Your 7-Day Dinner Plan: Big-Batch Chicken + 7 Recipes for Using It

Make meal prep simpler (and save time!) with this handy shortcut.

If you've seen all those neat little boxes of pre-cooked and pre-portioned foods all stacked in tidy little towers in fridges on Instagram, you understand the pressure to devote a big chunk of your precious weekend to chopping and roasting and slicing and stirring to get your week's meals in order. And meal planning and prepping are fantastic, but let's be real: you don't always (or ever) have the time to make your fridge look picture-perfect like that.

But! There's another way. And if you've never really meal prepped before, it's a great first step. Are you ready? Listen up.

Just cook ONE big batch of a versatile main ingredient. That's it. Just one. And then plan out different ways you can use it throughout the week. A protein is a great go-to; having already-cooked protein means you're most of the way there towards a quick, nutritious meal.

To get you started, we begin with the most popular of proteins: chicken. Seasoned simply (making it even more versatile) and cooked in a slow cooker, this recipe makes twelve servings and you don't even have to babysit it as it cooks. If you have a big slow cooker (and a big family, or you really love chicken), feel free to double the amount you make. Once it's cooked, the options are endless and it'll keep in the fridge for about five days.

From Japanese to Chinese to Mediterranean flavors and everything in between, this simple chicken recipe can be your gateway to the easiest meal prepping ever. Here, we've used it to whip up quick burritos, pizzas, noodle bowls, a stir fry, a salad, a soup, and a cauliflower rice bowl.

And when you're ready or so inclined, you can begin adding to your meal prep repertoire beyond the one protein. Maybe you'll want to add some roasted mixed vegetables or a handy dandy vinaigrette that acts as sauce and salad dressing. Or maybe you won't. And that's okay too.