Deep Mexico: Ingredient-Driven Mexican Meal Prep

Come along as we dive deep into Mexican food for a month-long cooking and eating adventure. We're calling it "Deep Mexico," a concentrated effort to combine three food shopping, meal planning and meal prep techniques into good eats and good fun. It's a whole new way to shop and cook.

This page is a brand-new addition to my popular series, How to Save Money on Groceries.
Deep Mexico, ingredient-driven Mexican meal prep, a new way to shop & cook ♥ incl what we cooked and learned plus pantry essentials and what to make first and often.

A Month-Long Experiment, A Deep Dive into Mexican and Mexican-Style Meals with a Focus on Pantry Shopping, Cooking with What We Have on Hand and Meal Prep.
Woman holding a plate of tortillas to illustrate Deep Mexico, ingredient-driven Mexican meal prep, a new way to shop & cook ♥ incl what we cooked and learned plus pantry essentials and what to make first and often.

Getting Food to our Tables.

It's a challenge for all of us, yes?

Even for those of us who l-o-v-e to cook, the fact is that we spend less time actually cooking than the more mundane chores of "figuring out dinner" and "getting groceries" plus the dreaded "cleanup".

It's not the cooking that wears us down, it's the planning, the shopping and the dishwashing.

It's no wonder that meal planning services, meal delivery services like Blue Apron and grocery home-delivery services are gaining popularity. (Ha! Who else notices that nobody but nobody is offering to do the dishes?! Well, restaurants, I suppose ...)

Every cook has his/her own system that works (or doesn't ...) in his/her own situation.

Here's what's working in mine plus our experience with our Deep Mexico experiment

Deep Mexico, ingredient-driven Mexican meal prep, a new way to shop & cook ♥ incl what we cooked and learned plus pantry essentials and what to make first and often.

Three Techniques That Might Help & Might Inspire.

For a couple of years, I have honed three strategies aimed at getting healthy, delicious food onto the table.

But first, I developed data to help me understand what was happening. Yes, I'm nerdy this way.

I actually tracked the time associated with meal planning + shopping + cooking + cleanup.

The shocker?

Shopping took more time than cooking and cleanup together!

And that's for someone who lives within a couple of miles of my favorite grocery stores and who has the time flexibility to shop during the week vs busy weekends.

#1 An Ingredient-Driven Pantry.

First I changed my whole grocery routine, after asking about your your pantry ideas.

BEFORE My home economist mother taught me (and all her students) to plan meals and then shop for what was needed.

AFTER I began to shop for and stock up on our personal "grocery store" of ingredients, the ingredients we use over and over again.

HOW IT WORKS Now we cook from what we have: much less goes to waste and much less time is spent wandering grocery aisles.

And I think like a chef, making sure that every ingredient in our household pantry, especially the shelf-stable ones, can be used in two or three or more different ways.

FOUR YEARS LATER This technique remains the bedrock of my food shopping and it's fundamental to shopping for groceries online for pickup or delivery because 95% of my orders are the same items, week after week. Space-wise, I still don't have a "pantry" per se but did open up a couple of strong shelves in a basement storage room, this really helps, especially for big items and heavy items.

#2 No More Weekly Meal Routines.

Meatless Mondays. Taco Tuesdays. Pizza Fridays. Saturday Soups. Sunday Suppers.

Some families simplify their meal planning by designating Mondays for vegetarian suppers, Tuesdays for tacos and so on.

This idea intrigued me so I tried it. But it just didn't work here.

It would be Monday and I'd have chicken from the weekend that needed to be eaten. Or it would be Tuesday but I wasn't excited about tacos because the corn tortillas I'd used the prior Tuesday had little bits of mold on them.

This form of meal semi-planning felt all hurry-up-and-slow-down and herky-jerky to me, with little flow or continuity from one day to the next.

I needed something better. Spoiler: Deep Mexico!

FOUR YEARS LATER We haven't yet repeated a Deep Mexico experiment (though I keep wanting to, probably with a different cuisine) but it's become second nature, cooking with what we have, no real need for meal planning.

