How much energy do you put into deciding what to feed your family every night? “What’s for dinner?” is a question that can be daunting to even the most devout home chefs.

Add to that long days at work, after school activities, and trying to avoid eating at 10PM, and anyone would choose takeout over heading to the kitchen … that is, unless they have a plan.

Believe it or not, cooking at home can be just as fast as dialing for delivery, and it’s way more tasty, too. All you need is my simple formula for (mostly) make-ahead meals that will make weeknight cooking a snap.

Batch & Prep + Pantry Power =

A Week of (Mostly) Make-Ahead Meals

The idea is to do some prep work and cook a big batch of something substantial on the weekend, and combine that with some simple pantry staples into a week’s worth of delicious, unique dinners all week long.

Batch & Prep

Your big batch meals should simply seasoned so they are easily adaptable for different dishes through out the week. This is what you cook ahead of time. Great ideas include:

  • Grilled Chicken Breasts or Boneless Skinless Thighs
  • Roast Pork Loin, Grilled Pork Tenderloin, Slow Cooker Pulled Pork
  • Grilled Shrimp
  • Broiled Flank Steak
  • Poached or Grilled Salmon
  • Marinated Grilled or Seared Tofu

For the prep, chop some veggies to have on hand so you can easily toss them into dishes raw, or quickly cook them up as sides or additional components to dishes. These you’ll prep, thenstore to use later. Great ideas include:

  • Diced Onions
  • Sliced Peppers
  • Sliced Mushrooms
  • Julienned Carrots
  • Shredded Cabbage
  • Broccoli Florets
  • Baby Spinach
  • Sliced Zucchini

Tip: Is your schedule too packed to cook or do the prep work? Try grabbing pre-cooked entrées like rotisserie chicken and opt for pre-cut veggies from your favorite grocer.

Pantry Power

These staples have a long shelf life and allow you to make tons of different tasty meals. Keep a kitchen inventory list so you can replace items as they’re used.

Dry Goods: pasta, cous cous, rice, canned beans (black, kidney, chick peas), chicken broth, olives, cans of diced tomatoes, marinara sauce, pre-made stir fry sauces, roasted peppers, BBQ sauce

Fridge: whole wheat wraps, pre-baked pizza crust, hummus, pesto, shredded cheeses, parmesan, feta and/or goat cheese, vinaigrettes, eggs, salsas

Freezer: tortellini, corn, edamame, peeled deveined shrimp (defrost under running water in minutes when you need them)

Mostly Make-Ahead

Here we go! Here are 9 different ideas for mostly make-ahead meals you can make using our simple Batch & Prep + Pantry Power formula. I’ve used sliced grilled for the example, but feel free to play around with a variety of basic big batch items. Toss a handful of your favorite veggies in each option and enjoy playing around the with various combinations.

Simple Stir Fry  = Sautéed Veggies + Stir Fry Sauce + Grilled Chicken. Options: serve over rice, cous cous, or noodles, add edamame

Hearty Soup = Chicken Broth + Beans + Canned Tomatoes + Pasta or Rice + Grilled Chicken + Veggies. Options: garnish with shredded parmesan or pesto for Italian; add frozen corn and salsa for Mexican

So Easy Wrap = Whole Wheat Wrap + Hummus + Veggies + Chicken. Options: add drained roasted peppers, olives, shredded cheese and/or drained rinsed beans.

Pizza = Marinara or Pesto + Sautéed Veggies + Shredded Cheese + Chicken + Pizza Crust. Options: swap BBQ sauce, corn & beans for Tex Mex.

Fiesta Quesadilla = Whole Wheat Wrap + Shredded Cheese + Sautéed Veggies + Chicken. Options: add beans or salsa.

Chef’s Salad = Baby Spinach + Veggies + Shredded Cheese + Chicken + Beans + Vinaigrette. Options: add feta, goat cheese, roasted peppers and/or olives.

Pasta Night = Sautéed Veggies + Chicken + Marinara or Pesto + Tortellini or Dry Pasta . Options: add parmesan or roasted peppers.

Mediterranean Cous Cous – Chick Peas + Cous Cous + Roasted Peppers + Chicken + Feta + Vinaigrette. Options: add olives and/or sautéed veggies.

Frittata = Sautéed Veggies + Eggs+ Shredded Cheese. Options: add roasted peppers, use feta or goat cheese, or top with marinara, salsa, or pesto.

Have fun trying out the different combinations and be sure to let me know what you come up with!

Here’s to healthier, happier eating!

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