Tag Archives: meal prep

This Clever Trick Will Prevent Freezer Burn for Good (And Major Food Waste)

Your freezer is your friend in the fight against food waste. But have you ever opened the freezer to retrieve a carefully prepared meal or frozen item only to discover ice crystals blanketing the container? Or meat that looked a little too “off” in colour? If you’re nodding in agreement, you’ve encountered a simple case of freezer burn.

Many people don’t realize that they can burn frozen food. It sounds wrong, doesn’t it? How can something that’s frozen burn? Freezer burn is damage to frozen food caused by moisture in the food evaporating, leaving dry “pockets” of air and/or ice crystals. The good news is that, while the food won’t taste all that great, it is still edible. The better news is that freezer burn is totally preventable!

Related: Stop Wasting the Most Tossed-Out Food in Canada with These Recipes

The One Thing You Should Always Do to Prevent Freezer Burn

The most important thing you can do to prevent freezer burn is to reduce the food’s exposure to air: make sure you have an airtight, moisture-proof barrier between the food and the container it’s in. Simple tricks like wrapping foods in double layers of wax paper or aluminum foil before storing them in freezer-safe containers or bags will go a long way to making sure your food doesn’t go to waste.

Note that no food will last indefinitely without developing freezer burn, so another way to make sure you’re avoiding those pesky ice crystals from developing is to rotate the food in your freezer so you’re eating the oldest items first, which are the most at-risk of catching freezer burn.

Related: How to Freeze Fruit, Cheese, Leftovers and More

Top Tips for Avoiding Freezer Burn on Commonly Frozen Foods

1. If you’re serious about keeping frozen foods as fresh as possible, buy a vacuum sealer. This is a surefire way to make sure the packaging is completely airtight.

2. Buy too much bread? Slice loaves and store the slices in a large plastic freezer bag, making sure to remove as much air as possible. You’ll have fresh bread to toast for weeks to come! 

3. Found yourself with too much produce? It can be frozen, but most vegetables benefit from a quick blanch or steam prior to freezing. Once cooked, shock with cold water, then dry and freeze in airtight containers or freezer bags.

Related: Effortless Instant Pot Freezer Meals for Easy Weeknights

More Tips to Keep in Mind When Freezing Food

1. Never freeze hot food. Instead, allow it to come to room temperature before you freeze.

2. If you’re freezing liquid-heavy foods (think soups and stews), make sure you leave some room in the containers, as liquid expands when frozen. Place plastic wrap touching the liquid/food before you close the lid to avoiding potential freezer burn.

Related: The One Healthy Soup That Should Always Be in Your Freezer

3. Broth and stock are super useful things to have on hand, but how often does a recipe call for a small amount, leaving you with leftovers? Solution? Freeze it in ice-cube trays! As soon as it’s frozen, transfer to an airtight bag or container to ensure a constant supply that’s practical in size.

4. Do you have slightly past-their-prime produce lingering in your crisper? Put your freezer to work. Frozen fruit is perfect for smoothies, and frozen vegetables can be used in cooked dishes. No one will ever know they were anything other than fresh!

freezer-bag-of-pumpkin

5. Many people don’t think to freeze butter, but if you have a few sticks about to expire, pop them into the freezer to keep it fresh for longer. Note that it’s best to use quickly once thawed, making it perfect for baking!

Related: Building a Zero-Waste Kitchen is Easier Than You Think. Here’s How to Make it Happen

6. Cookie dough is a perfect candidate for freezing, so you’ll never be far from a freshly-baked treat! Scoop dough and freeze directly on baking trays. Once frozen solid, place the dough in airtight bags, or wrap them tightly in plastic and just bake however many you need. The dough will last in the freezer for up to three months.

Related: Anna Olson Explains How to Properly Freeze Just About Everything

7. Portion items when you freeze them so you can easily select the right amount of food to thaw, avoiding unnecessary waste.

8. Label all foods with the date you froze them, and don’t forget to rotate items and use older foods up first.

Related: How to Prep Slow Cooker Freezer Meals for Busy Nights

While freezing items is a great way to avoid waste, there are some other foods that you should never freeze.

5 Foods That Never Belong in Your Freezer (And Why):

1. Open packages of coffee beans (and ground) will absorb freezer smells. Make sure it’s stored in an airtight container, not the bag you bought it in.

2. Cooked pasta, like spaghetti, will not hold its structure when frozen and thawed, it will turn to mush (baked pasta dishes like lasagna, however, are perfect candidates for freezing).

3. Raw potatoes turn black when frozen due to a chemical reaction, so make sure to quickly blanch chopped potatoes before you freeze them.

4. Melon will turn mushy when frozen and thawed due to its high water content, so while it’s fine to use frozen in drinks, for example, it won’t be any good for a fruit salad.

5. Raw eggs in their shell will explode when frozen. If you find yourself needing to freeze eggs, crack them and lightly beat them before freezing them in an ice cube tray or muffin tin. When completely frozen, you can put them in a freezer bag where they will keep for up to six months.

Want to make the most of your freezer? Watch this video on how to prep food for freezing.

9 Easy Weekly Meal Plan Ideas That Really Work

Between busy schedules and a family full of picky eaters,  the dinner struggle is real. Finding inspiration for quick, budget-friendly and (at least somewhat) healthy meals can challenge the best of home cooks, never mind those whose plates are already heaped pile-high.

That’s where meal planning becomes a lifesaver—if you can take the time to actually do it. If you don’t have the means to sit down weekly and plot out your favourite fare, we’ve got your back with this simple guide that will help you plan your meals and grocery list, too. These meal ideas and recipes (one for every night of the week, plus two bonus ideas to swap in and out) makes preparing a weekly meal plan  or menu easy while helping you to create dishes that are anything but routine.

How to Start Meal Planning? Try These No-Fail Meal Planning Ideas!

 

easy-pasta-pumpkin-sausageGet the recipe for Pasta with Pumpkin and Sausage

1. Start with Pasta

Pasta is an affordable universal favourite, so why not make it a weekly thing? Having a designated pasta night is genius because you can essentially pair any kind of pasta with whichever sauce, protein and veggie you feel like, and then you can do something completely different the following week.

Looking for some inspiration other than another plate of spaghetti and meatballs? Try these recipes instead:

Pasta with Pumpkin and Sausage

15-Minute Three-Cheese Spring Pasta with Peas

Sweet Potato and Zucchini Noodle Pasta with Garlic Scapes and Grilled Shrimp 

Anna Olson’s Beef Stroganoff

Ina Garten’s Bow Tie Pasta with Broccoli and Peas

korean-steakGet the recipe for Korean-Style Marinated Skirt Steak

2. You Can’t go Wrong with Protein and Veg 

A  barbecued, baked or even pan-fried cut of meat or fish always pairs well with some steamed or baked veggies. Switch up your marinades and cooking methods for even more variety, and then throw in some rice, lentils or potatoes for a complete meal.

Want some new ideas? Check out these simple-to-prepare recipes:

Giada De Laurentiis’ Ginger-Soy Chicken Wings

No-Mess Sheet Pan Chicken Fajitas

Pork Tenderloin with Chipotle-Maple Mop

Flank Steak with Chimichurri

Bobby Flay’s Korean-Style Marinated Skirt Steak

Baked Fish Packets

Anna Olson’s Horseradish Grill-Roasted Salmon

chourico-kale-soupGet the recipe for Portuguese Chourico and Kale Soup

3. Soup and Salads are Your Friends

There are so many hearty salads and filling soups out there these days that it’s easy to make either one a meal in itself. If the weather is nice, plan on eating an elevated salad one night of the week with some fancy ingredients to make it interesting. Or, for those weeks when you need something a little more comforting, plan on having a hot soup and some crusty baguette to go with it.

