7 Ways to Turn a Box of Pasta Into a Globally Inspired Meal

This article was created in partnership with Barilla® as part of Together at the Table.

If you think spaghetti only has a place on your table if it’s served with red sauce and meatballs, allow us to illuminate the possibilities. A box of spaghetti is a blank canvas: Add a few unexpected mix-ins and you’ve got a knockout meal.

To prove it, we turned to our friends at Barilla® and their recipe builders for inspiration. Then we created seven internationally inspired pasta combos you can whip up with just a few simple ingredients.

To get a steaming bowl of al dente goodness, boil Barilla Collezione Spaghetti one minute less than directed on the package. Next, sauté your ingredients in a pan until cooked through, toss with spaghetti, plate, and serve. Better yet, invite a friend or two to sample your handiwork.

Spaghetti Dinners
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How to Throw a Dinner Party on a Weeknight (Yep, It’s Possible)

This article was created in partnership with Barilla® as part of Together at the Table.

Why do we limit fun to the weekend? There are seven days in a week, yet we save all our socializing for precious Friday and Saturday nights (and the occasional Sunday, when we’re feeling adventurous). Gathering around the table on a weeknight can be a great way to connect with busy friends, practice your cooking skills, and still get to bed at a reasonable hour.

We partnered with our friends at Barilla® to talk about all the reasons you should host a weeknight dinner party—plus show you how to pull one off without stress or hours of cleanup.

Why Weeknight Dinner Parties Are the Best

1. People are more available.

Finding a free Friday or Saturday night that works for everyone is nearly impossible. But a Monday? The only plans you have to compete with are The Bachelor.

“Weekends get so booked for us that it’s nice to make time during the usual weekday schedule to spend time with friends we haven’t seen in a while,” says Erin Gleeson, the best-selling author behind The Forest Feast.

When you aren’t competing for a coveted Friday slot in someone’s social schedule, it’s much easier to get everyone together on the same night.

2. You get to party and get to bed early.

If you’re going out to a bar or restaurant with friends, the chances of making it home for an early bedtime are slim. But when you host your own party, you can end it as early as you like!

“I’m not really a night owl, so I like the fact that most weeknight dinner parties end earlier,” says Brittany Mullins, nutritionist and creator of Eating Bird Food. “That way, I can hang out with friends but still get to bed at a decent hour.”

Food, friends, and pj’s by 9 p.m.? That’s our kind of party.

3. Just about anything goes.

When you have people over on a Wednesday, no one expects you to have slaved over the stove all day. Your friends will be happy enough to eat a home-cooked meal they didn’t have to make.

“I like weeknight dinner parties because they feel less formal, so you can serve something relatively easy and casual, and everyone is still impressed and happy,” Mullins says.

Also, since you’re making the food, it’s easy to keep things simple and healthy. Eating out usually involves hidden salt, butter, and other less-than-ideal ingredients, but by playing host, you can ensure the meal is light and nutritious.

How to Pull It Off

1. Do as much as possible the night before.

“My best tip for hosting is to plan ahead and get as much done the night before as possible,” Mullins says. “You’ll feel organized the day of instead of running around at the last minute trying to get everything together.”

This applies to the cooking and any tidying up you need to do. Wipe down the bathroom, straighten up the living room, and put your laundry away. Also, “make sure your dishwasher is empty before the guests arrive,” Gleeson says. “That makes cleanup easier!” If you don’t have a dishwasher, just make sure the sink is clear.

You can also save time by prepping some of your food in advance. Know you’ll need a lot of diced onions? Slice ’em up the night before. Appetizers and desserts can also usually be made ahead of time.

2. Set the mood.

You don’t have to put together a Pinterest-worthy tablescape to give your dinner party a special vibe. Simply dim the lights, put out a few candles, and throw on your favorite music.

“Ambience, especially lighting and music, are very important for me, and I always try to have those set before guests arrive,” Gleeson says. “Candles are a must! I opt for unscented beeswax ones that are clean-burning and don’t compete with the delicious aroma of the cooking food.”

3. Start with every Instagrammer’s favorite: a snack board.

Setting out a few apps before dinner will keep guests entertained and give you time to put the finishing touches on your entrée. But don’t feel like you have to go all out with fancy bruschetta or a baked Brie. For wow factor without all the work, simply arrange a few of your favorite snacks on a plate or cutting board.

“Not only do [snack boards] look pretty, but you can put them together in a matter of minutes without having to cook anything,” Mullins says.

Start with vegetables like celery, sliced red peppers, carrots, cucumbers, and cauliflower, then add nuts, fruits, cheeses, crackers, or charcuterie.

And don’t be afraid to add something unexpected. Yumna Jawad, creator of Feel Good Foodie, likes to include candied ginger and wasabi sugar snap peas for extra kick. “They are great conversation starters for mingling and to get everyone talking about the different flavors they’ve tried,” she says.

4. Serve a simple entrée that still looks chef made.

When it comes to the main course, you don’t need to try some fancy new recipe with 100 ingredients.

“I usually stick with something that doesn’t require a ton of hands-on cooking time,” Mullins says. “That way I can enjoy time with friends and family the night of the party rather than being stuck in the kitchen.”

