15 lazy meal prep ready in 30 min or less
Meal prep is meant to be a simplifying strategy, designed to make healthy eating quick and effortless throughout the week. But when you’re spending your one free weekend afternoon stuck in the kitchen, slicing veggies, boiling rice, and roasting chicken for upwards of three hours, the whole meal-prep thing can start to feel more like it’s adding to your stress instead of alleviating it.
Time to bring meal-prepping back to what it’s really all about: ease; efficiency; and tasty, nutritious eats. These 23 easy meal-prep recipes equip you with wholesome meals to enjoy throughout the week, but take 30 minutes or less to put together in one go.
1. Quick and Easy Chicken Spring Roll Jars
Your grab-and-go meals are as attractive as they are tasty with these mason jar noodles (you could also just put them in regular containers, but this way is more fun). With spicy chicken on the bottom, cooling vermicelli on top, and fresh veggies sandwiched in-between, they’re a healthier and more refreshing alternative to fried spring rolls.
2. Honey Sriracha Glazed Meatballs
With turkey as their base and a lightly sweet and spicy glaze, these meatballs can be a tasty protein component of your make-ahead meal. Repurpose them as you need through the week—they work great as a topping for salads, rice (cauliflower or regular), or tucked into a sandwich.
3. Meal-Prep Sesame Chicken Pasta Salad
Pasta salads are a no-brainer for meal prep—not only do they last for a few days, but the flavors get even better as the different ingredients have time to hang out together. You’ll love the sweet and tangy sesame dressing of this dish even more on the fourth day than you did on the first.
4. Lightened-Up Sweet and Sour Chicken
Use a no-sugar-added orange juice and just three tablespoons of honey, and your sweet and sour chicken will have zero refined sugar. This big batch makes enough for six servings, is Tupperware-friendly, and super delicious reheated throughout the week.
5. Smokey Green Bean Turkey Skillet
Short on groceries and on time? Turn to this five-ingredient skillet meal to save the day(s) ahead. Salsa adds plenty of flavor so you don’t need to use individual spices, while plenty of veggies and turkey keep the dish lower in carbs but still satisfying.
6. Spicy Peanut Chicken Wrap
Even counting the time to cook the chicken, this recipe comes together in 20 minutes flat. Tuck the shredded meat into tortillas along with broccoli slaw and a Sriracha-spiced peanut sauce, and cross off four lunches from your to-do list this week.
7. Meal-Prep Vietnamese Beef and Riced Veggies
No need to wait for rice to cook with this meal when you’ve got frozen riced veggies to keep the prep time short (and the carb count light). Top the colorful bed of faux grains with tender chunks of beef, and store the peanutty hoisin sauce separately to drizzle over everything right when you’re ready to dig in.
8. Sausage With Summer Squash
This recipe calls for pork sausage, but you can just as easily use the chicken or turkey variety to keep things lighter. Grilled squash on the side is a warm alternative to salad, and with everything tossed in a light lemony dressing, the marinated dish only gets tastier with each passing day.
9. Salsa Verde Taco Meal-Prep Bowls
Unless you already have cooked rice on hand (or are using the boil-in-a-bag kind), cooking the grain will add some time to this 15-minute meal, but trust us, it’s worth it. There’s no guac or cheese, so you don’t have to worry about weird browning or funky smells, and you won’t even miss them—the salsa verde, plus spices such as cumin and oregano, give the ground beef and veggies plenty of flavor.
10. Dijon Steak Nicoise Salad
Meal prep goes gourmet—sorta—with this simple but refined steak salad. As long as you keep the dressing, veggies, and meat separated until it’s time to eat, you can enjoy a bistro-style lunch or dinner several times a week.
11. Cumin Spiced Beef Wraps
Lettuce wraps like these are perfectly designed for meal prep, given that the leaves and the filling are supposed to be kept separate until chow time, so there’s no chance of sogginess. With the spicy beef paired with the cool and crisp green lettuce (or cabbage), the meal is filling but light and a perfect balance of protein, fiber, and healthy fats.
12. One-Pan Baked Cod and Veggies
Cod may not seem so meal-prep friendly, but once cooked, it stays good for about four days. This sheet-pan recipe thoughtfully makes four servings, so despite its ingredients, there’ll be nothing fishy about your meal by day four.
13. Healthy Sheet Pan Tilapia and Veggies
Check out our previous note on brown rice and apply it here too—having it already cooked is key to making this a complete meal within 30 minutes, but if you simply don’t have it on hand, the fish and veggies go equally well with faster cooking grains such as quinoa, orzo, or couscous.
