Cooking Up Convenience

We all share that sinking feeling that comes with a growling stomach after 5 p.m. when dinner isn’t already planned. Meal prepping not only helps us avoid that scenario, but it also leads us to make healthier eating choices while saving time and money. It’s a practice that involves preparing several meals at once and refrigerating or freezing them to enjoy throughout the week.

“It’s an organized cooking method that doesn’t rely on spontaneous grocery shopping,” says Roni Vayre, marketing director at Plan to Eat. The Fort Collins-based meal prep company helps streamline meal planning by importing recipes, creating shopping lists by store aisle and setting up grocery pickup and delivery.

Plan to Eat subscribers say they save as much as 23 percent of overall food costs by planning out their meals. But the costs of poor meal planning are more than financial.

“I hear from a lot of my clients that they skip meals because of busy lives and overeat later because they are too hungry,” says Nicole Eckman, owner of Enlightenment Nutrition Consulting in Fort Collins. “Meal prepping helps people recognize realistic portion sizes and focus on proteins and vegetables for fiber and nutrients they may be missing.”

Plan to Eat meal prep. Photo by Riley Whitson.

DIY meal prep

Vayre offers the following guidance for meal prepping at home:

Start small. If time is short, consider prepping ingredients instead of entire meals. For instance, dice onions, celery and peppers ahead of time to make cooking meals with these ingredients quicker. Chop up hearty vegetables, like broccoli, carrots and Brussels sprouts, and store them in the fridge for later use as a steamed or roasted side dish.

Break it down. Create a meal plan for the week that’s divided into desired servings. For instance, the meal plan could include overnight oats with different fruits stored in jars that are ready to eat in the morning; bulk salads made from leafy greens, vegetables and fruits that keep well; and sheet pan fajitas with protein and vegetables that leave leftovers for burritos.

Do a pantry audit. See what you already have and create a list of your needs before you head to the grocery store. This will help you cycle through foods already in your pantry so you avoid doubling up.

Stock up on storage. Buy freezer tape and markers to label and date your meals. You’ll also need containers and other ways to keep food fresh in the fridge or freezer.

Do batch chopping and cooking. Chop and sauté onions or steam vegetables for several meals at a time. You can also cook various meats and other sources of protein with the vegetables and use them for different recipes.

Make cooking convenient. Pressure cookers and crockpots are handy for soups, stews and other large dishes that you can leave to cook on their own.

Experiment with sauce. Sauces add flavor and variety to your recipes. Make them in bulk and freeze them or buy premade sauces with different spices and herbs.

Less is more. By the end of the week, you may tire of eating the same things. Prevent food fatigue by preparing a little less food than is needed or by freezing the leftovers.

Try hybrid home cooking. Meal prepping doesn’t mean you have to cook everything from scratch. One of the fastest-growing food trends is hybrid home cooking, which combines premade grocery items with at-home cooking, according to The Food Industry Association. For example, many recipes call for a pre-roasted chicken or a prepared dish from the deli.

Prepped meals by Clean Eatz.

Meal prep done for you

Mike Collins opened a Clean Eatz franchise in Johnstown in 2021 to fill the need for healthy, balanced meals to feed busy people. It’s a hybrid model, so customers can order online and pick meals up in the store, stop by anytime for weekly featured frozen meals or eat at the cafe. He’s bringing the concept to midtown Fort Collins this fall with a new location at 103 W. Harvard St.

Clean Eatz attracts people who want to eat meals with healthy, recognizable ingredients. Their recipes are prepared onsite and are free of additives, preservatives, cooking oils and added sugar. Each meal costs $6.50-8.50 and is about 350-500 calories, including four to five ounces of protein, vegetables, complex carbohydrates and sauce.

“I enjoy getting to know my customers and learning the ‘why’ behind their needs,” Collins says. “It might be medical reasons, weight loss, sports performance goals or feeding a busy family. Up to 60 percent of my customers are families busy with school, sports and church. Instead of going through the drive-through, parents order healthy meals their kids choose from.”

Super-Natural Eats in Fort Collins ships fresh (not frozen) meals throughout Northern Colorado, Boulder, Longmont and north Denver. Chef, caterer and entrepreneur Ezekiel Cortez oversees the preparation of customized meals based on specific medical and dietary needs, such as low-carbohydrate, heart-healthy and Mediterranean-based meals with dark leafy greens. Meals range from $10.50-11.75.

