I somehow didn’t discover the power of meal prep until my last semester of college, and this stuff is ~life changing~. I’m no longer dropping $15 a day on fast food or guilty stops at Panda Express on my back from class. I’ve grown to love trips to the grocery store because it means lots of samples and finding new snack options. I don’t feel guilty going out to eat with friends and spending $15 on a meal because I can actually afford to. And, to my amazement, the food I make is pretty darn good!
I avoided meal prep for the longest time because I couldn’t stand the thought of eating the same thing every day, for every meal. I also dislike cooking, and figured meal prep had to involve a bit of that. I hate the way using the stovetop leaves my clothes and my hair smelling like meat for days! I honestly refuse to cook meat on the stove until I have a kitchen that ventilates better.
So I finally sat down for a couple hours and scrolled through Pinterest until I had a good inventory of recipes I could use, and after a couple months of playing around with foods, I’ve come up with a few favorites that a) involve little to no stove use and b) aren’t bland af.
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OATS ARE KEY
All of my breakfasts involve oats. Even the ones that aren’t oatmeal. I don’t get people who refuse to eat breakfast if it doesn’t have some form of meat, so you won’t find that here, but you will find oats. So lets talk oatmeal real quick.
Oatmeal has to be one of the easiest breakfasts you can make. Pour whatever oats you like into a bowl, add water until your oats are floating a bit, and microwave that for about a minute and a half. I use Bob’s Red Mill Organic Rolled Oats because they don’t get overly creamy and soft, but those Quaker one-minute oats are fine too, just find a texture you like.
While you’re doing that, pull out any toppings (I also start my Keurig #multitasking). TOPPINGS ARE IMPORTANT! Remember, no bland foods here! You can go sweet, fruity, pack it with protein, whatever. My daily toppings are chia seeds, granola (something unsweetened, I change up the mix every couple weeks), a bit of coconut flakes, a drizzle of honey, a tablespoon of PBfit peanut butter powder (still establishing whether this is healthy for me gotta go search Reddit), and whatever berries are on sale that week. The fruit is the game changer here. Oatmeal tastes too dry for me without some type of fruit, and I like berries the best because the tartness goes really well with the sweetness of the honey and coconut flakes.
Throw all your toppings on and you have a bowl of oatmeal that would cost you $11 at any bougie brunch spot!
Five-Ingredient Banana Bread
Like I said, the oats don’t stop at oatmeal. This stuff is SO GOOD and takes 5 minutes of effort. You’ll need:
- 3 medium, brownish bananas
- 2 large eggs
- 1/4 cup of pure maple syrup (I don’t always use this much but this will make it pretty sweet)
- 2 cups of old-fashioned rolled oats (I use the same ones I use for my oatmeal)
- 1 teaspoon of baking soda
Throw all that in a blender until it’s creamy and you don’t have a bunch of oat chunks. Then pour the mixture into a lightly greased 9×5″ loaf pan (I know, most college students don’t have these, but it’s totally worth dropping a few dollars just for this bread!) or a cupcake pan if you’re desperate. Bake it in the oven at 350F for about 30 minutes, then check with a toothpick to make sure it’s done. Put the pan somewhere it can cool to room temperature at, and after it’s cooled down, pop the loaf out into some container to store it in. Now try a slice of this goodness.
I’m not a baking expert but this stuff seems to last in the fridge for about a week. I’ll usually cut a slice and microwave it for 20 seconds, or throw it in a ziplock to snack on later!
I change things up every week so I don’t get sick of even my favorite recipes. I don’t really know the best way to share this, but I’m just going to link to recipes or give you an amateur account of how I do things. One thing you will need is a crock pot, because you can’t have lazy meal prep without a crock pot (something has to do the cooking for me).
Tomato Soup and Grilled Cheese
I made this for the first time this week because it’s cold and rainy in Austin right now, but I think it’s gonna be a staple now. I followed this recipe, and while the blending part does suck a little (by suck I just mean the fact that I had to use a blender), the result is SO rewarding.
The grilled cheese unfortunately involves a stove, but since there’s no meat here, no gross smells! For those of you who haven’t attempted a grilled cheese in a pan, just butter one side of some bread, top it with a couple slices of cheddar cheese, and place it in the pan at a medium heat. After a couple minutes, when the bread is toasty, top your cheese with another buttered piece of bread and flip it. Wait till that side is toasty, then take it off. Cut it in half for optimum tomato soup dipping.
This is probably as easy as meal prep gets. Throw a some beans (I usually do a can of black beans and kidney beans), a can of corn, a can of chickpeas, a can of diced tomatoes, a can of tomato paste, and two cups of chicken broth in a crock pot. Put a bunch of seasoning in there like cumin, garlic powder, chili powder, salt, and pepper. Stir it around and turn the crock pot to high for 3-4 hours. To eat, top it with some shredded cheese, sour cream, avocado, and some tortilla chips or Fritos.
You can change this up to include whatever you want, like chicken or some veggies. The toppings are key again here, because chili can get boring after a few days without them.
These are super easy to make in bulk. I’ve been following this recipe recently, but there are a ton of other flavor combinations out there. I make about eight at a time, so that’s a good four meals for me!
Sweet potato everything
I used to be a major baked potato girl, partially because I hated the food at my dorm and the vegetarian line always had baked potatoes. I reserved sweet potatoes for Thanksgiving dinner for some dumb reason, until this semester. Now they’re a part of almost all of my meals.
For roasted sweet potatoes, dice two or three up (a little goes a long way and you’d be amazed how much comes out of a few of these), toss them in a bowl, cover them in olive oil/salt/pepper/whatever seasoning you’re feeling, place them on a foil-lined sheet pan, and throw them in the oven at 425F for about 20 minutes (honestly have no idea if this is proper but it works for me).
For mashed sweet potatoes, place three or four on a foil-lined sheet pan. Pierce them with a fork a few times, then put them in the oven at 400F for about 45 minutes. Take them out and let them cool for a few minutes, then peel off their skin. This is pretty easy once they’re baked, and the skin should just come right off (I usually use a fork and my fingers). Then throw them in a bowl with a bit of butter and some seasoning, and mash them with a potato masher (also worth investing in just for this). Consider that your arm workout for the day.
You can also do plain baked sweet potatoes! Cook them the same way as above, then top them with whatever. I’ve seen people add buffalo chicken, broccoli, or chili, so experiment a bit until you find your favorite combo.
If you’re in the mood for something sweet over savory, switch up the seasonings! Use a bunch of cinnamon instead of something like garlic powder.
I also made this for the first time this week and it will definitely stay on my list of meal prep ideas. I followed this recipe, minus the avocado because I just didn’t have any. I was a little worried about the greek yogurt, but aside from it being a little less creamy than usual, I didn’t taste any difference between this version and a tuna salad with mayonnaise. Use it in a sandwich or top some crackers with it!
I’ll probably add to this list as I find more recipes so let me know if you have some easy meal prep ideas of your own!