One of the most influential tips I ever received as a "mom-manager" was to start meal planning!
This practice has saved us tons of time, money, and headaches! But it can also feel tedious and daunting to think of delicious, healthy meals that each member of your family will love, week after week.
We want to use all those delicious healthful foods without eating the same things night after night. We also want to reduce food waste, so our hard-earned dollars turn into satisfied tummies, trimmer wastes, and healthful glowing skin and not a stinky fridge drawer.
I've got your back!
*First and maybe the most important tip is to pull out all of your meats on Saturday or Sunday to defrost in the fridge over the week. If something is still a little frozen, sit it in a cool tray of water the day of and it should be ready by dinner time.
1 & 2. Sunday Night Sheet Pan Chicken Doubled
Sheet pan dinners are a favorite of mine! They are versatile and enable cooking LOTS of food all at once. We use a sheet pan dinner for a meal that FEELS fancy but doesn't require the fancy preparations. You can use whatever hardy veggies you have on hand and change the flavors up by adding or removing oils, vinegars, citrus juices, and seasonings. Enjoy a fancy FEELING dinner on Sunday evening, or whatever evening you have a little more time (They do usually require a longer cooking time) and toss some ingredients in two pans.
*Spatchcock or part out your chickens to reduce cook time and check temp in the thickest portions of the breast and thighs. 165 degrees at least. Dustin prefers his chicken a little more done so I usually aim for 170ish. Luckily, pasture-raised chicken doesn't dry out like standard store stuff so it's much more forgiving when left in the oven a bit longer.
*Fresh in Season Veggies will always be the best accompaniment to a beautiful pasture raised chicken
*Keep cut up pieces of veggies uniform to ensure they cook at about the same rate
*Serve with a fresh salad if you are able or top with a sprinkle (or handful) of microgreens. Raw greens are so good for you and will make your meal feel more complete.
*Be sure there is plenty of moisture in your mixture to allow veggies like carrots or potatoes to cook through without burning on the bottom.
*Start reheating your second pan for night number 2 while the oven temperature is rising or zap it in a microwave, steamer, or air fryer by the plate.
Check out this link for chicken sheet pan recipes for inspiration
3. Chicken Soup
Time to put those leftovers to work! This works great in the crock pot or instant pot but if you have time to spend at home before dinner a good old-fashioned stockpot works fantastically too.
Another super versatile meal with the same roasted chickens that fed your family for the last two days. This can be chicken noodle, chicken and vegetable, chicken lentil, chicken and potato... chicken and whatever soup! Check out these recipes for a little guidance:
*We use a mesh strainer or a pasta strainer with cheese cloth to separate the bones, meat, and broth. Slotted spoons can work well too.
*Sautee your veggies, aromatics, and spices in oil or butter to keep spices from floating on top of the broth.
*Add an acid, fresh herbs, and some fat for serious flavor. I like to squeeze a lemon in basic chicken soups, add a swirl of olive oil or a cheese rind, and toss in whatever fresh herbs I have on hand. Using butter AND oil in your sautéing creates layers of flavor.
* Coriander, Cumin, Rosemary and Thyme are some powerhouse spices for soups. Give them a try!
**Have someone who enjoys soups less in your home? Select hardier veggies, potatoes or pasta, and serve theirs with less broth!
4. Pot Roast
Most families have a GO-TO pot roast recipe. We have used some fancy recipes with dredging, and browning, and red wines in the past, but I most often opt for simple and easy and am never disappointed. I toss a whole roast in the crockpot with olive oil, potatoes, onions, carrots, and garlic. Then add a couple bay leaves and sprinkle in a handful of spices. Last, I add beef broth to cover about half of the meat and call it a day!
In the instant pot, cut the roast into four sections first and place the meat on a silicone basket before topping with the veggies. Repeating the same steps used for the crock pot version.
Sometimes we pull out the potatoes and mash them with milk and sour cream and sometimes we don't.
A fresh salad really balances out the warmth of heavy comfort foods and is never a bad idea.