14. Shrimp Noodle Bowls With Spicy Peanut Dressing
This bright and fresh noodle bowl is basically an unraveled summer roll, except without the constraints of the wrapper. You can really go nuts with the veggies, shrimp, cilantro, and thin rice noodles. The peanut sauce, usually used for dipping, works here as a dressing instead; keep it in separate containers until you’re ready to eat.
15. Shrimp Teriyaki Zucchini Noodles Meal Prep
As everyone else orders greasy takeout, do an evil laugh as you dig into your cleaner version of teriyaki noodles. With spiralized zucchini, it’s practically a salad in noodle form. A homemade sauce with just two tablespoons of honey makes sure that your diligently prepped meal isn’t an accidental sugar bomb.
16. Honey BBQ Baked Salmon Bowls
Quinoa cooks up in less than half the time rice does, so it’s a great meal-prep candidate. Here, the fluffy, protein-rich “grain” is topped with more nutritional powerhouses such as salmon, avocado, and pumpkin seeds, so you’re guaranteed to be properly fueled throughout your day.
17. Meal-Prep Tuna Salad
Tuna salad is usually what people whip up when they haven’t meal-prepped, but make it in advance, and life gets even easier. In this version, it gets tucked into containers along with tomatoes and hard-boiled eggs, so plain ol’ tuna salad becomes a bit more of a balanced meal.
18. Healthy Meal-Prep Bowls
Go back to basics with these simple, straightforward meal-prep bowls. Calling for neat and colorful rows of veggies, chickpeas, quinoa, and feta, the recipe makes it easy to eat your rainbow and your macros.
19. Meal-Prep Veggie Stir-Fry
Cutting veggies is probably the least fun part of making a stir-fry—get it over with once and be set for the week. Plus, a stir-fry is only meant to take a few minutes to put together, so make this fast, nutritious meal and pack it away in advance, and you pretty much win at the whole healthy eating thing.
20. Greek Kale and Quinoa Salad Meal-Prep Bowls
With vitamin-rich kale; crunchy cucumbers; savory olives; crumbly, protein-packed feta; creamy hummus; chickpeas; and fluffy quinoa for some satisfying fiber-filled carb action, all the main ingredients of this salad have important roles to play when it comes to both taste and nutrition. Plus, there’s so much to enjoy here, you definitely won’t get sick of eating the same thing for lunch every day.
21. Tofu Burrito Bowl Meal Prep
Chipotle sofritas will have to step aside—the spiced tofu mixture in these burrito bowls is tastier, probably healthier, and takes just 15 minutes to make. Plus, with one batch yielding enough for five meals, the cost of making this meal is just a fraction of what you’ll pay if you eat the same thing outside.
22. Quinoa Fajita Bowls
Without cheese or meat in the recipe, these vegan fajitas get their protein by piling the veggies onto quinoa instead of inside tortillas. Fajita seasoning and jarred pepperoncinis are smart shortcuts that help this meal come together even more easily.
23. Sun-Dried Tomato Chickpea One-Pot Pasta
Meal-prep this one-pot meal in two ways: Combine all the sauce ingredients in advance so all you have to do is dump them in a pot with the pasta come dinnertime, or make the whole thing on Sunday night, portion the meal out into individual containers, and enjoy the fruits of your easy labor all week. Either way you choose, all you need is 20 minutes.
Here’s how you can tackle meal prep for the week in 30 minutes or less. These quick tips will make it easy to eat healthy all week long
Don’t jump ship on your meal prep when you’re super busy! Instead, tweak your meal-prep plan to maximize your time. Focus on tasks that yield big returns to help you eat healthy during the week. Maybe you won’t have time to get everything done on Sunday, but any time spent prepping meals for the week ahead is time well spent, even if it’s only 30 minutes. Here we break down easy prep for those really busy days and offer up two 30-minute plans to streamline your lunches, dinner and snacks for the week.
Optimize Your Meal Plan and Shopping List
In order to cut down on time, streamline your meal plan and your to-do list. A little bit of strategic prep can go a long way to help you eat healthy all week.
1. Be Recipe Savvy
Choose recipes and meals that use ingredients you can prep once and use multiple times. Trim Brussels sprouts to be used in three different dinners—a pizza using store-bought dough, a convenient one-pot pasta and an easy-cleanup sheet-pan meal. Or cook a batch of roasted vegetables to use as toppers for quick quinoa bowls or as a filling for tacos or wraps.
