These 25 lunch meal prep ideas prove that eating healthy can be delicious and is anything but boring! A little prep work on the weekend will set you up to eat healthier, save money, and reduce your stress through the week.
It can be a challenge to find nutritious meal prep recipes that still taste amazing on day 4. After years of experience, I'm sharing the meal prep recipes that have been the most popular with our community!
I've sifted through nearly 150 meal prep lunch recipes on the blog to curate this list of the 25 most popular meal prep lunch ideas. These recipes will have you looking forward to your lunch...no more boring sandwiches! Spending 30 minutes-1 hour on the weekend prepping these recipes is going to make a huge difference through the week.
Benefits of meal prep
- you will save money (no more buying your lunch!)
- you will eat healthier (no impulsive choices when you are overly hungry)
- you will reduce your stress (lunch is just waiting for you in the fridge!)
Tips for getting started
- Start small. You DO NOT have to prep all your meals ahead in order to feel the benefits. Start with one meal that pains you- breakfast, lunch, or snacks are a great place to start!
- Schedule it. For the first month, you have to work your meal prep into your routine, so it is smart to schedule off a block of time dedicated to your meal prep. Set a reminder in your phone. At first you might feel like it's a chore, but I'm betting once you get going, and you see how AWESOME it is to not have to worry about your meals during the week, you'll look forward to it!
- Find a core set of recipes you can depend on. Over time, you can find a set of recipes you love and that you know work. You may even have them memorized! This makes the meal prep routine so. easy.
Meal Prep FAQ
Most ingredients will keep in the fridge for up to 4 days. If you want to meal prep for the whole week, you can do a second meal prep session mid-week, or you can choose freezer-friendly meal prep meals. Check out these Freezer-Friendly Lunch Meal Prep Recipes for recipes that will keep longer!
Absolutely! The important thing with rice is that you don't leave it at room temperature for long periods of time. Cool it quickly, refrigerate, and do not reheat more than once. Ref
Check out this post I wrote about the 5 Best Glass Meal Prep Containers!
You will want to check out this post on How to Meal Prep Vegetables.
NO! Check out this post on 3 Ways to Add Variety to Your Meal Prep. Although I will say that the most efficient way to meal prep is to bulk prep the same meal.
I am ALL about the shortcuts if they help me eat healthier through the week! Here are some of my favorite meal prep short cuts:
- use pre-cut & washed veggies- carrot sticks, cabbage slaw, and pre-riced cauliflower are super convenient on meal prep day!
- buy a pre-cooked rotisserie chicken- shred it and use in multiple meals
- use pre-made dressings and dips- cuts down on prep time
- just portion stuff out- when I'm really short on time I made bento-style boxes and add my favorite meats, cheese, veggies and dip
- use your appliances- cook your quinoa in a rice cooker so you can focus on other things. Cook a big batch of protein in the slow cooker. Using your appliances frees up your hands (and mind) to focus on other tasks.
- use 'no cook' recipes- such as overnight oats or salads
1. Hot lunch ideas
Look forward to your hot lunch all morning long! From stir fries to meal prep bowls to meatballs and more, these meal prep ideas each have a healthy grain, protein and plenty of vegetables. Reheat in the microwave and enjoy!
How to meal prep - Cook and portion out into meal prep containers. Check recipe directions for whether sauce can be added immediately or must be stored separately.
How to store- I highly recommend these 2 cup meal prep containers. Store in the fridge for up to 4 days.
How to serve- heat in the microwave until steaming hot and enjoy!
2. Cold lunches
With healthy grains, vegetables and proteins, these meal prep salads are perfect for lunch. Making them ahead will ensure that you get an extra serving of veggies in your day! From meal prep bowls to jar salads, these recipes all look tasty and easy to prep.
How to meal prep - Cook and portion out into meal prep containers or jars. For jar salads, ensure that the dressing and heartier ingredients go at the bottom of the jar, and layer up placing delicate ingredients at the top. Make sure crispy ingredients + avocados are stored separately until you are ready to serve.
