The only reason I am able to cook dinner for my whole family is by meal planning. I’m not good at looking in the fridge and throwing things together to make a complete meal. I’m obsessed with the show Chopped but would never be able to do what those chefs do. I do have a process on how I plan out what to cook each week and thought I would share that today!
The first thing I do is look at my week and figure out how many meals I can realistically make. I almost never cook on the weekends (those are my ‘fend for yourself days’ or we order pizza). I try to cook 4-5 nights a week, but that’t not always possible. When I first started doing this I was still working long days then working at night too, so obviously I wasn’t making dinner for those nights. So first thing is figure out how many nights I will be home to actually have time to cook.
Also by looking at my schedule for the week I can see how much time I’ll have for each meal. Now that I’m home many days I can take the time to cook something that might take some time. But if I’m working certain days, I’ll try to pick 20-30 minute meals. I know after a day at work I do not have the energy to spend all night in the kitchen.
Each week I try to have one chicken dinner, one turkey, one pork, and one meatless. (I don’t eat beef so that never makes the menu. But I will look at ground beef recipes because I can substitute ground turkey.) I usually have one or two meals that I’ve been meaning to make, so those go on my dinner schedule first. Then whatever kind of meal I’m missing I look for.
At this point, I have a few go-to recipes that I use for fillers. If I need a pork meal for that week and I can’t find one I want, I make this Pork Tenderloin. If I can’t find a new chicken recipe that I feel like trying, I’ll make this Jalapeno Popper Chicken. When I can’t find a new meatless/pasta dish for the week, I usually end up making a big, fancy salad for dinner.
I use Pinterest for many of the recipes I use. Honestly, how did we live before Pinterest? I also have a million cookbooks. I really like Sandra Lee’s Semi Homemade 20 Minute Meals. Normally I’ll skip over a recipe if there are too many ingredients or mostly ingredients that I don’t already have. I try to pass on recipes with too many steps. I really prefer simple and easy recipes.
Hopefully some of the things I do to plan out each week will be helpful! It doesn’t always work. Some weeks we end up eating a lot of pizza! I also try to plan one night for leftovers, since we almost always have some. The only problem is that my family does not like leftovers. I hate wasting food, so I basically end up forcing them by not cooking anything else!
- olive oil
- 1 lb ground turkey
- 15 oz tomato sauce
- 2 cups salsa
- 2 cups elbow pasta
- 1 diced tomato
- 1 cup corn
- 1 can black beans, rinsed
- 1/2 cup shredded cheddar cheese
- 1/2 diced avocado
Cook pasta. Meanwhile, cook ground turkey in olive oil over medium-high heat. Stir in tomato sauce and salsa. Add tomato, corn, and black beans. Toss in cooked pasta. Add in cheddar cheese and cook until cheese is melted. Serve topped with avocado.