Discover the secret to quick and easy lunches all week! Turn one slow cooker recipe into five healthy and delicious lunches in less than one hour!
Is anyone out there a bit scared of meal prep? Images of countertops filled with perfectly organized tupperware containers packed, labeled, and ready for the week left me feeling a bit intimidated and overwhelmed.
As much as I love the idea, I definitely don't want (and quite honestly don't have time) to spend every Sunday holed away in the kitchen prepping meals. Between getting caught up with household chores, running errands, and hopefully having a minute to relax; there just isn't time for hours of meal prep as well.
Luckily meal prep doesn't have to be so hard! Today I am going to share a strategy for spending less than one hour of active time prepping five healthy lunches for the week. When you're done, lunches will be packed for the whole week and you'll have a bit of variety as well.
The first step is to pick out a base slow cooker recipe that will serve as the protein source for your lunches all week.
Then in the morning spend ten minutes getting everything into the slow cooker. Then walk away! That's the great thing about using a slow cooker - it does all the heavy lifting for you allowing you to accomplish other things.
Here are five of my favorites to use for lunches since they are incredibly versatile and it's easy to transform them into five healthy, easy, and delicious lunches.
- Slow Cooker Chicken in Salsa Verde
- Slow Cooker Simple Pork Tenderloin
- Slow Cooker Chicken Tinga
- Slow Cooker Italian Beef
- Slow Cooker Buffalo Chicken
Next, you are going to prep the other ingredients you need to round out your weekly lunches. Here's what's on the menu:
- Monday: Slow Cooker Protein + Corn Tortillas + Veggies + Salsa = Tacos
- Tuesday: Grain (quinoa, brown rice, couscous, pasta) + Veggies + Leftover Protein = Rice/Grain Bowl
- Wednesday: Slow Cooker Protein + Greens + Veggies + Chopped Fruit = Hearty Salad
- Thursday: Low Carb Wrap + Slow Cooker Protein + 1/4 cup Cheese + Veggies = Healthy Quesadilla
- Friday: Canned Soup + Slow Cooker Protein + Side Salad = Soup + Salad
So here's what you need to prep and here's how to do it in 45 minutes or less.
- Make the Grain: Start by getting the grain you are using for your rice bowl cooking since it takes the longest. Time saver! Use a packaged precooked rice or quinoa product. There are great options out there, my personal favorites are the frozen versions, which I find are more natural than the shelf-stable ones.
- Roast or Steam the Veggies: Next, get your cooked veggies ready. You will need veggies for the tacos, rice bowl, salad, and quesadilla. It's up to you if you want to use the same veggies for everything or mix it up for each meal. Personally, I always opt for two veggie sides so I have more variety. For example, I may make roasted zucchini to use in the tacos and quesadilla and then some roasted broccoli and cauliflower to use in the rice bowl and salad. Time saver! Frozen veggies can save you lots of time here. Just pick out the veggies you want to use and defrost them during this step.
- Chop Salad Ingredients: Next you will need ingredients for the hearty salad on Wednesday and the side salad on Friday. Chop all your veggies and pre-pack the greens. Time saver! Buy a package of pre-washed prepared greens and then swing by your store's salad bar for all the yummy veggie extras. Everything is already chopped and ready to go plus you get to choose more veggies.
- Portion Salsa, Cheese, and Dressing: Measure out and pack the salsa, cheese for quesadillas, and salad dressing for Wednesday and Friday.
- Pack it Up: That's it! Time to pack your lunches for the week. Other than the rice/grain bowl, I like to pack things individually (or use containers like these) since I find it stays fresher. Then I assemble and heat everything up when it's time for lunch that day.
- Post your Lunch Schedule: Lastly post or write down your lunch schedule so you don't forget what's on the menu. Personally, I like to write it down and stick it up on the fridge but you could also record it in your planner, calendar, or on your phone.
Each week you can change up the protein you are using, veggies, canned soup, and grains to keep things interesting. Lunches are prepped in under an hour.
Want even more meal planning and prep help? Take a look at our meal plans which are full of easy lunch recipes that are prepared ahead of time or use leftovers for simple meal prep.