Get started with these recipes:

Immune-Boosting Bone Broth, Chicken and Vegetable Soup

The Pioneer Woman’s Cheesy Cauliflower Soup

Portuguese Chourico and Kale Soup

Asian Noodle Salad with Sweet Ginger Dressing

Marinated Artichoke Salad with Prosciutto and Parmesan

Grilled Turkey, Brie and Pecan Salad

Instapot-Pulled-Pork-recipeGet the recipe for Instant Pot Barbecue Pulled Pork Sandwich

4. Make Use of Your Slow Cooker or Instapot

Who doesn’t love a meal that you can throw together and then forget about until it’s ready? That’s the beauty of slow-cookers and Instapots—they do all of the heavy lifting for you. Figure out which night of the week will be your busiest, and then plan to use either tool to help pull dinner together in a breeze.

Need a new Crockpot or pressure cooker recipe? Check out any of these delicious dishes:

Instant Pot Barbecue Pulled Pork Sandwich

Instant Pot Chicken Adobo

Alton Brown’s Pressure Cooker Chili

Slow-Cooker Enchiladas Two Ways

Slow Cooker Swedish Meatballs

Slow Cooker Shrimp Boil

Spicy-Shrimp-Fried-RiceGet the recipe for Spicy Shrimp and Pineapple Fried Rice

5. Stock up on Easy-to-Assemble Ingredients

Having a well-stocked pantry is always key when it comes to throwing together last-minute dinners, or figuring out how to use up fresh ingredients that have been sitting in your fridge for a few extra days. Make sure to keep things like canned tuna, crab or chicken on hand, as well as lots of stock, tomato sauce and a few protein-filled grains and legumes.

Check out these simple ideas to elevate your basic pantry staples:

Crispy Tuna-Cake Sliders with Citrus Slaw

Stuffed Mozza Peppers

Classic Crab Cakes with Pea Puree

One-Pot Spaghetti with Fresh Tomato Sauce

Farmer’s Market Quinoa Salad

Spicy Shrimp and Pineapple Fried Rice

giadas-Lasagna-Rolls Get the recipe for Giada de Laurentiis’ Lasagna Rolls

6. Find Your Freezer Meals

Remember those freezer meals you made a few months ago that have been sitting in your freezer just waiting to be eaten ever since? Well, make use of them already, especially if you know you have an evening coming up where preparing dinner is just going to be another thing to worry about. And if you haven’t gotten on the freezer meal train just yet, you may want to think about starting. Whether it’s doubling up on your next pasta sauce or cobbling together a second lasagna or tray of enchiladas, there are plenty of freezer meals that you can make ahead of time to enjoy on those hectic nights when cooking is the last thing you want to be doing.

Turkey-Burger-Patty-Melts-recipeGet the recipe for Guy Fieri’s Turkey Burger Patty Melts

7. Have an Eat-With-Your-Hands Night

Whether it’s a burger, pizza or taco, it’s always fun to eat with your hands. That’s probably why these are the same fast-food items we tend to usually order throughout the week. If you want to save money, use better ingredients and still have a meal in a matter of minutes for a well-deserved Eat-With-Your-Hands night!

From pizza and tacos to sloppy joes and charcuterie boards, there are plenty of hands-on dishes to choose from here:

Bobby Flay’s Shredded Chicken and Tomatillo Tacos

Southwestern Sloppy Joes

Ina Garten’s Cheese and Bread Platter

Guy Fieri’s Turkey Burger Patty Melts

cauliflower-pot-pieGet the recipe for Vegan Shepherd’s Pie with Crispy Cauliflower Crust

8. Make One Night a Meatless Night

We’ve heard of Meatless Mondays, but really any night of the week is a good excuse to go meatless—especially when you incorporate foods like whole grains, quinoa and barley that fill the tummy and soul. Stir yourself up a creamy risotto, build a yummy Buddha bowl with all the things, or stuff an eggplant or squash with some whole grains and nuts. Keep it simple and hearty, and before long, you won’t even remember a time when you didn’t incorporate a meatless dish into your meal planning.

Check out these 20 easy vegan weeknight dinner recipes to get you started.

Leftover-Turkey-Chili-recipeeGet the recipe for Leftover Turkey Chili

9. Plan a Designated Leftover Night

Last but not least, it’s always a great idea to make one night an evening of no planning. That’s right, we’re talking leftovers. Once a week, throw whatever leftovers you have in the fridge on the table for everyone to enjoy, or reimagine them into a creative, brand new dish that requires very little effort.

Check out some of our favourite ways to use up leftovers here:

Leftover Steak and Potato Salad with Bold Tomato Dressing

Italian Chicken Pasta Salad

Sweet Arancini with Leftover Rice

Leftover Turkey Chili

Leftover Chili Mac and Cheese

Looking for more meal planning tips? Try these hacks that will help you plan like a pro.

How to Make Vietnamese Bun Cha, The Rice Noodle Salad Your Lunch Bowl is Craving

This vibrant rice noodle salad boldly features Vietnamese-spiced pork patties, thin rice noodles, fresh vegetables and herbs, spring rolls and a salty-sweet sauce. It’s the lunch bowl you’ll be returning to again and again. The best part? You can meal prep all the components on the weekend, pack them up and enjoy throughout the week. You’ll be the envy of your co-workers!

Vietnamese Noodle Bowls (Bun Thit Nuong Cha Gio)

Prep Time: 30 minutes
Cook Time: 30 minutes
Total Time: 60 minutes
Serves: 4

Ingredients:

Pork Patties
1 lb ground pork (use regular or lean for the most flavour, not extra-lean)
2 cloves garlic, minced
4 green onions, thinly sliced
1 Tbsp minced ginger
1 Tbsp fish sauce
1 Tbsp lemongrass paste
1 Tbsp honey

Nuoc Cham Dressing
½ cup warm water
¼ cup honey
¼ cup freshly squeezed lime juice
¼ cup fish sauce
1 small red chili pepper, finely diced
1 clove garlic, minced

Noodle Bowl
Approx. 4 cups cooked rice noodles
4 large (or 8 small) cooked spring rolls, cut into small pieces
1 lettuce head (like Boston), with some leaves intact, some shredded
1 large red pepper, cut into matchsticks
1 large carrot, cut into matchsticks
1 large English cucumber, cut into matchsticks
approx. ½ cup chopped, unsalted peanuts
large bunch fresh cilantro, for garnish
large bunch fresh mint, for garnish
limes, quartered, for garnish

Directions:

Pork Patties
1. Place all ingredients in a large bowl and use your hands to mix to make sure ingredients are well combined.

2. Use a 3-tablespoon cookie scoop to make 16 patties, flattening them slightly with your hands.

3. Place patties on a plate, covered in the fridge, until ready to cook.

4. Pre-heat a non-stick frying pan (preferably one with griddle marks) over medium heat.

5. Cook patties until a meat thermometer inserted in the middle reads 160˚F.

6. If not using straight away, set patties aside to cool to room temperature before refrigerating.

Nuoc Cham Dressing
1. Whisk all ingredients in a small jug until combined. Some honey will produce a dressing that’s a little cloudy – that’s fine! Set aside until using (can be refrigerated).

Noodle Bowl Assembly 
1. Gently reheat pork patties and spring rolls in a slow oven or microwave.

2. Line the bowls with one large lettuce leaf each.

3. Add shredded lettuce, cooked noodles, vegetables, pork patties and spring rolls.

4. Sprinkle over peanuts, cilantro and mint.

5. Serve with the lime quarters and dressing on the side and allow people to season with these to taste.

Tip: You can prepare all ingredients in advance and simply assemble when you’re ready to eat. For an amazing desk lunch, pack separate containers with noodles, vegetables, dressing and pork patties/spring rolls, and simply assemble for a meal to remember.

Here, we reveal the healthiest meal-prep lunches that won’t get soggy, plus our best no-heat lunch ideas to avoid that dreaded office microwave line.