#3 Lean Into Meal Prep.

Some cooks ease that just-home-from-work pre-supper scramble before weeknight dinners by doing "meal prep" on Sundays, everything from prepping vegetables to cooking a big pot of soup for the week to putting five days of lunch salads into mason jars.

Earmarking precious weekend time for meal prep isn't for me but I took the general concept to heart and made it my own.

A few months ago, I started my own "meal prep" routine by starting supper 30 or 60 or some times even 90 minutes before I "have" to start cooking in order to get dinner on the table.

And oh my, has this relaxed our rush-rush time before dinner.

I make salad dressing for the week. Or cook pot of quinoa. Or make granola.

The extra time means there's a few minutes to put chicken stock in canning jars or inventory spices or mix bread dough to rise overnight in the fridge or print the recipe for tomorrow's supper or clean out a sticky refrigerator drawer or ... or ... or ...

I might even fold a load of laundry or pour a glass of wine on the patio with my husband. That's a win!

FOUR YEARS LATER Allowing extra time for meal prep is so important! It's like a savings account, except that it's food not money set aside for tomorrow. It's tempting to "just bake cookies" or something sweet for meal prep but instead, I force myself to focus on savory foods, soups, salads, etc.

Deep Mexico, ingredient-driven Mexican meal prep, a new way to shop & cook ♥ incl what we cooked and learned plus pantry essentials and what to make first and often.

Enter ... Deep Mexico: Getting Started

And so almost on a whim, I proposed that we combine – and give hyper-focus to – the three concepts of an ingredient-driven pantry, a meal routine and meal prep.

My husband was enthusiastic and so we launched the cooking adventure we call Deep Mexico, a month-long dive into fresh, ingredient-driven Mexican meal prep, cooking and eating. It was great!

On Day One, we made a list of "Mexican" ingredients and went grocery shopping for vegetables and fruit, beans plus a few sauces.

Our local Walmart is more likely to have good-quality tomatillos and poblanos (for starters) so we spent $60 there, then another $20 at Sam's Club.

The fridge was p-a-c-k-e-d but the idea was that our groceries would last a week, feeding three people three times a day.

Deep Mexico, ingredient-driven Mexican meal prep, a new way to shop & cook ♥ incl what we cooked and learned plus pantry essentials and what to make first and often.

Why the Name "Deep Mexico"?

Deep Mexico is a family phrase of aspiration, no single place, no particular state, no particular time.

Instead Deep Mexico is a state of mind, an intense feeling of immersion and inspiration, whether we're at home making salsa or somewhere tucking into tacos.

A first taste, a first sip of good tequila or mezcal, even the hues of a sunset ... any one might just momentarily whisk our minds back to Mexico. The feeling can last a moment, an evening or even longer.

That ... is Deep Mexico.

And since we asked the ingredients, not cookbooks and not recipes, to drive our cooking, what ended up on our tables didn't always turn out to be authentic Mexican, maybe more, hmmm, let's call it Mexican-ish with pit stops in the American Southwest and Tex-Mex.

Deep Mexico, ingredient-driven Mexican meal prep, a new way to shop & cook ♥ incl what we cooked and learned plus pantry essentials and what to make first and often.

Deep Mexico Pantry & Shopping List

Nearly all of these ingredients are already familiar in most (and our) kitchens. But since Deep Mexico is a month-long adventure, we are excited to learn about and incorporate a few new ingredients too!

Avocados Bell Peppers Chayote Corn Green Beans Hearts of Palm Jicama Mushrooms Nopales or Nopalitos (Cactus Pads)
especially White Onions Radishes Spinach
Summer Squash
especially Tatuma (aka Calabacita)
Sweet Potatoes Tomatillos Tomatoes

Poblano Peppers (Ancho)
Anaheim/Chile Colorado (Seco Del Norte)
Chilacas (Pasilla or Negro)
Chile de Arbol (same)
Jalapeño (Chipotle)
Mirasol (Guajillo)
Serrano (same)
Chipotle Chiles in Adobo Sauce Green Chiles Salsa Verde