How to store- Some options for storing salads include:
- these 2 cup meal prep containers
- store in 1 pint mason jars, then dump into a clean bowl to toss everything up in the dressing.
How to serve- for meal prep containers, mix everything up with the dressing and enjoy. For jar salads, dump it out into a clean bowl so the dressing covers all the ingredients evenly.
During the cold winter months and even sometimes in the summer, soups are on my meal plan for lunch! They are a great way to squeeze in extra veggies.
How to meal prep - Cook a big batch ahead and portion out through the week. Leftovers can often be frozen for long-term storage.
How to store - Some options for storing soup include:
- these 20 oz meal mugs from Corningware (though they must be kept upright during transportation)
- store in 1 pint mason jars, then reheat in bowls in the microwave
- this super popular Crock Pot lunch warmer, which plugs in and heats your food (great for teachers or anyone without a microwave)
- this 24 oz thermos, which is perfect for soup
How to serve- bring crackers or your favorite soup dipper!
4. Wraps + pitas
Sandwiches can get SO boring! Here are some delicious wrap and pita meal prep ideas that are so much more exciting.
How to meal prep- Make the fillings ahead and store separately from the lettuce wraps, tortillas or pitas until just before serving. *note- the pinwheels may be prepared up to 3 days ahead and the quesadillas hold up OK with the filling.
How to pack-
- Lettuce wraps- You may want one of these 2 compartment meal prep containers to keep filling and lettuce separate.
- Pitas & tortilla wraps - bring the whole bag of pitas/tortillas to work. Only cut the pitas just before serving and scoop the filling in.
- Pinwheels & bento - you may want one of these 3 compartment meal prep containers to store them.
How to serve-
- wraps/pitas- heat filling before spooning into lettuce, pita or tortilla.
- quesadillas- best crisped up in a frying pan before serving but are OK reheated in the microwave
- pinwheels & bentos- enjoy cold.
Watch the video below to see my four favorite meal prep lunch recipes in this post. They are the most popular recipes on my site! You can find more of my recipe videos on my YouTube channel, or on Facebook.
Honey Sesame Chicken Lunch Bowls
Southwestern Sweet Potato Jar Salads
Did you make this? Tag me on social @sweetpeasandsaffron and be sure to leave a comment and rate the recipe!
25 MOST Popular Meal Prep Lunch Ideas + Build Your Own Meal Prep Bowl
Protein (pick one of the following):
- 1 lb boneless skinless chicken breast (cut into 1 inch cubes)
- 1 lb shrimp (deveined and tails removed)
- 1 can chickpeas or black beans (drained + rinsed)
- 1 lb lean ground beef (or ground turkey)
Vegetables (use 4 cups)
- zucchini noodles
- broccoli (cut into florets)
- cauliflower (florets or rice)
- bell peppers (sliced)
Carbohydrates (pick one)
- ¾ cup uncooked rice (white or brown)
- ¾ cup uncooked quinoa
- 4 oz whole wheat spaghetti (cooked)
- 2 sweet potatoes (roasted; small-medium)
Sauces (use ¼ of one of these options)
- Cook your protein in a frying pan until fully cooked through. Skip this step if using beans.
- Cook your vegetables in a pan or roast in the oven until tender. Skip this step if using zucchini noodles or cauliflower rice (they will cook when reheated in the microwave).
- Cook your grains in a pot, rice cooker, or the oven until cooked through.
- Shake up your sauce. If you use the honey sesame sauce or teriyaki sauce you will want to thicken in a pan for a few minutes, then toss with your protein. For almond butter sauce + green goddess sauce, store in a separate condiment container until just before serving.
- Assemble: in each meal prep container, add 4 oz of protein, 1 cup vegetables, ½ cup (roughly) of cooked carbohydrates, and 1-2 tablespoons of the sauce.
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