Shelly Barnes


Making healthy choices for meals and snacks can quickly become exhausting, especially for individuals who struggle with decision fatigue. But a handy tip from University of Tennessee Extension can make a work week healthier and easier to manage financially.

UT Extension nutrition specialist Janie Burney suggests devoting a couple of weekend hours to meal prep for the week.

“Start with a simple, healthy recipe that yields several portions,” Burney said. “Once the meal is prepared, divide it into multiple containers for later and two plates for now. Put the containers in the fridge, and if necessary, label them for the first few days of the week. Then, sit down and enjoy dinner with a friend or loved one, knowing you’ve got easy, nourishing meals for a few days to get the week started smoothly.”

According to Burney, as you enjoy a nutritious, home prepared lunch each day rather than eating out, you can end up with significant savings over time.

“It’s also a much less stressful way to live. Rather than rushing in the evenings or early mornings to figure out a plan for that day’s lunch, all you need is to open the fridge and pick up the next day’s container. If your workplace doesn’t have a refrigerator, then a cooler and ice pack are necessary, but those can be purchased at any grocery or general retail store,” she said.

To choose a recipe to use, watch for those that include lots of vegetables (broccoli, cauliflower, spinach, carrots, potatoes, sweet potatoes, kale, mushrooms, onions, peppers, zucchini, summer squash, asparagus or cherry tomatoes), a lean protein (legumes, turkey, salmon, tofu or chicken) and a healthy starch (brown rice or quinoa). This formula will help keep you full, avoiding fast food snacks or drinks on the way home.

For homes with two or more adults, Burney suggests working together and preparing two large recipes, then freezing individual portions.

“Two recipes to choose from will add variety to the week, and give partners more time to spend together each evening,” she said. “Just take a portion out of the freezer ahead of time to thaw in the refrigerator, and voila, the next day’s lunch is a stress-free, healthy moment of your day.”

For recipe options from UT Extension, go to and click on the “Let’s Cook” tab.

Shelly Barnes is the Family and Consumer Sciences Extension agent for UT Extension in Wilson County. Barnes can be reached at or (615) 444-9584.

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