Building a Zero-Waste Kitchen is Easier Than You Think. Here’s How to Make it Happen

Whether you want to be more eco-friendly, save some cash or you simply like having a little organization in your life, there are plenty of reasons to move towards a waste-free kitchen. The good news: even if it sounds a little overwhelming at first, it’s a whole lot simpler to achieve than you’d think. Here’s how to make it happen.


Related: Recipes to Stop Wasting the Most Tossed-Out Food in Canada

10 Easy Steps to Creating a No-Waste Kitchen 

1. Invest in reusable containers, wraps and bags

One of the easiest ways to eliminate extra waste is to ditch the plastic wrap, single-use containers and plastic bags in favour of reusable containers, Mason jars and beeswax wraps. And, if you’re already taking tote bags or baskets with you to do your shopping, consider upping your game with produce-friendly mesh bags. It’s a pain-free start to making some pretty big changes, and it also sets you up for better long-term food storage and less waste at the grocery store.

2. Buy in bulk and buy whole

For basic goods that you use often, like oats, flour, beans and grains, head to the bulk food store and fill up your own containers. You’ll save money and even potentially extend the shelf life of some of those products by storing them in glass jars. Meanwhile, when it comes to meat, select whole chicken and fish rather than pre-cut trays, and in the produce aisle, don’t fall victim to pre-packed greens, cut beans, or other “handy” items that have already been prepared for you. When you take full items home, you can portion and use them how you wish, plus you can use the leftovers to whip up a nifty vegetable, fish or chicken stock.


Related: 18 Freezer-Friendly Vegan Dinner Ideas to Prep This Week

3. Use a meal plan

Is there anything more dangerous than doing your grocery shopping while hungry? That’s when you tend to fill the cart with wants, rather than needs. Fill up before you shop, but also make sure to put together a meal plan and a grocery list first. That way you can avoid overbuying and tossing food that goes bad before you have a chance to use it. Plus, you’re more likely to stick to healthy choices when you plan ahead. Double win.

Related: 10 Ways You’re Destroying the Planet From the Comfort of Your Own Home

4. Make things from scratch

We’ve covered stocks, but there’s a whole world of basic condiments you can also whip up with things you already have in the fridge or pantry. There are tons of recipes for everyday salad dressings out there, mayo is pretty simple to throw together, while ketchup, mustard and barbecue sauce always taste better when they’re made in-house. Need some more inspiration? Check out these tasty condiments that are worth making from scratch.

5. Regrow your vegetable scraps

If your veggie scraps aren’t worth transforming into a stock, why not give them a whole new life by planting them and starting your own veggie garden? If you’ve never done this before, it’s actually shocking how many things you can plant and regrow in the kitchen, while eliminating how much waste you produce. Green onion roots turn into new shoots, pepper seeds will grow into the real deal, and even celery bases get a second life if you plant them. If you’re just starting to explore your green thumb or you need some more inspiration, here are 15 vegetables you can regrow in your kitchen.

6. Get creative with food scraps and compost when necessary

If you don’t compost, now is a good time to start — it’s a smarter alternative to recycling, and if your city doesn’t have a program already in place, then it’s something you can easily start doing at home. Meanwhile, reconsider the food scraps you may currently be tossing into the bin. Broccoli stems make for a delicious slaw, veggie pulp from a juicer can be tossed into a pasta sauce, and carrot tops transform into a surprisingly delicious pesto (more creative pesto ideas here!).


Related: 10 Tasty Uses for Leftover Food Scraps to Reduce Food Waste

7. Find a second use for your leftovers

Don’t just get creative with your food scraps — get creative with your leftovers before they go bad and you’re forced to toss them. While meal planning definitely helps eliminate unexpected leftovers, if you find yourself with extra food, don’t be discouraged. Your freezer is always your friend in terms of extending an item’s shelf life, or get inspired with some of our ideas for leftover chicken, leftover steak or leftover rice.

8. Ditch the coffee pods and tea bags

Coffee pods may be convenient and easy-to-use, but they’re also expensive and they create so much unnecessary waste. If you insist on a single-pod machine, invest in a reusable filter that gives you the further benefit of adjusting the amount of coffee per serving to individual tastes. And when it comes to tea, buy a diffuser and stock the pantry with loose-leaf tea to avoid extra staples, strings, and plastic-coated tea bags being tossed into the rubbish bin.

9. Clean your kitchen the smart way

As you’re ditching disposable kitchen-storage products, consider eliminating unnecessary one-time-use cleaning items like paper towels and sponges, too. Dish towels and clothes can be thrown into the laundry and used over and over again, which might feel like more work, but it also saves you more money in the long-run. And when it comes to cleaning products, consider making your own. A solution of vinegar, baking soda and water will clean most household items.

Related: 12 Ways You Can Organize Your Kitchen Like Marie Kondo

Related: 17 Kitchen Gadgets That’ll Be Extinct by 2025

10. Think quality, not quantity

If you get excited by new tools and gadgets, we feel you — it’s always fun to try out a new toy in the kitchen. But, if the goal is to create a waste-free kitchen then sometimes it’s better to ask yourself if you really need an item, or if it just sounds like a cool thing to have. Cast-iron pans will produce quality food for a longer period of time than a Teflon-coated one, for example, while most pressure cookers also double as a slow cooker these days. Garlic presses are handy, but sometimes it’s quicker to just mince a clove or two yourself. Take stock of needs versus wants, and then begin living your best minimalist life from there.

If you’re looking to take your zero-waste kitchen one step further, find out where to take your used appliances and cabinets (by province) or check out the best zero-waste restaurants and food stores across Canada.

The Breakfast, Lunch and Dinner Menu With 5 Ingredients Per Meal

Have you ever looked at a gorgeous recipe photo and thought, “I’m definitely making that tonight!” only to become way less enthused when the cooking instructions call for 20 ingredients or more? We’ve been there. So, we’re giving you the opposite: a day’s worth of meals with only five ingredients required for each one. Not only are these breakfast, lunch and dinner recipes a cinch to make, they’re winter-proof (meaning they’ll warm you right up while nourishing you in the process). One housekeeping rule: oil, salt and pepper don’t count toward the five ingredients. Okay, that’s it. It’s time to get cooking!

Breakfast: Maple Quinoa Breakfast Bowl

Prep Time: 12-15 minutes
Total Time: 17 minutes
Serves: 1


Ingredients:
¼ cup quinoa
¾ cup non-dairy milk
¼ – ⅓ cup toasted walnuts or almonds, roughly chopped
¼ cup blueberries (or your favourite fruit of choice)
Splash of maple syrup, to taste

Directions:
1. Place the quinoa and non-dairy milk in a saucepan, bring to a boil and simmer for 12-15 minutes until fluffy and all the milk is absorbed.
2. Pour the quinoa into a bowl, top with walnuts or almonds, blueberries and a hearty drizzle of maple syrup. Feel free to add more non-dairy milk.
3. You can replace the quinoa with brown rice or oats. If you already have these grains pre-cooked, simply toss them in the saucepan with just a bit of non-dairy milk to heat up.

Lunch: Quickie Grains, Greens & Beans Bowl

Prep Time: 10 minutes
Total Time: 10 minutes
Serves: 1

Ingredients:
½ cup cooked brown rice or cauliflower rice
½ cup chickpeas
1 cup baby kale, mesclun greens or baby spinach
½ green apple or avocado, sliced
2 Tbsp creamy tahini
2 tsp extra-virgin olive oil
Pinch of salt and pepper

Directions:
1. If you’re using brown rice and it’s not cooked yet, do so according to package instructions. For a grain-free option,  use cauliflower rice.
2. Place the rice or cauliflower on the bottom of a wide bowl or reusable to-go container if you’re taking this lunch with you.
3. Pile the chickpeas together in one area of the bowl.
4. Place the greens in another area of the bowl. Then add the apple or avocado on top to create a picture-perfect meal.
5. Drizzle tahini, olive oil, salt and pepper, then mix. If you’re taking this lunch to-go, you can dress it beforehand or place the dressing components in a container on the side.

