Do you ever struggle with what to make for dinner? Your kids are complaining about leftovers, and with summer activities and sports practices, you don’t have time to prep dinner. Sound familiar? Stress no more! Here are some tips and recipes on how to meal prep for you and your entire family.
Meals in Bowls
When you think of a meal in a bowl, I hope you don’t think of only salad. Meals in bowls are a quick and easy way to eat nutrient-dense, tasty meals. They are also great for prepping ahead and then stretching the ingredients to other recipes as well.
To create a meal in a bowl, you’ll want to choose ingredients from each of the following categories:
Vegetables or non-sweet fruit
Grains or pasta
Then, you will top off this delicious meal with a condiment/dressing of your choice.
Foods From Each Category
Hearts of Palm
Sugar Snap Peas
When selecting from each category, it is great to consider the season and availability of the ingredients.
Tip: For picky eaters, leave off the dressing and condiments. Or choose the opposite route and provide a couple of options such as a mild salsa and plain hummus.
This may seem like a lot of food to have on hand and prepped ahead of time, so you can think of it in a couple of different ways.
First, the salad bar – all the foods that you would select at the salad bar combined together, then topped with your preferred dressing of choice.
Or, you can think of it as a themed meal. Make the bowl a Mexican burrito bowl or another great flavor option is Thai.
One of my favorite local restaurants to eat at is Laughing Planet. They have some of the best bowls – for both variation and taste.
If I don’t have time to plan a meal, and I am out and about with the family, Laughing Planet is where I stop for food that will cater to everyone’s taste. Bonus that everything is reasonably priced! If you haven’t been, try their Comfort Bowl. I swear something about olives makes this bowl live up to its name!
Wholesome Bowl (My variation of the Comfort Bowl)
All ingredients are per person, so if you have 2 people – double the recipe, 3 people – triple the recipe, and so on.
¼ cup Salsa Verde (or preferred salsa)
2 tbsp Cashew Sour Cream (see recipe below)
1 tbsp Sliced Black Olives
2 tbsp Freshly chopped Cilantro
3/4-1 cup Cooked Brown Rice
¼ – ⅓ cup Black Beans
½ of an Avocado
For brown rice, rather than using water, cook using vegetable stock for enhanced flavor.
To assemble the bowls, spoon about 1 cup of rice onto the bottom of each bowl. Next, add a scoop black beans onto the side of the rice. Then pour a spoonful of the salsa verde over the rice and beans.
Slice avocado lengthwise and scoop out of the skin. Place a few slices onto the side of each bowl.
Top each bowl with a heaping spoonful of cashew sour cream, some black olives, and fresh cilantro.
Build Your Own Burger
‘Burgers’ catch flack because they are often thought of as fast food or BBQ friendly foods. Instead, create your own burger by again choosing one ingredient from each category.
This allows the burger to be filled with nutrients and satisfying for all members of the family.
What’s even better is that you can freeze the pre-made patties and pull them out on those busy days when you didn’t have time to prep a meal.
Legumes, Nuts & Seeds
Fresh Herbs/Spices & Toppings
Hearts of Palm
Cauliflower (roasted lightly steamed or raw)
Riced Sweet Potato
Flours and Starches (in small amounts)
Ground Flax Meal
Nuts & Seeds
Seeds (all types)
Preheat your oven to 400 degrees (F).
Combine your grain, legumes/nuts/seeds, and vegetables. Mix well. Add your binder and combine until you can form a patty from the mixture. Mix in herbs/seasonings.
Form patties and place them on non-stick sheets or well-oiled pans. Bake for 10-12 minutes until the patties are a bit crisp around the edges.
Remove from the oven and flip. Continue to bake for another 8-12 minutes, or until the center of the patty feels firm.
Cool any leftover patties to room temperature. Place a piece of parchment paper in between each one, and freeze. To reheat, simply pop in the toaster or oven.
One of my favorite burger recipes is a Mushroom Black Bean-Quinoa Burger. The versatility of the recipe makes for great “meatballs” and even burrito filling!
Mushroom Black Bean-Quinoa Burger
1 Onion, minced
2 cloves Garlic, minced
12 Shiitake Mushrooms, stemmed and sliced
12 Cremini Mushrooms, sliced
1 cup cooked Red Quinoa
1 cup cooked Black Beans
½ cup Rolled Oats
1 tbsp Chili Powder
1 tsp Garlic Powder
1 tsp Onion Powder
½ tsp Paprika (smoked or regular)
3 tbsp ground Flax Meal
First prep all ingredients. Tip: I mention below that it is best to gather ingredients and prep them on the weekend, that way they are ready to go when you need a meal during the week. (The amount of chili powder needed will depend on how spicy you like your food. This can also be omitted.)
Place a large frying pan over medium heat. Once the pan is hot, dry-saute the onions until golden and translucent, adding a touch of water to the pan as needed. This keeps the onions and pan from burning.
Next, add the garlic and cook for 30 seconds, then add the mushrooms. Let cook for 5 minutes, or until all of the moisture has cooked out of the mushrooms.
Transfer the mushroom mixture to a food processor. Add the quinoa, black beans, oats, spices and flax meal. Pulse the mixture a few times. Be sure not to over pulse the mixture. The mixture should be coarse/chunky but still, hold together. Taste the mixture for seasoning, and adjust for taste.
