The 7 Meal Prep Recipes That Saved Us From a Sink Full of Dishes in 2020

Meal prepping wasn’t invented in 2020, but we needed it more than ever this year.
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Top Recipes highlights the biggest cooking trends of the year based on our readers’ favorite recipes in 2020.

Out of necessity, 2020 was all about at-home dining — 55 percent of Americans reported eating at home more this year than in 2019, according to a September 2020 report from marketing company Acosta. But all that home cooking had a silver lining: Many people finally discovered the joy and brilliance of meal prepping.


In fact, one-third of more than 1,000 U.S. adults said they were meal prepping and looking for more meal prep recipes during the early days of the pandemic, according to an April 2020 survey from communications firm Hunter.

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We can attest to this trend. Many of our top meal prep recipes saw much more traffic in 2020 than in 2019. Our Overnight Strawberries and Crème Oatmeal recipe was up 63 percent year over year, and our Ham-and-Egg Cups recipe was the fifth most popular recipe for all of 2020.

And it makes sense: Meal prep eases many of the stressors of pandemic daily life.

"Aside from saving minutes, meal prepping helps cut down on dishes that have to be done," says Jessica Cording, RD, CDN and author of ‌The Little Book of Game Changers: 50 Healthy Habits for Managing Stress & Anxiety‌. "These days, budgets are tighter, too, and meal prepping at home can help save money compared to dining out or eating takeout regularly."


1. Ham-and-Egg Cups

These Paleo-friendly cups come together in just 30 minutes.

Packed with crispy ham, creamy egg and loads of veggies, these handheld cups serve up 19 grams of protein and 9 grams of unsaturated fat to keep you satisfied all day long, Cording says. Freeze a batch and reheat for fast breakfasts or snacks.


Get the Ham-and-Egg Cups recipe and nutrition info here.

2. Breakfast Turkey-Apple Sausage Mini Patties

Make a big batch of these sausage patties in muffin tins and freeze for quick eats later.

Not only do these sweet-and-savory sausage bites taste better than frozen patties, they're healthier for you, too. "They have less sodium than many store-bought sausages," Cording says. And you can prep a batch of 24 in just 20 minutes.



Get the Breakfast Turkey-Apple Sausage Mini Patties recipe and nutrition info here.

3. Steak Burrito Jar

Skip the tortilla and layer fresh ingredients in a jar for a healthier burrito.
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It's like a steak salad from your favorite burrito chain — only better, because the portions are perfectly sized and ready to grab straight from your fridge. "This recipe offers an energizing balance of protein, fat and complex carbs, plus lots of flavors to keep things interesting," Cording says.


Get the Steak Burrito Jar recipe and nutrition info here.

4. Family-Style Rotisserie Chicken Lasagna

Feed the family or divvy up this make-ahead dish into individual portions and freeze.

Give future you the gift of a deliciously easy weeknight dinner with this lasagna that can be made in advance and frozen for quick reheating later. "Using rotisserie chicken that's already been cooked cuts way down on prep time," Cording says.


Get the Family-Style Rotisserie Chicken Lasagna recipe and nutrition info here.

5. Watermelon Shrub

Instead of grabbing a can of sugary soda, opt for this refreshing drink that's made in just 5 minutes.

"If you're tired of water and seltzer and want a little extra something that won't overload your system, a shrub can be a satisfying addition to plain sparkling water," Cording says. Mix a batch of this tasty watermelon variety for quick, refreshing sips all week long.



Get the Watermelon Shrub recipe and nutrition info here.

6. Overnight Strawberries and Crème Oatmeal

No cooking necessary here — just assemble and refrigerate.

"Overnight oats are meal prep gold because they take so little time to prepare and are easy to pre-portion," Cording says. This recipe is packed with antioxidant-rich strawberries and crunchy almonds, plus plenty of filling fiber.

Get the Overnight Strawberries and Crème Oatmeal recipe and nutrition info here.

7. Shepherd's Pie in a Jar

Shepherd's pie is usually a project, but not when you make a bunch that you can freeze.
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When you prep this hearty and satisfying dish in individual jars, you get single, grab-and-go servings you can enjoy all week long (or longer, if you freeze them). "They offer instant portion control so you don't have to think about it," Cording says.

Get the Shepherd's Pie in a Jar recipe and nutrition info here.