Pasta is a great choice for a crowd-pleasing dinner. It comes together in minutes; is made with real, simple ingredients (whole durum wheat and water); and is the perfect base for pretty much any flavor combo. We recommend reaching for Barilla Collezione pasta to make dinner feel extra special. It’s bronze cut—an artisanal way of cutting pasta that gives it a rougher texture, helping it hold onto sauces better. Plus, there’s nothing that brings people (even strangers!) together more than a delicious pot of pasta.

Gleeson recommends this easy recipe: Boil pasta until al dente, drain, then top with shaved Parmesan and sunflower seeds. (Pro tip: For extra flavor and moisture, toss the noodles in olive oil after draining.)

For something unexpected, Jawad suggests making her hummus pasta. The hummus adds a creamy, rich flavor that’s a little like a vegan Alfredo sauce. Just add your pasta of choice, and you’ve got a plant-based, protein-filled dish that will have guests begging for the recipe.

Or make cleanup super easy by trying Mullins’s one-pot vegan mushroom stroganoff. Once all the ingredients are in the pot, you’re pretty much done.

You can also check out these showstopping recipes from Barilla’s executive chef, Lorenzo Boni, or give one of Barilla’s flavor-packed recipe builders a spin.

5. Don’t forget dessert.

You don’t have to make a cake that would impress Mary Berry. As with everything else on this list, keep it simple. Set out a variety of fruits and berries with store-bought whipped cream or an easy chocolate ganache (microwave chocolate and heavy cream in 30-second intervals until chocolate is melted, stir to combine, and serve).

Or try make-your-own sundaes. All you need is ice cream, bowls, and a few toppings, and your guests can serve themselves. Gleeson offered up three unique sundae ideas:

  1. Vanilla ice cream with berries and a thick balsamic sauce for drizzling
  2. Vanilla ice cream drizzled with a good quality olive oil and topped with flaky salt
  3. Vanilla ice cream drizzled with honey and finished with a dollop of peanut butter

So really there’s no reason not to get a dinner party on your calendar right now. With just a tiny bit of prep, you’ll be able to spend more time around the table with the people you love.

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How to Get Away With a Super-Sweaty Lunch Workout

PeerFit Lunch Workout This article was created in partnership with Peerfit.

When it comes to squeezing in a workout, early risers and night owls have it easy. But what about those of us who feel our most energized in the middle of the day? Are we doomed to deskercise our way to stronger muscles? To monotonously count our steps around the office in hopes that hitting 10,000 will help us reach our fitness goals?

If getting your sweat on in the middle of the day is what works best for you, who’s to say you can’t make it happen? In fact, studies show exercise can boost energy, creativity, and productivity—exactly what you need to get through the rest of your nine-to-five.

We partnered with our friends at Peerfit to find the best ways to fit in a noon gym sesh. The fitness platform partners with companies and insurance carriers to make it easier (and cheaper!) for employees to work out. As long as you’re getting your work done, sneaking out for a lunchtime fitness class might be easier than you think. Here are our top six tips for pulling it off.

1. Keep extra workout clothes in your desk.

Not only is sitting in sweaty clothes post-workout a bad look for the office, but it’s not great for your skin either. Because sweat is wet and warm, it promotes the growth of bacteria and yeast on your clothes and body, which often leads to less-than-ideal skin conditions such as yeast infections or folliculitis. Keeping a spare set of workout gear (even down to your skivvies) in your desk guarantees you’ll stay fresh during and after your workout.

2. Pick your workouts wisely.

There are two key factors for choosing a workout in the middle of the workday: First, you’re more likely to make time for a workout you actually enjoy. Second, you want to find somewhere close to the office that makes the transition from studio to conference room a cinch.

But how to find those coveted locations? Sign up for Peerfit, a workout treasure map that gives you access to a long list of amenity-rich fitness studios and gyms across 48 states. Peerfit has a diverse list of class types—boxing, barre, CrossFit, you name it—and there’s no blackout times or price hikes during high-traffic hours. WFH and would rather not leave the house? Use Peerfit to stream workouts on your computer or TV.

Even better: You can get your work to foot the bill. Peerfit works with employers and insurance companies to pay for your gym time. Pretty sweet, right?

3. Enlist an accountabilibuddy at work.

Midday workouts are prime time for excuses—to-do lists pile up, meetings magically appear on your calendar, Susan from accounting just got a puppy and wants to show you 500 photos. That’s why having a coworker who is as committed to the workout as you are is a big help (even science agrees).

We recommend planning ahead and blocking off time on each other’s calendars so there’s no chance of ditching. It’ll feel like a meeting (who’s to say it isn’t?), and physically canceling an event will be a lot tougher than just saying, “Eh, let’s skip it.”

4. Fake a shower.

A blowout isn’t an option when you need to rush back to a meeting. And walking in with a drenched head of hair is a surefire way to feel self-conscious (and probably cold). A quick blast with a hair-dryer and generous dose of Gym Hair or dry shampoo into your roots will almost always do the trick. But, of course, not all scalps are the same, so check out this list of suggestions for managing sweaty locks of all types.

5. Remedy your red face.

Sure, you can change your clothes and dry your hair. But one dead giveaway that your doctor’s appointment was really a trip to the gym? Your face.

Oxygenated blood levels during aerobic training (we’re looking at you, cardio junkies) can lead to a red, blotchy complexion. For some people, the redness goes away pretty quickly, but for others (hello, us), it takes its sweet time.

