Advertising
Advertising

You Won’t Believe How Easy Meal Prep Could Be! And how Much Money It Can Help You Save!

You Won’t Believe How Easy Meal Prep Could Be! And how Much Money It Can Help You Save!

Dealing with getting lunch at work can be a real downer. If you don’t plan ahead, you’ll be stuck with the often unhealthy and unnaturally large portions available at fast food joints and other restaurants.

If you’re trying to eat healthy, you’ll find limited options, and expensive ones at that.Leave your days of $12 salads behind by doing meal prep in advance so you can bring your own healthy — and delicious — lunch to work every day.

How to Meal Prep Like a Pro

The key to getting started with meal prepping is to not try to do too much too fast. If you’re accustomed to never packing a lunch, start with prepping a couple of days a week. Once it becomes a habit you can work on packing lunches every day.

Think about what kinds of foods you like to eat that can be eaten cold or easily reheated. Because we’re talking healthy lunches, think about salads, soups, grain dishes, beans, sandwiches and wraps. We’ve got 10 great recipes to get you started below, but you’ll definitely do better sticking to your healthy lunch plan if you’re making things you like.

Another great idea is to choose items that will freeze well. Many soups, grains and beans do well in the freezer, so you can make a big batch and freeze it in lunch-sized portions to be pulled out in future weeks. Score!

Check your kitchen for supplies you can repurpose to help with your meal prep. You’ll need small plastic or glass food storage containers (Mason jars are excellent for this purpose). You may also want a bento box or divided lunch box if your meal will consist of multiple items. They’re also adorable.

Prepping once for the whole week of healthy lunches is a great habit to get into, and a great way to spend your Sunday afternoon or evening. But be aware of food safety and don’t keep foods for too long after you prepare them.

How long can you keep your food?

Salads will be best in the day or two after you make them. Meat can hold in the fridge for three or four days. Vegetarian items can go longer, and things that have been kept in the freezer are good for at least six months in cold storage and for a few days after thawing.

Here are some great starter recipes to get you excited about meal prep and healthy eating.

Mason Jar Salads

Advertising

    Maybe the classic meal prep lunch is the Mason jar salad. There’s a good reason for that: they are cute, easy to make and you can make a great variety of salads, both with greens and with pasta, by following this same basic structure.

    Organize Yourself Skinny has the lowdown on what makes a Mason jar salad work — basically, you put the dressing on the bottom, then some hard-vegetable barrier between the dressing and the greens or pasta — and links to more than a dozen ideas you can make yourself.

    Her Greek Mason jar salad, pictured above, calls for chicken but you could also sub chickpeas to make it vegetarian and to save money, though either way these salads are only a couple of bucks a serving.

    Homemade Instant Noodles

      Ramen is a meal you might have left behind in your poor college student days (or not), but you can give that classic broke food a serious and healthy upgrade with the tips from Serious Eats.

      This homemade instant noodle recipe is a perfect make-ahead for lunch. Start with partially cooked noodles and fresh vegetables. Add seasonings (and some fresh veg like chopped green onions on the side).

      When you’re ready to eat, all you need is some boiling water to make your coworkers jealous. The most expensive item in this recipe is probably the shitake mushrooms, but you’re still looking at pretty cheap eats. Keep scrolling down that page for other variations, too.

      Buddha Bowls

        A classic of vegan fare — I won’t tell if you add some meat — Buddha bowls are a great meal prep basic to have in your arsenal because they can be made a million different ways.

        Usually these bowls include some kind of grain or blend of grains, vegetables and often beans or tofu. The Southwestern Buddha Bowl from Simply Sissom adds chicken, but you don’t have to.

        Advertising

        This recipe is a good one because she gives tips for making it ahead and freezing the components to make prepping it faster the next time.

        Once you’ve made a recipe like this a few times, you’ll start making your own grain bowls by throwing together whatever sounds good, what produce is on sale this week or what you have extra of in the fridge. It’s the ultimate use-everything meal.

        Chicken Salad

          If you’ve roasted a chicken or bought a rotisserie chicken for another meal, using the leftovers for chicken salad is a perfect way to get a make-ahead lunch on the cheap.

          This is one you should plan to eat within a couple of days of making it, and, of course, keep in the refrigerator or otherwise chilled at work before you eat it.

          You may already have a go-to chicken salad recipe, but if not this one from Add a Pinch is great because it is healthier than a lot of recipes out there. She uses yogurt along with the mayo to lighten it up, and adds grapes, pecans and cherries for crunch, flavor and nutrition.

