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.
On to the tips!!
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.).
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.
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 www.prettyorganized.com.