Canned & Dried Beans Hominy Lentils
Quinoa Cornmeal Rice Pepitas (Pumpkin Seeds)

Chicken Eggs
Beef Lamb Pork Lard Sausage
Fish Seafood
Crab Scallops Shrimp Tuna

Bananas Limes Mangoes Melons Papaya Pineapple Strawberries

especially cotija, queso fresco, queso Oaxaca & queso blanco
Cream Cheese Crema Sour Cream Yogurt

Tortillas Masa Masa Harina
Pasta (Fideo)
Coffee Chocolate
especially Mexican Chocolate
Piloncillo Cajeta Dulce le Leche
Evaporated Milk Sweetened Condensed Milk
Fresh Herbs
especially Cilantro & Epazote & Purslane
Dried Herbs & Spices
especially Mexican Oregano, Mexican Cinnamon (Ceylon vs Cassia), Whole Allspice, Annatto (Achiote, including Achiote Paste)

FYI I've linked the familiar ingredients to current Kitchen Parade and A Veggie Venture recipes: there are recipes there, not Mexican per se, but which can be adapted to fit our Deep Mexico vision. Regular readers will recognize the Pantry & Shopping List as a Deep Mexico-specific version of Recipes By Ingredient and for vegetables, A Veggie Venture's Alphabet of Vegetables. For anyone interested, there's also a cuisine-specific list of Mexican recipes.

What Have We Missed?
What Doesn't Belong?
What's Not To Be Missed?
Let Us Know Your Thoughts!

Deep Mexico, ingredient-driven Mexican meal prep, a new way to shop & cook ♥ incl what we cooked and learned plus pantry essentials and what to make first and often.

Deep Mexico Meal Prep:
What to Make First, What to Make Often

This is where "meal prep" steps in. Make any one and preferably several of these and you're all set for a Mexican feast.

The good news is, no one thing takes very long but the payoff is big. Much to my surprise, I'd already fixed on some of the very basics, even before launching the Deep Mexico project.

Creamy Slow Cooker Beans

How to Cook White Rice
Red Rice with Tomatoes (with Mexican-style spices, oregano, cumin, smoked paprika, say)

Recipes from A Veggie Venture, my food blog
Mexican Cauliflower "Rice"

Recipes from A Veggie Venture, my food blog
How to Roast a Pepper on a Gas Stove (for one or two at a time)
How to Roast Peppers in the Oven (for an electric stove or many at the same time)

Recipes from A Veggie Venture, my food blog
How to Roast Garlic

Quick Jalapeño Pickles

Best Quick Tomato Salsa (Red Salsa)
Avocado, Cucumber, Mango Salsa
Green Chili Sauce (Salsa Verde)
Blueberry Salsa
Strawberry Salsa with Sweet-Cinnamon Baked Tortilla Chips

Recipes from A Veggie Venture, my food blog
Roasted Nopalito Tomatillo Salsa
Slow-Roasted Tomato Salsa

Lime Crema

Recipes from A Veggie Venture, my food blog
Easy Salsa Dressing
Microwave Green Beans with Tomatillo Salsa Dressing

My Guacamole

Recipes from A Veggie Venture, my food blog
Avocado Dip
Homemade Guacamole with Tomatillos
Laura's Famous Chunky Guacamole

We sure thought about it. We sure tried it. We sure didn't get good at it.

Deep Mexico, ingredient-driven Mexican meal prep, a new way to shop & cook ♥ incl what we cooked and learned plus pantry essentials and what to make first and often.

What We Made: So Many Really Good New Recipes

During Deep Mexico, we perfected several recipes that are house staples, they're below. And frankly, four years later, I'm shocked by how many really good recipes had their genesis in Deep Mexico.

It just goes to show how "focus" and "productivity" go hand in hand. Honestly, I'm blown away.

So I definitely owe you (and myself) several more recipes that are "90% ready" for sharing here on Kitchen Parade. I'm on it!

~ Mexican recipes ~
Shrimp Veracruz, another one-pot Quick Supper ♥ Budget Friendly. Weeknight Easy. Low Carb. High Protein. Weight Watchers Friendly. Gluten Free.

