Cooking With Heinen’s | Meal Prep 101

7 mins read

School starts in a matter of weeks. Those of you with kids of any age know that our schedules are about to change. Are you ready?  I’m not sure I am but this post might just help.

It has always been important to me to serve healthy, nutritious and delicious meal with as few prepared or processed foods as possible. Now that I have two (soon to be three) sons out on their own finding ways to eat healthy and balance their time I’m trying to share with them ways to be efficient with their time and still produce fresh, delicious and even affordable solutions. Today I’m going to share three recipes that can be made in one afternoon and packaged for the week.

Do you meal prep? If you don’t have time to cook every day, or you’re following a specialized diet, or looking to eat clean without having to pay for a food-delivery service, then meal prepping is for you. Not only does it save you time, but it also helps to ensure you eat healthier foods more often with the proper portions, instead of reaching for quick processed and prepackaged snacks or meals that go over your caloric needs.

The premise behind meal prepping is to take one or two days a week and prepare all of your food for the next three to four days. You can prep just one meal (dinner) or all three meals and snacks ahead of time. The key to successful meal prepping is having a good plan.

MAKE A PLAN. It’s far easier to be successful when you have a plan to follow. Take one day and sit down and plan out all your meals for the week. If you don’t mind leftovers, then meal prepping will be a breeze. But if your taste buds require variety, then planning several different meals will give you the variety needed to keep it interesting. My mom used to cook a turkey with all the fixings on Sunday then package everything into frozen dinner like containers and freeze the individual portions for busy nights. The trouble was many of our nights were busy and it didn’t take long to grow sick of turkey dinner. (I’m still not a fan of Thanks Giving for this very reason), sorry Mom! Variety is so much better.

Here are the basics to planning any meal: pick a protein, one or two vegetables and a carb (starch or fruit). Then consider any seasonings and sauces you will need to jazz things up. You can only handle plain chicken and steamed broccoli for so long. And don’t forget to add in some healthy fats like avocado, coconut oil, hemp seeds and nuts.

Once you’ve settled on the menu for the week, make your grocery list. This will help keep you organized and focused when you are food shopping and leaves little room for items to accidentally slip into you cart. Stock up on plenty of fruit, vegetables, protein, starches, dairy, nuts and seeds. It’s better to have too much than not enough food.

You may have containers on hand that will work perfectly.  Hopefully you can match the bottoms with the lids. I found purchasing a new set of containers, especially ones of the same size, makes stacking in the fridge much easier than stacking odd shapes. It is helpful to have a few sizes that can accommodate either meals or snacks. The 3 cup containers (square or rectangle) are great for lunches and dinners, while the ½- or 1-cup size is better for snacks. Snack-size zip-top baggies are great for making your own nut/seed/dried fruit combos. Plus, these bags offer built-in portion control.

Set aside one or two days a week to cook up big batches of food. For example, When I meal prep I like to cook on Sunday for the whole work week, which leaves us with the weekends to go out and be more flexible with our meals. Some people like to cook twice a week and make enough food for three or four days and then cook again for another three or four days. To be honest, I like to cook so I tend to cook fresh dinners regularly.  I have the time. If you simply don’t care to cook or especially clean up and you want delicious hot meals at the ready especially after a long work day or if you only have a few minutes before you have to taxi the kids to their next activity then meal prepping is the way to go.  I have to say that this week has been really nice to have no messy clean up and a good dinner ready in minutes.
In order to be successful you have to tailor it to your specific needs.

If you are using meal prep containers and have stored your meal prep well, these meals will last in the fridge for up to 7 days.
If you have freezer-safe meal prep containers, you can also freeze these meals to have them store even longer. Frozen, meals will save for about 3 months.

Ok lets get started!

Three meals, one list, one afternoon, (it took my daughter and I 2.5 hours from start to completely cleaned up) meals for three weeknights for the whole family.  These recipes are all designed to make four meals but the portions are generous.  If you have little ones or are small eaters you could easily stretch it to six. Or easily double the recipes for a larger family. The nice thing about variety is that we don’t all have to have the same meal on the same day. Everyone can pick the meal they are in the mood for.  I love options.

Here’s what were making… the title of each recipe will link you to the detailed recipe with instructions and images.

