Slacker-Friendly Meal Planning

February 27, 2014

Slacker-Friendly Meal Planning

I have always wanted to be one of those amazing people who plan all of their meals in advance, cook it on Sunday, and are all set for the rest of the week. Alas, the idea of planning a bunch of fancy meals & cooking them from scratch all in one day just seems way too overwhelming. I have, however, picked up a few little tricks so that I can minimize the amount of planning & cook time and still have everything prepped for the next few meals.

Before I share my tips & tricks, I want to state a few disclaimers:

I am NOT a nutritionist, dietician, or professional chef. I don’t really measure things & I can’t guarantee how a recipe will turn out if you decide to quadruple it or substitute ingredients. The point of this post isn’t about the exact recipes, it’s about the idea behind them: Meal-ti-tasking (pretty proud of myself for that one). It’s the lazy chef’s guide to meal planning, and it basically means that you’re connecting or piggy-backing your recipes so that you can use the same base to create a bunch of different meals.

Meal Planning Tips

On to the tips!!

Tip #1:

Pick your protein base, and cook a big batch of it on your prep day. Then just make sure the rest of your meals include that type of base (all meals might be beef one week, all meals chicken the next, etc.).

Tip #2:

Choose easy recipes. Dump & go, minimal assembly, etc. I also don’t really cook a bunch of side dishes — we are happy with a salad & our entrée.

Tip #3:

Choose recipes that have similar ingredients & seasonings so they can “piggy-back” or connect to each other. Then, you can just use the leftovers from one meal to get a head start on creating the next one.

Here’s What I Do:


I love cooking Mexican-inspired meals because I never get sick of the flavors & their spicy goodness works for breakfasts, lunches, and dinners. I cook up a big batch of taco meat (sometimes I use ground beef, sometimes ground turkey, and my vegetarian sister-in-law swears by Quorn Grounds). Seasoning can vary, too — sometimes I make my own taco seasoning, and sometimes I buy the McCormick (or store brand) taco seasoning packets.

Then, I use that meat as a base for a bunch of different (easy!) meals: Taco Quiche, Breakfast Burritos, Taco Salad, Taco Chili, Taco Bites, and Bean Dip. If I want to stretch my meals out to last an entire week, I’ll freeze some of the meat & thaw it mid-week so that it doesn’t go bad.

You can assemble all of your meals at once & have it prepped in advance, or you can just work on them as you go — either way, it’s quick & easy!

Sample Meal Plan


Taco Salad: Toss the meat & whatever toppings you want onto lettuce.

Taco Bites: Put a spoonful of meat & shredded cheese into a wonton wrapper, fold it closed (like a triangle), top with some shredded cheese and bake at 350 until crispy (usually 10-15 min).

Taco Chili: Dump taco meat, kidney beans, cheese, and tall jar of salsa into a crock pot. Add more taco seasoning if desired. If I don’t have a whole bottle of salsa to dump in, I’ll use a can of Campbell’s Home Style Light Southwestern soup.

Bean Dip: Dump taco meat, cheese, salsa, refried beans, and any leftover chili into a dish. Mix together & microwave or bake until warm. Eat with tortilla chips.

Taco Quiche: Place an unbaked pre-made pie crust in a baking dish. Blend together eggs & cottage cheese (cottage cheese is optional). Pour on top of crust, add any cheeses, bell peppers, extra meat, etc. & bake according to pie crust directions. This one’s a great one to make ahead of time, and it’s yummy cold or warm!

Breakfast Burritos: Scramble a few eggs & roll them into a tortilla with the taco meat and any leftovers from the bean dip or chili.

All of the flavors and ingredients mix & match, so it’s easy to incorporate leftovers without feeling like you’re eating the EXACT same meal over & over. You don’t have to buy a bunch of different stuff since all of the ingredients are pretty similar, and the recipes are REALLY fast to assemble — since all of the meat is ready to go, you can pretty much dump the rest of the ingredients & have a meal ready in no time!

How do you save time with your meal planning? Share your shortcuts in the comments below!



For more from Casey, visit her at her blog, Pretty Organized.

