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Meal Prep Snacks Ideas

We always think about meal prep meals but rarely meal prep snacks. Sure, most people grab a bag of chips or some fruit on the way out the door but planning and preparing your snacks can have a huge impact on your happiness and health. Plus a lot of times at work or as you’re out and about, you may not have the time to go buy snack foods. Meal prep snacks can be easy, save you money, and save on calories so if you’re finding it tough to make it between meals or hitting nutrient goals take snacks with you. 

Plan your meal prep snacks

Meal prep snacks benefit from being planned rather than a rush pick when you’re starving. This way you can pick healthier snacks, higher quality, more affordable. Planning sets you up for such a better snack experience. Avoid the vending machines by adding snacks to your grocery list. Often when people are calorie watching and trying to lose weight, they cut snacks out entirely. In a lot of cases this is really impactful, in other cases this is unsustainable or even detrimental to overall eating habits. If you plan your snacks rather than make a quick decision you can feel better about your choices and stick to your meal plan far longer.

fancy meal prep snacks

Incorporating a planned meal prep snack into your daily routine can help you avoid gorging on meals when lunch and dinner finally roll around. A small snack can keep you from ditching your meal prep lunch for some fast food or eating way too much at one time. This is especially helpful for work day lunches where you want to stay awake and alert. Smaller meals throughout the day will help avoid that post lunch drowsiness. Meal prep snacks will help you keep a keen mind throughout more of the day as well. A little fruit or nuts while you work will improve focus and creative thinking.

While planning your meal prep snacks, consider your overall nutrient goal. If you’re looking for a calorie deficit then stick to low calorie snacks that make you feel fuller. Carrots, fruits, plain  nuts, etc. High protein diets should include beef jerky, nuts, yogurt, etc. This is a great way to cram in more nutrients throughout the day which for high protein diets can be very important. Remember to review nutrients though. Nuts, jerky, any snack item these days can be high in sugar, salt, or fat. There is almost always a low sugar, low salt, or low fat option and for snacks this is a good option. You just need something to hold you over between meals.

Prepare your meal prep snacks

Now that you have planned your meal prep snacks and are ready to grocery shop. These foods make for great snacks. They’re easy to prepare, affordable, and nutritious.

  • Apples
  • Oranges
  • Grapes
  • Strawberries
  • Blackberries
  • Raspberries
  • Yogurt
  • Almonds
  • Pecans
  • Pistachios
  • Tuna packet
  • Chickpeas
  • Olives
  • Edamame
  • Hard boiled eggs
  • Bell peppers
  • Beef jerky

Dips are a great way to expand your snack flavor profiles, add a fun twist on your daily snack, and tweak your nutrients. Consider mixing and matching your snacks with different dips. Try to avoid overly processed or super high fat dips as sauces and dips can be significantly higher in calories, salt, and sugar than you would ever expect.

  • Hummus
  • Cream cheese
  • Peanut butter
  • Guacamole

Pre-portioned snacks can be a life saver. Snack boxes can be a great solution as well if you’re looking for something with more of an impact. Our article on Meal Prep Snack Box can help get you started. Bento box style tupperware with crackers, cheese, and jerky is a great all around option and if preparing them yourself is often way better. Better ingredients and cheaper. Although the new adult snack boxes that you can buy at the stores can be good for a quick choice and much better than a whole bag of chips or cookies.

Check out one of our articles for good meal prep container options.

Another approach is to buy full size bags of chips, crackers, cookies, beef jerky, etc. and then portion them out. A small zip lock bag of chips is a more affordable option and controlling portion sizes ahead of getting hungry is better than going to a vending machine. 

