Cook Once, Eat All Week: Easy Meal Plan

Dedicate a little cooking time on the weekend to quickly prepare nutritious meals throughout the week. Follow our advice, tips and recipes for wholesome dinners, every night.

woman carrying bag of groceries

Plan ahead and buy groceries for the entire week to enjoy healthful homemade meals every night.

Photo by iStock

Content Tools

The key to easy, healthful homemade meals every night? Planning ahead. With efficient use of time and ingredients, you can repurpose meal components without feeling like you’re eating the same thing every night. In this sample plan for a week of dinners, each meal works its way purposefully into the next. With a little prep over the weekend and in bite-sized chunks throughout the week, these nutritious, from-scratch meals require only about half an hour per night.

Menu for the Week

These recipes are designed to feed a family of four. Scale them up to feed more or make extras for the freezer, if you wish. The plan makes every possible use of a food, sparing ingredients and grocery dollars from going to waste.

Sunday: Roast Chicken and Vegetables with Brown Rice
Monday: Vegetable Stir-Fry
Tuesday: Rosemary Chicken Salad Sandwiches with Raspberry Vinaigrette Side Salad
Wednesday: Stracciatella Soup with Classic Caesar Salad
Thursday: Chicken and White Bean Chili
Friday: Vegetable Lasagna with Kale Salad

See Slideshow for a complete shopping list for this meal plan.

Cooking Plan

Saturday
Besides grocery shopping time, your prep on Saturday should take about an hour.

• Buy groceries

• Prepare greens for easy use during the week: Rinse and dry spinach; rinse, dry and roughly chop Romaine; rinse, dry and trim kale of stems. Stack and roll up kale leaves into bundles of 4 or 5 leaves, slice bundles into 1⁄4 -inch ribbons and finish by chopping everything a few more times. Refrigerate greens separately in containers with damp towels.

• Complete Steps 1 and 2 of Roast Chicken and Vegetables recipe.

• Wash and slice 6 ribs of celery to make about 2 cups thinly sliced celery. Refrigerate sliced celery in a lidded bowl of cold water. Roughly chop 4 more ribs of celery, including leaves, and place in freezer container dedicated to stock ingredients.

• Peel and mince cloves from 1 head of garlic, cover with olive oil and store in the fridge.

Sunday
Sunday will be your main cooking day, and active cooking time could be close to a couple of hours, depending on how much time you have to begin preparing recipes for the week. All of the cooking here is flexible, and can be done in pockets whenever you have time.

• Roast chickens and vegetables (Steps 3 and 4). Meanwhile, make a double batch of basic brown rice to use tonight and tomorrow.

• After dinner, save leftover vegetables as follows: eggplant, winter squash and zucchini together; bell peppers, mushrooms and onions together in a freezer container with diced mushroom stems; carrots with stock ingredients; all remaining vegetables together; and rice in its own container. Refrigerate these leftovers until needed throughout the week.

• Remove remaining skin and meat from chickens. Chop meat into bite-sized pieces and freeze. Save skin separately if desired. Add chicken carcasses and bones to stock container in the freezer.

• Freeze or refrigerate remaining chopped chicken.

• If you have time, make and refrigerate Rosemary Chicken Salad. Or you can mix it up Monday or Tuesday.

• If you have time, you could also make Homemade Chicken Stock.

Monday
Dinner should take about 15 minutes.

• Cook Vegetable Stir-Fry for dinner.

Tuesday
Making dinner should take about 10 minutes. Soaking beans takes just a minute.

• Assemble Rosemary Chicken Salad Sandwiches.

• Make a side salad with the spinach (about 1 cup per person) and raspberry vinaigrette.

• Soak beans for Chicken and White Bean Chili (Step 1). You can also do this Wednesday.

Wednesday
Making dinner will take about 20 minutes. Getting the chili started for Thursday and the kale marinating for Friday will take just a few minutes.

• Follow Steps 1 through 3 of Stracciatella Soup recipe, then let it simmer.

• Meanwhile, make Classic Caesar Salad.

• Finish soup and eat with salad.

• On a back burner or after dinner, follow Chicken and White Bean Chili recipe through Step 2, then cover soup pot and refrigerate.

• Remove half of kale from refrigerator and follow Step 1 of Kale Salad recipe.

Thursday
Finishing the chili will take no time at all. Building lasagna for Friday’s dinner is the most labor-intensive recipe in this weekly meal plan, so we’ve broken up the steps to make it easier to manage.

• Finish Chicken and White Bean Chili for dinner.

• On a back burner while chili is warming up, make Famously Easy Tomato Sauce. Once it’s set to simmering, make Classic Béchamel Sauce. Keep sauces warm on back burner, or cover and refrigerate.

• While chili is simmering or after dinner, build Vegetable Lasagna, cover with foil and refrigerate. If you’ll have more time in the morning, build and refrigerate lasagna Friday morning.

Friday
Building the lasagna takes about 10 minutes; you can do this up to a few days before or right before cooking. The lasagna takes about an hour to bake.

• In the morning, follow Step 3 of Vegetable Lasagna recipe.

• After work, cook lasagna (Step 4).

• Serve lasagna with Kale Salad topped with whatever you have left from the week such as Parmesan and Caesar dressing; or toasted almonds with a raspberry vinaigrette

erins
11/6/2015 8:40:45 AM

I am sure you could probably alter the recipes a little to be vegetarian. I am doing this meal plan this week and it makes SO much food especially the first night I didn't have enough room in any of my pans to cook even half of the roast chicken and veggies. Everything you can leave the meat out easily except the roasted chicken and veggies....with that recipe just cover the veggies with olive oil and salt and squeeze the lemon on top, cover and cook about the same time frame. TA-DA! 😉


dmc146
10/23/2015 10:20:58 AM

I think this is great but suppose you can't eat chicken, beef or pork products? My husband considers himself a pescatarian so I need a meal plan that has a vegetarian plan. IS there any way in the future to incorporate that into meal plans? Not everyone eats meat or chicken. I know the majority does but hopefully there can be other otions.