Check out these 20 different pot roast recipes for a version that your family will love
*Replace canned broths, soups, or store-bought mixes with simpler homemade versions or a mixture with fewer and cleaner ingredients. Usually, the homemade mixes are a snap to throw together with ingredients that most of us keep in our pantries.
*Try tossing some zestier microgreens on top of a hot bowl of pot roast for a one dish meal that hits all the spots.
5. French Dip Sammies
Another great way to repurpose leftovers.
Check out this recipe or heat up your leftovers and jam them in a roll with some provolone or cheddar and call it a night. You can probably even wrap these in paper towels and eat them on the way to football practice, dance lessons, or the PTA meeting you've been meaning to get to...someday.
Bonus points for greens between the delicious layers of bread and meat.
*Toast, Bake, or Broil your choice of bread to keep it from getting soggy.
*Caramelized onions or leftover onions from your roast are an excellent addition.
*Pop your sandwiches, topped with provolone, under the broiler until the cheese is bubbling!
6. Flatbread Pizzas or an antipasto salad
After a week of very Fall-ish comfort food. You may be ready for something lighter or maybe pizza night is calling. One of our favorites meals on these nights is flatbread pizzas. Our version consists of olive oil, crushed garlic, uncured pepperoni, fresh basil, and cherry tomatoes with a sprinkle of mozzarella and parmesan. It's light and so satisfying.
Try this dough recipe to make your own flatbread, then instead of baking as a whole, use wet hands to squish handful sections flat and prebake until lightly browned. Not ready for any dough making? Grab some Naan or flatbread from the grocery store and enjoy an evening of less cooking!
Ready for a delicious fresh salad instead of (or with) your pizza? An antipasto can be super fancy or pretty straightforward. My favorite route is to cut up cubes of mozzarella, olives, uncured pepperoni or salami, and a gardenia mix (we prefer spicier varieties). Toss it all together with your favorite lettuce mix and some microgreens.
*If you're feeling adventurous add a jar of four bean salad. The high fiber beans will eliminate the need for a slice of pizza all together.
*The vinegars from the gardenia mix or bean salad eliminate the need for salad dressing but feel free to add your favorite light Italian dressing or oil and vinegar.
*Sprinkle salt, pepper, and oregano for flavor without the added dressing.
7. Burritos or leftovers
Depending on the size of your family, your fridge may be stuffed with leftover by now. If I were you, I'd enjoy a Saturday night of easy leftovers and a cozy movie date with the hubs on the couch. If not, it's a great night to make a big batch of burritos! Freeze or refrigerate the leftovers for super easy lunches all next week. This can be a fun hands-on family activity too! Mix up a big bowl of filing and make an assembly line in the kitchen. In our house it looks like this: One person spreads sour cream on tortillas, a second person sprinkles cheese on the sour cream, a third person loads up the filing and rolls them up! Then Mom or Dad tosses them on the griddle (because grilled burritos are next level delicious!)
Favorite filling options:
*Leftover beef roast and red enchilada sauce makes, what we call, red beef and is an excellent burrito filling with beans, sour cream, and cheese.
*Southwest chicken burritos are a favorite in our house and allow you to cram tons of veggies in the mix! This recipe is pretty close to how we make our filling for a base, then add whatever veggies tickle your fancy. I'd suggest bell peppers, jalapenos, cilantro, and green onions; yum!
*Make a simple "refried" bean burrito filling by cooking pinto beans in the instant pot until soft (about 45 minutes for a pound of dried beans) and blending with an immersion blender. Add seasonings to the water before cooking and mix the blended beans with sour cream.
*Use cultured or raw sour cream for lots of probiotics for gut health!
*Add a few tablespoons of vinegar from pickled jalapenos to your bean mixture for tons of surprising flavor!
*Place a divider between burritos before freezing. Parchment paper, foil, or a paper towel work great!
Feel free to follow this weekly meal plan in its entirety or select a few options and add them into your dinner routine! As always, choosing locally produced, pasture-raised, pesticide and antibiotic free ingredients will make all the difference in the taste, nutritional content, and satiety (full stomach feeling) of your meals!