We get it—meal prepping can be a hassle. Whether you're not sure what to make or whatever you do make never tastes all that great (especially by day 5 of eating it), sometimes, it just doesn't seem worth it... until now. This cheap, easy bean salad is about to revoke all of the doubts you've had about meal-prepping. Customize it with the foods and flavors that you like most and eat it a number of different ways throughout the week. The possibiliites are endless with this hearty staple.
Mixed Bean Salad
Credit: Getty Images; Credit: PGoodie76

We need to have a serious discussion about meal prep, okay? Everybody knows that when you live a life that is sustained by wholesome, meal-prepping practices, you not only save your precious money and time, but you’re likely to be eating healthier, too. With benefits as lucrative and positive as these, why wouldn’t you prep your meals ahead, right? For most people that feel lost/confused/overwhelmed/unexcited/nauseated/terrified (or any combination of those feelings) by the thought of setting aside a chunk of time at the beginning of the week to make some kitchen creation that they have to commit to eating for several days… well, this level of commitment is reason enough to eagerly hop off that meal-prep train and head to the nearest hot food counter for lunch, knowing damn well straight that they’re paying for overpriced food. #sacrifices

If you are the person who wants to be excited about meal-prepping, but either doesn’t know how, or has never had a positive experience with it that warrants you submitting yourself to that torture again, allow me to introduce you to bean salad. It’s cheap, easy, endlessly customizable, so versatile, keeps well, and most importantly, DELICIOUS. What a fabulous list of qualities.

So, here’s how you make it. Start with a couple cans of your favorite beans (black, garbanzo, white, kidney), drain and rinse those suckers really well, and dump them in large mixing bowl. To this mixing bowl of marvelous meal-prep magic (as I like to call it), you will add all the things. Chopped celery, peppers, onions, carrots, cucumbers, corn, tomatoes, avocados—I can go on all day. Rip up whatever fresh herbs you’ve got lying around in the deep, dark corners of your refrigerator and toss those in, too. Scratching your head at a large pile of fresh fruit at the farmers’ market? Heck, this bean salad does not discriminate, so throw in those berries, melons, and stone fruits, too!* For added salty dimension, mix in a crumbly cheese like feta or queso fresco, if you and dairy have a good thing going. As far as a dressing to sew it all up together like the big happy family that it is, whisk together a generous guzzle of extra-virgin olive oil, a squeeze of citrus or vinegar, a squirt of honey, salt, and black pepper.

If you live a ~thematic~ life, you can even make this salad less of a “kitchen sink” situation, and more of an intentional flavor profile. For an Asian-inspired bean salad, incorporate lime juice, cilantro, sesame oil, fish sauce, and/or soy sauce. Top it with crushed peanuts or cashews like the wild nut that you are. If you’re craving a Southwest-inspired week of lunches, mix in corn, tomatoes, cilantro, avocado, jalapeños, and queso fresco. To achieve the perfect, Mediterranean-inspired salad, use feta, tomatoes, olives, cucumbers, fresh dill, and douse those beans in extra EVOO, just like the ancient Romans would want you to do.

Now that you’re fully equipped for the week with your bean salad, allow me to present to you the myriad of methods by which you can eat it to live your best bean salad life. While taking a big ol’ spoon and yamming on your salad straight from the bowl is a completely viable and legitimate option, you can also repurpose this salad in a number of ways. Top a piece of chicken, fish, or steak with it, toss it in a mess of hearty greens, serve it on top of plain Greek yogurt, wrap it up in a tortilla with some rice, or dump the remains in a soup or stew. Play whatever mind games are necessary to convince yourself that you, in fact, have not been eating off of the same bean salad all week. Because if you don’t realize it, then surely, nobody else will.

*For some people, this might seem like a really weird combination of sweet and savory that sounds extremely unpleasant. If that is you, I scoff at your poor life decision, but respect your choice to abstain from adding fruits to this kitchen sink bean salad. Do what you gotta do.

By Sara Tane and Sara Tane