Meals for a Week

Turn one night's cooking into a week's worth of great meals.
Meals for a Week

There's nothing worse than coming home for dinner hungry, looking in the fridge and realizing that there's nothing ready to eat. Yes, you have chicken and peppers for stir-fry but the chicken's frozen and the peppers are not yet cut up. And that steamed shrimp and broccoli you never finished last week looks a little, well, off. Hmmm … time to get organized.

Putting Pen to Paper
Although it takes a bit of foresight, creating a weekly shopping list and corresponding meal plan can save you time and money in the long run. The key is to think large – as in a whole roasted chicken – and then determine how you can make use of the leftovers. For instance:

  • Buy or roast a whole chicken. Remove the skin and carve enough slices for dinner accompanied with the vegetable of your choice and some rice. Cube the rest for no-fuss chicken stir-fry the next night and chicken-topped pizza later in the week.

  • Purchase enough lean ground turkey breast to prepare turkey burgers for Monday night, turkey tacos for Wednesday and a ground turkey lasagna that you can freeze for the week after that.

  • Vegetarian options are easy, too. Either make a bean-based vegetarian chili or purchase a canned, low-fat one. Enjoy it topped with low-fat shredded cheese and a handful of crudités one night, stuffed into a burrito the next and as nachos (made with baked chips) the following evening.

Scaling Back on Kitchen Time
This time-saving concept can be applied to vegetables as well. While you're dicing onions and peppers for a salad, cut some into strips for fajitas so you can minimize prep work and cleanup time later in the week. When tearing up lettuce for a salad, make sure to shred some for nachos, too. And if you're prepping broccoli for a stir-fry, clean and cut a few extra bunches for Cream of Broccoli Soup. Double the soup recipe, freeze extras in pint-sized containers and serve it with a store-bought vegetable burger for an easy "fast-food" meal.

"Batching" your food by cooking technique is another time-slashing tactic. If you're grilling fish, why not grill a big tray of vegetables, too? Enjoy some of the veggies with your fish, stuff some into a pita with feta cheese for lunch and use the remaining vegetables as a filling — mixed with canned beans — for very veggie burritos on another day of the week.

Or, tag team recipes that call for the same oven temperature. You have to heat the oven and stick around while your lasagna cooks anyway, so consider baking a casserole as well. They're both big enough dishes to yield several meals this week and possibly a future frozen dinner or two.

Stocking Up on Staples
In all cases, don't overlook convenience foods. Shredded low-fat cheese, frozen stir-fry vegetable mixes, and poultry and meat that is pre-cooked or at least pre-marinated, can save you a ton of preparation and clean-up time. Keep these items, plus basic staples like eggs, canned beans, canned broth, canned tuna, instant rice, pasta, tomato sauce, salsa and fat-free tortillas on hand so your weekly grocery trip is not a three-hour ordeal.

Once you're stocked up, give our sample menu a try. It is centered around a roast chicken, lean ground beef, broccoli, peppers, lettuce and tomatoes.

Monday: Roasted chicken, salad (lettuce, tomatoes, broccoli, peppers), Cream of Broccoli Soup

Tuesday: Ground beef soft tacos topped with lettuce and tomato, baked chips and salsa

Wednesday: Chicken stir-fried with broccoli and peppers, instant brown rice

Thursday: Pasta Primavera (peppers and broccoli) with cubed pieces of chicken, lettuce and tomato salad

Friday: Homemade pizza topped with lean ground beef, Cream of Broccoli Soup

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