Dinner: Sheet Pan Miso Salmon

Prep Time: 15 minutes
Total Time: 18 minutes
Serves: 2

Ingredients:
1 bunch broccoli, chopped in florets
2 Tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
2.5 oz pieces of salmon
Pinch of sea salt and pepper
2 Tbsp white miso
3 tsp maple syrup
1 Tbsp sesame oil

Directions:
1. Preheat the oven to 375°.
2. Place the broccoli florets on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper. Toss with extra-virgin olive oil, salt and pepper.
3. Push some florets to the side and place the salmon in the middle of the baking sheet, so the flesh is facing up. Season the salmon with salt and pepper. Place in the oven to roast for 15 minutes.
4. While the broccoli and salmon are baking, prepare the miso marinade by whisking miso, maple syrup and sesame oil.
5. Take the salmon out of the oven when it’s done (you know it’s done when a fork gently flakes it apart) and immediately brush or spoon the miso marinade over top.

For more easy-breezy recipes, here are our best one-pan dinners with 7 ingredients or less, along with more healthy 5-ingredient lunch ideas and 3-ingredient breakfasts for better mornings.

The Realistic Clean Eating Meal Plan That Won’t Leave You Hungry

Happy New Year! It’s time to celebrate… but not with champagne, or sugar cookies, or elaborate cheese platters. While we don’t really believe in resolutions (because let’s face it, most set us up with unrealistic expectations) we do believe in starting the year off strong, and one of the best ways to do that is by assessing our eating habits. The good news? There’s no need to give up all those delicious dishes we crave, or do away with fun cooking techniques. Healthy eating is about consuming foods that nourish our cells to boost energy, improve focus, increase mood and support immune health (here’s to no more winter colds!) – and who doesn’t want that? Follow this realistic meal plan as a simple starting point.

What to keep in mind for every meal:

Breakfast
Morning meals should contain a healthy amount of protein and fat. This helps keep blood sugar levels stable to sustain energy throughout the day (and can aid in preventing diseases like diabetes, heart disease and cancer). Think: eggs and avocado, nuts, seeds, nut/seed butters, chia puddings and overnight oats.

Lunch
Salad and grain bowls make for the best lunches, because you can often re-purpose dinner leftovers to make them. Aim for a myriad of colour (phytonutrients provide veggies and fruit with their bright hues and health-giving benefits) and texture (like crunchy nuts and seeds paired with creamy dairy-free dressings) in every dish.

Dinner
Dinners can be more involved than lunches, but if you’re short on time, prep ahead: chop veggies the night before, or make the recipe a few days ahead and freeze it (like these freezer-friendly recipes). Another tip: try to finish eating about three hours before bedtime so your body is able to fully digest the food before you hit the sheets.

Healthy Meal Plan: Day 1

Breakfast: Super Simple Morning Egg Sauté

Serving: 1-2
Prep Time: 10 minutes
Total Time: 10 minutes

Ingredients:
2 tsp extra-virgin olive oil, butter or avocado oil
1 cup kale or spinach, roughly chopped
½ zucchini, sliced into half discs
¼ tsp sea salt
Pinch of pepper
2 eggs
1 heaping Tbsp creamy tahini
¼ lemon, squeezed
¼ cup pecans, toasted
¼ avocado, sliced
Crack of pepper

Directions:
1. Heat a wide saucepan over medium, add the oil, and when it gets slippery and starts sliding freely around the pan, add the kale and zucchini. Season with salt and pepper. Toss around until veggies begin wilting.

2. Push the veggies to the side. If you feel the pan needs a bit more oil, splash a small glug in and crack the eggs in the empty space. Season with salt and pepper. After about 2-3 minutes, flip the eggs.

3. Grab a bowl and put the veggies on the bottom, place the runny eggs over the veg, then drizzle with tahini and lemon. Top with toasted pecans, avocado and pepper. Voila!

Lunch: Asian Noodle Salad with Ginger Dressing

A medley of veggies that are probably already in your fridge with a sweet and tangy immune-boosting dressing. Get the recipe.

Dinner: Lentil and Cauliflower Shepherd’s Pie

cauliflower-pot-pie

A vegan, veggie-packed warming dinner with loads of fibre to keep you full and feed the good bacteria in the gut. Get the recipe.

Healthy Meal Plan: Day 2

Breakfast: Morning Chia Pudding

The mighty chia seed delivers omega 3’s, fibre, protein and calcium to boost your energy levels. Trust us when we say it’s one of the best ways to start the day. Get the recipe.

Lunch: Clean Bean and Green Stew

Servings: 3-4
Prep Time: 15 minutes
Total Time: 40 minutes

Ingredients:
1 Tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
1 yellow onion, diced
4 garlic cloves, minced
1 sweet potato, cut into 1-inch cubes
2 carrots, sliced into ½ inch circles
2 celery stalks, sliced
½ dried green or brown lentils
1 cup chickpeas (from can or previously cooked)
2 ½ cups veggie broth
1 cup kale or swiss chard, roughly chopped
Small handful of parsley or cilantro, roughly chopped
Sea salt and pepper

Directions:
1. Place a large pot on the stove, turn to medium heat, add the oil. Swirl the oil around the pan, then drop in the onions. Allow to cook for 3-5 minutes until translucent and slightly browned.

2. Add the garlic. Toss for about 1 minute, then add the remainder of veggies and season with a pinch of salt and pepper.

3. Let the veggies cook for 5-8 minutes until they begin to soften, then toss in the lentils and chickpeas, season with a pinch of salt and pepper again and mix so everything gets combined.

4. Pour in the veggie broth, season one more time, bring to a boil and simmer for 20-25 minutes.

5. Once simmer time is over, add in the kale so it brightens and gets slightly cooked. You can also make a big batch of this stew in advance, because it freezes super well.

Dinner: Sesame-Crusted Salmon with Asian Greens and Tamari Dressing

Salmon is rich in healthy fats (i.e. omega 3’s), and when paired with calcium-rich sesame seeds, fibre-rich brown rice and phytonutrient-rich bok choy, you’re eating a meal that will nourish, replenish and detoxify. Get the recipe.

Healthy Meal Plan: Day 3

Breakfast: Veggie-Packed Breakfast Frittata

Eggs and veggies in the morning are the perfect combo for delivering nutrients and keeping blood sugar stable. Get the recipe.

Lunch: Healthy Buddha Bowl

Vibrant veggies topped with a gut-loving fermented miso sauce that’s also rich in good fats and calcium. Get the recipe.

Dinner: Easy Tamari Chicken and Broccoli Stir-Fry

Servings: 2-3
Prep Time: 15 minutes
Total Time: 40 minutes

Ingredients:
1 ½ pounds chicken thighs, sliced into pieces
3 tsp tamari
2 crowns broccoli, sliced into florets
1 Tbsp avocado or coconut oil
1 red onion, thinly sliced
4 garlic cloves, minced
1 tsp ginger, minced
2 Tbsp brown rice vinegar or rice vinegar
2 Tbsp sesame oil
3 Tbsp tamari
1 Tbsp maple syrup

Optional Toppings:
¼ cup fresh cilantro, roughly chopped
2-3 Tbsp sesame seeds
2 green onions, thinly sliced

Directions:
1. Slice the chicken into pieces, place in a bowl and pour tamari over top.

2. Place broccoli florets in a large pot with hot water. Steam them until they turn bright green and are still a bit crunchy in texture. Drain and set to the side.