If you’re a lunchtime runner or Spinner, try products that help to reduce redness and calm irritated, sweaty skin. Look for ones with ingredients such as aloe vera and tea tree oil, which are known for their anti-inflammatory and antimicrobial properties, and save the redness for the next time you have to present in front of your CEO.

6. Plan your lunch ahead of time.

Working out during your lunch hour should never replace, ya know, lunch. Meal-prepping makes post-exercise fueling a breeze—not to mention saves you time and money. Take 15 to 20 minutes the night before to pack a lunch that gives you the nutrients you need to recover from your workout and make it through the dreaded afternoon slump. Bonus points if it’s not another sad desk lunch.

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The Easiest Way to Make New Friends at Work

This article was created in partnership with Peerfit.

No matter how cultivated your social skills are, starting a new job always feels like the first day of school. You agonize over an outfit the night before, wonder who you’ll sit with at lunch, and have nightmares of getting stuck in the elevator with your new boss (just us?).

Work friendships can be complex, but there’s no denying it’s nice to have a buddy in the office. So what’s the best way to find your BFF when you’re brand spankin’ new? We teamed up with our friends at Peerfit to find out. Peerfit makes it easy to book workout classes and invite folks to join you, which is convenient because one of the quickest ways to meet people at work is surprisingly simple: sweat together.

No, not the nervous kind of sweat that makes your shirt feel uncomfortably damp—we mean exercise-induced sweat. We work out to relieve stress and better our overall mental and physical health, right? Exercising with a colleague means you get to share all those stress-busting, endorphin-pumping good vibes. Plus…

1. Working out together forces you to open up.

We’re our most real selves while exercising (it’s hard to fake a state of calm when you’re gasping for breath in Spin class or slamming away at a punching bag). While you might feel self-conscious at first, by the end of class you’re both likely to have let your guard down. After all, nobody looks like they have their life together after a round of burpees.

2. Group workouts inspire camaraderie (and even a little friendly competition).

Misery loves company! Pick a workout where you have to partner up or work next to each other. Peerfit, a platform that lets you sign up for workouts at thousands of different gyms and studios across 48 states, is an easy way to organize an out-of-office hangout. With a few clicks, you can book bags for boxing, bikes for cycling, or mats for om-ing, so you can commiserate, high-five, or compete to see who can hold a plank the longest.

And the best part? Peerfit works with employers and insurance carriers to pay for the classes. If it’s not part of your new gig’s benefits (you can check here), sign up for a personal subscription—for just $ 8.95 per month, you’ll get the same access. Just pay per class at a discounted member rate, and you’re good to go.

3. It’s healthier than happy hour.

It’s not breaking news that working out is better for your overall health than boozing it up. A lot of the reasons people drink together (to socialize, gripe, relieve stress) are also good reasons to work out together, so why not schedule fitness classes like they’re social events? It’ll also hold you accountable. And, hey, maybe you grab drinks after the workout—we’re not saying you can’t have it all. Just make sure you eat and hydrate first.

Connecting with a colleague in a stress-relieving environment has been shown to seriously improve overall health and even support personal weight-loss goals. And don’t forget: One in five people meet their significant other at work (!!), so who knows where one sweat date could lead? Just keep your chin up, newbie. Leave that gym bag where your coworkers can see it, and you’ll have a few new friends in no time.

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The Fitness Membership That Saved Me From Sitting at a Desk All Day

This article was created in partnership with Peerfit.

My weekday routine goes a little something like this: Sit and drink coffee. Sit and boot up computer. Check hair in bathroom mirror to make sure dry shampoo doesn’t look like dandruff. Sit and work. Small talk with coworkers. Sit and work. Bathroom break. Sit and work. Lunch at desk. Sit and work. Maaayyybe make it to the gym before crawling home for dinner, where I sit on my butt some more and reflect on how tired I am.

You get where I’m going with this. If sitting was an exercise, my bum would be in amazing shape—like superhero-in-tights-shape. Sadly sitting doesn’t really do us any favors. And I should know: I’m so freaking good at it.

While the solution is fairly obvious—stand up, doy—giving in to that sedentary life is so easy. That’s why Peerfit is my butt’s new BFF.

Imagine a fitness subscription that lets you sign up for a range of fitness classes and gyms near your office without any blackout times or price hikes. That’s Peerfit in a nutshell, but it gets better: Peerfit works with employers and your insurance to foot the bill, and it comes with social networking tools so you can coordinate workouts with friends at the office.

Here’s how it works:

  • Create a personal or corporate account. If your insurance/company won’t chip in, you can get a subscription for $ 8.95 a month, then pay a discounted member rate for each class you book.
  • Find your gym or a workout class. You can filter your search by type (boxing, dance, HIIT, yoga) and reserve your spot with one click.
  • Grab a friend. Once your class is booked, you can sync it to your calendar and invite coworkers with an email invite or social media event or by sharing a special link.
  • Sweat and save your butt from another full day in a chair.

I can attest that the system works. Our associate fitness editor (and wonderful pal) Jamey Powell lured my hermit self into the world with a boxing invite. After an hour of winded jokes, punches, and kicks, I felt totally revived and ready to annihilate my to-dos. A few days later, I kept the momentum going with a lunchtime session at my favorite NYC studio, 305 Fitness. It’s weird how making time for exercise becomes second nature when you’ve got a mile-long list of classes to try and good friends to sweat with.