          Lentil Soup

            There are so many cheap and easy soup recipes out there, and once you are comfortable with the basics of making soup, you can easily make a vegetable soup with just about any extra vegetables you have on hand. You can even use frozen vegetables if you don’t have anything fresh.

            Lentil soup, like this one from Alexandra Cooks, is a great place to start. Lentils are inexpensive and healthy but filling, and they taste great with just carrot, celery and onion and some spices. You can also freeze lentil soup and keep eating from the same pot for a while. Add her homemade bread to make this meal extra special.

            Check out the 20 cheap and easy soup recipes from Wise Bread for more great make ahead soup ideas.

            Advertising

            Honey Sesame Chicken Rice Bowls

              Another meal idea with a lot of potential for variation is the Honey Sesame Chicken Rice Bowl from Sweet Peas and Saffron.

              Make it as is with chicken, rice, asparagus and broccoli, or change up the vegetables, grains and protein with whatever you have in the house. This is another great one for using leftovers, or cobbling together from pre-cooked meat and grains that are in the freezer.

              Thai Peanut Wraps

                Wraps are another great option for meal prep; just make the filing in advance and wrap it up the day you’re going to eat it.

                These Thai Peanut Wraps are colorful, healthy and full of flavor, and give you a good starting point for entry into the world of wraps. As the recipe from Spiced is written, they’re vegetarian, but you could throw in leftover chicken as well.

                Lots of these meal options would also work as wraps, such as the Buddha bowls and chicken salad.

                Orzo with Butternut Squash

                  Pasta salads are an easy make-ahead meal that can be eaten alone or as a side dish, and it’s easy to make a lot so you’ll probably do both.

                  The Kitchn’s Orzo with Butternut Squash is a great fall-in-a-bowl dish, and you just have to reheat it a little for lunch to be ready.

                  Advertising

                  And any time you make any kind of pasta, planned leftovers are great to eat for lunch the next day.

                  Chickpea Shawarma Stuffed Pita

                    Anything with beans is great for meal prep because you can buy dried beans inexpensively, cook a big batch, divide into can-sized portions and freeze. Pull out what you need for the week and you can use your beans in a bunch of different ways.

                    Naturally Ella has a great recipe for Chickpea Shawarma, which can be made ahead and served with hummus and pita bread as a sandwich or salad. You can also make your own hummus to make the meal even less expensive.

                    White Chicken Chili

                      Your favorite chili recipe is a great meal prep option, and it no doubt will freeze well, making future lunches that much easier.

                      If you don’t already have a go-to white chicken chili recipe — which is a healthier option than many other meaty versions — check out this one from Serious Eats. It calls for soaking the beans overnight and cooking them yourself, which is an economical option that also makes them tastier. Roasted veggies add to the depth of flavor.

                      Featured photo credit: Robin Zebrowski via flickr.com

                      More by this author

                      Sarah White

                      Freelance Writer, Editor, Professional Crafter

                      Hobbies are Good for You: How to Find One That Fits Your Personality You’re Paid to Work, Not to Endure Verbal Abuse. Don’t Be Intimidated How to Make People Read Your Emails (and Letters) and Reply Every Time How To Get Rid Of Oily Skin: 10 Effective DIY Facial Mask Ideas How to Negotiate Skilfully to Get What You Want All the Time

                      Trending in Health

                      1 How to Get Deep Sleep in 5 Steps Naturally 2 The Ultimate Exercises to Improve Posture (Simple and Effective) 3 Does Keto Weight Loss Diet Plan Actually Work? 4 9 Best Blood Pressure Monitors You Can Use at Home 5 How to Control Your Thoughts and Be the Master of Your Mind

                      Read Next

                      Advertising
                      Advertising
                      Advertising

                      Last Updated on July 10, 2020

                      How to Take Control of Your Life with Better Boundaries

                      How to Take Control of Your Life with Better Boundaries

                      We all have them—those hurtful, frustrating, offensive, manipulative people in our lives. No matter how hard we try to surround ourselves with positive and kind people, there will always be those who will disrespect, insult, berate, and misuse you if we allow them to.

                      We may, for a variety of reasons, not be able to avoid them, but we can determine how we interact with them and how we allow them to interact with us.

                      So, how to take control of your life and stop being pushed around?

                      Learning to set clear firm boundaries with the people in our lives at work and in our personal lives is the best way to protect ourselves from the negative effects of this kind of behavior.

                      What Boundaries Are (And What They’re Not)

                      Boundaries are limits

                      —they are not threats or ultimatums. Boundaries inform or teach. They are not a form of punishment.

                      Boundaries are firm lines—determined by you—which cannot be crossed by those around you. They are guidelines for how you will allow others to treat you and what kind of behaviors you will expect.

