Meal Prep for the Week: Lunch Ideas

My simple system to meal prep for the week. Get everything ready on Sunday and enjoy ready-made, healthy lunches all week.

How to meal prep for the week with these easy ideas for healthy lunches. Prep for one or prep for the whole family.

I know I’ve mentioned it before, but I hate to pack lunches.

That is, I used to hate packing lunches until I came up with a weekly meal prep routine that has made lunch prep so easy.

And our lunches have never tasted better!

The basis for my lunches are a cross between a Buddha bowl and a salad.

Or maybe they are salads with hearty stuff in it.

Or maybe they are bowls on top of greens.

Anyway you look at it, these bowls are so easy to assemble, and they stay fresh all week.

How to Meal Prep for the Week:

How to meal prep for the week with these easy ideas for healthy lunches. Prep for one or prep for the whole family.

STEP 1 – COOK YOUR PROTEIN

By far the easiest and cheapest way to have chicken for your lunches is to cook a Whole Chicken in a Crockpot. Once the meat is done, tear it off the bone and sometimes I like toshred it using this trick. I use between 3 or 4 ounces of chicken per bowl. I actually use my digital scale to measure the right portion.

No time to slow cook? Grilling boneless, skinless chicken breasts or thighs is quick and easy.

Other options for protein:

Flank Steak (Use your leftovers!)
Mississippi Pot Roast (Again, use leftovers!)
Hard Boiled Eggs
Cooked Ham
Nitrate-free Deli Meat
Shredded Cheese

How to meal prep for the week with these easy ideas for healthy lunches. Prep for one or prep for the whole family.

STEP 2 – COOK YOUR GRAINS

At the same time your meat is cooking, you need to cook up a grain. What type of grain you cook is up to you.

Personally, I love rice or bulgur in my bowls. But any of these make good choices:

Quinoa
Bulgur
White Rice
Brown Rice
Farro
Millet
Kamut

Did you know you can freeze cooked brown rice? Double or triple your batch and you won’t have to cook a grain for several weeks.

How to meal prep for the week with these easy ideas for healthy lunches. Prep for one or prep for the whole family.

STEP 3 – FLAVORFUL ADDITIONS

Finish your bowls with any of the following:

Beans
Lentils
Cheese
Chopped or Shredded Vegetables
Fresh or Dried Fruits
Nuts

STEP 4 – DRESSING

I use a simple homemade salad dressing for almost all of my salads.

1/4 cup olive oil
2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
salt and pepper to taste

If I want a sweeter dressing I add 2 teaspoons of honey. If I want a savory dressing I add 2 teaspoons of dijon mustard. If I need extra flavor, I add them both.

That’s it for the dressing. I’ll just add the ingredients to a mason jar and shake them well. No special equipment required.

How to meal prep for the week with these easy ideas for healthy lunches. Prep for one or prep for the whole family.

STEP 5 – ASSEMBLE THE SALAD BOWLS

You can make your salads to suit your favorite tastes; however, I thought you might like some inspiration.

SALAD BOWL INSPIRATION:

Steak and Egg Salad Bowl
Greek Chicken and Feta Salad Bowl
Chicken and Cherry Salad Bowl

I pack most of our lunches in a stainless steel lunch container. However, I pack up 9 lunches at a time (3 lunches for 3 people). I simply don’t have enough stainless steel containers for all of our lunches. *sigh* And people, they are SPENDY! So I have purchased some of these meal prep containers. If this is what your budget allows, then please use them but DON’T microwave any food in them! Don’t let your budget be a barrier to healthy meal prep.

Weekly Meal Prep: Steak and Egg Salad Bowl Recipe

Steak and egg salad bowls bring this classic breakfast combination to your lunch.
steak-and-egg-salad

This salad is part of my meal prep for the week.

We like to grill steaks during the summer. Since steak is expensive, we almost always opt to purchase a flank steak and use a homemade rub to season it.

I’ll purchase a steak that is large enough to ensure we have leftovers to add to this salad.

I always use my kitchen scale when making this salad. Each salad only gets about 1 1/2 ounces of steak. It’s one of the ways I keep both the cost and the calorie content down.

To add to the protein content of the salad, I supplement the steak with a hard boiled egg. Steak and eggs are a classic combination.

