11 Vegetarian Meal Prep Ideas That Really Work
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Vegetarians eager to eat healthily need to have some tricks up their sleeves if they don’t want to standing in the kitchen for too long every day. We’ve put together our best meal prep ideas to save you loads of time and still eat delicious meals. All vegetarian style of course!
This is not a meticulously structured prepping routine for a single person, but rather a collection of clever ideas that make various processes in your kitchen faster, all geared towards saving YOU time.
Prep Sweet Potatoes in the Oven
Cooking something on the stove? That’s a great moment to prep a couple of sweet potatoes in the oven (just follow the directions here). You can throw them diced up in a salad or as a side for a work lunch.
Or think about making a sweet potato soup for the next dinner (try this recipe). By doing this while cooking something else you’re saving loads of time in advance. How cool is that?
Prep Rice and Lentils at the same time
Baking something in the oven? Prep rice or lentils on the stove in the meantime. To me both ingredients are essential in the vegetarian diet and shouldn’t be forgotten in our meals.
Of course you could also prep other foods like quinoa or potatoes. Having ready to go carbs and proteins stashed away in the fridge helps in eating healthily. Especially when you work out regularly and you need to up your protein intake in order to “make some gainz”. By having it ready and waiting for you, you’re much likely to make it your ‘go-to meal’ instead of some rubbish sugary snack.
Make two servings or more and you can cook loads of cool meals within minutes! It’s really easily done. Recipe Ideas: Rice with a Lentil Curry or Vegetarian Fried Rice.
Prep Legumes in a Pressure Cooker
Especially useful for legumes that need eight hours of soaking prior to 60 – 120 minutes cooking time on a regular stove, a pressure cooker is god sent. Even more for vegetarians, because we rely on legumes so much.
I’m sure you’ll get to the point when you’re annoyed about buying cans of chickpeas or beans all the time. They’re heavy, often contain way too much salt and cans might leak some unknown substances into your legumes. A pressure cooker will help you out. Oh, and it’s also much cheaper to buy dried legumes instead of cans.
Dave and I use this Instant Pot and are super happy!
Personally I only use the pressure cooker to prep legumes and rice.
But there is a whole community around pressure cooking that use it for all sorts of recipes, from red lentil chilies to cheese cakes.
Pre Cut Veggies if Necessary
I almost never pre cut veggies or fruit because I think it’s as easy to just do it right before using them. It can make sense if you use a food processor frequently though. Just throw in the entire veg, use what you need right away for your meal and store what you don’t need.
We can recommend Cuisinart Food Processors. This 14 Cup version is awesome and is what I have at home.
As for the containers we’re big fans of glass (for example this set will do). No BPA involved, freezer, oven and microwave safe. Better for the environment too. Just note: not all veggies store equally well. Have a look at this article on storing cut veggies.
Use Frozen Veggies
Most veg is turned so quickly into a dish, it just doesn’t make sense to prep a whole batch of it in advance. I mean how good is that: just throw a couple of broccoli florets in a pan, add some soy sauce, vinegar and sweet chili sauce and 8 – 10 minutes later you have an awesome side dish. Now just grab your already cooked rice and lentils to accompany it – vegetarian meal prep at it’s best! 😉
The only thing you need to do is to prep your freezer with enough frozen veg every week.
The Basic Smoothie Formula
If you want to prep a tasty and nutritious smoothie, use these four ingredients as a base for a serving:
- 1 Banana
- A handful of frozen berries
- A handful of greens (eg. spinach)
- 1 cup milk of your choice (eg. soy milk)
- Add whatever else you like to the blender. This could be nuts or oats. Maybe seeds like chia or flax. Herbs and spices are always fun to try as well.
Banana + berries + spinach + milk will always turn out great as a smoothie. Also, all ingredients last five days or more. And if the banana or spinach is about to go bad, you can easily freeze both.
Make Breakfast Egg Muffins
These egg muffins are super easy to make and great for breakfast or snacking. Lots of protein too! You can refrigerate or freeze them. To reheat those muffins, you can use the microwave, but with an oven you’ll definitely get better results.
