Most of us wish we could eat more home-cooked food, but between work, family and social commitments, there often just isn’t enough time to prepare and cook a meal from scratch. If you’re in a rush, it can be tempting to grab a TV dinner or order takeout, and while we all deserve a treat now and again, eating more home-cooked food is cheaper, and because you know exactly what goes into your food, it’s usually healthier, too.
One way for busy people to enjoy more home cooked food is to use meal prep recipes. These are recipes that involve preparing ingredients or entire meals when you’ve got a little more time on your hands, then refrigerating or freezing until you need them. It does require a little planning beforehand - you might need to schedule an hour or two in your diary to do your food prep for the week, and you might need to do a meal plan several days in advance - but once you’ve set aside time for food prep, rather than trying to fit it in around everything else, it can save time when you need it most, and really take the stress out of cooking.
There are several ways to approach food prep. Some foods, such as mashed potatoes, soups or quinoa, lend themselves well to being cooked in large batches and then frozen. Otherwise, you can prepare several days worth of individual ingredients and mix and match them throughout the week, or prepare and assemble entire meals, so all you need to do is put them into the oven
If you want to try meal prep for yourself, we’ve selected a range of delicious recipes for every meal of the day, all of which can be prepared beforehand. And to make things even more convenient, every recipe on the list is suitable for vegetarians.
This sweet and nutty granola from Cookie and Kate can be made in a big batch at the weekend, so you can grab and go on busy work mornings. It can be served with a simple splash of milk, or with Greek yoghurt and a handful of your favourite fruit.
This yummy overnight oats recipe from Ambitious Kitchen takes less than 10 minutes to prepare, and will keep in the fridge for up to five days, so you can make a few ahead of time. Made with peanut butter and blueberries, it tastes just like your favourite PB&J, and it’s packed full of oats and chia seeds for a burst of energy to see you through until lunch.
This super simple recipe from The Hidden Veggies shows you how to make tasty chia puddings in less than five minutes. These will also keep in the fridge for around five days, and there are several flavour combinations so you don’t get bored of eating the same thing every day.
If you prefer a savoury breakfast, these Mexican-inspired burritos from The Hungry Waitress are a great option. They freeze well, and can be reheated in the microwave if you’re really in a hurry.
Stuffed full of oats and yummy chocolate chips, these breakfast squares from Chocolate Covered Katie are a great option for breakfast on the go. They freeze well - because you can’t eat chocolate for breakfast every day - and provide a good burst of energy for particularly active mornings.
These flavourful, veggie-packed bowls from She Likes Food are easy to prepare, and can be kept in the fridge for up to four days. They can be reheated in a few minutes, either in the microwave or in a pot with a little oil. You will have to cook the rice fresh, though, as reheated rice can cause food poisoning.
This healthy and colourful recipe from Budget Bytes is designed with meal prep in mind, and can be divided into several containers ready for the week ahead. Made with Mediterranean vegetables and a tasty dill dressing, it keeps for up to four days in the fridge and tastes delicious cold, so there’s no need to reheat it.
Another no-reheat weekday favourite from Budget Bytes, this Asian-inspired dish is served with a delicious peanut lime sauce, and keeps in the fridge for 3 to 4 days.
This bumper meal-prep recipe from Sweet Peas and Saffron makes an impressive 12 burritos to be frozen for later. The cauliflower rice means you can reheat them safely and also helps to keep things nice and light. Serve with a spoonful of sour cream and slices of avocado.
These fun, build-your-own bagel boxes from Budget Bytes come with a bagel, hard-boiled egg, cucumber slices, cherry tomatoes, and a little pot of cream cheese. They will keep in the fridge for up to 5 days, and can be customised to include your favourite bagel toppings.
This herby, Mediterranean-inspired dish from The Kitchn can be served with crusty bread for the perfect weekday supper, and the leftovers will keep in the fridge for 5 days if you need a quick, tasty lunch.
This wonderfully fragrant Thai curry from The Kitchn takes just 30 minutes to prepare, and leftovers will keep in the fridge for up to 5 days.
another lunchbox idea from Budget Bytes, this time with a Mexican theme. We recommend cooking your rice fresh to minimise risk of contamination.
This hearty Mexican-inspired pasta from Sweet Peas and Saffron is stuffed with a rainbow of delicious veggies. You can either prep the ingredients (minus the pasta) beforehand and refrigerate or freeze until you’re ready to cook, or cook a large batch and store the leftovers, which keep in the fridge for up to 4 days and in the freezer for up to 3 months.
This low calorie, high protein chilli from Meal Prepify takes just 5 minutes to prep, then you can leave it in the slow cooker and get on with your day. It's perfect for cooking in a big batch, and will keep for 3 days in the fridge and 3 months in the freezer. This recipe is suitable for vegans as well as vegetarians, and can be served with rice, wedges, or in a tortilla wrap.
These super simple roasted chickpeas from The Kitchn are irresistibly snackable. Eat them in handfuls, or try adding to salads and soups.
These tasty and nutritious snacks from the Minimalist Baker can be made with a variety of flavourings, and will keep in the fridge for up to 3 days.
These flavourful hummus-stuffed peppers from Taste of Home can be eaten as a snack, or served as a simple appetiser.
This healthy snack from Taste of Home is seasoned with garlic, salt, ginger and chilli flakes, for an aromatic flavour with a bit of a kick.
These fruity yoghurt popsicles from Taste of Home are the perfect snack for those of us with a sweet tooth.
Meal prep recipes can help you to enjoy a varied and healthy diet with minimal fuss. And with so many simple and tasty meals to choose from, you’re sure to find some future family favourites.