3. Heat avocado or coconut oil over medium in a large pot or saucepan, then add the chicken. Stop yourself from constantly tossing the chicken around. You want it to cook on one side for 3-5 minutes, then flip and continue to cook for 2 minutes. Don’t worry if some pieces are not fully cooked through yet.

4. Take the chicken out of the pan, set to the side and add the onion, garlic and ginger all at once. Let them sauté for about 3 minutes, then add the chicken and broccoli back in.

5. Pour the liquids (i.e. vinegar, tamari, etc.) in a bowl, give a quick stir to mix, then pour into the pot. You could pour them individually into the pot but, we like the idea of them being fully combined first.

6. Toss everything around to coat in the delicious juicy liquids, then simmer until the juices begin to thicken and disappear, about 10-12 minutes.

7. You can serve with brown rice, brown rice noodles or as is. Whatever you decide, top with fresh cilantro, sesame seeds and green onions.

Looking for more inspiration to start the year off with a healthy bang? Here’s how a nutritionist meal prep every Sunday, plus 15 bad eating habits experts say to ditch this year and 10 things healthy people eat for breakfast.

How I Cooked for My Family of 4 for a Week on Less Than $100

Let’s be real — if you buy in bulk and stick to a budget, it shouldn’t be hard to feed a family of four for a week, right? Right. Except that’s without considering any of the things life throws at you. I’m talking about picky toddlers, a packed schedule, and those nights where the last thing you want to do is putter around in the kitchen soaking your own beans, despite your inherent love for culinary adventures. Or is that just me?

Regardless, as a working mom with a husband who travels and two toddlers that would be content eating nothing but bread and cheese for the rest of their days, I decided to purge the fridge and cupboards to start fresh for a week. The goal? Feeding the entire family three nutritious meals a day (plus snacks) without breaking the bank. Here’s how it went.

The Overall Plan

Full disclosure: I love grocery shopping. There’s something calming about walking up and down the aisles and planning what I’m going to create next. Unfortunately, when you’re cooking on a budget, that doesn’t necessarily translate.

Instead, I used a grocery app to determine the best deals of the week, and then created a meal plan based on what was on sale. I started with dinners, because that’s where the bulk of my budget was going (we like leftovers, y’all), and then I went to a store that price-matched. We eat meat in our house, so I wanted to include some animal protein, but we also try to include healthy plant-based dinners at least two-to-three nights a week.

The other thing I had to consider was stocking up on staples. I was in good shape for things like olive oil and nutritional yeast (more on that below) but I needed some basics like flour, rice and quinoa. In the end, I thought it was going to take hours gouging my eyes out with an excel sheet, but it was actually pretty painless. I’d say 30 minutes of planning, tops.

Cost Savings Vs. Convenience

When I’m feeling rich, I’ll buy pre-washed, boxed spinach or mixed greens, because I absolutely hate running salad greens one by one under the faucet and then drying them. Not hate, loathe. I loathe it. But I’m obsessed with doing it properly, because let’s just say I’ve had plenty of experience accidentally ingesting “extra protein” in the past. For this experiment, however, I got four times as much fresh spinach and lettuce for less than a box would have cost me. So I was okay with it.

Then there are the beans. Usually I’ll buy dried beans for less and stock the pantry, but because I wanted to prep once for the entire week, I didn’t want to pressure cook beans and then have them sit there for seven days. It was a lot easier (and not that much more expensive) to buy the canned stuff, so I splurged a bit in that department.

The Grocery List

You probably want to get to the goods, right? Without further ado, here’s everything I bought to stock up the fridge and pantry.

Produce

● Broccoli, $1.27
● Cauliflower, $1.99
● Bagged carrots, $1.49
● Bagged onions, $1.49
● Grape tomatoes, $2
● Bagged beets, $1.97
● 2 bunches spinach, $4
● 2 bunches red leaf lettuce, $3
● Garlic, $1.49
● 2 cucumbers, $4
● 6 bananas, $1.63
● Bag of apples, $4
● Strawberries, $2.5
● Bagged peppers, $2.98
● Bagged mandarins, $2.97
● Celery, $3
● Frozen peas, $0.99

Meat, Dairy & Deli

● Fresh olives, $5.12
● Bagged milk, $3.97
● Brick marble cheese, $3.97
● 18 eggs, $2.99
● Ground turkey, $2
● 2 fresh, whole chickens, $13.62

Pantry & Bakery

● Brown rice, $1.27
● Pasta (my daughter picked “little shells”), $0.88
● Yeast packets, $1.97
● Peanut butter, $3.77
● Flour, $3.99
● Quinoa, $3.47
● 2 cans salt-free chickpeas, $1.58
● 2 cans salt-free black beans, $1.58
● 2 cans diced tomatoes, $1.96
● Tomato paste, $0.59

Total: $93.50

 

Meal Prepping

If you love devoting an entire Sunday afternoon to meal-prepping, raise your hand. What, no one? I’m shocked. While meal-prepping often feels daunting, I’ve discovered several ways to make it less painful over the years. Sometimes I’ll get my kids to help out and we make it a family affair. Other times, I consider it “me time” and I’ll put on a TV show or listen to a podcast. The bottom line is that I consider it a necessary evil if I want to save time during the week and still eat healthy, so I try to find a positive spin.

For this particular menu, my meal-prepping included:

● Hard-boiling eight eggs
● Washing and drying lots of lettuce and spinach
● Cooking a batch of quinoa
● Roasting beets (to add to salads)
● “Ricing” cauliflower in a food processor
● Peeling and cutting carrots
● Washing and cutting celery
● Making a giant vat of homemade tomato sauce
● Roasting both chickens, cooling them and removing the meat
● Making stock from chicken bones (once this was simmering, it pretty much made itself over the course of the night).

Was this work? Very much so. But it saved me so much time during the week on lunch and dinner, as you’ll see below. I should also note that I added nutritional yeast (instead of Parmesan, which I didn’t buy) to the tomato sauce for an extra hit of cheesy, vegan fibre and protein. I also threw in an entire pepper and a few handfuls of spinach, before blending it up with my immersion blender so my kids would never know. I then froze half the sauce, which means sometime in the near future, I’ll have instant tomato sauce for pasta, lazy cabbage rolls or even pizza.

The Meal Planned Menu

Breakfast: I wanted to leave breakfasts fairly neutral, since my kids and husband are perfectly content with toast and fruit, or eggs. On busier mornings, we’ll whip up peanut butter banana smoothies (with spinach thrown in there), which my kids can drink in the car. I also bought English muffins so that we could make egg-and-cheese breakfast sandwiches on Saturday morning before we all ran out the door to dance class, and I planned for our lazier, traditional Sunday morning pancake breakfast, too.


Get the recipe for Anna Olson’s Fluffy Blueberry Pancakes

Lunches: I figured a combination of leftovers, salads and sandwiches would do. The kids love peanut butter and jam sandwiches or a plate of cut up veggies, cheese and fruit, while my husband and I are happy to concoct a variety of salads with different proteins in them, like beans, a scoop of quinoa or hard-boiled eggs. Because I found chicken on sale, I also factored in leftover chicken to make a multitude of dishes.

Snacks: We’re trying to get away from sugar-laden and expensive pre-bought snacks, so that’s why I stocked up on apples, mandarins, carrots, celery, tomatoes and cucumber. I thought about making hummus with one of the cans of chickpeas (I have some tahini still in my cupboard), but ultimately passed because sometimes it’s so much easier to pair produce with a pre-bought healthy dip, peanut butter or even cheese. At least it is with my kids.

And that brings us to…

Dinners

Sunday: Roasted Chicken and Broccoli with Rice

Because I was already roasting the chicken, I figured it would make for a good Sunday night family dinner. I paired that with steamed broccoli in the microwave, which my kids either love or hate depending on the day. This particular night, the dog seemed to eat more of it than the kids thanks to their scheming, but that’s why I feed the dog last. I also cooked a big batch of brown rice (factoring in leftovers), and both kids devoured that.