So look, sitting might not be the new smoking, but being active with friends has benefits on benefits. Wouldn’t you rather give your desk a break and do your body and mind some good? Trust me when I say I can’t think of a $ 9-per-month subscription with more value than Peerfit. My butt totally agrees.

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6 Cooking Tips That Make Hosting a Dinner Party So. Much. Easier

This article was created in partnership with Barilla® as part of Together at the Table.

Hosting a dinner party is like having to sauté on stage in front of a crowd of critics. Even the most self-assured person in the world can feel a lot of pressure to create a fancy meal that’s *just right.*

Thanks to our friends at Barilla®, who always hook us up with great cooking tips and tricks, we know that preparing a delicious dinner doesn’t have to be complicated. It’s actually surprisingly easy to create a chef-quality dish without spending hours bent over the stove.

Below, three cooking and hosting pros share their best advice, so you can feel readier than ever to throw a gathering that will bring friends, family, and even strangers together. Your guests won’t even notice that it took almost no time and effort to pull off!

1. Make a good first impression.

Holistic nutritionist Brittany Mullins loves starting out with a veggie tray, so guests have something to snack on as soon as they arrive.

“[Veggie trays] are super easy, and everyone loves to have a healthy snack to munch on before dinner,” she says. “I keep the veggie platters exciting by finding unique, seasonal produce like endive lettuce or watermelon radishes.”

Mullins likes making guacamole to pair with, but she swears by a controversial secret ingredient: peas! Mix them in with the avocado, and you’ve got a lighter version of everyone’s favorite dip—no one will be able to spot the difference.

2. Reimagine classic dishes in new ways.

Nothing brings people together like a bowl of pasta. While you can never go wrong with classic spaghetti and marinara, a dinner party is a good opportunity to mix things up and surprise guests with something unexpected.

Erin Gleeson, the blogger and cookbook author behind The Forest Feast, looks for creative ways to incorporate color and fresh produce. A good example? Her snap pea pasta.

She combines roasted sugar snap peas and asparagus in a warm pot of al dente penne (the recipe calls for whole grain, but you can also try Barilla® Collezione Penne. It’s bronze-cut for a rougher texture that better absorbs sauce—yummm). Then she tosses with chopped basil and cilantro, olive oil, and shaved Parmesan. You’ll love how pretty it looks on your dinner table; your guests will love how totally satisfying it is.

Another pro move? Use Barilla’s recipe builders to create a unique pasta dish that’s all yours. The handy infographics make it easy to turn a box of pasta into a flavorful, plant-based meal that people will be talking about long after the table is clear. (Barilla® Orzo with pomegranate seeds, toasted pine nuts, chickpeas, olive oil, and za’atar, anyone?)

3. Don’t forget the garnish.

Herbs are total game changers when it comes to cooking. They add taste, texture, and color in a single stroke. Blogger Yumna Jawad of Feel Good Foodie says you should never serve a meal herbless. “There’s nothing that brings more flavor to a dish than fresh and crisp herbs added right before serving,” she says.

To keep herbs like parsley and cilantro (her go-tos) as fresh as possible, Jawad stores them with their stems in water or wraps them in a damp paper towel in a plastic bag. When you’re ready to use, just pat dry with a clean towel and chop.

4. Use your freezer.

Don’t be afraid of the freezer! It’s a wonderful tool that will help your ingredients last longer and cut down on day-of cooking.

Mullins has a brilliant trick for preserving fresh ginger: Peel it with the back of a spoon and store it in the freezer. “It lasts longer this way and grates so easily when needed,” she says.

The freezer also comes into play when you want to prep ingredients or meals in advance. For instance, homemade pesto can be frozen in ice cube trays, then reheated in individual servings when you’re ready to serve dinner.

5. Repurpose your food scraps.

Don’t throw out those veggie scraps or chicken bones! Jawad suggests using them to make broth. “Broth is such an easy way to flavor not only soups but also stews, pasta, marinades, casseroles, rice, and stir-fries,” she says.

Our fave: Add the broth to a jar of pasta sauce. This trick comes in handy particularly in vegetarian recipes, where Jawad notes that you don’t have the fat from meat to enhance the flavor (just make sure to use veggie broth if you want to keep the recipe meat-free). No matter what dish you upgrade with this trick, your guests won’t guess your secret—but they’ll definitely notice the taste.

6. Try new gadgets… and methods.

Mullins’s two favorite cooking techniques? Air frying and sous vide. Air fryers are amazing tools because you can cook your favorite indulgences in a healthier way, but they’ll still come out crispy and delicious.

Sous vide is a method that involves sealing food in an airtight container and then cooking it. Sounds complicated, but it’s really quite simple—and it helps make sure your meat is cooked evenly throughout. Try cooking steak or chicken sous vide before mixing into Barilla® pasta sauce.

No matter how many you’re hosting or what you’ve got on the menu, these simple tricks will help you pull off dinner with ease. That way you can sit back, relax, and enjoy the best part: sitting around the table with the people you love.

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3 Food Bloggers Share Their Favorite Family Recipes

This article was created in partnership with Barilla® as part of Together at the Table.