“Our meals don’t contain preservatives, thanks to a process using water to maintain freshness and reduce the incidence of food-borne bacteria,” he says.

Using a health-focused meal prep service or doing the meal planning yourself can help you eat the right foods and develop healthy habits, Eckman says. It all comes down to finding what works with your lifestyle and schedule.

“The reality is that people are busy,” she says, “and they need access to the cleanest food options that are healthy, convenient and affordable.”


Sheet Pan Chicken, Sweet Potato and Broccoli Buddha Bowl

Sheet Pan Chicken, Sweet Potato and Broccoli Buddha Bowl

This sheet pan recipe has no rules. Swap out the protein with tofu or salmon and change up the vegetables as you wish. Portion out each bowl and keep them in the refrigerator for no more than four days until ready to serve.

Recipe courtesy of Kimberly Lord Stewart

Makes 6 servings


3 boneless, skinless chicken breasts, cut into thick strips

3 large sweet potatoes, scrubbed, cut into quarters

4 teaspoons prepared za’atar spice, divided

2 large bunches broccoli, trimmed, cut into large florets,
the ends cut into stalks

1 red onion, cut into eighths

1 red pepper, cored and cut into eighths

6 tablespoons avocado oil

3 cups cooked quinoa (keep warm if serving right away)

1 medium lemon, juiced

4 tablespoons honey

1 cup tahini sauce

Salt and pepper to taste

Sesame seeds for garnish


1. Line a 9×13 sheet pan with parchment paper. Preheat oven to 400° F.

2. Place sweet potatoes on half of the baking sheet and chicken on the other half. Brush with oil, season with 2 teaspoons za’atar and salt and pepper.

3. Bake for 15 minutes, turn over. Bake for another 15 minutes.

4. Place onion, broccoli and pepper in a bowl. Coat with remaining oil, add remaining za’atar seasoning and toss well to coat.

5. Push aside the sweet potatoes and chicken on the sheet pan. Spread the vegetables evenly on the pan and return to the oven for another 15 minutes or until the vegetables are soft.

6. In a bowl, stir together the tahini, honey and lemon juice.

7. Divide the quinoa evenly in each serving bowl. Arrange the chicken, sweet potatoes and roasted vegetables over the quinoa. If eating right away, drizzle with tahini mixture and sprinkle with sesame seeds. If preparing for later, save the sauce and add just before heating.


On-the-go Chickpea Hummus Wraps

Take these wraps with you for a nutritious lunch while out and about enjoying the Colorado summer. Wrap them tightly and refrigerate them ahead of time to prevent the tortillas from drying out.

Recipe courtesy of Plan to Eat

Makes one serving; can be multiplied for more servings


1 cup baby arugula

1 teaspoon fresh lime juice

A pinch of freshly ground black pepper

A pinch of Kosher salt

1 (8-inch) whole wheat tortilla or wrap

2 tablespoons plain hummus

1/3 cup chickpeas

1 teaspoon toasted pumpkin seeds

1 tablespoon crumbled feta cheese


1. Toss the arugula with the lemon juice, black pepper and salt in a small bowl. Set aside.

2. Lay the tortilla on a clean work surface. Spread the hummus down the middle of the tortilla and top with the chickpeas. Sprinkle on the pumpkin seeds, feta cheese and lemon-dressed arugula.

3. Roll up and enjoy.


Truffles – classic no bake Chocolate coconut balls

No-bake Coconut Cookies

Perfect for hiking, this no-bake snack is packed with healthy fats and helps with blood sugar stability.

Recipe courtesy of Enlightenment Nutrition Counseling

Makes 12-15 cookies


1 ½-2cups unsweetened coconut flakes

2 tablespoons raw cocoa powder*

½ cup coconut ghee*

½ teaspoon vanilla extract


Substitute coconut ghee with 4 tablespoons butter and 4 tablespoons coconut oil or 8 tablespoons butter. Add 1 tablespoon almond butter for more protein. Substitute cocoa powder with carob powder or vanilla powder if desired.


1. Pulse ingredients in a blender or food processor until well mixed.

2. Roll into tablespoon-sized balls or press into a miniature muffin tin. Store in the refrigerator or freezer.