If you have a hearty eater or growing teen in your house, feel free to throw on another hard boiled egg.

Since this is a bowl, and not just a salad, I use cooked brown rice as the grain in this salad. It’s my preferred combination, but you can try other grains in this salad if you’d like.

The addition of a grain makes this salad a bowl, which I think makes it more of a complete meal. It also helps me feel as though I’m not just eating rabbit food.

The following recipe has the portions for one salad. If you plan to make up several of these, simply multiply the ingredients by the number of salads you’ll be making.

For example: If you are making 3 salads, you need 3 times the steak. So instead of needing just 1 1/2 ounces of steak, you’ll need 4 1/2 ounces of steak.

I don’t give the measurements for the salad greens or cherry tomatoes. More is always better in my book, so I don’t stop adding them until the container can’t hold any more!

Steak and Egg Salad

You will need:
1 1/2 ounces cooked steak per salad
1 hard boiled egg per salad
1/2 cup cooked brown rice per salad
Spring Mix greens
Chopped cherry tomatoes
1/2 cup olive oil
2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
dijon mustard

Start your salad by adding a large handful of spring mix to your lunch container. Top with 1/2 cup cooked rice. Layer egg, steak and tomatoes on top. Seal up container and refrigerate up to 5 days.

In a mason jar, add 1/4 cup olive oil, 2 tablespoon balsamic vinegar, and 2 teaspoons dijon mustard. Screw lid on tightly and shake to combine.

Add one to one and a half tablespoons dressing to a separate, small, leak-proof container. Make sure to pack up both your salad and your dressing.

If you are used to adding salt and pepper to your salad, I do recommend pink himalayan sea salt to get the extra trace minerals.

I find these salads will stay fresh for up to 5 days when properly refrigerated.

HELPFUL TIP: Check the date on your salad greens before you buy them. Try to find greens with an expiration date that is at least 5 days away. The fresher your greens, the better chance you have for your salad to stay fresh.

Greek Chicken and Feta Salad Bowl Recipe

Greek Chicken and Feta Salad Bowls are a family favorite. I work these into my weekly meal prep often.
greek-chicken-and-feta-salad-bowl

Once a week I will cook both a protein and a grain to be used in my weekly meal prep. I like to do it on Sunday if we are home.

While a slow cooked chicken is my preferred method of prepping chicken, if we are low on time, grilling up boneless, skinless chicken breasts is our quick and easy route.

I always use my kitchen scale when making up salad bowls. Each Greek salad bowl gets 3 ounces of chicken.

Weighing your protein instead of just “winging” it is a great way to get your portions under control.

Since this is a bowl, and not just a salad, I use cooked quinoa as the grain in this salad. It’s my preferred combination, but if you don’t like quinoa, you can use what you like. If you haven’t already read it, check out my weekly meal prep for inspiration.

If you don’t want to add a grain to this salad, serving it with a whole grain pita on the side is quite yummy.

The following recipe has the portions for one salad. If you plan to make up several of these, simply multiply the ingredients by the number of salads you’ll be making.

For example: If you are making 3 salads, you need 3 times the chicken. So instead of needing just 3 ounces of chicken, you’ll need 9 ounces of chicken.

I don’t give the measurements for the salad greens. Grab a generous handful and pack it into your favorite lunch container. That’s the right amount.

Greek Chicken and Feta Salad Bowl

You will need:
3 ounces cooked chicken per salad
1/2 cup quinoa per salad
1/4 cup garbanzo beans per salad
Spring Mix greens
Chopped cherry tomatoes
Chopped cucumber
1 tablespoon crumbled feta per salad
1/2 cup olive oil
2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
optional: dijon mustard

Start your salad by adding a large handful of spring mix to your lunch container. Top with 1/2 cup quinoa. Layer chicken, cucumber, garbanzo beans and tomatoes on top. Sprinkle crumbled feta over before you seal up your container and refrigerate up to 5 days.

In a mason jar, add 1/4 cup olive oil, 2 tablespoon balsamic vinegar, and 2 teaspoons dijon mustard (optional). Screw lid on tightly and shake to combine.

Add one to one and a half tablespoons dressing to a separate, small, leak-proof container. Make sure to pack up both your salad and your dressing.