Over should be preheated to 400 degrees F, per the instructions above. Form the mixture into patties. Try to make the burgers as even in shape as possible. Tip: Use the top of a drinking glass to make the burgers into round patties.
Bake patties in the oven for 10 minutes on each side. Burger patties can also be cooked on a hot grill or barbecue!
These burgers are great topped with sliced red onions, sprouts, butter lettuce, tomatoes, Dijon mustard, cashew sour cream, hummus, peanut sauce or your favorite sauce of choice!
Recipes from the Past…Made Healthy
I don’t know about you, but growing up I remember tuna salad being a staple in my house and many of my friends. To be honest, I don’t even remember whether I ate it, yet it was often around.
For some people, they either love or hate it. When I learned about this recipe through a cooking course, let’s just say I didn’t have high expectations.
Yet, now it is one of my go-to food prep recipes because it’s simple, tasty, and by omitting an ingredient or two, can be made toddler approved!
Tuna-less Tuna Salad
3 cups cooked Garbanzo Beans
2-3 tbsp Red Onion (optional, I omit this for toddler approved version)
2-3 Celery stalks (about ½ cup)
2-3 Pickles (about ¼ cup)
2 tbsp Nori Seaweed flakes
½ cup Cashew Sour Cream
1 tsp Sea Salt (optional, to taste)
½ tsp ground Black Pepper
Since this recipe is shared in hopes of simplifying food prep, it is easier to use two smaller cans (or one large 28oz can) of garbanzo beans, rather than cooking your own. The convenience is up to you. If using canned, drain and place the beans into a large bowl.
Using a potato masher, or large fork, mash the beans to break them up.
Next, finely dice the onion, celery, pickle and add them to the beans. Add the nori flakes, salt, and pepper. Mix to combine. (If you cannot find nori flakes, you can grind up one or two sheets of nori. Personally, I tear it up by hand.)
Lastly, add the Cashew Sour Cream. Mix to combine, and taste for seasoning.
Cashew Sour Cream
1 cup raw Cashews
¼ tsp Sea Salt
1 tbsp Lemon Juice
½ – ¾ cup Water, or as needed
1 ½ tbsp Apple Cider Vinegar (ACV)
Place the cashews in a bowl and cover with water. Let soak for a few hours, or overnight. Tip: If you forget to soak ahead of time, you can pour boiling water over cashews and soak for 15-20 mins or as long as possible, before using them in recipes.
Drain and rinse the cashews. Blend together the cashews, water, ACV, and lemon juice until you reach a smooth consistency.
Add more water until you reach the desired thickness. You’ll want a cream-like, but smooth consistency.
This can be used as sour cream in other recipes as well.
Meal Prep Tip
Rather than waiting until the day that you plan to cook/prep a meal, set aside a day/time on the weekend to gather and prep all ingredients that you will use throughout the week.
For storage, use tight seal containers so that sauces/marinades and beans/rice last longer.
Strawberry-Banana Overnight Oats
Another recipe from the past that should no longer remain plain and boring is oatmeal. I love overnight oats for its flavor options and ease.
Who doesn’t wake up in the morning and dread having the same thing for breakfast? Or the kids complain because they are out of cereal?
If I am the only one, just humor me! My solution? I make a big batch of overnight oats.
There are a couple of different ways to make overnight oats. The traditional way is to soak oats in milk (I prefer plant-based milk), and add toppings to achieve the desired flavor.
How simple is that?! Another way that I prepare them is by first cooking the oats, but if oatmeal is something you wouldn’t typically prepare in the morning, then choose the first method.
1 ripe Banana, mashed
2 tbsp Chia Seeds
½ cup GF rolled oats
¾ cup Cashew Milk
¼ tsp Vanilla Extract (optional)
¼ cup chopped Strawberries
Mash banana in a small bowl until almost smooth. Add chia seeds and combine well.
Stir in rolled oats, cashew milk, and vanilla. Move to a storage container, cover and refrigerate overnight. Tip: I separate the mixture into mason jars for individual servings.
Before consuming, stir oat mixture and add chopped strawberries. If consistency is runny you can add in more fruit or chia seeds to thicken it up. If consistency is too thick, add more cashew milk and stir to combine.
This is just one variation of overnight oats, some suggested toppings are listed below:
Sweetener (exchange for mashed banana)
Coconut (shredded flakes)
Nut Butters (this will thicken the oats up requiring more milk to be added)
Meal Prep Doesn’t Have to Be Stressful
As you can see meal prep doesn’t have to be stressful, yet it does require some planning. The meal prep recipes included here are great because they can be changed to cater to any and everyone’s taste buds. Some key tips to remember are:
Meals can be drastically changed by leaving off a dressing or offering two types of beans or veggies.
Set aside time to prep.
Choose a day during the week or on the weekend when you have some time to chop veggies, and mix sauces. This will eliminate the time it takes to prepare the recipe when you are in need of a quick meal.
Have storage containers that are convenient for both storing ingredients, as well as individual servings of the prepared meal.
Lacy Catao is a certified Holistic Nutritionist, former paralegal and Army veteran. Motherhood inspires Lacy to share her knowledge of nutrition and optimal wellness, while also providing lifestyle insight as a mother striving to parent with grace and patience. This California native planted her roots in northern Nevada with her husband in 2016. She contributes her love for country living to Idaho, which is where she spent most of her school-age years. Lacy is the mother of three girls and two stubborn Bulldogs.