Mexican Scrambled Eggs (Huevos Revueltos a la Mexicana), another healthy summer breakfast ♥ A Veggie Venture and the most popular eggs in Mexico according to Diana Kennedy. Simple & Seasonal. Low Carb. High Protein. Very Weight Watchers Friendly. Gluten Free. Whole30 Friendly.

Fried Egg Quesadillas, another easy summer breakfast ♥ Just Three Ingredients. Budget Friendly. High Protein.

My Guacamole, the restaurant-style house recipe ♥ Very Weight Watchers Friendly. Unusually Low Cal. Low Carb. Vegan. Gluten Free. Weeknight Easy, Weekend Special.

Spiced Pickled Red Onions ♥, a game changer for tacos, salads, eggs and more.

Best Quick Tomato Salsa ♥, 10 minutes start to chip. Budget Friendly. Low Carb. Vegan. Great for Meal Prep.

Jicama-Mango Salsa with Chipotle, another summer appetizer ♥, more smoky than spicy. Super Low Cal. WW Friendly. Raw. Vegan. Whole30. Gluten Free.

Lime Crema ♥, a simple way to upgrade tacos, quesadillas, enchiladas and more.

Deep Mexico Fruit Salad ♥, just summer fruit atop a mound of cottage cheese.
  • THE "RECIPE" Deep Mexico Fruit Salad A simple, summery fruit salad arranged in a pretty and symmetrical pattern around cottage cheese, so simple and surprisingly tasty.
  • ANOTHER TAKE Mexican Fruit Salad A light and simple fruit salad with a surprising mix of spices and fruits.

Mexican Cauliflower Rice, more Mexican meal prep ♥ A Veggie Venture.

Pinto Bean Salad, another Fresh & Flexible Salad ♥ Quick to Make. Low Fat. Low Carb. Weight Watchers Friendly. Vegan. Gluten Free.

Raw Mexican Street Corn Salad with Cauliflower Rice, another summer salad ♥ Weight Watchers Friendly. Low Carb.

Deep Mexico Carrot Soup with Tomatillo & Lime ♥ A Veggie Venture, colorful soup served hot or cold. Low Carb. Weight Watchers Friendly. Vegan. Naturally Gluten Free. Whole30 Friendly. And ... delicious!

Mexican Salsa Bread ♥, easy homemade bread with a kick, just salsa and spices.
Deep Mexico, ingredient-driven Mexican meal prep, a new way to shop & cook ♥ incl what we cooked and learned plus pantry essentials and what to make first and often.

Deep Mexico: What We Learned

I love the take-aways from projects! So here's what we learned from our Deep Mexico project.

  • Deep Mexico was a really fun couples cooking project – and my elderly father, who lived with us at the time, found it a fun eating adventure too! My husband and I were a good balance: he's a capable, intuitive cook, rarely making the same thing twice; I'm a devoted recipe cook aiming for simple, reproducible results.
  • It was a great way to get out of a cooking rut.
  • Poke into a little Mexican market for inspiration and specific grocery items. Our closest has fresh nopales!
  • If you already have an arsenal of Mexican recipes, lean on them. A project like Deep Mexico is supposed to be fun, not all-consuming.
  • Try one or two new recipes a week or only on the weekends or ... whatever works for you.
  • We already had enough of a base so loved adding to our existing recipes, often making them several times during the month to perfect them to our taste. Now they've become staples!
  • So for new recipes, it does pay to focus on the kind of dishes you'd be happy to make again and again. Think like a chef. If your family loves fish tacos, working on perfecting fish tacos.
  • Buy lots – lots! – of cilantro!
  • Schedule a taco party! Show off what you're working on!

More Ideas for Similar Experiments

Four years later, my husband and I are still talking about Deep Mexico. We talk about doing it again, but haven't. I think about using the same techniques for another project but haven't (yet!) pulled the trigger.