It’s Tuesday, and you’ve got a major task at hand: Cook a meal that’s healthy, ready in minutes, and delicious enough to please everyone. On nights like these, it’s easy to default to ordering takeout or heating up a microwaveable meal. But it doesn’t have to come to that.

Because there’s nothing like gathering around a home-cooked meal, we teamed up with Barilla® to ask three of our favorite food bloggers for their tried-and-true family recipes. These are the healthy yet satisfying dishes they keep coming back to—the ones they know will bring everyone together, even after the table is cleared.

Need more inspo? The folks at Barilla make getting dinner on the table easy with their recipe builders, which use everyday ingredients and global flavors to inspire you to create a dish you can feel good about serving.

Baked Spaghetti Feel Good Foodie Source: Yumna Jawad / feelgoodfoodie.net

1. Easy Baked Spaghetti

Feel Good Foodie blogger Yumna Jawad has fond memories of watching her mom get creative in the kitchen. One of Jawad’s favorite inventions? Baked spaghetti. Jawad even created her own one-pan version that cuts down on prep time. The trick is not boiling the pasta.

*Record scratch*

OK, we know it sounds implausible, but Jawad found that if you toss spaghetti in olive oil and add enough water and sauce (about 1 ounce liquid per 4 ounces pasta), your spaghetti will cook in the oven, no stovetop prep required.

To up the flavor and texture, she adds a helping of chopped onions and peppers, but encourages anyone trying this recipe at home to get creative with their own combo of veggies. Other go-tos: mushrooms, spinach, zucchini, eggplant, and olives. Layer ingredients together in a baking dish, give them a quick mix, top with a light sprinkle of cheese, then bake. It’s that easy.

2. Healthy Rainbow Fettuccine

To create a filling, nourishing treat her family loves, Erin Gleeson of The Forest Feast mixes fettuccine noodles with freshly shaved carrot and zucchini ribbons. Boil Barilla® Fettuccine one minute less than directed on the package (for that tender-but-firm al dente texture), then sauté in a pan with veggie ribbons, diced garlic, thyme, and butter (or, for a Mediterranean-friendly option, try olive oil). Serve warm and watch your fellow eaters go nuts.

Want to get extra fancy without extra work? Try this version topped with—wait for it—edible flowers.

3. Healthy Sweet Potato Casserole

Blogger Brittany Mullins grew up loving the sweet potato casserole her mom made every Thanksgiving Day, but as an adult, she didn’t want all the sugar and butter that came along with it. So Mullins developed her own vegan, gluten-free version, subbing in a crispy, pecan-based topping for the typical marshmallow mixture.

“Making healthy versions of the not-so-healthy family recipes my mom made for us growing up brings me so much joy,” she says.

Another Mullins pro tip? Sprinkle nutmeg on sautéed greens. “If you add just a pinch, it’s barely detectable but adds a hint of nuttiness,” she says.

These bloggers prove it doesn’t take a ton of effort to put together a meal your family and friends will enjoy. Keep it simple and focus on what really matters: time together.

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A Beginner’s Guide to Meal Prep

If finding the time to pack lunch every morning or cook dinner every night is impossible, or you’re relying on takeout more than you want to, you’re probably ready to jump on the meal-prep train. As you should! Except, um, how do you get started? If you’ve never done it before, meal-prepping can feel overwhelming. But it’s not, really. Here’s everything you need to know to succeed.

What is meal prep, and why should I try it?

Meal prep is exactly what it sounds like: prepping your meals (or meal components) ahead of time so your food is ready to eat whenever you are. The easiest way to do it? Pick a day when you’re free—usually a Saturday or Sunday—to prep enough food to get you through the upcoming week.

People love meal-prepping because it makes life easy. Trying to figure out what to make for dinner every night can be stressful, and finding the time to make it can be even more so. Meal-prepping means you get all the work out of the way ahead of time. Instead of taking time to think about food and cooking during the week, everything’s already there.

Planning your meals ahead of time can make it easier to eat healthier too. “We tend to make better choices for our future selves than we do for our current selves,” says Georgie Fear, RD, CSSD, author of Lean Habits for Lifelong Weight Loss. It’s easy to succumb to takeout or frozen pizza when you’re exhausted after a long day. But you’ll probably be motivated to make better choices—say, salmon and quinoa or chicken and pepper fajitas—when you map out your menu in advance.

How to Meal-Prep

Prepping several days’ worth of food all at once might seem like an overwhelming task. But it’s actually pretty simple once you get the hang of it. Here’s a step-by-step guide to getting started.

1. Gear up.

Despite what some meal-prep guides might say, you don’t need to shell out for tons of new products before beginning. That said, having the right tools can be pretty helpful. Consider stocking up on these items, if you don’t already have them on hand.

  • One or two large sheet pans. Use them to roast veggies, proteins, or full sheet-pan meals.
  • A big stockpot. It’s key for one-pot meals like soups, stews, curry, or chili.
  • A medium sauce pot. Use it for cooking whole grains or making hard-boiled eggs.
  • Glass storage containers with sturdy lids. They’re your best options for storing prepped food. (And, unlike plastic, they won’t leach chemicals into your food.) Aim to have a variety of sizes for storing big and small batches of prepped items.
  • Zip-top bags. Small ones are great for portioning out snacks like nuts or sliced veggies. Bigger ones are good for storing whole meals or individual components if you run out of storage containers (or run out of room for more containers in your fridge).

