What’s your meal prep style?

As a Latina dietitian, I’ve seen so many of my clients struggle with how to fit meal planning and prep into their busy schedules. 

And for Latinas, there’s another layer of difficulty. Most of the meal prep ideas and resources out there aren’t made for our cultural foods. 

That’s why I started building a meal planning app just for Latinas! As I’ve been working on this project, I realized that another part of the issue is that there are several different styles of meal prep, but most people are only aware of one or two of them. 

So if you’re just starting out with meal prep, spend a few minutes to discover your meal prep style. This will help you decide how often you should be cooking and also what types of meals to make. 

Keep reading to discover which of the 4 meal prep styles you are, and get my recommendations for what foods to make for each style. 

Let’s dive in!

tupperware with rice beans and chicken. text reads what's your meal prep style?

Different meal prep styles

One of the biggest mistakes I see my clients make when learning to meal prep is trying the wrong meal prep style. 

The truth is there are so many different ways to approach meal planning and meal prep. You need to find the style that works best for your lifestyle and schedule! 

If you’ve ever tried to meal prep and found it was overwhelming or left you unsatisfied … chances are you tried the wrong style for you!

As I always remind my clients, deciding to order pizza counts as a meal plan if you do it ahead of time! Of course, that’s usually not what people mean when they ask about meal prep.. But my point is, meal planning and meal prep don’t always have to look one way. 

To help you navigate meal planning and meal prep, I came up with four different meal prep styles. Read each style to find out which one is best for you, and what to make for each style. 

infographic with four illustrations of women next to 4 descriptions of 4 different meal prep styles

Leftovers reina

The leftovers reina doesn’t mind cooking every night or every few nights. But if she’s going to put in the effort, there better be leftovers for lunch (or breakfast!). 

This might be you if you like cooking, but your time is valuable and you like to be efficient with it. This might also be you if you really value home-cooked, traditional meals. 

The Leftovers Reina’s meal prep schedule might look something like this:

  • Monday night: Cook dinner. Bring the leftovers for lunch Tuesday. 
  • Tuesday night: Cook dinner. Bring the leftovers for lunch Wednesday. 
  • Wednesday night: Cook dinner. Bring the leftovers for lunch Thursday. 
  • Thursday night: Cook dinner. Bring the leftovers for lunch Friday. 
  • Friday night: Eat whatever leftovers haven’t been finished or order takeout. 

This can also change if the leftovers reina decides to make bigger dinners on fewer nights of the week (so she might make a larger dinner Monday and eat the leftovers for Tuesday lunch and dinner, then cook again on Wednesday night). 

What to make if this is you

This meal prep style works well for home-cooked traditional meals. Think arroz con pollo, ropa vieja, or this mojo pork

What the other styles can learn from you

Sometimes simple is best. Meal planning doesn’t have to be anything for complicated than cooking food and eating it … and you understand this! The classics are classics for a reason!

Mix and match amiga

The mix and match amiga doesn’t mind cooking, but she gets bored having to eat the same thing every day. So making a big batch of caldo and eating the leftovers for days is her worst nightmare. 

Instead, the mix and match amiga should focus on preparing ingredients she can mix and match to make different meals throughout the week. 

A batch of chicken tinga can make tostadas one day, a torta the next, and tacos the day after that! 

The mix and match amiga’s meal plan might look like this:

  • Monday night: Cook chicken and beans – Serve chicken tostadas
  • Tuesday lunch: Salad with chicken and beans
  • Tuesday night: Cook rice – Serve chicken burrito bowls
  • Wednesday lunch: Make sopa de fideo and add chicken
  • Wednesday night: Make chicken quesadillas

What to make if this is you

In general, I recommend the mix and match amiga make one of the following every week:

The mix and match amiga should also make sure they have staples on hand like tortillas, as well as a variety of vegetables to use as a garnish like shredded cabbage or lettuce, salsa, avocado, and more. 

What the other styles can learn from you

If this is you, you strike a great balance between prepared and flexible! You won’t be caught off guard, but you can still go with the flow. You also know yourself well enough to know you need variety to stay on track!

Prepared poderosa

The prepared poderosa has one or two days a week when she can cook, so she’s a fan of batch cooking (aka making a meal and eating the leftovers for a few days). She may even freeze some of the food for later!

This is probably the meal planning style most of us have seen on Pinterest … think spending a few hours on Sunday making 5 day’s worth of meals. Or even a month and then stashing them in the freezer!

If you are busy, but still really value home-cooked meals, this is the meal prep style for you. 

The prepared poderosa’s meal plan might look like this:

  • Sunday: Cook caldo, egg bites, and rice and beans (freeze anything you won’t eat within 3 days)
  • Monday-Friday: Egg bites for breakfast, beans and rice for lunch, caldo for dinner

What to make if this is you

If you are a prepared poderosa, lean into one-pot meals that make a lot of food and work well as leftovers. Caldos and beans will be your best friend!

You could make a simple pozole recipe, a big batch of beans, or a nice pot of ajiaco

My favorite thing about these dishes is that they actually taste better as leftovers. Perfect for the prepared poderosa!

What the other styles can learn from you

Hello, organization! You know how to make the most out of your time, and you have no problem following through with a plan once you set it. Can I be you when I grow up?

Time-saving jefa

You’ve got places to be and cooking is not at the top of your priority list, but you still want to save money and eat healthy. This was me during grad school! 

You really don’t want to spend time cooking, but you might have time to make a sandwich, smoothie or something similar. 

The biggest misconception with this meal prep style is that not wanting to spend time cooking means you have to sacrifice healthy meals. Plenty of healthy foods can be eaten as is–think fruits and simple veggies like carrot sticks, for example!

The time-saving jefa’s meal plan might look like this:

  • Breakfast: Fruit and yogurt
  • Lunch: Peanut butter sandwich
  • Dinner: Quesadillas with store-bought black beans and salsa

What to make if this is you

There are plenty of easy, no-cook meals you can make. Think avocado toast, fruit and yogurt, or a simple smoothie

If you have 5 minutes, you could try really simple meals like quesadillas. 

What the other styles can learn from you

You are the master of meeting your needs without burning yourself out! You are great at prioritizing without neglecting your self-care. 

Final Thoughts

Figuring out what style of meal prep works best for you is key to building a lasting meal planning habit. 

Whether you’re a leftovers reina or a time-saving jefa, there’s a style of meal prep that will work for you. 

One thing you shouldn’t have to worry about is whether or not you can meal prep healthy meals and still enjoy your favorite Latino foods. That’s why I’m building a meal planning app just for Latinas! 

To get started, check out my free 2-day meal plan when you sign up for my newsletter.


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