Some ideas:

  • Deep Vietnamese
  • Deep Finland (I kinda did this before Christmas last year)
  • Deep Ukraine (as I'm updating this page in 2022)
  • Deep Stir-Fry
  • Deep Dried Beans
  • Deep Leafy Greens
  • Deep Vegan
  • Deep Dinner Salads
  • Deep ... and so on
Deep Mexico, ingredient-driven Mexican meal prep, a new way to shop & cook ♥ incl what we cooked and learned plus pantry essentials and what to make first and often.

About the Photos

All the photos were taken by me in Mexico.

The main image at the top was taken in Puerto Vallarta, grandkids and pseudo-grandkids at sunset on the beach.

The remaining images were taken in Oaxaca, a foodie paradise. (I wrote about our time there, including a cooking school, in Chayote Soup with a Kick and Mexican Mango Trifle (Ante de Mango).)

As an aside, on the Oaxaca trip, I did exactly what you're not supposed to do and packed a brand-new camera. But I had such great luck with what was that Nikon D90 (affiliate link), I literally opened the box the night before leaving and read the user manual on the airplane.

I set it on automatic and clicked away. I loved the pictures from that trip!

Bookmark! PIN! Share!

How do you save and share favorite recipes? recipes that fit your personal cooking style? a particular recipe your mom or daughter or best friend would just love? If this Deep Mexico concept is intriguing, go ahead, save and share! I'd be honored ...

Deep Mexico, ingredient-driven Mexican meal prep, a new way to shop & cook ♥ incl what we cooked and learned plus pantry essentials and what to make first and often.

Kitchen Parade is written by second-generation food columnist Alanna Kellogg and features fresh, seasonal dishes for every-day healthful eating and occasional indulgences. Quick Suppers are Kitchen Parade favorites and feature recipes easy on the budget, the clock, the waistline and the dishwasher. Do you have a favorite recipe that other Kitchen Parade readers might like? Just send me a quick e-mail via How to print a Kitchen Parade recipe. Never miss a recipe! If you like this recipe, sign up for a free e-mail subscription. If you like Kitchen Parade, for more scratch cooking recipes using whole, healthful ingredients, you're sure to like my food blog about vegetable recipes, too, A Veggie Venture. If you make this recipe, I'd love to know your results! Just leave a comment below.

© Copyright Kitchen Parade
2018 & 2022

Alanna Kellogg
Alanna Kellogg

A Veggie Venture is home of "veggie evangelist" Alanna Kellogg and the famous asparagus-to-zucchini Alphabet of Vegetables.


  1. I love this concept, even if I feel a little overwhelmed Looking forward to seeing where this takes us.

  2. Linda ~ Oh dear, I do so hope to “un” overwhelm you with a couple of super-simple recipes in short order here. You’re a cook, right? We’re finding it super simple to let the subset of Deep Mexico ingredients guide what we cook -- even for me, a “recipe” cook, I’m totally inspired. Stay tuned!

  3. I’ve done something similar to this many times, though usually for 7-10 days. In addition to helping with meal planning and prep, I think it’s more economical than eating from all over the globe weekly or even daily. Additionally there’s some evidence that you eat less when variety is limited which may help prevent weight gain or possibly lead to weight loss.

    I got the idea when I read this: Weeks and weeks of meals

    Late last year I found Batch Cooking. You make a sauce, a grain, a protein, a salad and some veggies, then mix and match with some other additions. Nourished Planner Batch Cooking Basics

    I’ve found these basic dishes combined with tortillas can make a large variety of meals.


  4. Sally ~ Very thoughtful additions, thank you! I can definitely see moving to a 7-10 day variation, especially for cuisines we’re less familiar with. And I’m so intrigued by the connections to grocery expense (and likely food waste too) and weight loss. The links are super interesting ... thanks for chiming in!


Post a Comment

Thank you for taking a moment to write! I read each and every comment, for each and every recipe. If you have a specific question, it's nearly always answered quick-quick. But I also love hearing your reactions, your curiosity, even your concerns! When you've made a recipe, I especially love to know how it turned out, what variations you made, what you'll do differently the next time. ~ Alanna