To prep them you’ll need a muffin tin, ideally a non stick one like this one here.
Prep Overnight Oats in a Jar
Overnight Oats are a meal prepping classic. Just fill three jars in the evening and you’ll have breakfast for three mornings in a row, awesome! I wouldn’t go for more than three days, just to be sure everything stays fresh. Check out this extensive guide on how to make the best overnight oats!
If you use jars like those to make overnight oats, you can even make your brekkie to-go.
Prep Salads in a Jar
This is another classic in the meal prepping world and well suited to us vegetarians. Also on this topic we created a massive guide that will help you make the tastiest salads in a jar out there. As a rule of thumb I wouldn’t prep for more than three days. Again, that way you make sure everything stays fresh.
These jars should be big enough to make some nice salad in a jar work lunches.
Prep an Awesome Casserole
Casseroles are an excellent way to prep big batches of tasty and hearty food with very little work (if you pick the right recipes). The only thing you need to rock and “(casse) role” is a proper baking dish. Something like this here for example. A great recipe to start with would be this Baked Lentils dish. Easy to prep, high in proteins and healthy. Perfect for families or vegetarians who like to plan ahead.
Homemade Protein Bars and Cookies
It’s pretty tough to find a healthy and not overly pricey snack or protein bar in the supermarket. Either they’re as expensive as a bar of gold or they contain loads of chemicals you’ve never heard of. Prepping your own protein bars can be a great solution. Try out this recipe to start off with.
A Quick Note on those Famous Five Day Prep Pics
You might ask yourself where is the photo of gazillions containers, each filled with a meal properly counted by calories? And the lovely cut apples, granola bars and yogurts to each meal? All nicely prepped for five days?
Let’s be honest: Those five day meal preppings just don’t work for most of us. In reality it’s just too complicated and not even useful.
Spend 3+ hours in the kitchen on a Sunday to prep for the week? Only for people who enjoy eating the same over and over again. And what happens when you go to a restaurant?
Chopped up fruit in a plastic bag for smoothies? Useless time suck, unless they are about to go bad. Just prep it when you make a smoothie. Simple.
Chopping up Veggies for the week? Again, useless time suck, unless you have some extra cut veg left in the food processor. For example a broccoli floret even stays fresh for longer, if you don’t chop it. So why chop it and put it in a container?
Also, who has that much space in the fridge for all those meals anyway? I get that extreme meal prepping makes sense for some people like athletes, but I doubt it’s useful to put most of us under such a strict regimen.
What do you think? Let us know in the comments below 🙂
I liked the point of pre-chopping the veggies. Whenever I make any food dish I always prefer to do the pre-preparation first. That saves time and you can do things quickly.
It’s helpful especially useful when you have to make recipe which is lengthy.
Yes, true as well! If you have to stay a bit longer in the kitchen due to the recipe anyway, why not prepping some stuff in the mean time. I like your style 🙂
Great read! I do have to say, I’m not an athlete, but I tend to prep all of my meals on Sundays because that’s just what works for me personally. Once I come home from work, I know I have a dinner waiting on me, so I don’t have to spend any time in the kitchen to make dinner every night. I can focus on other things to do with that time!
It’s also easier to stay on track with healthy eating when all of your meals are pre-planned. But that’s just me, everyone is different! 🙂
Absolutely, totally agree it’s easier to eat healthy when everything is planned out! Especially when it’s tasty, interesting meals that you look forward too. You don’t get stuck and just grab the nearest convenience item. It also means you can treat yourself from time to time and not feel guilty as can often happen. I’m training for a race at the moment and think about the lovely food I’m going to eat after I finish my exercise for the day 😀
Great common sense article. I like the idea of having baked sweet potatoes, cooked lentils and brown rice on hand for healthy meal options. I couldn’t agree more about the impracticality of this “meal prep” fad in general. All those rows of little plastic boxes make me want to cry. I enjoy getting out my knife and cutting board and preparing food each night – I find it very grounding – but maybe that’s just me.
Haha well indeed everybody is different! Glad you liked the article :). Yes, having those handy is a must in my opinion, they make my lunches soooooo much quicker now! It also saves me cash on buying lunch when I’m out and about, veggie options are always expensive or are bread with cheese (which I love, but am trying to stay away from just a little ;)).
