Almost everyone we know is busy. Busy with school, work, kids, family, commuting, sports…the list goes on and a busy week usually includes hectic schedules. While Mr. W and I don’t have a crazy schedule to adhere to, we do find our nights fill up fast with different appointments, dinners and plans. Because of this, I started doing some meal planning for the two of us as it ensures we will have a homemade meal and instantly takes the pressure off when it comes to the big question, “What’s for dinner?”
However, I have found that meal planning demands a bit of creativity to avoid eating the same meals over and over again. We try to switch things up during the week the best we can, but it always depends on what we picked up at the store and what might be on sale (to keep within the budget). But at the end of the day, I find we have 5 staple meals that work well just for the two of us and can apply to bigger groups if we happen to have people over for dinner during the week. These meals can obviously be cut in half or doubled depending on your group size and work great on the weekends, as well as the week days. We also find these meals stretch over two days in most cases which makes lunches a bit easier when you’re in a hurry!
- Chicken, Broccoli & Cheese: This one is a favorite of ours that has been in rotation for a long time in our home. I think that is because it’s easy to make, makes great leftovers and it tastes delicious! I also love how you can add your own twist on things depending what you have hanging out in the fridge and the cupboards. Now, I have not taken the time to photograph and write-up my own version of this dish, but due to wonderful Mr. Google I have found a pretty spot on copy of how I make it at home. Check out the copycat recipe here. The only changes I would make is to cook your rice separately (so you can have the casserole over the rice), use fresh grated cheddar and layer your cheese for extra cheesy goodness.
- Taco Rice Bowls: This is a new favorite in our house as it’s basically a deconstructed burrito with layers of yummy, fresh ingredients that really only take about 30 mins from start to finish. Make a big pot of your favorite rice, prepare ground meat of some sort (we love beef or turkey), cut up vegetables such as tomatoes, lettuce and peppers and lastly, make some dip for the topping such as guacamole/salsa or sour cream. Also, you can’t forget shredded cheese as it tops of this dish perfectly. Once you throw your rice in a bowl, layer on the meat/veg, the cheese, the dip and serve!
- Breakfast: This one might be a no brainer, but sometimes people forget that breakfast can be eaten at any meal and might even taste better when you have it for dinner! We love having bacon, eggs and toast for dinner when the mood strikes as it’s easy and still nutritious! If you’re looking to add in some veggies, consider whipping up an omelette as your egg portion to sneak in some healthy goodness. This is great for those nights where you don’t want to think about dinner and need something in a hurry.
- Veggie Pasta & Homemade Sauce: We recently discovered that pasta isn’t a one fits all kind of situation anymore. I was finding that after we cooked white or even whole wheat pasta that we both would feel heavy and like we had eaten too much. So in light of that, I went searching for some healthier alternatives and I wasn’t disappointed with what I found! We love to cook up a big pot of vegetable pasta and homemade sauce for an easy dinner night, even throwing in some homemade meatballs for added protein. The options for the pasta are endless as you can get black bean pasta, edamame pasta or vegetable pasta which contains lots of great items such as beets, broccoli and squash.
- Meat & Veg: Last but not least, we love to have a simply dinner of meat and veg, as it’s nutritious and easy to make when we’re on the go. This is a great time to pull out the BBQ if you have one and get cooking! We love to do steak, chicken or pork and pair it with a vegetable side depending on what’s on sale or in season. For example, lately because of the summer months we have been doing a lot of grilled corn on the cob or fresh kale salad. Another great option would be zucchini or potatoes grilled right on the barbecue as you will get a smoky flavor you won’t find anywhere else. Get creative and use this as an opportunity to try new vegetables to find out what you love!
For meal planning, I use this great worksheet I found online at The Creative Savings Blog, check it out here and start planning your meals to take the work out of weeknight dinners.
Now, go eat all the food.