2. Shop with Shortcuts in Mind
On weeks when you’re crunched for time, go for already-prepped convenience items at the store that you might not normally buy. Healthy shortcuts like microwavable brown rice pouches, peeled and chopped vegetables, washed and chopped salad greens, or a rotisserie chicken can save you serious time in the kitchen. And take advantage of the easy pantry items you’ll likely already have on hand, like canned beans, dried pasta and canned tomatoes.
Related: 7-Day Pantry Staples Meal Plan
Meal-Prep Tasks You Can Do in 30 Minutes or Less
You don’t need a full Sunday afternoon to meal prep for the week. There are a number of tasks you can easily knock out during a 30-minute window. Or if a half hour feels too long, try one of the shorter 5- or 15-minute tasks. The keys are to narrow your focus (so you don’t start what you can’t finish) and to commit to tasks that will save you the most hassle during the week. Write down a quick prep to-do list to stay organized and on track.
5-Minute Meal Prep
• Chop vegetables for snacks (like peppers and celery) or for recipes later in the week (like onions and sweet potatoes).
• Rinse, dry and store lettuce, fresh herbs and other greens.
• Whip up easy mason-jar vinaigrettes for salads and grain bowls.
• Assemble snack bags for the week by portioning out trail mix, crackers or other shelf-stable foods into grab-&-go bags.
15-Minute Meal Prep
• Make a salad or dip for the week, like Tuna & White Bean Salad or hummus you can spin four ways.
• Prepare ready-to-blend smoothie freezer packs for fast breakfasts.
• Cook a batch of hard-boiled eggs for high-protein snacks for the week.
• Mix up a batch of overnight oats and divide into single-serve containers.
30-Minute Meal Prep
• Prepare a batch of quinoa, bulgur wheat or quick-cooking barley or brown rice.
• Chop and steam quick-cooking vegetables, like green beans, broccoli and baby carrots.
• Cook simple proteins, like boneless chicken breasts or ground beef, to use throughout the week.
• To make it easy to get in your veggies, cook a big batch you can use throughout the week (try the 25-minute Broccoli with Balsamic Mushrooms recipe).
• If you can’t fit in everything you’d like to in one prep session, see where you can work in some additional prep throughout the week. In the morning as your coffee brews, tackle one of the 5-minute tasks mentioned above. On the way home from work, pick up a rotisserie chicken or another protein from your grocer’s prepared foods section. While dinner cooks, chop extra vegetables for lunch or dinner the next day or get a batch of overnight oats going in your slow cooker for easy breakfasts all week.
• Try It Out: 30-Minute Meal-Prep Plan
• Make the most of a short meal-prep session with these 30-minute play-by-play prep plans!
• How to Meal-Prep a Week’s Worth of Grab-&-Go Lunches and Snacks
In 30 minutes, you can prep your lunches and snacks for the whole week. Here you’ll make Basic Quinoa and Lean & Spicy Taco Meat to use in easy taco bowls for lunch, and the Homemade Trail Mix for a satisfying snack.
Step 1: Boil Water & Chop Onions
Begin by bringing the water to boil for the Basic Quinoa recipe. (Tip: Cover the pot to bring water to a boil faster.) As the water comes to a boil, chop the onion for the Lean & Spicy Taco Meat recipe.
Step 2: Cook Quinoa & Taco Meat
Add quinoa to the boiling water, reduce to a simmer and cover. As the quinoa simmers, cook the taco meat as directed.
Step 3: Assemble Snack Containers
While the taco meat simmers, combine ingredients for the Homemade Trail Mix in a bowl and divide into 5 single-serving snack-size containers or bags. Reach for no-prep fruits, like apples, bananas and clementines, as your other daily snack.
Step 4: Assemble Lunch Containers
After the quinoa and taco meat cool, divide one serving of each into 5 portable lunch containers. Top each with 1/3 cup canned black beans (drained and rinsed) and your favorite salsa. Wait to add other toppings, like shredded cheese or greens, until you’re ready to eat.
How to Meal-Prep for Three Easy Weeknight Dinners
Save yourself time during the week by prepping ingredients for your weeknight meals on Sunday. With most of the ingredients ready to be cooked, getting a healthy dinner on the table is fast and easy. Here, we show you how to prep the ingredients for a few easy weeknight recipes—the Skillet Gnocchi with Chard & White Beans, Potsticker & Vegetable Stir-Fry and Sheet-Pan Chicken Fajitas.