I need to prep for lunch and dinner. Something quick for bkfst too. I have 30 min to come up with a meal after work if I’m lucky. I hate spending most of my evening every night in the kitchen. If I can get a chunk of prep done after the kid is in bed on Sunday, yeah!!! Morningside I’m a zombie. Week nights are a blur and I’m just too tired at the end of it. If a veggie can be cut and be good by Thursday at least,I’m game. Fridays usually I try to go out and have fun.
Totally with you on that one. Morning is not prepping time for me either. I hope some of these will help you!
I absolutely loved this!
Glad to hear that! We’re collecting ideas for part 2 as well now 🙂
This is the best eating website I’ve ever bean to lol. Sometimes I even start biting the laptop screen it looks so delicious. Well done!!
Holymoly, thank you for that huge compliment! Really awesome to hear 😀
Great article! I meal prep every Sunday for the week so that I won’t have to cook anymore throughout the week (I’m lazy), so it helps me.. I also have 3 meal options for the week for some diversity. But to each his own.
Thank you! But I would actually say you don’t sound lazy – prepping ahead means you’re still making the effort, and instead of grabbing the nearest thing close to hand during the week, you get tasty/nutritious food instead 🙂
While I like the idea of meal prepping, I don’t have the fridge space, my family isn’t into repetitive meals and I don’t reliably have 3 hours over a weekend. The best thing for us is to have a plan for the week. My other goals are to be able to make some things a day ahead of time so that I can fit in workouts and to use locally sourced ingredients as much as possible. If I can accomplish that, then I consider that a success.
I agree with the post. We need to plan and prepare ideas a week ahead to plan a healthy vegetarian diet. As a vegetarian with a hectic life, I need to plan, prepare and cook meals that not only saves time but also provide nutritional values.
I usually purchase all my groceries and vegetables once a week. Woolworths, local vegetable markets and spice stores are an easy way to find the necessary food ingredients. It is best to wash and drain the vegetables and chop the vegetables and preserve them in a refrigerator. The chopped vegetables can be stored in separate boxes to avoid contamination. The menu list can be pasted on the refrigerator with the required ingredients so that we won’t be confused the day we prepare the meals. I agree that cooking rice and legumes in a pressure cooker saves a lot of time. If you want to eat fresh lentil soup and rice, then they can be separately cooked using pressure cooker separators that have a convenient stand.
We can use frozen vegetables such as peas and carrots in our fried rice and stir-fries as they can be boiled and turn tender within a short time.
Thanks Naga! Yes indeed, there’s so much we can do to make life easier/healthier as a vegetarian. And I’m sure there are more ideas yet to be discovered, too!
Yes, Dave, there is so much we can do to make life easier. What is required is planning. Of course patience too. If everyone keeps on sharing their ideas on this post, then certainly we can discover and practice new ideas…
Hi I love these ideas. Maybe not now but when we come into the winter months please could you do some recipies that could be made using a slow cooker? I think it’s a great and easy way to make dinners but I find it hard to find a variety of veggie recipies! Thanks
Hi Amy! That’s a great idea, let me put it on our list. We’ll get something going for the colder months. Glad you like the meal prep ideas! Thanks for writing 🙂
Hey there, nice article. I like to meal prep for at least 3 days if not 5 days it’s easier when on a weight loss or weight gain plan it’s easier to stick to once you contemplate whether to make a healthy meal or something quick and easy or to go buy food then I find the battle is already lost but once you are hungry and pick up something healthy that’s already been prepared it’s a full proof plan. that’s me personally since I can’t keep up with making different walks for breakfast, lunch and dinner each day that’s 21 times to make a meal each week. I prep this way if anyone wants to know- prep 3 main/lunch ideas and then make breakfast in the mornings. That way interchanging lunch and dinner during the week so it’s not the same everyday but you have the food prepped also make a stew for one of the 3 mains that way you can change your carbs if you want a change.. swap rice one day for lentils, quinoa etc. add a boiled egg etc