The feta lends a lot of salt to this Greek salad bowl. I’d caution against adding any more.

I find these salads will stay fresh for up to 5 days when properly refrigerated.

HELPFUL TIP: Check the date on your salad greens before you buy them. Try to find greens with an expiration date that is at least 5 days away. The fresher your greens, the better chance you have for your salad to stay fresh.

Chicken and Cherry Salad Bowl Recipe

I could eat a chicken and cherry salad bowl every day of the week!
chicken-and-cherry-salad-bowl

This is my favorite salad bowl. Hands down. However, it can be highly caloric if you don’t watch the portions. These salad bowls are part of my meal prep for the week.

Please make the kitchen scale and measuring spoons your friend when you make this salad. This salad has sweet and salty and crunchy, so a little can go a long way.

If you don’t want to add a grain to this salad, serving it with a whole grain roll on the side is quite yummy. In my opinion, the brown rice is perfect in this bowl. It pairs really well with the almonds and dried cherries.

By the way, if you don’t have access to dried cherries (I buy mine at Costco), you can substitute craisins or dried apricots.

The following recipe has the portions for one salad. If you plan to make up several of these, simply multiply the ingredients by the number of salads you’ll be making.

For example: If you are making 3 salads, you need 3 times the chicken. So instead of needing just 3 ounces of chicken, you’ll need 9 ounces of chicken.

Chicken and Cherry Salad Bowl

You will need:
3 ounces cooked chicken per salad
1/2 cup brown rice per salad
spring mix greens
1 tablespoon dried cherries per salad
1 tablespoon slivered almonds per salad
1 tablespoon blue cheese per salad
1/2 cup olive oil
2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
2 teaspoons honey

Start your salad by adding a large handful of spring mix to your lunch container. Top with 1/2 cup brown rice. Layer chicken, almonds, cherries, and blue cheese on top. Seal up your container and refrigerate up to 5 days.

In a mason jar, add 1/4 cup olive oil, 2 tablespoon balsamic vinegar, and 2 teaspoons honey. Screw lid on tightly and shake to combine.

Add one to one and a half tablespoons dressing to a separate, small, leak-proof container. Make sure to pack up both your salad and your dressing.

I find these salads will stay fresh for up to 5 days when properly refrigerated.

HELPFUL TIP: Check the date on your salad greens before you buy them. Try to find greens with an expiration date that is at least 5 days away. The fresher your greens, the better chance you have for your salad to stay fresh.

Freezer Pasta Salad Recipe: Perfect for Lunchboxes!

This freezer pasta salad recipe is perfect for make-ahead lunches. It's a healthy, whole food meal that can be frozen for up to 2 months.

Do you ever get tired of making lunches? ME TOO! Which brings me to why I love this freezer pasta salad recipe. 

This recipe allows me to prep several lunches and pop them in the freezer.

Then, I can simply pull one of these out to defrost the night before and BAM! It’s a healthy whole grain lunch with a minimum of effort. Happy day!

Oh, and if you are ever out of bread (happens to me all the time), you have a ready alternative. This might be the best reason of all to make this recipe.

I use this whole wheat orzo:

Rice Select whole wheat orzo

It’s not organic, but it is non-GMO.

It can be hard to find whole wheat orzo in the regular grocery store, so I always order mine in a three pack from Amazon.

You do know my 5 Secret Ways to Save at Amazon, don’t you?

freezer pasta salad

As far as freezing the pasta goes, I use these freezer safe jelly jars. They hold about a cup of pasta salad and fit beautifully in the freezer door.

You’ll get between 5 and 6 jars of salad depending on how much you eat when you “test” your recipe or how tightly you pack the jars.

Since there is no liquid in this recipe, you can pack the jars to the top.

Of course, if you prefer to pack the salad in a freezer safe bag, that works too.

Feta cheese is my favorite way to add some protein to this pasta lunch.

However, leftover cooked chicken, sun dried tomatoes, cherry tomatoes, garbanzo beans and/or pine nuts are also great, healthy additions.