Step 1: Wash & Prep Your Greens
Begin by washing and drying 1 bunch of chard for the Skillet Gnocchi with Chard & White Beans. Chop the leaves (you should have about 6 cups) and transfer to a zip-top bag or airtight container lined with a paper towel. Refrigerate until you’re ready to use.
Step 2: Prep Stir-Fry Veggies
Rinse and slice 2 red bell peppers and 1 yellow bell pepper. You’ll use these in the Potsticker & Vegetable Stir-Fry and Sheet-Pan Chicken Fajitas. Trim and halve the snow peas for the potsticker stir-fry recipe. Refrigerate the veggies together in an airtight container until ready to use.
Step 3: Prep & Store Cabbage
Rinse a small head of napa cabbage, removing any bruised outer leaves. Cut out the core and coarsely chop the leaves. You will need 4 cups for the potsticker stir-fry. Refrigerate in a zip-top bag or airtight container lined with a paper towel until ready to use.
Step 4: Prep Onions
Slice 2 yellow onions. You’ll use half of the onions for the chicken fajita recipe and the other half for the skillet gnocchi recipe. Refrigerate in an airtight container until ready to use.
Step 5: Prep Chicken
Cut and slice the chicken breasts into strips for chicken fajitas. Refrigerate until ready to use.
It’s hard to believe but school is officially back in session around here! Isn’t that nuts? Why, back in my day (I think I’m officially old enough to use a phrase like that now by the way,) we didn’t start school until the very end of August and it was amazing. Ah, those were the good old days!
What am I saying here? Oh yes, now that school is in session, summer hours are over (RIP summer hours – one of the glorious perks of my time spent in Minneapolis where everyone had a lake house to get out to on the weekends. In central Iowa? Not so much.) and vacations have been had, I think we’re all starting to feel those lazy summer days slip through our fingers giving way to the stresses of hectic, everyday life.
Busy, busy life. When the HECK did life get so busy?? There was an article floating around last year about people glorifying being busy. Like, being super busy was a status symbol. Well that’s just crazy. Everyone’s busy and I’m pretty sure we’d all like to be less so
While I can’t take your son to soccer practice, do your homework, pick up your dry cleaning, or mop the floors you’ve been pretending don’t have crusted strawberries on them for two weeks, cough, what I CAN do is help you out with dinner. I can give you lots – 16, in fact – of fresh, wholesome, family-friendly 30-minute meals. Some 20-minute meals, and one, gasp!, 15-minute meal.
You’re busy – I get it. Take 30 minutes or less tonight to stop and smell the roses er, garlic. Enjoy any of these simple recipes that will have dinner on the table quick, and you on your way!
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(By the way, since some of these recipes were created before I was diagnosed with Celiac Disease, I’ve noted which ones are gluten-free and GF-friendly. I’m calling all pasta dishes gluten-free because that’s a simple swap. Cool? Cool.)
Thai Peanut Chicken Quinoa Bowls (Gluten-Free)
I busted this pantry-staple supper out of the archives for dinner earlier this week – OMG it was even better than I remembered! Thai Peanut Chicken Quinoa Bowls take 30 minutes to make and taste just like Pad Thai made with protein-packed quinoa instead of rice noodles. So yum and also great for little ones. I scooped out a bowl of the mix before I added the sauce and Lincoln devoured the entire thing lickity split.
15 Minute Tomato Basil Soup with Cheese Tortellini (GF-Friendly)
I tried waiting for my annual soup recipe roundup to re-share 15 Minute Tomato Basil Soup with Cheese Tortellini with you but I just couldn’t wait. Pantry staples + 15 minutes = total dinner winner. A must try recipe for you busy soup-lovers! (Use gluten-free tortellini to make gluten-free.)
Crock Pot Italian Beef Sandwiches (GF-Friendly)
I’d say 80% of the time I meet a reader out in the wild they tell me how much they love the recipe for Crock Pot Italian Beef Sandwiches, and every time I tell them, ME TOO! Crock pot meals are a busy person’s best friend and rarely do they taste as mouthwatering as these sandwiches. (Use gluten-free Italian dressing mix and hoagie buns to make gluten-free.)
Mini Pizza Quinoa Bites (Gluten-Free)
Make dinner fun with these quick and easy Mini Pizza Quinoa Bites. Make the base then let everyone choose their pizza topping mix-ins. Leftovers freeze perfectly, too. These are the real deal pizza bites!