Monday: Cauliflower Fried Rice

We’re typically out the door by 5:30pm on Monday nights to make the kids’ activities, so I needed something simple. Enter cauliflower fried rice! While the “healthy” me would prefer to just have cauliflower, that’s not possible with kids. Instead, I masked the cauliflower rice by adding in actual leftover rice from the night before. I stir-fried it with onions, garlic, egg, soy sauce and mushroom oyster sauce, which I bought about six months ago at an Asian food store for a couple of bucks. I also added frozen peas, but I wish I hadn’t, because both kids basically threw them at each other. Everything else was eaten, so I’ll take that win.

Tuesday: Pasta with Ground Turkey

This quick dinner was super simple thanks to the pre-made sauce, and I could have made it vegetarian, except I found that amazing $2 deal on ground turkey. So I cooked that up quickly on the stove as the pasta boiled, and then threw it all together for a veggie-filled dinner that my kids devoured. Yes, I did a devious happy dance, and maybe even high-fived my husband as we did the dishes afterwards.

Wednesday: Grainy Salad

 My daughter is a weirdo like me and she loves cold beans. My son hates beans, but likes the texture of quinoa, which my daughter doesn’t. So I succumbed to motherhood heck and gave her beans on the green plate and him quinoa on the blue plate, with some cut up peppers, cucumbers, cheese cubes and tomatoes. My husband and I essentially ate an adult version of this (quinoa with roasted beets, cucumbers and peppers) mixed together and dressed with a concoction of olive oil, garlic and balsamic vinegar. It would have been even better with feta cheese, but it was still pretty hearty and satisfying. And, thanks to the pre-made quinoa, the whole thing took about 10 minutes to whip up.

Thursday: Chicken Noodle Soup

Once again, my meal-prepping proved to be an amazing decision because I was able to throw chicken stock, carrots, celery, leftover chicken and leftover pasta shells into a pot, heat it up and dole it out into bowls. It was rich, low in sodium and perfect for that day’s colder weather, and there was only one bowl leftover at the end of the night. Oh, and for those keeping track, my daughter ate the carrots, my son ate the chicken, they both ate the pasta and then they asked me for some cheese.

Friday: Pizza Night

Does anyone ever want to cook on a Friday night? There’s no better way to usher in the weekend than with pizza, which is why we tend to order them at least every other week. The thing is though, making homemade dough is super easy. I also happen to have pizza stones, which I find give the crust a nice crispiness. So I planned ahead to whip up the crust after work, then I used the leftover secret-veggie tomato sauce as a base and added olives as a topping, which both my kids freakishly love. There wasn’t a single slice left, and I wasn’t out 20 bucks with the delivery person. Win, win.


Get the recipe for Roger Mooking’s Buffalo Mozzarella and Tomato Pizza

Saturday: Leftovers

The best part about “cooking” all week was that I had ample food leftover for customized dinners on Saturday night. My husband wanted the soup, while the kids clamoured for pasta. Meanwhile, I was craving a lighter salad after the pizza the night before, which I was able to quickly cobble together with the remaining veggies and hard-boiled eggs in the fridge.

The Results:

This entire experiment definitely required planning and a whole whack of prepping, but in the end, it wasn’t as difficult as I thought it would be. The kids ended up eating fairly well, and we didn’t turn to takeout pizza or chicken nuggets once, which is a serious feat for our household.

Would I do this every week? No, but I’m definitely going to try and keep up when I can, because on those lazier weekends where we’re not running around trying to fit everything in, getting a jump on feeding the family turns out to be an amazing time- and money-saver… with only a small number of peas and broccoli on the floor.

Looking for more meal planning inspiration? Here’s how a nutritionist meal preps every Sunday, plus 20 healthy meal prep ideas to get you through the week.

Bento Lunch Boxes: How to Make Colourful Back-to-School Meals Your Kids Will Devour

Packing healthy school lunches that your kids won’t challenge can be just a little stressful, especially if you have a picky eater on your hands. The foods you prep need to energize, nourish and keep your child focused throughout the school day. Luckily, gone are the days of the sad brown bag and that same soggy ham and cheese sandwich. That’s partly thanks to the bento lunch box, which has changed the game, giving parents a far easier method for meal prepping, and kids a way more enjoyable way to eat. Read on for eight genius tips on packing the ultimate back-to-school lunch, plus three bento box ideas you’ll be quick to replicate.

1. Pack the Rainbow

Pack as much colour as you can into your kid’s lunch box. This means lots of vibrant fruits and veggies, so they can get the vitamins, minerals, antioxidants and phytonutrients they need to grow healthy and strong. Everyone eats with their eyes first, so when something looks colourful and appetizing, the process of digestion begins. Kids also take eating cues from how food looks, rather than from how it tastes.

Main: Chicken salad sandwich with cucumber, carrots, spinach (or stuffed in a pita or tortilla)
Side: Roasted sweet potato cubes
Snack 1: Blueberries with strawberries sliced into hearts or stars
Snack 2: Edamame beans or green peas
Dessert: Mini chocolate chips with pumpkin seeds

2. Get Creative

Many kids like what’s familiar to them, and if they enjoy eating the same thing every day, one way to change it up is to get creative with how the food is displayed. If your youngster love strawberries, cucumbers or melons, try slicing them into stars one day, cubes the next and hearts the following week. Thread their favourite fruit through a stick to transform them into skewers. Take their sandwich ingredients and roll them into wraps, stuff them into mini pitas or thread them through to make sandwich kebabs.

3. Cover Your Macro & Micronutrients

Ensure your little ones remain fueled throughout the day by sending foods packed with fibre, protein, fat, vitamins and minerals. If you’re already filling lunch boxes with fruits, veggies, seeds, beans/legumes or animal protein and a whole grain, you’re covered. Packing a sweet treat is also a must, so think of more nutritious options like homemade granola bars, better-for-you cookies or healthier muffins. Remember to limit the refined sugar, which can impact your child’s behaviour, energy, focus and mood.

Main: Pesto pasta noodles with sliced cherry tomatoes
Side: Steamed green beans with sesame seeds on top or raw snap peas
Snack 1: Skewered mango and grapes
Snack 2: Cubes of cheese or crispy chickpeas
Dessert: Mini cookies or strawberries with chocolate chips

4. Repurpose Leftovers

Packing school lunches can be a lot of work, so if you can, repurpose dinner leftovers from the night before. If you have leftover chicken, make the lunch box Mexican themed and pack the chicken with avocado, corn and salsa. If you have extra lasagna, cut a square and pack that. You don’t need to start from scratch if you have foods to work with. Also, do your best to pack the night before, and avoid adding another stressful task to an already busy morning!

5. Be School Safe

Nut allergies are quite common these days, and most schools are now nut-free. Keep this in mind when you’re packing back-to-school lunches, and replace classics with nut-free alternatives. For example, if you were going to pack a peanut butter and jam sandwich, swap the PB for sunflower butter. For something like trail mix, ensure it’s made with seeds. If you’re buying snacks, there are loads of allergen-free options out there.

6. Get Your Kids Involved

Studies show that if kids have a hand in helping grow, prep or cook food, they’re more likely to eat it. So involve your children in the packing process. Have them decide what they want to eat – you can even ask them to come up with a meal plan schedule to paste on the fridge. If possible, ask them to help with the prep: maybe they can skewer fruit, or slice strawberries with a kid-safe knife.

Main: Protein pancakes
Side: Heirloom carrots, sliced + dollop of hummus to dip
Snack 1: Crispy chickpeas or raisins
Snack 2: Raspberries and kiwi
Dessert: Orange slices dipped in chocolate or with chocolate chips

7. Keep it Clean

Don’t pack foods that have a strong, offensive smell, or something that’s going to leak all over the rest of the meal. This will pretty much guarantee that your kid will pass on eating his or her lunch!