2. Plan your menu.

Before you begin cooking, you need to figure out what you’re going to make. Aim to have a protein, a vegetable, and a starch for each meal—the combo will help you stay satisfied, says nutrition expert Kelly Jones, MS, RD. As for what to cook, exactly? The sky’s the limit, but in general, the most successful meal-prep meals fall into one of these categories:

  • One-pot or one-pan meals: Think soups, curry, chili, oatmeal, or anything else that you can cook in a single pot or Crock-Pot. “They’re always a great option because you don’t need to add anything to the meal other than condiments,” Jones says. Sheet-pan meals and frittatas (bake them in a big pan and cut into slices, or make individual servings in muffin tins) work here too. If you want simplicity to the max, this is the route to go, Fear says.
  • Component-based meals: Want a little more variety? Try prepping proteins, vegetables, and starches individually for mixing and matching. For instance, pre-chopped veggies can top a pizza on Monday, be mixed into pasta sauce on Tuesday, and folded into tacos on Wednesday, Fear says. And since a plain bowl of quinoa, veggies, and chicken or tempeh can get kind of boring, plan to make a few sauces, dressings, or toppings to keep things interesting from a flavor perspective, Jones says.

Do you have to map out every single thing you’re going to eat for the entire week? Nope. “Having a plan for most meals may be helpful for some people, but it’s important, especially when starting to meal-prep, that you start small,” Jones says.

So if tackling five or even seven days seems like way too much, start by prepping just two dinners. Double the ingredients so you can eat each dinner twice, and bam! You’ve got four nights covered.

3. Shop and cook.

With your menu planned, it’s time to make a grocery list and go shopping. Think through all the items you’ll be cooking and write down all the ingredients you’ll need. This is key! Having an actual list (versus trying to keep track of everything in your head) ups the odds that you’ll actually come home with everything you need—and won’t waste time running back to the store later on.

When it’s time to cook, think about ways to maximize your efficiency as much as possible. “Meal-prepping shouldn’t take more than one to two hours if you multitask the right way,” Jones says. (These recipes only take 15 minutes from start to finish!) If you’re firing up the oven, roast vegetables and bake chicken or tofu at the same time. Then start a pot of quinoa or soup on the stovetop. While that simmers, pre-chop fruits or veggies or whip up a batch of hummus for snacking, she suggests.

4. Pack it up.

Got your food all prepped? Congrats! Now it’s time to store everything so you’ll have easy access to your meals and ingredients throughout the week. Three important tips to keep in mind:

  1. Utilize the right containers. Portion out single servings into small individual containers, which are easy to grab and go, Jones says. Dinners you’ll serve in one big batch can go in bigger containers.
  2. Keep salads and dressings separate. Storing already-dressed salad is a recipe for a soggy, wilted mess, Fear says. Keep everything fresh by packing chopped salad veggies in one container and dressing in another.
  3. Cool before refrigerating. It’s fine to transfer hot food straight to your glass storage vessels. But let the food come to room temperature before moving it to the fridge—especially when it comes to big batches. Popping a family-size serving of, say, piping hot chili into the fridge will warm up everything that’s already in there, Fear says. That could potentially set the stage for spoilage and food poisoning.

5. Eat strategically.

You’ve got all this delicious food at the ready—so what should you eat first? “Most things can be prepared in advance and stay safe to eat for five days,” Fear says. Still, animal-based proteins often tend to lose their luster the quickest. So consider eating your meatier meals earlier in the week and saving plant-based proteins for later on, Jones recommends.

Of course, it’s always a good idea to use your judgment. If something looks or smells suspect, don’t eat it—even if it’s only been sitting in the fridge for a day or two. Use this guide to determine how long food really lasts.

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The Gear Our Fitness Editor Is Currently Obsessed With

Not to go all Marie Kondo here, but I have zero time for “stuff.” Between teaching cycling classes, a 9-5 hustle, and squeezing in a workout for myself, I live my life on the go, and my gear has to hold up—not to mention help me look remotely put together. So when I’m staring down a product, I make myself stop to think about whether it would elevate my life in some way: Does it make me faster? Less sore? Just plain happy? That last one is super valid, trust me.

There are plenty of reasons to make purchases, and finding a “why” typically helps me be a smarter consumer and lands me with products I truly love. After all, life’s too short to waste time on “stuff.” Here’s the gear that keeps me going on the daily, no matter how tough the going gets.

APL Ascend in White/Midnight

My Favorite Kicks for Kicking Around

Go ahead and call me crazy for wearing white kicks in the middle of a New York City winter—I’m not going to stop living in these APL Ascends. They’re supportive enough to cross-train in but cool enough to wear while grabbing drinks with friends. Plus, with their Propelium® technology, I feel like I’m walking on floofy clouds.

($ 200; athleticpropulsionlabs.com)

AirPods Case from Elago

The Perfect Air Pods Silicone Case

If you’re like me, you drop your beloved AirPods on a regular basis. That’s why I rely on this gold-flecked silicone case from Elago to soften the blow. The carabiner hook helps to keep the case from falling into the depths of your bag (and this particular style is glow in the dark for when they inevitably do).