Snack Quick Tips

  • Keep it Simple: Focus on preparing snacks that are easy to make and require minimal cooking or preparation time.
  • Mix and Match: Don’t be afraid to mix and match ingredients to create new flavor combinations and keep things exciting.
  • Rotate Your Stock: As you meal prep snacks each week, try to rotate the types of snacks you make to prevent boredom.
  • Label and Date: Make sure to label your prepped snacks with the date they were made to keep track of freshness. This will also help you identify snacks in the freezer.
  • Stay Organized: Keep your prepped snacks organized in the fridge or pantry so you can easily grab them when hunger strikes.
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How to meal prep for a good workout routine

man stretching for workout

Timing your meal prep for a good workout is one the most important factors for maximizing your eating and exercising. What you eat, as we all know, plays a huge role in a healthy lifestyle, weight loss, and muscle building but aligning your meals with your workout can be trickier. Having the right nutrients in your body at the right time provides the fuel for an effective workout session and body recovery. Even without getting too deep into measuring every nutrient in your diet, you can make easy adjustments to your meal prep for a good workout.

What type of exercise are you doing?

Everyone’s exercise goals and routines are different. Whether you’re aiming for muscle gain, fat loss, or overall maintenance, your nutritional needs will vary. Are you working out in the morning, at lunch, or in the evening? Sticking to a routine will help plan your meals. 

Timing your meals can play a major role in fueling a strong workout. 

Pre-Workout Nutrition: Eat a balanced meal of carbohydrates, proteins, and healthy fats about 2 hours before your workout. This provides the necessary energy to fuel your exercise session.

Post-Workout Nutrition: Within an hour after your workout, focus on a post-exercise meal rich in protein and carbohydrates. This aids muscle recovery and replenishes glycogen stores.

Morning

If you’re a morning gym person, aim for a light breakfast that you can eat easily and digest entirely before your workout. Then have a larger meal for dinner to fuel the next day’s workout session. You can keep lunch balanced with protein and carbohydrates to recover from your workout and replenish the glycogen stores that were burned.

Midday

Midday or lunch workouts benefit from a good sized, healthy breakfast with plenty of carbohydrates to fuel your workout in a few hours. Lunch can be much more simple with high protein foods and some fruits and veggies. Dinners will tend to be lighter so you can meal prep small meals and prepare for bed.

Afternoon/Evening

Late afternoon or evening workout schedules are more flexible as you can adjust when you eat dinner. If you want to eat your big meal before you workout, make sure to eat early enough for your body to process the food and include carbohydrates for the workout. If you plan to workout first and eat afterwards, make sure your lunch from earlier was large enough to fuel the workout and have a simple dinner of protein, fruits and veggies. Breakfast in this case is generally smaller. A quick breakfast bar or some eggs is a great start. 

Another popular approach to planning your meals for a good workout is to break meals up into smaller portions and eat more often throughout the day. This is a great approach for some. It staves off feeling hungry, mixes up the food types, and is consumed/digested easily since the meals are smaller. A lot of us are too busy with work or family and if this doesn’t work for you don’t worry. Meal prepping 3 square meals a day with portion control and good nutrition is great too.

Meal prep for a good workout routine usually revolves around the major meals and balancing nutrients and calories. Everyone snacks though. If you are the type of person who can resist snacking, that’s great. For the rest of us it is better to plan healthy snacks rather than trying to resist altogether.

If you’re an avid snacker you should consider it during your meal planning and prepping. There’s nothing wrong with snacking but if you have workout and health goals, planning your snacks can make or break a successful nutrition plan.

  • Nuts
  • Greek yogurt
  • Apples and peanut butter
  • Hard boiled eggs
  • Trail mix
  • Beef jerky
  • Popcorn

There are a ton of healthy snacks. The best approach is to make your own rather than buying it from the store. It’s far cheaper as you can make it in bulk and portion out the right amounts for you. You also get to avoid the sugars, salts, and any preservatives that are added.

Don’t forget to drink plenty of water regardless of your workout or eating routine. You should be drinking water throughout the day. This can make a huge difference on your workout and how good you feel during and after.

