My weekly grocery trip leaves me with plenty of fresh fruits and veggies, but if I haven’t prepped for a busy week I’ll often come home and open my fridge, stare at my beautiful heirloom carrots, perfect head of tuscan kale, and the jar of uncooked quinoa on my counter only to shrug and place a delivery order—for hunger trumps all else. Which is why the prep plan below has become my healthy line of defense. Even if you only have 60 minutes to dedicate to prep, choose at least few things on this list to try—you’ll be amazed at how quickly it can all be accomplished.
Make a pot of grains
I make a cup or two of quinoa to add to meals and salads throughout the week. You can make any grain, but I prefer quinoa because it’s great hot or cold (unlike brown rice), and is perfect for warm breakfasts, salad toppings, or as the base of veggie bowls.
Steam or roast a few vegetables
All are great to enjoy on their own, throw onto salads or pastas (e.g., roasted broccoli and red cabbage), or toss into baked goods or smoothies (steamed sweet potatoes and beets). Choose ones that have similar cook times so you can throw them into the oven or steamer all at once, and add chickpeas to your roasting sheet for an easy way to add protein to salads.
Throw a pot of soup on the stove
Soups make nourishing, simple meals year-round. My easy-to-make favorites are a detox carrot ginger or roasted red pepper tomato soup. Since I’m already preparing lots of greens, grains, and veggies, I will often freeze a few extra servings of soup and take them out later in the week when I'm running low on food and/or time.
Prep some kale
While the veggies and grains are cooking, I de-stem my kale, thinly slice it and massage it with a bit of apple cider vinegar and a dash of salt. It’s a blank canvas that you can top with your cooked and raw veggies as well as different dressings throughout the week.
Chop up tons of veggies to snack on
I bring carrots, peppers, and cucumber spears with hummus to work daily. Cut up enough for a couple of days so you don’t need to do it every night.
Make a batch of chia pudding or overnight oats
For my overnight oats, I’ll prep the base of these raspberry chia overnight oats for quick breakfasts and snacks—I just scoop it into mini mason jars and top with fresh fruit to bring to work. This will last a few days in the fridge.
Make a big batch of your favorite dressing
I love to make miso-ginger dressing to top on just about everything. If you have the time, a simple vinaigrette or pesto is also great to have on hand.
Make a jar of trail mix
Raw cashews, raw almonds, dried cherries, and coconut flakes make the perfect afternoon pick-me-up. Knock this off your list for a couple of weeks by making a huge batch.
All this prep lets me sail easily through the week, saving time and energy on the busiest of days. On Wednesday or Thursday, I do a modified version of the above (usually just a couple of items to get me through until Friday evening). If I find myself with more time, I will prep 1-2 additional dishes (usually salad toppers), like baked falafel, lentil salad, or hummus. Continue to add onto this routine and modify as necessary, according to your mood and the season. Regardless of weekly road bumps, these steps have helped me make smart choices, save money, and keep healthy throughout the week.
Lily Kunin is the voice behind the NYC-based food blog Clean Food Dirty City. Follow her blog on Instagram @cleanfooddirtycity.