It’s never too late to learn how to menu plan. Our meal prep ideas make plotting out a full week of wholesome, meals easy and delicious. We’ve included a few tips that will bring these meal preparation ideas to life too. But this isn’t your typical meal prep guide where you spend an entire day cooking for the week ahead—we can get into that too, but more often than not, cooking is something we like doing everyday. With a little prep ahead that end of day dish doesn’t have to be difficult. Ready to dismiss that lingering question of what’s for dinner?
Meal Prep Ideas: Plan Your Pantry
1. Pantry Prep
Making meals in a flash comes down to planning ahead but it also really involves having a well stocked pantry. With a few pantry essentials you can pull together the components of a good meal in minutes. But the other part here is that before we go to the grocery store we shop our pantries first and think about first in, last out. What ingredients do we need to cook through? What ingredients are our weeknight heroes and need to be restocked once used?
California Dried Figs
Orchard Choice and Sun-Maid California Dried Figs are a versatile ingredient that will add flavor and texture to whatever you’re cooking, but you may not know they also add fiber, calcium, potassium, and micro-nutrients too. They bring the right balance to savory dishes. Keep them close by—they’re an essential ingredient.
Olive Oil + Vinegar
Olive oil is a monounsaturated fat that’s good for sauteeing or roasting veggies but equally fine in mixing up a vinaigrette. When it comes to vinegar, we like white vinegar for its bright acidity especially to make quick pickles to top burgers, tacos, or as a grazing board tag-along. Balsamic vinegar is also a champ and can infuse tangy flavor or work in a marinade. Other vinegars are optional but we like them too: sherry, champagne, white wine, or red wine.
Beans deserve a spot in the cupboard for their nutritional profile and creamy texture. A good reminder with beans is that the older they are, the longer they will take to cook, so make sure that they get cycled through regularly. Lentils might be our pick for quick dinner prep. These fast-cooking beans are a marvel in hearty bowls, salads, and beyond—there’s no soaking necessary for dried lentils (we like brown lentils or French DePuy for their versatility). Make a large batch and you’ve got the beginnings of lunch tomorrow. Chickpeas so often are thought of in their creamiest state, pulverized into hummus, but add them to a hearty stew or go meat-free with ease and they’re the stuff of cozy nights in. And, we don’t want to forget pinto beans!
The mighty rice grain has so many applications at meal time. Did you know when you combine rice with beans, you get a complete protein? That’s something to celebrate and keep in your menu rotation regularly. Try the nuanced flavors of lentils and rice or go a bit further around the globe and pack your long grain rice with bold spices, veggies and figs. Make risotto or use leftover risotto to construct crunchy rice balls with tossed greens.
Bulgur is the quick-cooking grain you may have only heard of in tabbouleh but deserves a spot in your pantry. Use it to bolster the filling of zucchini boats or make it into a savory salad with rotisserie chicken sliced on top. Wheat berries bring a toothsome chew to whole grain salads that can easily be reconfigured to bowls with a hard-boiled egg and sauteed veggies served on top. Keeping corn meal on hand means you can stir together cornbread or polenta, perfect with roasted meat or topped with broccoli.
We could go on! Tell us—what are some of your pantry must-keep ingredients that make meal preparation ideas make what to cook a cinch?