Build-a-Bowl Meals!

If you need a quick go-to meal for your midweek slump (or any-day slump!), look no further.

As I mentioned in my meal planning post for on-the-go eating, the easiest way to approach dinner when you’re well and truly stumped, is to stop thinking in terms of names.

You know, “I need to have Spaghetti Carbonara” or “I need to have Mushroom Risotto”.

Dishes with names require recipes and that can all get a bit much when we’re busy and rushing around, right?

In these moments, I just turn to my Build-a-Bowls.

Copyright to The Guiltless Life

A bowl with bulgur wheat, lentils, steamed veggies and peanuts in a peanut satay sauce.

Build-a-Bowls take the guesswork out of successful meal making. They just follow the formula I laid out in my meal planning post:


Boom, dinner is served. How?

Well, you can cheat a bit. I sure do.

At the supermarket, I stock up on jars of lovely, tasty delightful sauces. Peanut Satay cooking sauce, Butter Chicken cooking sauce (it hasn’t seen a chicken yet, I promise!), Teriyaki sauce…and so on.

Then I build my bowl!

Copyright to The Guiltless Life

A bowl with brown rice, steamed veg and cannellini beans tossed in a teriyaki sauce.

I cook up a whole grain once a week – this week it was bulgur wheat. (COMPLEX CARB)

Then I cook up some lentils for the week, or I crack open a can of chickpeas or beans. (PROTEIN)

I stockpile my fridge with delish veggies like broccoli, cauliflower, carrots, mushrooms, peas…whatever you wish. (VEGETABLE)

And then I build my bowl…putting the grain on the bottom, topping it with veggies, and finishing off with my protein. I toss everything in the sauce du jour, and voila. My bowl is built, and my meal is complete.

Give Build-a-Bowl Meals a go next time you’re stumped on what to cook or what meals to plan.

And then take all that time you saved and go buy some fro-yo for dessert ;).


  • An interesting survey came out tracking the most popular foods and beverages in Canada. The winner was coffee – apparently we drink more than 8x as much coffee as any other country (even the States!). I was blown away by that. Maple-flavoured goodies, Subway sandwiches, naan bread, raspberries and waffles were some of the others in the top 10. What would you expect the most popular food in your country to have been? (If you’re in Canada, were any of these surprising?)


  1. I love throw together meals as well. My current fav is steamed brown rice, with broccoli, cauliflower, carrot and a can of sardines. I top is off with this fab tahini sauce and dinner is served!!! As for food survey…I would expect coffee to be quite popular in Australia as well, but wouldn’t have a clue what else would be popular as we are very multicultural.

  2. this is a really, really great idea. i always have carbs, protein, veggies – and even sometimes combine them in one bowl – but it often seems boring. tying everything together with a delicious sauce is a great idea. i love the indian simmer sauces and don’t buy them nearly enough…

    plus, thinking this will come in handy when the boyfriend moves in (ahh!) soon and i will probably need to make more legitimate weekday meals. 😉

  3. Happy Wednesday!

    I love the name build a bowl meals! You should do a weekly feature, have one every week!

    Hmmmmm I am not sure what a favorite food would be here! Maybe fast food something I am sure, Oh starbucks for coffee I am sure!

    • Hehe thanks love, maybe I should patent the name ;). I can get a bit boring and have the same thing over and over but I may do reminder posts about the idea every now and then with all the different variations I’ve had recently. Thanks for the idea!!

  4. Awesome ideas!!!

  5. Love the build-a-bowl idea! As for coffee being #1, that surprises me too! But then again, we do have Tim Hortons…and Canadians go pretty crazy for that stuff (personally, I prefer Starbucks!)

  6. one bowl meals are some of my favorite 🙂
    I usually have pasta for mine – on a gnocchi kick right now.

  7. I practically live on meals like that. The possibilities are endless. Sometimes, when I don’t feel grainy (lol), I’ll roast up some potato cubes (or sometimes pan fry them) and use that as a base instead.

    I bet donuts are pretty high on the list in the US. Coffee is probably up there, too, though. And meat. My gosh, this country eats a lot of meat! (Not me, of course).

  8. Hmmm, I’m in the states, so I’m going to guess steaks or burgers are fairing well on the list. haha As for veggie bowls, I love them. They’re as easy or complex as you want to make them. Mine last night was pretty easy, and I’m happy to have the leftovers again tonight!

  9. Sam @ Fit for my Fork says:

    I am really surprised Canadians drink more coffee than the States! But then, when you have Tim Horton’s, why not?
    The build-a-bowls look delicious! 🙂

    • Haha I know, I never got the Tim Hortons thing but a) I’m not a huge coffee drinker (can’t handle the caffeine but love the taste!) and b) I’ve only ever lived in Vancouver where it’s just not as big a deal. At least not until you get out into the suburbs, and even then I think Starbucks is more of a favourite!

  10. great post hunnie! 😀 I love meal-in-a-bowls! 🙂 yours looks so good babe!

  11. I love the idea of this Anna, so convenient, simple and a perfect way to have a nice and healthy meal! I know my mum would like something like this, I am goign to share the idea with her 🙂

  12. Brittany @ Itty Bits of Balance says:

    You know, I’ve never even thought twice about the concept of putting names to my meals– but it is SO true! If you go into a meal thinking “I need to have THIS, THIS, and THIS”, it’s very unlikely that you will come out of it satisfied each and every time. I love this bowl idea, and would ESPECIALLY love it with a big glob of hummus or tahini as a topping 😀

  13. You’ve definitely inspired me to search for some new sauces to leave in the fridge. Build-a-Bowl is a great idea! I’m always trying to use up leftovers, and that would be perfect for this. Hot sauce has been the only real sauce I’ve been using and I’m in need of some more variety.

  14. Our local school district had meal planning information very much like this. It’s such a terrific way to use up the food in your pantry and provide your family with a healthy meal.


  1. […] Be more prepared with my meals – did that […]

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