Lighter Orange Beef and Broccoli (Gluten-Free)
I tinkered and toyed with the orange sauce in this quick stir fry meal until it tasted exactly like the restaurant version. You’re welcome. Skip take out and make this easy, healthier Lighter Orange Beef and Broccoli tonight
Honey and Balsamic-Onions Chicken Skillet (Gluten-Free)
Ok, Honey and Balsamic-Onions Chicken Skillet might take you 35 minutes to make, on account of the caramelized onions, but it’s not really active cooking. A stir here, a stir there – you catch my drift .The end result of tender chicken smothered in sticky balsamic-glazed caramelized onions, drizzled in a 1-minute honey-balsamic pan sauce is totally worth a few extra minutes at the stove
Crispy Baked Asian Salmon (GF-Friendly)
If you want the simplest, most elegant 20 minute supper of your life, look no further than Crispy Baked Asian Salmon. Healthy, savory, crispy, and QUICK. LOVE this meal! (Use crushed Rice Chex instead of panko bread crumbs to make gluten-free.)
One-Pan Italian Sausage and Peppers Pasta (Gluten-Free)
I just posted this 30 minute, one-pan (hell-O easy cleanup!) recipe for One-Pan Italian Sausage and Peppers Pasta, but it’s too good not to put back in front of you. One reader who already made it declared, “Made this for dinner tonight and it was epic! I didn’t have provolone on hand so I added dollops of ricotta cheese! Thank you for one pan meals!!!!!!” What she said!
Grilled Caprese Chicken with Basil Vinaigrette (Gliten-Free)
This 30 minute meal has several components that you can prep ahead of time which means Grilled Caprese Chicken with Basil Vinaigrette can be grilled and on the table in no time. Enjoy this one al fresco (outdoors, y’all.) It truly tastes like summer.
Teriyaki Fried Rice (Gluten-Free)
Join me in just saying no to bottled Teriyaki Sauce! Why buy when it’s so easy (and healthier!) to make from pantry staples at home? Teriyaki Fried Rice is seriously killer and ready to go in 20. Another one of my absolute favorite take-out fake-out recipes.
Man-Pleasing Chicken (Gluten-Free)
Don’t let the name fool you, 30 minute Man-Pleasing Chicken will make anyone – man or woman – lick their chops. It just so happens to contain all my man’s favorite things!
Crunchy Taco Homemade Hamburger Helper (Gluten Free)
Think outside the (Hamburger Helper) box with this easy, homemade version that calls for just 7 ingredients. Crunchy Taco Homemade Hamburger Helper is fast and family-pleasing. I think I’ll make this for dinner tonight, actually
Broccoli-Chicken Mac & Cheese (Gluten-Free)
Mac & Cheese in 30 minutes? You bet. Broccoli-Chicken Mac & Cheese combines pasta, veggies, and a quick, super-cheesy sauce in a decadent, comforting supper
Chicken with Cherry-Wine Pan Sauce (Gluten-Free)
This 20 minute, one-skillet supper will knock the socks off your friends and family. Made with frozen cherries, Chicken with Cherry-Wine Pan Sauce could not be any easier but they’ll think you spent hours slaving over a hot stove thanks to a sophisticated-tasting, yet quick, pan sauce
Steak Salad with Crispy Shallots, Dried Cherries, Candied Pecans and
Goat Cheese (Gluten-Free)
Want a restaurant quality meal without leaving the house? This stunning Steak Salad with Crispy Shallots, Dried Cherries, Candied Pecans and Goat Cheese is it. No grill? No problem. I’ve included instructions for cooking your steaks to perfection indoors on the stove top, too
Crock Pot Sweet Potato & Quinoa Turkey Chili (Gluten-Free)
Like I said, a crock pot is a busy person’s best friend! Thick and hearty Crock Pot Sweet Potato & Quinoa Turkey Chili slow cooks to perfection all day long without needing a thing. Top with cheese, avocado, and crunchy crushed tortilla chips and you. are. set. What a meal to come home to!
BONUS! The Well-Stocked Kitchen: Freezer, Fridge, and Pantry Staples
Get dinner on the table even faster by keeping your kitchen stocked with these freezer, fridge, and pantry staples. Nearly all of the recipes above utilize 90% of the ingredients I always keep on hand in the house. This list will make grocery shopping and, more importantly, cooking go much, much faster!