When you take the time to draw up a weekly meal plan before hitting the grocery store, you can save time and money. And that’s not all: Good planning can help you arrive unflustered at your kids’ soccer or baseball practice, squeeze in more hours on the patio and reduce food waste, too.
You can whip up these tasty dishes in just 30 minutes or less. Some can even be made ahead or partially prepped so they’re ready even faster – perfect after a long day.
Make a list
Planning ahead is a great way to curb impulse purchases and ensure you aren’t buying food items you already have. Once you’ve decided on your meals for the week, check your pantry to see what you’ve got on hand. Next, make a detailed grocery list – including quantities – and then organize the list by grocery store department. Consulting store flyers is key for taking advantage of bargains, too.
Cook once, eat twice
Look at ways to get the most bang for your buck, such as prepping and cooking ingredients that can be used in multiple meals. For example, buy and roast a whole chicken and portion it out to use in various recipes. (Use refrigerated cooked chicken within four days or freeze for up to a month.) Or use leftovers from dinner – think grilled vegetables or meat – in wraps or a pasta salad for the next day’s lunch.
Another easy way to use up your leftovers is a “kitchen sink” salad: Go through your fridge and toss together lonely items in your crisper with some fresh greens, leftovers such as shredded chicken breast or cooked grains, and even crunchy cupboard items, including crumbled corn chips or crackers.
Tip: Don’t dress a family-sized salad in the bowl. Have everybody pour vinaigrette on their own helpings so that any leftovers stay crisp and fresh for the following day.
Our Monday-to-Friday dinner plan will help you get started.
Monday: Grilled Chicken & Easy Lemon-Herb Sauce with a side of mixed greens
To save money, buy a whole chicken and use only the thighs and drumsticks in this dish. Cut your time by buying a family-sized bag of mixed greens.
Make ahead: The Lemon-Herb Sauce can be made in advance. Set aside the portion of the sauce to be used for salad dressing, and then add the chicken to the remaining marinade and refrigerate it until you’re ready to cook.
Tuesday: Savoury Pork Chops with Grilled Apples and potato salad
Simplify your weekly fruit shopping by buying a five pound (2.2 kg) bag of apples, using some for these pork chops and saving the remainder for other meals. For example, grill apple slices and then mash them – skins and all – using a food processor or potato masher to make purée for breakfast, as a topping for plain yogourt, pancakes or waffles. Buying a prepared potato salad also drastically cuts prep time.
Make ahead: Have leftover potatoes? Try our Fully Loaded Potato Salad recipe to make good use of them.
Wednesday: Tequila Lime Habanero Chicken Kabobs with rice
Use the leftover breasts from Monday’s whole chicken. Make extra rice: It can be topped with leftover meat and veggies (and a side of dressing) for lunch the next day.
Tip: Keep the chicken carcass to make stock for soup and gravy. Freeze the carcass (wrapped in tinfoil and placed inside a sealed bag) if you can’t use it immediately.
Make ahead: Kabobs can be put together a day in advance and refrigerated until you’re ready to barbecue them.
Thursday: Chili Steaks with Iceberg Wedge Salad
These steaks take minimal cooking time, and you can use up the leftovers in wraps the next day – just add strips of sweet pepper, lettuce leaves, shredded carrot, cilantro and an Asian-style condiment or dressing.
Make ahead: Steaks can be seasoned the day before and kept in the fridge.
Friday: Italian Bean Salad with Tuna and Artichoke with mixed greens
Use up the greens from earlier in the week and add this budget-friendly bean salad. You can drain and rinse an additional can of beans and prep some extra diced red onion, capers, olive oil, lemon juice and herbs, and then blend these ingredients with plain yogourt for a lunchtime dip to serve with veggie sticks.
Make ahead: This bean salad can be made a day or two in advance. Add the mixed greens just before serving.