Part of a balanced meal prep for a good workout routine

Proteins

  • Raw Nuts: pecans, almonds, cashews, pistachios, walnuts
  • Legumes: chickpeas, black beans, lentils, edamame
  • Seeds: pepitas, sunflower, chia, hemp, flax
  • Powders and Shakes: look for natural, organic and non-GMO protein powders with no artificial sweeteners or ingredients
  • Eggs: look for free-range, pasture-raised and organic with no added hormones
  • Dairy: kefir, cottage cheese, plain Greek yogurt

Carbohydrates

  • Vegetables: broccoli, spinach, cauliflower, asparagus, squash, Brussels sprouts (look for frozen to maximize shelf life)
  • Fruits: berries, mangoes, peaches, bananas, grapes, pineapple (look for frozen to maximize shelf life)
  • Whole Grains: quinoa, oatmeal, barley, farro, spelt, brown rice
  • Starches: sprouted grain bread, sweet potatoes, corn on the cob
  • Fermented: kimchi, pickles, sauerkraut, red cabbage

Fats (Omega-3-rich)

  • Plant-Based: avocados, olives or extra-virgin olive oil, natural peanut butter, tempeh, baked plantain chips
  • Animal-Based: salmon, tuna, mackerel, sardines (choose wild-caught and look for frozen to maximize shelf life)

Prep Yo Self can help with meal prep for a good workout! Check out our Weekly Meal Plans for Free.

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Budget Friendly – Cheap Meal Prepping

Everyone feels the rise in prices at the grocery store so we created this guide for cheap meal prepping. Planning and preparing your meals in advance is a great way to improve your eating habits and make weekday cooking much easier and faster but it can also help you save money. From planning and purchasing to preparing, every step of the way is an opportunity to make small adjustments that can save big.

Choosing Recipes

Cheap meal prepping involves good planning before the grocery shopping even begins. Find recipes that lend themselves to more affordable ingredients. Proteins tend to be one of the most expensive parts of a meal so swap ground beef for turkey or even a vegetable. Many recipes can lose the protein entirely and still be delicious however you want to be healthy while eating for less so consider the change in nutrients before just cutting entire ingredients. Tofu can be a great option for this as well if you have a store near you that has it affordably.

Swapping proteins can be a good place to start but you can actually swap many ingredients in recipes. From the grains to the fruits and vegetables and especially the sauces. Sauces are a great way to bring flavor and variety to your weekly meal plans but if you don’t have all of the ingredients all ready, it can dramatically affect your grocery bill. 

Frozen fruits and veggies are less expensive, especially out of season, so select recipes that leverage frozen ingredients. If your freezer is a little tight on space then look to canned veggies and beans rather than dried or fresh. The canned ingredients will last longer and still taste great. The longevity of these ingredients also makes it easier to pivot later as you can just keep the ingredients in the pantry and use them later. Throwing out bad produce is one of the most important aspects to eating healthy on a budget.

Keep your meals simple. Complicated meals can be fun to make and delicious and we do recommend expanding your meal planning to include them when you can. Simple meals tend to be more affordable, less likely to go wrong, and easier to change up if you’re burning out on meal prepping. Wraps are a great option for this. They’re simple and versatile while being delicious and nutritious.

freezer full of meal prepped food

Frozen ingredients are just the start for cheap meal prepping too. Look for recipes that produce meals that freeze well. Avoiding food waste is key and meals that can be frozen gives you more flexibility with your planning. Check out our article on freezing foods for more insights.

Depending on your dietary goals there are additions that you can make. Grains are an affordable option for creating filling meals and can be easily added to tons of recipes. Ground turkey with some sauce over veggies is a popular meal prep combination and if you’re looking to stretch it out, add an appropriate amount of rice or quinoa to the dish. This can help expand the number of meals that you can get out of the same ingredients. This change may not be for everyone and if you’re looking for low/no carb meals, don’t sacrifice your dietary needs. There are plenty of ways to save.

Find The Best Deals

After you’ve chosen your recipes for cheap meal prepping, do your research on the grocery stores around you. Check online prices for produce, proteins and even grains. You’ll be surprised where you can find the best deals. It’s not always where you think. Continue to verify as well as prices continue to change and so do the deals.

Speaking of deals, consider the available coupons and discounts when selecting your recipes. There are a lot of factors that go into grocery store pricing and the cost of food can fluctuate wildly. Tons of stores post their discounts and coupons online so you can plan your entire grocery trip before even leaving the house. This is where keeping it simple and being prepared to pivot comes in handy. You may find that small adjustments to your choice of ingredients can save tons.

