When your mattress is oh-so comfy and your blanket is extra cozy, waking up in the morning can be really, really tough. So—without the help of easy meal prep ideas—the thought of getting up early enough to make and eat breakfast before you head out for your day can seem like a hilarious joke. Smoothies and pancakes? Yeah, right.
But wait. It’s actually possible! A breakfast that is already prepped and ready to eat when you roll out of bed can be yours. I’m talking about overnight oats, freezer-pack smoothies, and coffee that drags you out of bed by the nostrils.
Sometimes, it takes a bit more than an alarm to actually get you #UpNOut and on your way. Sometimes, it takes the siren call of a great breakfast. One that’s filled with all the nutrients you need to really start your day—I’m talking ’bout complex carbs, fiber, protein, and healthy fats—and one that tastes sensational, too. These meal prep ideas will help make that elusive, enlivening morning meal totally doable.
1. Make oatmeal that makes itself.
Overnight oats are a gift from the breakfast gods. Instead of cooking oats in liquid on the stove, you just put them together in a jar and leave them in the fridge while you snooze. When you wake up, abracadabra, you’ve got oatmeal waiting for you. They’re a great way to start the day because they’re typically made from a mixture of oats and milk, which is a well-rounded meal that packs in protein, fiber, and complex carbs. You’ll also find a lot of renditions with chia and flax seeds, which are both ingredients that really kick the nutritional value up a notch.
Making this breakfast is incredibly easy. You just mix all your ingredients together the night before (heck, you can even do it while you’re cooking dinner), and in the morning you’ll have a full-fledged meal. Steel cut oats are better when cooked, so you’ll want to stick to using rolled oats when possible. The ratio of liquid to oats varies and comes down to your preference. If you like a looser, creamier texture, use double the amount of liquid (1 cup of milk to 1/2 cup of oats). If you prefer something a bit thicker, keep your measurements at a one to one ratio. When your oats are ready, top them with berries, all-natural sweetener, nuts, and anything else you like. Check out some recipes here.
2. Bag up a ton of freezer-pack smoothies.
We’re obsessed with freezer-pack smoothies and you should be too. They’re great when you want a smoothie in the morning but don’t feel like going through all the trouble of actually chopping and prepping your ingredients. It’s almost too simple: Cut up your choice of fruits and vegetables; grab a bunch of plastic baggies and pack an individual smoothie’s worth into each one; freeze them for later consumption. When you’re ready to suck down breakfast, simply toss the contents of your bag into a blender, add the milk or juice and sweetener of your choice, and enjoy. You can find some recipe ideas here.
3. Keep a bunch of chopped fruit at the ready.
More into chewing than slurping in the A.M.? Either way, fruit for breakfast is always clutch—on top of yogurt, oatmeal or cottage cheese, or all by itself. This is a favorite trick of Edwina Clark, M.S., R.D., a certified sports dietitian, and head of nutrition and wellness at Yummly. On Sunday, she likes to chop up everything from strawberries to oranges, and keep them in her fridge to use in breakfast bowls all week long. If you prep enough fruit ahead of time, you can add it to your other meals. She’ll put strawberries and blueberries in a roasted chicken summer salad for lunch.
4. And eggs. All of the eggs.
Looking for a quick hit of A.M. protein? Hard-boiled eggs are the solution. You can and should prep them in bulk for a speedy everyday breakfast, because they’re safe to eat for a week peeled or unpeeled. Clean them ahead of time and store them in plastic food containers for a super simple morning meal addition, or keep them in the shell for an easy-to-transport midday snack.
5. Prep batter for pancakes or waffles the night before.
Waffles and pancakes for breakfast are nice ideas, except that measuring out and mixing all the ingredients means dirtying a bunch of dishes, using up a lot of time you don’t exactly have in the A.M., and mustering an awful lot of careful concentration for someone who’s still got crust in the corner of her eye.
This entire scenario can be completely reversed, however, if you just prep your batter at night. Keep it covered in the fridge, and when morning arrives, all you have to do is turn on the stove or waffle-maker, pour, and flip. This method is especially great for yeasted waffles or pancakes, the batter for which actually needs several hours to rise anyway.
6. Set your coffee machine to brew when you wake up.
Just the scent of freshly brewed coffee can sometimes be enough to wake you up. So, in addition to an alarm clock, set your coffee machine to start brewing when it’s time for you to get moving. Of course, this trick only works if you have the right equipment—not all coffee machines are equipped with an automatic brewing setting—but if you’re into this idea, affordable options are easy to find.
If you do have an automatic coffee pot, all you have to do is add your grinds and water the night before, then set it to go off when you need to be up.
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Photo Credit: Armando Mejía / EyeEm / Getty