8. Lunch as an Afternoon Snack

There may be times when you open your child’s lunch box after school, only to discover the meal you lovingly prepared is still sitting there. When your kids come home, they’re usually starving and desperate for a snack. This is the perfect time to offer up these lunch leftovers to ensure the food you spent time making isn’t wasted.

Here, a nutritionist reveals meal prep tips to avoid a sad desk lunch (plus two 10-minute recipes) – because parents deserve inspiring lunches, too!

Nutritionist Reveals 6 Meal Prep Tips to Avoid a Sad Desk Lunch (Plus Two 10-Minute Recipes!)

Meal prep is the key to mastering lunch, and in my new cookbook, Modern Lunch, I share exciting and inventive ways to take your packed or at-home lunches from uninspired to extraordinary. Here, I’m revealing a handful of my top meal prep tips, along with two recipes for a re-imagined version of the midday meal.

What is a modern lunch, anyways?

It’s a refreshed version of the midday meal full of colourful, delicious, healthy ingredients that are readily accessible and straightforward to put together.

A modern lunch saves you time in the long run by getting ahead in the kitchen (welcome to the world of meal prep!), money (have you seen how much your lunch delivery is costing you each week?) and supports a healthy lifestyle (fresh, homemade meals are always going to be better for you than that pricey takeout).

Think about your schedule for the week and what your workplace has to offer before diving into meal prep. If you don’t want to stand in a microwave line, choose no-heat lunches (the book is loaded with those exact recipes), or, if you can only make lunch for one day of the week, just make one recipe. There are no “rules” you need to follow because we all have different schedules and constraints. The idea is to start thinking about lunch in a new way: as part of your self-care routine.

Here are some of my favourite meal prep tips, tricks and recipes to make sure a #saddesklunch is a distant memory.

1. Mark Your Calendar

A homemade (but not sad) lunch won’t happen unless you carve out the time during the week. Many home cooks find an hour or two on Sunday to be the most doable. I love Sunday afternoons to do my meal prep. Bonus: it’s a great time to catch up on podcasts or audiobooks.

Here’s what your Sunday meal prep could look like:
Step 1: Pick your recipes and make a grocery list (15 to 20 minutes)
Step 2: Shop (1 hour)
Step 3: Cook and prep (2 hours)
Step 4: Store the food and/or pack lunches (15 to 20 minutes)

2. No Time To Plan Lunch and Grocery Shop? Do This Instead

Keep canned chickpeas and beans, quick-cooking grains, ready-cooked proteins (canned salmon, tuna and sardines), olive oil, your favourite vinegar, mustard and tamari in the pantry at all times to form the base of your meal prep lunches. You can make a grain “bowl” in a container with a delicious dressing in a flash. And sweet potatoes, smoked tofu and cabbage or kale keep fresh for a lot longer than many perishable items, so keep these on hand for a packed lunch in a moment’s notice (pick up a few extra every time you grocery shop to make this a reality).

3. Find Your Favourites

A barrier to making lunch that I hear over and over again is that lunch is boring. If you’re not inspired to make lunch, you won’t. Ask yourself what you love – is it broccoli? Spinach? Sweet potatoes? Brown rice? Chicken? – and pick one or two recipes with that ingredient as the star attraction.

4. This Simple Trick Instantly Avoids a Sad Desk Lunch

Keep a cheap ceramic plate and bowl at work to transfer your packed lunch to, and use real utensils when eating. This simple switch elevates a desk lunch and somehow makes it taste way better.

5. Take Your Pantry to Work

Keep hot sauce; flaky salt; and a little bottle of vinegar, olive oil and tamari at your desk or in your workplace kitchen to perk up a lunch that needs a boost. Keep a few whole lemons at your desk to add zip to your grain salad and never look back. If you have to have sriracha on everything, keep some handy. These small boosters take lunch from blah to beautiful.

6. Make it Beautiful

Garnishes can do wonders to add a pop of appetizing colour to not just your lunch, but every meal. In my opinion, they should taste really great and add another dimension of flavour and/or texture, too. Try topping a meal with refreshing pea shoots or watercress, crunchy toasted pumpkin seeds, dukkah (an Egyptian spice and nut/seed mix), torn tender herbs, pomegranate seeds, strips of lemon zest and more. Another way to give your lunch an artful twist is to layer it in large glass jars, like the recipes I’m sharing below.

I have so many more tips in Modern Lunch, along with more than 100 recipes for both those who are new to a homemade lunch and lunch pros who are in search of fresh ideas. Here are two recipes to get you started because life is too short to have a bad lunch!

Two Grab-and-Go Meal Prep Salads from Modern Lunch:

Modern-Lunch-Modern-Lunch-Mint-Chicken-Peanut-Butter-Salad-2-copy

1. Chicken and Cucumber Ribbon Salad with Peanut Butter Vinaigrette

Total Time: 10 minutes
Serves: 4

Ingredients:
Peanut Butter Vinaigrette
2 Tbsp lime juice
2 Tbsp natural peanut butter or favourite nut butter
2 Tbsp tamari
1 Tbsp avocado oil or grapeseed oil
1 Tbsp maple syrup
1 Tbsp water
1 tsp fish sauce (optional)
¼ tsp red chili flakes

Chicken and Cucumber Ribbon Salad
2 (8 oz) poached chicken breasts, shredded
1 cup roughly chopped fresh mint
3 green onions, sliced
1 English cucumber, sliced into ribbons with a vegetable peeler or cut into thin coins, divided
2 heads butter lettuce or gem lettuce, leaves separated, torn, divided

Directions:
1. For the vinaigrette, in a small bowl, whisk lime juice, peanut butter, tamari, oil, maple syrup, water, fish sauce and chili flakes until fully emulsified. If not using immediately, store in an airtight glass jar for up to 1 week; just shake well before using.
2. For the salad, in a large bowl, combine shredded chicken, mint, and green onions. Keep cucumber and lettuce separate for assembly.
3. To assemble, add dressing to the bottom of four large jars. Add chicken mixture on top of dressing, followed by cucumber and lettuce. Seal and refrigerate, or take to go immediately.
4. Keep chilled in the office refrigerator or tucked away with a cooler pack at your desk. To serve, shake and enjoy directly out of the jar or shake, transfer to a serving bowl, and eat.

Lunch Notes: Stretch Your Meals with Quinoa
To lend a subtle nutty flavour, pleasing chewiness a little extra sauce-soaking vehicle to this recipe, toss in 1 cup cooked quinoa into the prepared chicken mixture. It also adds another serving to the dish, so you can enjoy it the whole workweek.

Modern-Lunch-9-Layer-Salad-Jar

2. 9-Layer Salad with Lemon Curry Dressing

Total Time: 10 minutes
Serves: 4

Ingredients:
Lemon Curry Dressing
½ cup lemon juice
½ cup unsweetened plain yogurt
¼ cup extra-virgin olive oil
1 Tbsp mild curry powder
½ tsp salt
¼ tsp minced garlic
ground black pepper, to taste

Salad
1 cup fresh shelled or frozen green peas, divided
1 bulb fennel, cored, shaved or very thinly sliced, divided
1 head radicchio, cored, shredded, divided
2 carrots, shaved or grated, divided
½ cup fresh herbs of choice (basil, parsley, mint), divided
4 cups baby arugula, divided
1 cup shaved parmesan, divided
4 servings protein of choice, divided (see Lunch Notes)
lemon wedges, divided

Directions:
1. For the dressing, in a small bowl, whisk all dressing ingredients until fully combined. Store airtight in refrigerator until ready to assemble salad jars.
2. To assemble the salad, add dressing to the bottom of four large jars. Top with salad ingredients in order listed. Seal and refrigerate or take to go immediately.
3. Keep your jar chilled in the office refrigerator, or with a cooler pack in your lunch bag. To serve, remove the lemon, shake up the jar, then squeeze the lemon over top, and enjoy. Or, toss the salad in a serving bowl, season with the lemon, then eat.

