Bowl Meals Tips and Recipe Ideas

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Want quick and healthy meals that you can easily pack for work, school, or road trips? Discover the beauty of bowl meals!

bowl of spaghetti squash, vegetables, and sausage

Bowl meals are some of my favorites. “Bowl meals?” my husband said.

Yeah, you know, rice bowls, burrito bowls, teriyaki bowls. They’re a thing, don’t ya know?

You might also hear them go by the names: power bowls, Buddha bowls, bowl food, grain bowls, etc.

At least they are to me. I love making bowl meals. There’s something so satisfying in piling a bunch of good real food into a bowl and digging in. Best yet, I can usually make several in advance and enjoy them throughout the week.

While he may not have realized that bowl meals were what make up 75% of his lunches, my husband agrees that this method is a surefire way to save money, eat well, and not skip lunch.

And it’s very important not to skip lunch!

Bowl meals aren’t difficult to make, but they can get boring if you don’t follow some basic guidelines.

grain bowl with eggs, sausage, and vegetables

Today I thought I’d give everyone else a taste of how easy it is to make these beautiful creations.

One of the things that I love about bowl meals is that they really fit any diet. You can customize the ingredients to be vegan, vegetarian, paleo, or omnivore.

What do you put in a Buddha Bowl or bowl meal?

1. Start with a great base.

Choose a starchy base, like Spaghetti Squash, quinoa, Cauliflower Rice, rice, pasta, or even your favorite roasted or mashed potato. Polenta is also tasty!

2. Add a protein.

This can be any of your favorite cooked proteins, but consider anything from grilled chicken, fish, or meats to meatballs. Bowl meals are a great way to use up leftovers.

quinoa bowl with veggies

3. Pile on the veggies.

Mix and match your veggies depending on what sounds good to you. Again, any small bits from last night’s dinner are excellent in here.

If your bases can be enjoyed cold, don’t relegate yourself to just cooked veggies, throw on some fresh salad greens and toppings.

4. Sprinkle on some sauce.

These will determine your flavor profile, so choose wisely. Marinara sauce may not be your favorite atop mashed potatoes!

But, get creative in adding fresh salsa, enchilada sauce, or hot sauce, guacamole, soy sauce, sriracha, sweet chili sauce, or whatever cooking sauces you typically enjoy. This Carrot Ginger Dressing is the bomb!

5. Top it with healthy fats or other goodies.

Finish off your bowl meal with a little oomph from shredded or crumbled cheese, toasted coconut or nuts, toasted nuts, sliced or chopped avocado, or a dollop of dairy in the form of yogurt, sour cream, ricotta, or cottage cheese.

Be uber-cool and put an egg on it!

black bean taco salads packed in boxes

Bowl meals are great any time of day, pack easily, reheat well, and taste great. They are incredibly forgiving in terms of ingredients, and make it simple for you to avoid wasting perfectly good food.

How you pack them is extremely important, however.

Packing Tips for Bowl Meals

When I pack bowl melas for mine and my husband’s lunches, I make a week of lunches at one time. I prefer to use containers that stack well. That way they take less space in the fridge and can easily be transported. 

These black meal prep boxes are our favorites. They are reusable, but inexpensive enough that if one has to be recycled, it’s not a huge loss. I also recently ordered these sturdier containers for freezing

Both types are freezer-friendly and microwave- and dishwasher-safe.

In order to avoid soggy meals, consider these tips for your bowl meal prep:

  • Allow the steam to blow off before dishing up foods.
  • Layer sturdier items on the bottom, such as grains and proteins, leaving more delicate items like tomatoes and greens for the top.
  • Store sauces separately to prevent things from going soggy.

array of ingredients for bowl meals

How long does a bowl meal last in the fridge?

Prepared food is good for up to four days under proper refrigeration. Discard any food that’s been left out at room temperature for longer than 2 hours. Less in hot weather.

Can you freeze bowl meals?

Freezing bowl meals for another time is going to depend on what you include in the bowls. Grains, cooked proteins, and some cooked vegetables hold up very well under freezing. 

However, freezing potatoes, sweet potatoes, and eggs can bring on weird texture changes. Your best bet is to freeze small quantities of the items and see if you like the texture after you reheat it.

When you do freeze bowl meals, make sure that you chill the food completely before storing it in the freezer. This will help the food freeze quickly and reduce the risk of freezer burn.

Check out these tips on what you can freeze.

Throw together some bowl meals this week and enjoy some good cheap eats! Check out these bowl meal recipe ideas for more inspiration:

Bowl Meal Recipe Ideas

Simple Brown Rice Pilaf Recipe

Simple Brown Rice Pilaf Recipe

Serve up an easy side dish tonight with this Simple Brown Rice Pilaf. Based on whole grain and packed with flavor, it’s a great supporting actor. Rice pilaf is one of my go-to side dishes. Hubs could eat the whole pan himself. There’s just something about the combination of butter, onion, rice, and chicken broth […]

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Chimichurri Rice

Chimichurri Rice

Chimichurri Rice takes cilantro, garlic, and spicy pepper, and blends it into a delicious rice side dish, reminiscent of the Argentinian condiment. Rice pilaf is one way to my husband’s heart. I didn’t quite catch on when we first met. Or even after 20 years of marriage. I actually just realized it as I sat […]

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How to Cook Spaghetti Squash In The Microwave

How to Cook Spaghetti Squash In The Microwave

It’s so easy to cook spaghetti squash, you’ll wonder why you don’t do it more often. Spaghetti squash is a great, low-carb alternative to pasta or polenta.

