Daydream about your perfect Sunday and it likely involves shopping and spin class—rather than being a captive in your kitchen, meal-prepping away.
Because let’s face it: Figuring out what what you’re going to eat all week—and then whipping it up—isn’t as fun as, say, ganja yoga. But the alternative options (either spend a fortune ordering out, or become that person eating a microwave meal at her desk) are far from ideal.
Which is why cooking a week’s worth of food at a time has become so popular—yes, even among busy, high-powered execs. After all, their schedules are crazy (and many also have kids) so keeping mealtime organized is vital.
Here, pros who have built entire careers around innovative food ideas share the foods they stock up on to make meal prep as easy as possible. Incorporating one—or all—of their tips into your routine could save you loads of time. That way, you can go back to spending your Sunday exactly the way you dreamed.
Keep reading for 7 ingredients every meal-prepper should keep on hand, according to a diverse crew of industry experts.
1. Roasted veggies
Vegan chef and cookbook author Isa Chandra Moskowitz spends a lot of time in the kitchen at her Modern Love outposts, so when it comes to cooking for herself, she wants to keep things as simple as possible. Her method of choice: roasting. “I love it because you hardly have to do anything to get a ton of flavor with minimal prep,” she says.
The key is to keep things simple. “My favorite vegetables—broccoli, Brussels sprouts, zucchini, cauliflower, and eggplant—need nothing more than olive oil, salt, and pepper,” she says. “I usually toss them in a bowl with brown rice and beans, like lentils or chickpeas.” Later in the week, after she grabs the pre-mixed dish out of the fridge and heats it up, she adds a little avocado, a drizzle of tahini dressing, and voila—dinner is served.
Juice Served Here CEO Alex Matthews doesn’t see meal prep as a chore. In fact, he loves it. “It can be really meditative,” he says.
Matthews tries his best to live a carb-free life, but since he’s all about Italian and Mediterranean food, spiralized veggie noodles have become a big staple—and fortunately, they don’t take long to whip up either. “My new favorite dinner is zucchini noodles with kale pesto,” he says. “It literally takes 10 minutes to make.”
3. Coconut oil
If Debbie Shandel had to narrow down to one go-to pantry item, it would be a no-brainer. “I use liquid coconut oil for everything,” says the executive vice president of health food brand Carrington Farms.
She puts it in her coffee for a Bulletproof-esque boost, uses it to cook, and even adds a little in her dog’s bowl to give her pet’s digestion a boost. In other words, that whole “pours coconut oil on everything” meme is basically real life.
4. Meatballs (with or without the meat)
When Geoff Stella meal preps for his family, meatballs (sans meat) are always on the menu. The marketing vice president for grains and pasta brand Ancient Harvest whips ’em up by taking cooked quinoa and mixing it in a bowl with chopped onion and one egg. Then, he forms the “meatballs” on a baking sheet, cooking them for about 20 minutes at 375 degrees.
And yes, you’re going to want to make extra. “I freeze them so during the week I can just reheat them and put them on lentil green pasta,” he says. Done and done.
5. Greek yogurt
Open Nix chef John Fraser’s refrigerator and you’ll find a lot of this high-protein dairy staple, which he eats for breakfast, lunch, dinner, and dessert.
“It’s one of my favorite ingredients,” he says. “I use it like cream cheese for breakfast, and for lunch and dinner I use it as a salad dressing, a marinade for proteins, and even with a drizzle of honey for dessert.”
6. Homemade pesto
Kombrewcha cofounder Ariel Glazer relies on a flavorful condiment for keeping his dishes tasting fresh: “I make my own kale pesto. It can be added to almost anything,” he says.
His super-easy recipe? He steams kale and then throws it in a blender with walnuts, olive oil, a couple garlic cloves, and a pinch of salt. Then, it’s ready to top off his meals throughout the week, from sandwiches to grain bowls.
7. Root vegetables
Celebrity chef and Clean Green Eats author Candice Kumai has perfected over 100 healthy recipes, but her weekly shopping is simpler than you might think. “My staples when it comes to meal-prep are sweet potatoes, kabocha squash, fresh greens, quinoa, soba noodles, avocado, lemon, and savory baked tofu,” she says.
Kumai roasts the sweet potatoes and squash, and cooks the quinoa and soba noodles. Then, she pairs everything in different combos throughout the week—no last-minute food delivery orders necessary.
Here’s a roundup of healthy meal services that do all the prep for you—for when you’re really in a pinch but want to make dinner at home. And if you’re a total pro at cooking for the week, maybe you should consider launching your own business.
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