Meal Prep Plan: How to Turn One Hour of Cooking into a Week Where You Don’t Cook at All

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With temperatures rising across the country this week, the last thing anyone wants to do is head into a hot kitchen. And although it can be really tempting to skip cooking altogether in favor of ice cream (or breakfast cereal), just one hour of using the oven can set you up with a week’s worth of breakfasts, lunches, and dinners that require zero cooking.

This Power Hour Meal Prep Plan is for those of us who want to skip cooking altogether when it gets any hotter than about 75°F, but who still want to eat well throughout the week. We’ll walk you through what to buy to make meal prep easier, and how to heat the oven for just one hour over the weekend to bake breakfast and make a few dinner staples for the week ahead.

Try not to be intimidated by the length of this shopping list. There’s a lot of produce, but most of the pantry ingredients were already in our cupboard. Buying a single rotisserie chicken will cover both the shredded chicken and the BBQ chicken (just add your own sauce) and keep you from turning on the oven.

Power Hour: How I Get the Prep Done  

Here’s the deal: We want to get everything into the oven so we can be done in an hour, so the muesli, baked tofu, and roasted vegetables get prepped and cooked in quick succession. Then, you can pretty leisurely do a little chopping, mixing, and packing while everything cooks.

A Week of No-Cook Dinners

Muesli has been my go-to breakfast for a while, but adding the chaat (a flavorful fruit salad) kept things interesting this week. My husband ate his muesli with whole milk instead of yogurt as he rushed out the door a few mornings.

I alternated between the chopped chickpea salad and kale Caesar (no wrap) all week, but ran out of both for Friday and had leftovers of the hummus bowls instead. Next time I’ll pack the kale Caesars and their wraps separately for my husband’s grab-and-go lunches, as he noted that the wraps got soggy by Tuesday.

Monday, Chinese Chicken Salad Spring Rolls: Okay, so we did not actually eat this meal as spring rolls (I had grand ambitions, but we were a bit too lazy to even wrap them). Instead, we ate them as a big dinner salad — crunchy noodles, peanut dressing, and all.

Tuesday, Tofu and Broccoli Salad with Peanut Butter Dressing: I was pleasantly surprised by how crisp the baked tofu stayed in the fridge. We skipped reheating the tofu in the microwave and ate these cold on the hottest day of the week.

Wednesday, Upside-Down BBQ Chicken Bowl: I did heat the grill on Wednesday night for garlic bread! You could easily use a toaster oven to keep things truly no-cook. This was my family’s favorite meal of the whole week.

Thursday, Smoky Roasted Vegetable Hummus Bowl: Hummus bowls are always a dinner win in our house, and we opted for pita chips instead of toasted pita to keep things cool.

Friday, Cauliflower Banh Mi: I’m obsessed with these sandwiches! Any worry about not grilling the cauliflower and toasting the bread was gone as soon as that spicy Sriracha mayo hit my mouth.

Power Hour Meal Prep is the series where we help you put it all together. We show you how to eat well during the week with an hour or two of Power Hour prep over the weekend. Every plan is different; mix and match to find your own personal sweet spot.

Meghan Splawn

Food Editor, Skills

Meghan is the Food Editor for Kitchn’s Skills content. She’s a master of everyday baking, family cooking, and harnessing good light. Meghan approaches food with an eye towards budgeting — both time and money — and having fun. Meghan has a baking and pastry degree, and spent the first 10 years of her career as part of Alton Brown’s culinary team. She co-hosts a weekly podcast about food and family called Didn’t I Just Feed You.

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