($ 13; elago.com)

Theragun G3Pro

The Game-Changer of PT Tools

If you haven’t experienced the glorious percussive therapy of a Theragun yet, don’t walk, run to find one. The new Theragun G3Pro is a game-changer in the world of personal physical therapy and pain-relief devices. It’s insanely quiet for a tool that shoots 16mm amplitude at either 1750 or 2400 RPMs (depending on the setting). You’ll definitely giggle, smile, and say “ohhhhhyeah” as it jiggles your muscles like Jell-O—you can use it briefly across all of your major muscle groups as a stimulating warm-up or tension-releasing cooldown. Yes, it’s pricey. But I think it’s totally worth it.

($ 599; theragun.com)

Garmin Forerunner 645 Music

A Tracker that Fits My Goals (and My Wrists)

I’m currently using the Garmin Forerunner 645 Music to train for a few races, and I’m officially an Apple Watch convert. This baby does it all—activity and sleep tracking, Vo2Max and recovery coaching, a shockingly long battery life (seven days in smartwatch mode), and space to hold 500 songs so you can run phone-free. Its big brother, the Forerunner 935, is slightly more rich in data but has a considerably larger face. So with my puny wrists, the 645 is just right.

($ 450; garmin.com)

New Balance Fresh Foam LAZR v2 Hypoknit

These Floaty-Light Running Shoes

New Balance shoes haven’t ever been my go-to for running, but these lightweight sneaks have changed all that. The Fresh Foam LAZR V2 have a fairly supportive sole, an elevated pocket for your achilles to rest in, and great bounce. The knit material on the upper portion of the shoe almost makes it seem like I’m running in some cushy socks, which is awesome for someone like me who broke a toe that will apparently never ever heal. Not to be a total tease, but these actually haven’t been released yet—you can get your hands (feet?) on them March 1.

M2 Smart Trainer

A Trainer for Indoor Cruisin'

I’m a cyclist, but there’s no chance you’ll catch me on the road when it’s 13 degrees outside. The M2 Smart Trainer from CycleOps helps me bring my workouts indoors—if you’re a bike nerd like me, you’ll appreciate that it seamlessly connects to your favorite training software (like Zwift or Rouvy), and all of your performance data is recorded within the trainer itself (meaning no external sensors required).

Also, if you’re someone who actually enjoys climbing hills (shout-out to our video producer, Jenna!), the Wahoo Kickr and Kickr Climb are a powerful duo that simulate grade changes during your indoor training. #noflatearth

($ 600; cycleops.com)

Athleta Salutation Stash Pocket 7/8 Tight in Powervita

The Leggings You'll Have to Rip Off My Dead Body

Sorry for the alarming description, but I need you to understand my feelings for the Salutation Stash Pocket ⅞ Tight from Athleta. They’re super soft yet high-rise and compressive, and they’ll make you feel incredible in any yoga or barre class (they’re also my go-to for maximum comfort during travel). I wasn’t a huge Athleta fan until recently, but I truly feel like they’ve stepped up their game in terms of design and aesthetic. Also, they’re a B Corp now, which is pure awesomeness.

($ 89; athleta.com)

Trigger Point GRD STK Form Roller

A Portable Masseuse

Hold the face masks—this is my type of self-care. Whether I’m needing relief from muscle soreness midday or traveling for a race, the Trigger Point GRD STK foam roller has come to my rescue on several occasions. Not many foam rollers are travel-friendly, but you can slide this one into a backpack or suitcase fairly easily.

($ 35; tptherapy.com)

Rothy's Sneaker in Sand

Shoes for Walking All Day That Aren't Heinous to Look At

These slip-on Rothy’s sneakers are my go-to hack for looking somewhat put together when I’m rocking day-old gym hair and leggings. They’re ridiculously comfortable—priority No. 1 when I’m standing at a desk or zipping around NYC all day—and are made from recycled water bottles using a 3D knitting process to reduce waste. Bonus: They’re machine washable. Boom.

($ 125; rothys.com)

Jane West CBD Coffee

The Pre-Workout Dream Team

I know, I know—CBD is everywhere right now. And sure, coffee and CBD might sound like a contradictory combo, but hear me out for a sec: Lately, this CBD infused coffee from Jane West has been my version of a pre-workout, and I’m really into it. Obviously, caffeine helps when my alarm so delightfully sounds at 5:30am, but I’m also convinced that CBD has helped me feel more focused during my workouts. With 240mg of full-spectrum CBD per 12-ounce bag, a cup of coffee (I err on the strong side) contains about 13 mg of CBD—that’s enough to help me shake the stress of the day to come and stay present when the workout gets tough.

($ 48; jwcbd.shop)

Lululemon On the Fly Pant 28"

The GOAT of Athleisure

We’ve sung these pants’ praises before, but let me say again for the people in the back: These are the best pants ever. Whether you’re a commuter, a lunchtime exerciser, or just thrive in comfy clothes, the On The Fly pant from Lululemon is going to change your life. They look like trousers but have the elasticity of leggings, so you can chameleon your way from the conference room to yoga with no problem.

($ 98; lululemon.com)

Every editorial product is independently selected by our editors. If you buy something through one of our links, we may earn a commission. But don’t worry, it doesn’t cost you anything extra, and we wouldn’t recommend a product if we didn’t love it as much as we love puppies.