Ingredient SHOPPING LIST for all three recipes.
Start by crossing off what you already have in your pantry and fridge. You may be surprised how much you already have on hand. I couldn’t believe how few items were in my cart for three complete meals.

  • 1 piece of fresh ginger about 5 inch
  • 1 head of garlic
  • 1 13.5 oz can coconut milk
  • ¼ cup hot chili paste (such as sambal oelek)
  • 6 limes
  • 2 Tbsp. light brown sugar
  • kosher salt
  • Fresh pepper
  • 2 Tbsp. vegetable oil, plus more for grill
  • 8. skinless, boneless chicken thighs
  • Two heads of cilantro leaves with stems
  • 2 teaspoons sesame oil, divided
  • ⅓ cup soy sauce
  • 1/4 cup honey
  • 1/2 onion, sliced red or sweet
  • 1 pound lean ground beef (PreBeef)
  • 1 cucumber, sliced into thin rounds
  • 3 tablespoons rice vinegar
  • 1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes
  • Sesame seeds optional
  • 3 Chopped green onions
  • Sriracha or your favorite hot sauce
  • 4 boneless skinless chicken breasts
  • 2 tsp ground cumin
  • 1/4 tsp cayenne pepper
  • 6 medium sweet potatoes, diced into cubes
  • 3 tbsp coconut oil or olive oil
  • 2 tsp ground cinnamon optional
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 2 heads broccoli florets
  • 1 tsp garlic powder
  • 2 medium zucchini
  • 4 cups white rice (prepared)
  • 4 cups brown rice (prepared)

This is the work flow we used…

  • I found it easiest to print out all three recipes an have all three in front of me.
  • Preheat the oven to 425°  for the sweet potatoes.
  • Start with the starches.  We use a rice cooker so I started the batch of white rice.  When that finishes move it to a bowl and start the brown rice.
  • Meanwhile make the marinades and get the chicken soaking in their respective marinades.
  • Chop the sweet potatoes and put them in the oven, set the timer for about 15 minutes.
  • Mix the sauce for the Korean beef.
  • Start your grill.  I cooked both the chicken breasts and the thighs on the grill. While they are cooking place the extra coconut marinade in a saucepan on the stove to reduce. It will be thick and about half of its original volume when it’s ready. Stir occasionally.
  • Peel and slice the cucumber slices add ingredients and set aside.
  • When the coconut sauce is reduced pour it over the cooked chicken thighs on a platter. (We alotted for two chicken thighs per dish.)
  • Cook your ground beef starting with the onions (see recipe)and add the sauce, cook until incorporated. Remove from heat.
  • Now you can start to assemble. Do one recipe at a time. Set out 4 containers. Add the starch then the meat with the veg in the middle.  Cover and assemble the next recipe.  When all recipes have been assembled cover and refrigerate.  I found that by the time we put everything together everything has cooled off enough to package.  If anything is piping hot let it cool before sealing and refrigerating.

About the Author

Photographer Sally Roeckell specializes in contemporary lifestyle portraiture with an emphasis on food photography. Her Blog, Table and Dish is a website devoted to celebrating and curating the many ways that food binds us. Sally hopes that her recipes and images will inspire you to gather your friends and family in the kitchen to make memories, use the time to connect with busy kids, chat over mixing bowls, get messy, laugh, sing, set the table, clear the table, pass the salt, debate the days topics and pray. You can follow her here as a weekly contributor to 365Barrington and Heinen’s as well as via Table and Dish on Instagram and on her website at

Have you heard about Heinen’s Tasteful Rewards™ program? Sign up for free to receive exclusive weekly specials via email and earn Heinen’s rewards. As a Tasteful Rewards™ membership benefit, Heinen’s will donate up to 1% of your qualified purchases made between September and April to a local school of your choice through their Teaming Up for Education Program. CLICK HERE to sign up for Heinen’s Tasteful Rewards™ and, trust me, this is one email that will always please your palate!

Heinen’s Grocery is located at 500 N. Hough Street, between E. Main Street and Route 14 (next to Meatheads) in Barrington, Illinois. They’re open 7 days a week from 8:00 a.m. to 8:30 p.m. For more information, visit

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