The old classic for saving money at the grocery store is to buy in bulk. This is a great option however consider if you have the space to store it and if you will really eat that much. If it’s an ingredient that you love or if it’s a versatile ingredient like rice, then it’s probably a good idea. Don’t just buy food in bulk because it’s cheap. List out the recipes that you can use it in and decide if that sounds appetizing to you.

Grocery stores are not the only place to buy ingredients either. Roadside fruit and veggie stands can be a great way to get a lot of delicious, fresh food for cheap. Not only does it support local growers but it cuts out all of the businesses between, passing the savings on to you. Don’t over buy here though as fresh foods won’t last long so you better be prepared.

Prepping Affordable Ingredients

Processing your fruits, veggies, and other fresh ingredients as soon as you get home is recommended. Storing them in appropriate containers, freezing them, or cooking with them right away can limit food waste and provide new options for you when selecting future recipes. Turning fresh fruits into jams, cutting them up and freezing them, or drying them yourself will increase the life span of these ingredients. Freezing veggies or jarring is a good option.

Lastly, use reusable meal storage containers. Cheap meal prepping only works if you have a way to store the food that doesn’t require constantly buying new containers. Quality food containers can pay for themselves quickly and save you tons down the line. This isn’t always the best solution or the easiest choice so check out our Top Meal Prepping Containers.

Saving money with cheap meal prepping can be nutritious, delicious, and efficient. Proper planning is important and keeping it flexible helps more than you know. Burn out on meals is one of the biggest reasons for throwing food out. It’s just no longer appetizing to you. It’s also one of the major reasons for quitting meal prepping entirely. Keep your meals and routine flexible and you’ll feel less stress to stick to a plan you no longer want to be on.

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2 Day Reset Meal Plan

Beat the winter blues with this energy reset meal plan. Sometimes you just need to hit a quick “reset button” to get back on track. This 2 Day Reset Meal Plan will help you jump-start healthy habits and get you back to your best.

These meals fueled with nutrient-dense ingredients will give you the energy boost to help you recover from all of those holiday activities.

How to Use Our Meal Planner

Watch this video to get a quick tutorial on how to use the meal planning features. We will show you:

  • How to View the Menu
  • Access the Recipes
  • Adjust Serving Sizes
  • Customize Your Grocery List

Meal Prep Run Down

  1. First, pre-heat the oven and start boiling the water for the quinoa. Once the water comes to a boil, add the quinoa and let it simmer until it cooks.
  2. While the quinoa is cooking, prepare the items that require the oven such as the egg frittata and baked salmon with rutabaga.
  3. After the quinoa finishes cooking, assemble the Quinoa and Kale Salad.
  4. When everything is finished cooking, plate everything up in meal prep containers, and let them cool before refrigerating.

If you’re sequencing your meal prep, be sure to keep an eye on everything! Make sure food is kept refrigerated under 40F degrees until ready to eat.

Assembly Tips

  • Evenly divide meals according to the serving size
  • Let all items cool before placing them in the refrigerator
  • Keep all items refrigerated under 40F until ready to eat or reheat
  • We recommend eating the meals within 3 days of preparation for best quality
  • Breakfast: The egg frittata can be reheated in the microwave
  • Lunch: Quinoa and Kale Salad can be served chilled (set the dressing aside until you are ready to eat the salad so that it does not get too soggy)
  • Dinner: The salmon and rutabaga can be reheated in the microwave (set the dressing aside until you are ready to eat the salad so that it does not get too soggy)
  • Snacks: Serve chilled. For the AM snack, you can use any kind of raw veggies such as celery sticks or broccoli florets, for the PM Snack, you can use any kind of fruit such as blueberries and any kind of nuts such as almonds

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One-Pot Chicken Marinara with Kale and Sweet Potato

chicken marinara

This easy one-pot dish is simply made with chicken stewed in marinara sauce and paired with sweet potatoes and kale. This is a hearty and chunky chicken recipe that is sure to warm you up on a cold night and only takes a few simple steps.