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Quinoa Salad to Make You Swoon

Quinoa Salad to Make You Swoon

Want a Quinoa Salad that will make you swoon? This would be it. It’s one of my favorites to make for a hearty, protein-packed lunch. When I first met quinoa, I was a reluctant fan. I knew it was really nutritious, but the taste was a little bland. And then I learned some fun ways […]

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Easy Instant Pot Black Beans

Easy Instant Pot Black Beans

Beans are a frugal food, full of fiber and a good option for protein. Dry beans are cheaper than canned, but can be intimidating and time-consuming to prepare. These Easy Instant Pot Black Beans will transform your bean game. Pressure cookers and I have a long history. My mother and her mother before her embraced […]

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Sweet Potato Fries

Sweet Potato Fries

These Sweet Potato Fries are super simple make, and they taste great! Bake up a batch in about 30 minutes with no fuss or hassle. No waiting in lines, either. Sweet potato fries are practically ubiquitous in burger restaurants these days — at least in my neck of the woods. I can think of any […]

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Fajita Vegetables, Simple & Delicious

Fajita Vegetables, Simple & Delicious

Fajita vegetables, basic sauteed onions and peppers, add fiber and flavor to many dishes. Make a big batch to enjoy throughout the week in bowls, wraps, salads, and sandwiches. You might be familiar with Fajita Vegetables in terms of their showing up in a steaming, hot pan at your favorite Mexican restaurant or along the chow […]

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Hearty Gluten-free Meatballs

Hearty Gluten-free Meatballs

These hearty and naturally gluten-free meatballs will quickly become a favorite at your house! The combination of beef, pork, mushrooms, and scallions is full of flavor, perfect for dousing in tomato sauce or your favorite BBQ sauce. I love meatballs. There’s something so comforting about serving up a big pot of meatballs doused in flavorful tomato sauce […]

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Perfectly Poached Chicken (Stovetop and Instant Pot Directions)

Perfectly Poached Chicken (Stovetop and Instant Pot Directions)

Poached chicken is a pretty handy thing to have on hand. Tender, juicy chicken all ready to toss in salads, fold into sandwiches, or stir into casseroles? Here’s how to make it easily. Chicken is one of my favorite proteins to have on hand. It’s readily available and easy to find on sale, and its […]

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Asian Bowls: My New Favorite Dinner

Asian Bowls: My New Favorite Dinner

Asian Bowls are my answer to an easy, delicious, make-ahead dinner. You can mix and match the ingredients however you like — and it’s always amazing. This post may contain affiliate links which provide a means for me to earn fees linking to Amazon and other affiliate sites. A few months ago my friend Jessika […]

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Spaghetti Squash Jambalaya

Spaghetti Squash Jambalaya

Spaghetti Squash Jambalaya just may be one of my new favorite things. Hot and spicy with a touch of sweetness from the squash, it’s the perfect healthy supper. Craving something hot and spicy for supper tonight? Don’t want a lot of fuss to make it? Looking for something healthy and good for you? Look no […]

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Shrimp Bowls with Mango and Avocado

Shrimp Bowls with Mango and Avocado

Enjoy a quick and delicious lunch or dinner with these Shrimp Bowls topped with Mango and Avocado. So easy and so yummy! Imagine me taking pictures in the dark tonight, trying to capture this meal for you. My husband didn’t believe I could do it with such low light, but yes, yes, I did. 1. […]

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Barbacoa Beef for Tacos, Lettuce Wraps, Bowls, & Burritos

Barbacoa Beef for Tacos, Lettuce Wraps, Bowls, & Burritos

This Barbacoa Beef comes together quickly and easily in the slow cooker. The tangy, tender beef filling is perfect for tacos, lettuce wraps, bowls, and burritos. It’s that season again when you’ll start seeing chuck roasts and steaks go on sale. Do me a favor, and buy a few the next time you see a […]

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Best Ever Slow Cooker Pulled Pork (VIDEO)

Best Ever Slow Cooker Pulled Pork (VIDEO)

Looking for a simple yet flavorful way to cook pork? Combine a homemade rub with a cheap cut of pork and cook it slowly in the slow cooker for a fantastic filling for sandwiches, lettuce wraps, and tacos.

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What are YOUR favorite combinations in bowls meal?

Bowl Meals Tips and Recipe Ideas | Good Cheap Eats

About Jessica Fisher

I believe great meals don't have to be complicated or expensive. There's a better way, and it won't take all afternoon.

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Comments

  1. I love making chicken and rice/pasta and veggie bowls for lunch. They’re so easy to prep on the weekends, and you can change it up everyday if you switch the dressing or the veggies or seasonings.

    Plus I can eat them while working because getting a designated lunch time doesn’t usually happen here.

  2. I find myself with bowl meals at work by default. I package leftovers into a plastic container for work and by the time I’ve tipped it into a bowl in the office I have a bowl meal. I need to add sauce in future. That’s my missing ingredient.

    • My husband keeps oil, vinegar, and hot sauce at work with him since they are shelf-stable. Then he always has a sauce.

  3. Janet says

    My favorite bowl meal is the old fashioned Cobb salad followed by a taco salad without the tortilla shell. I like to include add tortilla chips and salsa instead.

  4. Karen J says

    I had the BEST breakfast last weekend while on vacation in Newport, Oregon and I am totally copying it into a bowl meal. Polenta on the bottom layered with black beans seasoned with cumin and ?, then melted shredded cheddar, a fried egg, and topped with salsa and avocado. OMG delicious! Could easily be for dinner.

    • That sounds really good. I’ve always gone Italian with my polenta, but it makes sense to go southwest. Will have to try that!

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