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Meal Prep: Building Blocks

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Meal Prepped Salad Dressings

Welcome to the final part of our 3-Part series on Meal Prepping! If you haven’t had a chance to read the others yet, you can first head over to Intro to Meal Prepping, and then Part 2, Meal Prep Steps & Schedule.

If you’re looking for full meals that yield 6-8 portions, give our Recipe Search Page a try. We have a category there you can filter on called “Meal Prep Full Meals”. We also have a search category for “Meal Prep Building Blocks”, which we are always adding to.

As a quick refresher, Building Blocks are simple foods/recipes that aren’t complete meals, but are the foundational elements that go into salads, school lunches and simple dinners.

Not all Building Blocks require a recipe. Some are just single-ingredient foods that you quickly prep so they are ready-to-eat when you need them.

Here’s an idea list of some Building Blocks you can have on hand. Customize this to what your household likes to eat, or according to your weekly meal plan.

Building Block Staples

Washed and Chopped Veggies for Meal Prep

Here is a list of the most useful stuff I’ve found to have on hand:

* PREP VEGGIES – Wash and chop your leafy greens and cabbages for your salads. If you want to, also chop up some condiment veggies. Slice a whole bundle of green onions, make some bell pepper or carrot sticks, etc.

* WASH FRUIT – Wash and cut an entire batch of fruit for snacking and lunches.

* PASTA – Make up an entire box of bite-sized pasta, like farfalle, penne, fusilli, or shells. Once it is cooked just barely to al dente and rinsed with cold water, throw it into a large Tupperware container with a little oil or butter stirred in. This keeps the pasta from sticking together and makes it easy to portion out and reheat later.

* WHOLE GRAINS – Cook a grain to throw in to your salad. This helps increase the healthy carb and fiber content, and keeps you from feeling cravey and lethargic, which can happen after a super low carb meal. My favorite is Bob’s Red Mill Faro, but you could also cook up a batch of barley, quinoa, or whatever. I sometimes cook it in broth for more flavor and nutrition. I also have Trader Joe’s 3-minute microwave steamed rice on hand for weeknights (we try to cook rice dishes from scratch on weekends).

* BEANS/LEGUMES – Especially if you don’t eat meat, it’s important to eat plenty of protein-rich plant sources like beans and lentils, so have them on hand too. Beans are easy to make big batches of, and they reheat and freeze great.

* ANIMAL PROTEIN – If you eat meat, bake or grill some of your favorite protein so that you can keep up on your intake and throw it into whatever. On salads, on top of pasta, into sandwiches or flatbreads. Chicken breast and thighs are my family’s go-to, but sometimes we’ll grill up some grass-fed flatiron steak and pre-slice it for salad or steak quesadillas.

 

More Building Block Ideas

Orange Vinaigrette Salad Dressing Homemade

* DRESSING – Pick a dressing or two to have one hand. My daughter LOVES a homemade Italian vinaigrette over plain al dente pasta. It’s a school lunch staple for her. I often also make a homemade buttermilk/ranch type dressing. This goes well on romaine and leaf lettuce salads, as well as for dips like baked chicken tenders. If you know you’re having a certain entree salad during the week, like I typically do on Wednesdays, go ahead and make its dressing during Sunday meal prep. One less thing to do on a work night.

* SAUCE OR SALSA – I like to have pesto on hand, or if we are having tacos I’ll often make a Chile arbol or similar sauce in advance. We’ll reuse it on Tuesday for Quesadilla night 🙂

* NUTS – Bulk toast a small cookie sheet of nuts to throw into salads as well as veggie dishes or pastas. My all-around favorite is toasted walnuts, and they are the #1 anti-inflammatory nut as well. You can also toast pecans, pistachios or almonds. You should only have to do this once every few weeks, as they keep well and you don’t go through them quickly.

* BROTH – If you’re making any soups or ramens throughout the week, try to make the broth a day or two in advance. It tastes a million times better when it’s had time to sit in the fridge. Three common broths I make are Veggie Mineral Broth, Local Chicken Bone Broth, or Ramen Broth.

* GRANOLA OR BAKED GOODS – Muffins, breakfast casserole, or a healthy fruit crisp – homemade carbs made with sustainably produced flour, nuts and seeds are all great for snacks or breakfasts on the go.

* BREAD – We are getting into homemade breads and crusts in a BIG way. One of the best books out there is Flour Water Salt Yeast, by Ken Forkish. Ken owns Ken’s Artisan Bakery, and Ken’s Artisan Pizza, here in Portland. (A picture of the very first loaf we made using his method is below.) Highly encouraged!

Ken's Artisan Homemade Saturday Bread

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