiled eggs. I love using the instant pot for the eggs (see also: how to make instant pot hard-boiled eggs). If you don’t have an IP, make them on the stovetop!
Next up, lay out your chopping station. Grab a cutting board, your favorite knife and a “garbage” bowl.
Tip: Pack up vegetables that will be used together in one food storage container (i.e. the diced vegetables for the fried rice). When it comes time to use them, all you have to do is dump one container into the skillet.
I’m a huge fan of overnight oats for busy weeks (have you tried this recipe yet?). It’s such a nice treat to have breakfast ready and waiting for you when you wake up. To make them, just soak oats with your favorite milk, yogurt and spices overnight, then add toppings in the morning such as fruit, nuts or nut butter. For this version I added blackberries and peanut butter right on top so they’re ready to go.
In the end, here’s what I was able to get done before my time ran out. I think I’m most excited about the overnight oats but also… no chopping for the rest of the week!
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