Jamey Powell is Greatist’s associate fitness editor as well as a NASM certified personal trainer, cycling instructor, yoga teacher, and triathlete. When she isn’t sweating, she’s usually eating or trying to pet someone’s dog. You can follow her antics on Instagram.

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Editor’s Picks: 10 Products Making My Winter Bearable

It’s dry and cold and dark and I keep stepping in slush puddles… so here are all my favorite products at the moment. These are my top recommendations for keeping your skin, hair, and spirit intact now that we don’t have the holidays to look forward to (and with spring still feeling so, so far away).

1. Amika Silken Up Dry Conditioner

I have been a major fan of Amika for years—and I credit their amazing heat defense serum with keeping my hair intact when I curl it—but it’s the dry conditioner that has become my No. 1 daily hair care staple.

On days I don’t wash my hair (which is most of them), I spray dry shampoo at my roots, then spray the rest of my hair down with a liberal coating of this antioxidant-packed spray. Suddenly, it’s softer, glossier, less frizzy, and easier to brush. Amazing.

($ 25; sephora.com)

2. Volition Beauty Apple Cider Vinegar Peel Pads

Winter is so freaking hard on your skin. You’d think you would just want to hydrate hydrate hydrate, but it’s actually a great idea to gently exfoliate those dead skin cells in the winter too, as this can promote cell turnover. These ACV peel pads are such a nice, light exfoliant for winter—not too harsh at all.

($ 64; sephora.com)

3. Crane and Lion Original Tights

I’ve tried a lot of workout pants and am generally disappointed. Shape-wise, I’m an hourglass with hips that tend to feel squished by Lululemons. But these pants are effing perfect.

The sizing is spot-on, they don’t ride down when you bend over, they’re warm enough that you can walk to the gym in them, and they’ve got a little key pocket at the waistband for your gym locker. If you’re into them, grab a pair soon—they’re 40 percent off right now.

($ 95; craneandlion.com)

4. Algenist Splash Absolute Hydration Replenishing Sleep Pack

After you’ve done your ACV exfoliation, soothe your face with this extremely hydrating overnight mask. This stuff smells kind of astringently clean, isn’t sticky, absorbs quickly, and makes my skin basically glow in the morning. You can also use it with a serum or oil underneath if you feel like locking in even more moisture.

($ 48; sephora.com)

5. Casper Glow

My favorite mattress company—the one that made the bed that finally let me get some effing sleep—has now come out with a lamp that makes sleeping (and waking up) better too.

They’re elegant in their design, extremely intuitive to set up and use, and can kind of function as a lamp you can pick up and sleepily walk to the kitchen for a glass of water with, like an old-timey taper candle holder! which just makes me want to order a Scrooge sleeping cap to go with.

($ 89; casper.com)

6. Olaplex Hair Perfector No. 3

If you hair needs a protein boost, this is the only stuff I can honestly recommend. My extremely processed, dry hair needs a lot of TLC, and Olaplex is amazing because it actually helps rebuild the hair from the inside out. I leave it on as an overnight pack sometimes or just do a quick-hit 30-minute treatment.

($ 28; sephora.com)

7. 100% Pure Fermented Rice Water Cleanser

This is one of my favorite makeup brands (I use one of the fruit-pigmented eyeshadow palettes almost daily), but they also make a cleanser that I am fully into. This stuff is made with sake (yes, like the drink) as well as a whole bunch of mushroom extracts and other good stuff that really cleans your face without stripping the natural oils. Perfect for winter.

($ 32; 100percentpure.com)

8. Lunata Wireless Rechargeable Touch-Up Styler

How smart is this concept. You don’t have to deal with a cord (which is great because I always seem to twirl myself up in one while I’m doing my hair, since I’m a paragon of grace and elegance), and this flat iron is small and lightweight enough to throw into your gym bag or carry-on.

It also seems like an excellent, purse-size solution to looking presentable for work the morning after an especially great date, for what that’s worth.

($ 150; lunatabeauty.com)

9. Bedgear M1X Series Pillow

I don’t know how I upgraded my mattress and sheets but somehow continued to think that old, lumpy, beat-up pillows from IKEA were doing me right. They aren’t, but this pillow is. Given the price, it’s an investment, but one that will help you stop tossing and turning, and start waking up drooling eight hours later (which, fine, gross, but also awesome). Designed with “air flow technology” (IDK), it basically just doesn’t get warm—so you have a double-sided cool-side-of-the-pillow action.

($ 119; bedgear.com)

10. Eminence Organic Rosehip Triple C+E Firming Oil

I used to be devoted to the brand’s facial recovery oil—which I still love—but right now, I’m slowly working my way through a bottle of this stuff.

I use it after my serum and before my moisturizer, and I think it both helps lock in the serum and provides a really nice layer of hydration (and it reduces puffiness and redness, so yay). Yes, the price is a doozy, but you only use two drops, so the bottle really does last a very long time.

($ 110; dermstore.com)

Jess Novak is the senior editor of health science and lifestyle at Greatist (and she tackles all the beauty content too). Follow her adventures on Instagram and Twitter.

Every editorial product is independently selected by our editors or writers. If you buy something through one of our links, we may earn a commission. But don’t worry, it doesn’t cost you anything extra, and we wouldn’t recommend a product if we didn’t love it as much as we love puppies.

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