TIPS FOR MEAL PREP WHEN SHORT ON TIME

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Often we find ourselves short on time. Either life overall is busy or we get thrown for a loop due to unforeseen circumstances. 

There are some easy ways we can still set ourselves up for success for meals and snacks even with limited time. 

It’s not about being perfect or having the perfect balance every time we eat but we can have decently healthy options available so when there’s no time, it’s already there. Being short on time and hungry without anything healthy already ready is a recipe for disaster. This is when we are at our weakest with rational decision making in regards to food. 

SO. As often as you can, set yourself up for success. A little bit of forethought can go a long way.

Here are a bunch of ideas for you to consider, hopefully at least one or two of them could work in your life and make it easier and healthier 😊

  • Plan ahead - I know, this is tips for when you’re short on time but make the time to spend a few minutes considering the week ahead - when are those times that you will need grab and go food? What’s your evening schedule? When are you going to the gym? Do you need snacks or meals ready to take with you or is there somewhere nearby you know you can get a balanced, healthy meal or snack? Set yourself up in advance. If you know Wednesday night is tight on time, cook extra on Tuesday night for Wednesday, for example.

  • Keep an ongoing grocery list – as you run low on items during the week, write them down so when you sit down to write your weekly shopping list, you already have most of it done. And then when you shop – stick to the list (see next item).

  • Don’t buy junk food – be mindful of the snacks you have in the house. Fruits, veggies, eggs, nuts/seeds, yogurt, deli meat and cheese are some healthy options. 

  • Get pre-prepped when you can – getting things (especially produce) already washed and prepped saves time. It may cost a bit extra but if you can afford it, the time savings may be the difference between having veggies and skipping them. See next item as an example!

  • Bagged salad kits are the best! Just add protein and you have a meal.

  • Buy frozen – always have some frozen veggies, fruits and protein sources available in the freezer. Not only are they time savers when you don’t have time to get to the store but also they don’t spoil as quickly as fresh food.

  • Get your groceries delivered – it costs a little more but if it saves you time or makes the difference between having food at home or not, maybe the extra cost is worth it.

  • One pot meals – one thing that can be exhausting is trying to figure out all the different parts of the meal. When everything is in one dish, it makes life so much easier. Chilis, soups, bakes/casseroles all are great options.

  • Keep it simple – keep the flavors light and not too complex. Use simple cooking methods and use pre-made sauces and spice mixes.

  • Instapot – use your instapot or crockpot for easy batch cooking of lean protein. Having ready-made healthy protein available is super helpful in creating a faster balanced meal.

  • Keep a recipe list handy – when you have the time, peruse recipes and save ones you want to try in the future. Also keep a copy of the tried and true ones you know you like and are easy to make. Pinterest or other apps are handy these days to store recipes.

  • Have the right gadgets – if you are prepping in advance, make sure you have the right containers to store stuff in. If you are chopping a lot, maybe a Cuisinart would be useful for shortening prep time. Having the right gadgets can really save time.

  • Buffet style food prep – batch cook each component separately (starch, veggie and protein) and then put together as desired. For example, cook a large batch of brown rice. Also roast 2 pans of broccoli. And finally make salsa chicken in the instapot or crockpot.

  • Have at least a few good condiments – pulling from the example above, you can spice up your cooked chicken, brown rice and broccoli different ways with different condiments, making the food seem more exciting even if the same from batch cooking. Some coconut aminos and sriracha and sesame seeds for an Asian flare or avocado and salsa for a southwestern profile.


You can’t always control how your day unfolds but if you spend a bit of time here and there prepping in advance, you can reap great benefits in keeping your nutritional balance and health even when life is really busy. 

Try some of these ideas and let us know how it works for you! Or share other time-saving ideas with us.

-by Jess Mullen, MS, RD

Our in-house dietician, Jess Mullen, empowers clients to make lifestyle changes. She provides health coaching through diet and exercise to help her clients meet their goals. Our Nutrition Coaching services are for FH Members and Non-FH Members.