Lunch Notes: Pick Your Protein
Protein keeps you fuller for longer, making it a must-have addition. Chicken, salmon, tuna, hard-boiled eggs, or canned white beans are what I reach for to bulk up this salad.

Keep your lunch game strong all week long with this how-to guide for Sunday meal prep.

Recipe and photography credits:
Excerpted from Modern Lunch: +100 Recipes for Assembling the New Midday Meal by Allison Day. Copyright © 2019 Allison Day. Published by Appetite by Random House®, a division of Penguin Random House Canada Limited. Reproduced by arrangement with the Publisher. All rights reserved.

Here’s How a Nutritionist Meal Preps Every Sunday

Meal prep is essentially making a handful of recipes ahead of time to have on hand for packed or home breakfasts, lunches, dinners and snacks throughout the week. I think of it as creating a salad bar or hot bar in your very own kitchen, adjusting the recipes with the season and my mood. Today, I’m going to focus on the meal that most meal prep lovers like to make: lunch.

When you’ve planned and prepped ahead, it’s easier to eat healthfully, save money and have more time during the week outside of the kitchen. It’s about investing a relatively small amount of time for a big return. If you’re busy, which I’m guessing you are, meal prep is calling your name.

Every week, I usually take 2 to 3 hours on Sunday morning or afternoon to prepare the recipes I’ll use to build my meals. In my house, there are just two adults, which means I rarely have to replenish the prepped food or make something new. However, if you have a larger family, you may have to do this. Make sure you get groceries on Friday or Saturday so you can get started when you need to on Sunday.

It’s all about simultaneously cooking and chopping a few things at once, using your time effectively. I use my meal prep Sundays to catch up on podcasts or listen to music or an audio book, which makes it more fun.

Make a Winning Meal Prep Team

I prefer not to grocery shop and meal prep on the same day. I will make a list the day before and give it to my partner, who is happy to get groceries for me, or I’ll order groceries online. And get someone else on dish duty in exchange for your awesome packed lunches!

Why Meal Prep?

There are several benefits of doing meal prep:

  • Moneysaving
  • Timesaving
  • Healthy
  • Adaptable for every taste and family member
  • You can try those exciting new recipes you’ve bookmarked or pinned
  • You can sleep in because lunch is already made
  • You have something delicious to look forward at noon

How to Meal Prep Like a Pro

To be successful at meal prep, start with a list of recipes you’d like to make. Most weeks, I keep it classic with a grain bowl or salad bar style meal with roasted and fresh veggies, a cooked whole grain, healthy protein, dip or dressing and a few snacks. Another way to approach meal prep is batch cooking a large pot of soup, stew or chili, cooking up a grain and making sure the fridge is stocked with fruit and nuts.

Don’t feel like you have to make everything from scratch. Nut butter and hummus are fine options to buy ready-made, for example, and canned fish is a portable, healthy protein option that you can stock up on for grab and go moments.

Sheet-pan meals that are all in one, as well as Instant Pot recipes are stellar meal prep options, too.

Make a Themed Container or Jar Meal

For your meal prep lunch, build your flavour choices around a theme. I love the fresh flavours found in poke bowls, and they’re easy to DIY with sushi-grade tuna or tofu, citrus, brown rice, ginger, crunchy vegetables and a bright sesame oil dressing. Homemade bento boxes and Southern BBQ lunch boxes are also fun. Embrace versatility!

The Meal Prep Formula

Choose one or two options from each category below to get started. Store each component separately in a BPA-free container in the fridge, or build the single serving containers or jars for the week (more on that later).

Grains or grain salads (choose 1 to 2)

  • Quinoa
  • Basmati rice
  • Brown rice
  • Spelt pasta or brown rice pasta
  • Millet
  • Whole wheat couscous
  • Wheat berries
  • Barley

Protein (choose 1 to 2)

  • Marinated tofu or smoked tofu
  • Cooked chicken (grilled, poached, roasted, rotisserie)
  • Hardboiled eggs
  • Canned fish (tuna, sardines, mackerel, salmon)
  • Pan-fried halloumi
  • Pulled pork or pulled chicken (use your Instant Pot or slow cooker here)
  • Greek yogurt or goat cheese
  • Dhal
  • Leftover cooked meat or fish (beef, pork, chicken, salmon)
  • Canned beans and legumes

Cooked Vegetables (choose 1 to 2)

  • Roasted squash or sweet potatoes
  • Roasted mixed seasonal vegetables
  • Roasted or steamed broccoli
  • Grilled mixed seasonal vegetables
  • Sautéed kale or spinach

Raw Vegetables and Make-Ahead Salads (choose 1 to 2)

  • Cucumber coins (store in water to retain freshness)
  • Cut up carrots (store in water to retain freshness)
  • Cut up fennel or celery
  • Raw or frozen corn and green peas
  • Kale salad
  • Cauliflower rice
  • Fennel and apple salad
  • Thai slaw or yogurt-based cabbage slaw

Dressing and Dip (choose 1 to 2)

  • Balsamic vinaigrette
  • Green goddess dressing
  • Caesar dressing
  • Tahini-based dressing
  • Spicy peanut sauce
  • Hummus
  • Guacamole
  • White bean dip
  • Peanut butter or almond butter

Seasonings (to taste)

  • Lemon or lime wedges
  • Flaky salt (pack in a little tin to bring or keep at your desk)
  • Hot sauce (available in tiny lunchbox-sized bottles)
  • Olive oil

Simple Snacks

Packing Your Meal Prep To Go

In containers or jars, which I like for building salads, arrange your prepared components grain bowl style, just like you would if you were at home, packing dressing on the side or adding it to the bottom of the container before loading in the ingredients. If you have enough containers, you can do this all at once, but I usually keep the components separated until the night before when I pack up tomorrow’s meal (I find it keeps it fresher). Keeping components separate also means more people will enjoy it, as they can build their own lunch to suit their taste.

I usually make 4 to 5 days’ worth of lunch recipes for two people, as one day we may have a larger dinner with leftovers or choose to eat out at lunch.

Meal Prep Any Meal

While that’s my main focus, I do also meal prep my breakfasts. I make overnight oats (muesli) for the week or granola, which I can quickly portion into a small mason jar. I also find that breakfast recipes, like overnight oats and yogurt and granola, double as healthy, packable snacks.

Meal Prep Recap

Here are my final key points to make Sunday meal prep lunches happen:

  • Plan the meals you want to meal prep each week
  • Make a list from your recipes and grocery shop
  • Devote Sunday (or the day of the week that works for your schedule) morning or afternoon to preparing the bulk of your recipes
  • Keep a stash of large, small and personal-sized containers, as well as large and small glass jars to store your prepped components and meals in
  • Make 4 to 5 days of lunches, upping the quantities based on your family size
  • Choose 1 or 2 themed cuisines (Southern, Indian, Japanese, Thai, Greek, etc.) to avoid dietary boredom and jazz up your every day
  • Keep snacks on hand and in the freezer for fast bites
  • Double up a make-ahead breakfast, like granola and yogurt, for weekday snacks
  • Batch-cook soups, stews and roasts to store in the freezer for weekends when you don’t have time to do meal prep
  • Divide and conquer; get your partner or family members in on the meal prep game. Even someone getting the groceries will make this way easier to stick to
  • Head outside with a pal to enjoy your meal or go into your workplace’s common room and grab a place at the table. A packed lunch doesn’t mean you have to eat alone al desko, unless you prefer it

Check out our Love Your Lunch series to keep your meal prep game strong.