Whether your day-to-day schedule is chaotic and filled to the brim or you’re just not a fan of cooking every night, all of us can benefit from meal prepping.
The hardest part of cooking ahead, though, is finding meals that make good leftovers. That fancy soup might be perfect the first night, but after a few days, it’s no longer fit for consumption.
If you’re not sure where to start, read on for some delicious meals that will help you prepare for the week ahead while using up the veggies in your fridge.
When you’re wondering what to do with leftover vegetables, the absolute easiest thing is to turn them into a delicious chopped salad.
All you have to do is start with a base of leafy greens. Spinach, kale, spring mix, and romaine lettuce are great choices. Then, roughly chop the other vegetables languishing in your fridge and toss them together.
To make the salad more interesting, try adding olive oil, your favorite vinegar, salt, pepper, and fresh garden herbs like mint or parsley. Along with some crumbles of a strongly-flavored cheese and chopped nuts for protein, you’ll end up with a salad that’s anything but boring.
While any leftover vegetable will work for this, heartier ones will hold up longer in the fridge. If you’re trying to use up delicate veggies, like cucumbers, put them in your salad for the first day or two and replace them with something else for the rest of the week.
To store the salad as leftovers, put a layer of uncut cherry tomatoes at the base of the container, and pour the dressing over them. Then, layer the rest of your salad ingredients on top. This keeps them from wilting overnight.
Salads are a fantastic meal prep option, but some times of year call for a recipe that’s warm and cozy. Enter roasted sweet potato and shallot soup, a meal that warms you up from inside out.
Begin by roughly chopping two to three large sweet potatoes into approximately one-inch cubes. Along with that, chop up some shallots (or another type of onion you have sitting around) and a granny smith apple.
Toss the chopped items in olive oil and spread them on a sheet pan in a single layer. Sprinkle them generously with salt, black pepper, cumin, ginger, and thyme. Roast in the oven along with a bulb of garlic until they’re slightly blackened on the edges.
Add the roasted vegetables and garlic to a stockpot with chicken or vegetable broth. Use more liquid for thinner soup and less for a thicker bisque. Use an immersion blender to blend the soup until smooth, adding more spices to taste.
You can also make this soup with leftover baked sweet potato, but you won’t get the same earthy roasted flavor. After you’ve stored it in the fridge for a few days, some of the liquid might separate out. That’s normal—just stir it back in, heat it up, and eat as usual.
If you want some variety in your week, set aside your leftover roast vegetables and toss them in with this next recipe.
Aside from a chopped salad, roasting your veggies is the easiest way to turn them into a meal. Any vegetable that can be cooked can find its way into a delicious roasted vegetable medley. Along with the spiced sweet potato/onion mix above, some mouth-watering combinations to try include:
To add some protein and increase your fiber intake, layer your roasted vegetables over a bed of cooked and seasoned quinoa or lentils. Sprinkle the top with cheese, nuts, seeds, or dried fruit for some variety.
If you’re in the mood for a heartier meal, vegetable bean chili fits the bill. This recipe is one you can throw together in a crockpot and come back to after a long day of work.
Choose from some or all of these veggies to start:
If you have fresh versions of these ingredients to use up, throw them in—otherwise, canned or frozen beans and veggies work fine. Throw them all in your crockpot with 2-3 cups vegetable broth, one can of tomato paste, and two cans of tomatoes. Season with chili powder, cumin, salt, and pepper.
Stir the chili in your crockpot until everything is evenly mixed and cook it on low for 6-8 hours. Serve with a sprinkle of cilantro, cheese, and sour cream.
What if you find yourself with only one type of leftover vegetable in the house? Can you still make a delicious meal that stretches all week?
You absolutely can, and Mujaddara is a prime example. This classic Middle-Eastern dish is made of only rice, lentils, and onions, but don’t let its simplicity fool you.
To make it, start by preparing brown rice and brown lentils in equal ratios. You can either cook these in broth for more flavor or use plain water with a bit of salt and oil.
Next, chop six onions (or however many you have laying around) and caramelize them in olive oil on low heat until they’re golden brown. Once all three components are cooked, mix them together with your choice of salt, pepper, paprika, and cumin. Top with fresh herbs and sour cream and eat while warm.
Leftover vegetables are king when it comes to meal prepping. If you’re new to this style of cooking, give these meals that make good leftovers a try and then use them as inspiration for your own creations.
Are your wrists getting tired from all that vegetable chopping? If so, you might be using the wrong tools. To make your meal prep as quick and low-effort as possible, check out our roundup of the best vegetable choppers on the market.