                      Advertising

                      Healthy personal boundaries help protect you from physical or emotional pain. You may also need to set firm boundaries at work to ensure you and your time are not disrespected. Don’t allow others to take advantage of your kindness and generosity.

                      Clear boundaries communicate to others that you demand respect and consideration—that you are willing to stand up for yourself and that you will not be a doormat for anyone. They are a “no trespassing” sign that makes it very clear when a line has been crossed and that there will be consequences for doing so.

                      Boundaries are not set with the intention of changing other people. They may change how people interact with you, but they are more about enforcing your needs than attempting to change the general behavior and attitude of others.

                      How to Establish Boundaries and Take Control of Your Life

                      Here are some ways that you can establish boundaries and take control of your life.

                      1. Self-Awareness Comes First

                      Before you can establish boundaries with others, you first need to understand what your needs are.

                      You are entitled to respect. You have the right to protect yourself from inappropriate or offensive behavior. Setting boundaries is a way of honoring your needs.

                      To set appropriate boundaries, you need to be clear about what healthy behaviors look like—what healthy relationships look like.

                      Advertising

                      You first have to become more aware of your feelings and honest with yourself about your expectations and what you feel is appropriate behavior:

                      • Where do you need to establish better boundaries?
                      • When do you feel disrespected?
                      • When do you feel violated, frustrated, or angered by the behavior of others?
                      • In what situations do you feel you are being mistreated or taken advantage of?
                      • When do you want to be alone?
                      • How much space do you need?

                      You need to honor your own needs and boundaries before you can expect others to honor them. This allows you to take control of your life.

                      2. Clear Communication Is Essential

                      Inform others clearly and directly what your expectations are. It is essential to have clear communication if you want others to respect your boundaries. Explain in an honest and respectful tone what you find offensive or unacceptable.

                      Many people simply aren’t aware that they are behaving inappropriately. They may never have been taught proper manners or consideration for others.

                      3. Be Specific but Don’t Blame

                      Taking a blaming or punishing attitude automatically puts people on the defensive. People will not listen when they feel attacked. It’s part of human nature.

                      That said, you do not need to overexplain or defend yourself. Boundaries are not open to compromise.

                      Sample language:

                      Advertising

                      • “You may not…yell or raise your voice to me…”
                      • “I need…to be treated with respect…”
                      • “It’s not okay when…you take things from my desk without asking…”
                      • “I won’t…do your work…cover for you anymore…”
                      • “It’s not acceptable when…you ridicule or insult me…”
                      • “I am uncomfortable when…you use offensive language”
                      • “I will no longer be able to…lend you money…”

                      Being able to communicate these without sounding accusatory is essential if you want others to respect your boundaries so you can take control of your life.

                      4. Consequences Are Often Necessary

                      Determine what the appropriate consequences will be when boundaries are crossed. If it’s appropriate, be clear about those consequences upfront when communicating those boundaries to others.

                      Follow through. People won’t respect your boundaries if you don’t enforce them.

                      Standing our ground and forcing consequences doesn’t come easily to us. We want to be nice. We want people to like us, but we shouldn’t have to trade our self-respect to gain friends or to achieve success.

                      We may be tempted to let minor disrespect slide to avoid conflict, but as the familiar saying goes, “if you give people an inch, they’ll take a mile.”

                      It’s much easier to address offensive or inappropriate behavior now than to wait until that behavior has gotten completely out of hand.

                      It’s also important to remember that positive reinforcement is even more powerful than negative consequences. When people do alter the way they treat you, acknowledge it. Let people know that you notice and appreciate their efforts.

                      Advertising

                      Final Thoughts

                      Respect is always a valid reason for setting a boundary. Don’t defend yourself or your needs. Boundaries are often necessary to protect your time, your space, and your feelings. And these are essential if you want to take control of your life.

                      Start with the easiest boundaries first. Setting boundaries is a skill that needs to be practiced. Enlist support from others if necessary. Inform people immediately when they have crossed the line.

                      Don’t wait. Communicate politely and directly. Be clear about the consequences and follow them through.

                      The better you become at setting your own boundaries, the better you become at recognizing and respecting the boundaries of others.

                      Remember that establishing boundaries is your right. You are entitled to respect. You can’t control how other people behave, but you do have control over the way you allow people to treat you.

                      Learning to set boundaries is not always easy, but with time, it will become more comfortable. You may eventually find that boundaries become automatic and you no longer need to consciously set them.

                      They will simply become a natural extension of your self-respect.

                      Featured photo credit: Thomas Kelley via unsplash.com

                      Read Next