For some of you, I know that’s a dreaded question – especially in the middle of the week. And, that’s totally understandable! Sometimes you simply find yourself in a lets-just-order-takeout rut. When you come home after a long day, the last thing you want to do is cook!
Never fear. You can make life easier by doing a little prep on the weekends to figure out a couple of healthy meals that will give you a delicious and well-planned answer throughout the week to the question: what’s for dinner?
Here are five steps to help you answer the question: What’s for dinner
1. Make sure you have some basic ingredients on hand for dinner.
Check out my post about pantry essentials to help you cook more at home. Keep those items stocked in your kitchen so that weekdays are spent cooking rather than shopping (followed by cooking).
2. Choose two “compass” ingredients for dinner.
These two ingredients you will use to set the direction for your meal planning. There are a couple of ways to decide on your compass ingredients:
• Take a quick look at your pantry, fridge, and freezer. Which ingredients would you like to incorporate into your meals this week? For example, this week I found a couple of cans of garbanzo beans that became one of my two compass ingredients.
•If you head to the grocery store, try to find what’s on sale. For example, chicken thighs were on sale this week, so they became my second compass ingredient.
3. Choose two different dinner recipes that will stem from your compass ingredients.
You can do this a number of ways:
•Look ahead to your schedule for the week and figure out if there’s an evening that gives you 30-40 minutes to cook. If you have that time, find a recipe with your compass ingredient that takes that time. If you DON’T have the time, choose a slow cooker recipe to have ready when you walk in the door instead. For example, I made chicken thighs in the slow cooker for my mid-week meal this week.
• Identify other ingredients you might have on hand that could complement your compass ingredients. Do a web search for both of those ingredients. For example, I had extra carrots on hand as well as garbanzo beans. So, I found a recipe for garbanzo beans and greens that included both of those ingredients.
4. Next, determine how you will use the dinner leftovers from each recipe.
If you can transform one meal into another with minimal effort, you can get two meals out of one original recipe! For example, I served the chickpea recipe with farro one night, and then the chickpea recipe with whole grain tortillas the next night. AND for my chicken thighs, I served chicken with roasted zucchini on the side one night, and then the next night I served it with a green salad.
5. Pick one night to take it easy at dinner.
Now that you have four meals planned, take it easy for your fifth meal. You can keep it simple by serving whole grain pasta with jarred sauce (make it low sodium and no sugar), cooking breakfast for dinner, making sandwiches, or simply warming up a bulk meal you have in your freezer.
How do you answer the question: What’s for dinner? Let me know in the comments!
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