My name is Casey, and I live in a sweet, tiny little house in Delaware with my hubby & our two adorable rescue dogs. As a longtime fan of Toni's phenomenal organizing skills, I am absolutely THRILLED to be a contributor for A Bowl Full of Lemons! I used to be a total mess, but after I let go of the idea of “perfect,” I found freedom. I stopped trying to fit the mold, learned how to make organization work with my natural habits, and have been obsessed with creative organizing solutions ever since! When I'm not drooling over the latest amazing project features over here, you can find me happily tinkering away on my own blog, Pretty Organized, where I share my addiction to aesthetics, small space storage ideas, DIY projects, and all things aqua! Learn more about Casey at

13 comments on “Slacker-Friendly Meal Planning

  1. Recently, I’ve been trying to plan ahead our meals (and shopping). While I agree on most of your tips, I believe that eating beef of chicken whole week is not proper nutrition (no offense intended).
    The way we’ve manged to do so far is acompany every dinner (it is the meal we eat most often together) with a hearty fresh salad. Salad can be put together easy and quick, contains many vitamins and fibers. Protein can be involved in the salad, too – chicken meat (ot turkey) or some seeds, like sesame, pumpkin or sunflower seeds, kinoa, amarant.. The main course is either prepared from the night beafore or is something that can be assembled in 30-60minutes from chopping board to dish, lika pasta, rice with vegetables, or something with meat – in such case the meat is usually pre-cooked from the weekend.
    Main thing is to involve everybody in the dinner preparation. Kids can tear some lettuce leaves and toss the salad, for example, arrangle the table; hubby can stir the rice/pasta or heat up leftovers.

    Ann C.

  2. These tips are great! It’s one of my goals this year to get better at meal planning.

  3. Ginny says:

    It’s amazing that you posted this today because today I just rolled out the EXACT same philosophy in a weekly menu plan! It’s called the “No Plan” menu plan that includes one prep day of work for the whole week. It has 5 dinners and a grocery list with a max of 20 ingredients. I hope people check it out – it saves a ton of work!

  4. ZoeAnn Yussman says:

    Thanks Toni! I am a “meal planner wannabe”- just can’t seem to make it happen. I do have a great recipe for chicken: I throw 3 or 4 boneless chicken breasts in the crock pot with one packet of taco seasoning mix and a whole jar of salsa. Really … that’s all you put in! Turn on crock pot for 8 or so hours and VOILA… the meat falls apart. We use it for taco’s, salads, or nachos. This is my only make ahead and stretch recipe- I would love to hear about more!!

  5. Marianne L says:

    I have a basic ground beef mixture that’s quite versatile, too. It’s just ground beef, chopped onion, tomato sauce (1 small can per pound of beef), salt, pepper, garlic powder and chili powder. I use as is for tacos, add to cooked pinto beans for a very mild but tasty chili; add dried basil, more garlic powder, another can of tomato sauce and cooked macaroni for goulash; and more chili powder, another can of tomato sauce and cooked rice for Spanish rice. You can also use it as the base for a marinara sauce for any pasta you choose.

  6. Kelsey says:

    Very helpful post, Casey. Thank you!

  7. Thanks Casey! You made meal planning EASY, going to give this a try 🙂

  8. Catherine says:

    For ages I just couldn’t get it together to meal plan every week. Out of desperation I sat down one day and admitted to myself that trying to prepare a fab-o gourmet meal every night was just not going to happen in this season of our lives and I needed to just be able to feed everyone every day. Nobody else was as concerned as I was with repeating some meals every now and then (or even weekly). So, I put together a 4 week menu plan using all our old favourite meals (adding in 3 breakfast and lunch options so we aren’t eating the same lunch day in, day out as well). I generally stuck to a rule of 1 stir-fry/asian meal, 1 mexican meal, 1 roast dinner, 1 slow cooker/skillet meal and 1 easy one-pot meal. I added in a couple of baking and snack items each week to have on hand. I made them up into cute little lists and hung them from a hook on the side of our fridge. I just write my shopping list referring to the lists and knowing what I already have on hand. Now my husband can check the list and get started if I am busy as well. I will have to blog about it soon – I was waiting to see if it would work for us first. I think it is working because I don’t need to meal plan every week which I dreaded doing. Even though we haven’t followed it religiously and still keep things like frozen fish fillets on hand for those nights we just can’t get to it, it has definitely taken away the ‘4 o’clock dread’ feeling!

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