Make Your Meal Prep More Enjoyable By Introducing Weekly Themes

The whole point of meal prep is for it to be a practice that naturally fits in with your lifestyle, and the key word here is "life." Some foodies develop a meal prep strategy that involves pacing out the actual prep work to multiple sessions throughout the week as opposed to one big, potentially overwhelming cooking day. But, food is supposed to be fun! One of the more obvious pitfalls of the whole meal prep dogma is, "Doesn't eating the same thing get boring by day three?" Not if you choose a weekly theme, it doesn't.

Selecting a theme for the week and preparing meals with a common through-line sets you up to get creative in the kitchen and make a new dish every day. Plus, as the week goes on, you might find yourself brainstorming next week's theme — an easy exercise in getting (and staying) excited about cooking at home.

The huge potential for customization makes this tip fit the restrictions of all diets and budgets. Plus, meal prep generally reduces decision fatigue and keeps mealtime interesting — a hugely important factor for picky eaters and anyone who experiences food aversion. Keeping it interesting with a fun, playful theme that's new every week only magnifies this benefit.

Theme ideas to prep for

An ingredient can be a theme, like "chicken week" – a creativity-boosting guideline but also a realistic way to grocery shop for the week. Grab a rotisserie chicken or two, and you've got the base for an entire week's meals: Curry chicken salad on Monday, chicken pot pie on Tuesday, chicken noodle soup on Wednesday, green chicken enchiladas on Thursday, etc. If the weekly theme is "fried tofu," you could fry up a bunch of extra firm tofu and incorporate it into your go-to salads, rice bowls, and pasta dishes throughout the week. Working with a common ingredient makes for meals that are similar but varied enough to stay interesting from day to day. 

Culture is another good theme for generating meal ideas. Different cultural cuisines often come with their own banks of characteristic ingredients, which can be used to make a variety of dishes. For instance, a grocery run for gnocchi, burrata, tomatoes, basil, Parmesan, ground beef, chicken, and risotto can be used to make a range of Italian dishes from pizza to chicken parmesan to multiple one-skillet dinners with the help of a few pantry staples. Similarly, if the theme of the week is Korean, beef short ribs (a single ingredient) can be used to make galbitang, bulgogi, kalbi, and more. Is the theme of the week Indian? A cold salad like coconut ginger chickpeas and tomatoes can be reimagined the next day to top a quinoa bowl.