Freezer Pasta Salad Recipe for Kids

Ingredients

  • 1 pound whole wheat orzo pasta
  • 1/2 cup olive oil
  • 1/4 cup lemon juice
  • 3 tablespoons chopped dill
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 1 cup yellow pepper, chopped
  • 1 cup red pepper, chopped
  • 3 green onions, chopped
  • 1/2 cup chopped kalamata olives
  • optional: feta cheese

Instructions

  1. Cook orzo according to package directions.
  2. In a small bowl, whisk together olive oil, lemon juice, dill, and garlic for dressing. Add salt and pepper to taste.
  3. In a large bowl, combine orzo, peppers, onions, and olives. Toss with dressing.
  4. Allow to cool completely. Once cool, divide pasta into freezer safe containers. Freeze up to 2 months.
  5. Thaw in refrigerator overnight before packing in lunchbox the next day.
  6. Optional serving suggestion: top with feta cheese for a protein boost.
http://naturalgreenmom.com/freezer-pasta-salad-recipe/

If you are in a lunch making rut, I encourage you to make this easy freezer pasta salad recipe!

Healthy Egg Salad Recipe with Avocado

Healthy Egg Salad Recipe

This healthy egg salad recipe with avocado has become my go-to lunch! It’s delicious in a pita, tastes great wrapped up in a lettuce leaf, and can be served “inside-out”.

What’s inside-out? Leave out the celery when making the egg salad. Then stuff the egg salad in the celery to serve. Yummy.

This recipe calls for grated red onion. I think it is the key to the salad. It imparts the flavor of the onion but you don’t end up biting into a piece of onion. Know what I mean?

Finally, when it comes to seasoning the salad with salt and pepper, this is my trick.

Healthy Egg Salad Recipe with Avocado

Ingredients

  • 6 hard boiled eggs
  • 1 avocado
  • 1 tablespoon lemon juice
  • 2 tablespoons grated red onion
  • 1/4 cup chopped celery
  • salt and pepper to taste

Instructions

  1. In a small bowl, mash the hard boiled eggs.
  2. In a second small bowl, mash together the avocado, lemon juice, and red onion.
  3. Stir together the eggs, the avocado mixture, and the chopped celery. Season to taste with salt and pepper.
http://naturalgreenmom.com/healthy-egg-salad-recipe/

This healthy egg salad recipe is a great afternoon snack for the kiddos, especially if they have a sport that afternoon. It fills them up without weighing them down.

No ripe avocados at home? Make deviled eggs instead!

Apple, Quinoa and Kale Salad Recipe

Apple Quinoa Kale Salad Recipe

Have you cooked quinoa before? If so, then you know the secret to getting great tasting quinoa is to thoroughly rinse it before cooking. This removes the coating that has a soapy taste. Rinsing your quinoa every time is the best way to ensure the tastiest salad.

The 21 Day Sugar Detox Level One allows some grains on its plan. One of the grains it allows is quinoa.

My goal with this sugar detox is to load up on healthy foods. Kale is one of those healthy foods I’ve been targeting. I came up with this delicious Apple, Quinoa and Kale Salad Recipe to be both Sugar Detox Level one compliant and as a way to eat lots of great kale!

I’ve been making this salad so big, I have to take breaks while eating it. I’ll eat a third then need to refrigerate it before I can tackle more. Big salad? Oh yes.

This salad is so big you could easily divide it into 2 servings as a side salad. Or eat it yourself in shifts like I do!

If you aren’t on a sugar detox, here are some optional additions to this Apple Quinoa Kale salad:

  • 2 teaspoons honey to the dressing
  • Crumbled goat cheese or
  • Crumbled blue cheese

Apple, Quinoa and Kale Salad Recipe

Ingredients

  • 1 green apple, chopped
  • 1/2 cup cooked and chilled quinoa
  • As much kale as you think you'll eat
  • 1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • zest and juice of 1/2 lemon
  • 1 tablespoon mustard
  • salt and pepper to taste

Instructions

    For the dressing:
  1. Whisk together olive oil, lemon juice and zest, mustard, and salt and pepper.
  2. For the salad:
  3. In a large bowl, combine apple, quinoa and kale.
  4. Toss with dressing. Serve.
http://naturalgreenmom.com/apple-quinoa-and-kale-salad-recipe/

If you enjoy this salad, you really must try Grain-Free Cauliflower Tabbouleh!

Cauliflower Tabbouleh Salad