Meal prep tips for One-Pot Chicken Marinara

  • Chicken: We used chicken breast to keep it lean, however, if you prefer dark meat, feel free to use boneless skinless chicken thighs.
  • Sweet Potatoes: We used sweet potatoes, however, if you want to use regular potatoes, try them with red baby potaotes to cut your down your prep.
  • Vegetables: We paired it with baby kale for extra veggies and nutrients, however, you can use other vegetables such as bell peppers, baby carrots, or even spinach.
  • Marinara Sauce: If you don’t have marinara sauce, you can substitute with tomato sauce and just add some italian seasoning.
chicken marinara

One Pot Chicken Marinara with Kale & Sweet Potato

No ratings yet
Prep Time 5 minutes
Cook Time 30 minutes
Course dinner, Main Course
Cuisine American, Italian
Servings 2

Equipment

  • knife
  • cutting board
  • spatula
  • soup pot

Ingredients
  

  • 12 oz chicken breast
  • 1 each sweet potato
  • 1/4 cup red onions (diced)
  • 2 cups marinara sauce
  • 4 cups baby kale
  • 1 tsp garlic powder
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/4 tsp pepper
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 1/2 cup water

Instructions
 

  • Cut the chicken breasts into 1 inch cubes
  • Wash and peel the sweet potato and cut in 1 inch cubes
  • Add oil to a soup pot on medium high heat and saute red onions until they soften
  • Next, add the chicken breasts and saute for about 3 to 5 minutes until it is golden brown
  • Then, add the marinara sauce and water in the pot and mix well
  • Add the sweet potato and bring the liquid to a boil. After it is boiling, lower the heat to low medium and cover the pot with a lid. Simmer for abot 20 minutes until the chicken fully cooks to an internal temperature of 165F
  • Finally, remove the lid and stir in the baby kale until it wilts
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Oven-Baked Stuffed Primavera Chicken

Stuffed Chicken

This stuffed chicken breast is literally packed with bright colors and vibrant flavors. This is a great, easy chicken dinner if you are looking for a low-cost meal recipe.

Meal prep tips for Stuffed Primavera Chicken Breasts

  • We used boneless, skinless, chicken breast meat, however, you can also use chicken thighs.
  • The best vegetables to use are the ones you can easily slice such as yellow squash, zucchini, bell peppers, tomatoes, and onions. Feel free to add herbs on top for more flavor.
  • We kept this recipe dairy free, but if you want to add a depth of flavor, sprinkling shredded mozzarella cheese on top makes for a delicious combination.
  • We kept it simple with italian seasoning and paprika, but using any combo of spices works just as well.
Stuffed Chicken

Primavera Stuffed Chicken Breasts

Colorful and vibrant stuffed primavera chicken breasts perfect for a healthy meal prep dish.
No ratings yet
Prep Time 5 minutes
Cook Time 30 minutes
Course lunch, Main Course
Cuisine American
Servings 2

Equipment

  • knife
  • cutting board
  • sheet pan
  • oven
  • mixing bowls

Ingredients
  

  • 12 oz chicken breasts
  • 1/4 cup zucchini (sliced)
  • 1/4 cup yellow squash (sliced)
  • 1/4 cup yellow bell pepper (sliced)
  • 1/4 cup red bell pepper (sliced)
  • 1/4 cup red onions (sliced)
  • 1/4 teaspoon Italian seasoning
  • 1/4 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon paprika
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil

Salad Dressing and Spring Mix

  • 1 lemon (juiced)
  • 1 teaspoon dijon mustard
  • 1 tablespoon honey
  • 4 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1/4 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon pepper
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 4 cups spring mix

Instructions
 

  • Preheat hte oven to 400F. Using a sharp knife, cut slits in each chicken breast, about 1/2 inch apart, being careful not to cut through completely. Stuff the slits with a mixture of sliced veggies, alternating with each slit.
  • Sprinkle the chicken with the seasonings and drizzle with olive oil. Bake in the oven for about 25 to 30 minutes until the chicken is cooked through to an internal temperature of 165F. (optional) during the last 5 minutes, you can sprinkle with shredded cheese to let it melt.
  • Meanwhile, in a mixing bowl, mix together the salad dressing ingredients until it is well blended.
  • Serve the stuffed chicken breasts with a side salad and salad dressing.