How one basic meal can transform into many weekly meal options — and leftovers!
By Sarah Remmer, Registered Dietitian
Photo © Julie Van Rosendaal, Dinner with Julie
Mar 8, 2018
Now that I’m a mom of three, I find that I’m so much more efficient than I used to be. And with each child I’ve had, my efficiency has gone up exponentially. Where a trip to the grocery store used to take an hour or more, now I can tackle it in 20 minutes. A workout pre-kids used to mean an hour-long trip to the gym complete with cardio and weights, but now it's an intense 15-minute HIIT workout at home with a toddler playing at my feet. Whether it’s with work, household tasks, exercising or even socializing, I find that I can get a lot more done in a shorter period of time, and multitask like a pro. Can anyone relate?!
Where I find this mom power especially beneficial is in the kitchen when I'm planning and preparing meals. Gone are the days of experimenting with complicated recipes and obscure ingredients. Now are the days of easy 30-minute, one-pan meals that my kids will actually eat. And there are always lots of leftovers, which is pure gold. While leftovers are awesome, they’re even better when they’re repurposed into a whole new, nutritious and super easy meal that your family will love.
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Here’s my secret: I triple or quadruple the amount of meat (or other protein) in your meal at the start of the week, and use it for the rest of the week (or freeze for meals down the road). I know it sounds simple, but it will save you so much time. And, to be honest, your sanity.
When I take the time to defrost and cook meat, poultry or fish, I always cook up way more than we need, because this step is always the most time-consuming. And why not maximize my time and effort to save on it later? Even if I’m making a meatless dish, I’ll cook extra eggs, lentils or beans — I'll cook more than I need for one meal, and then make a plan of how I’m going to use them in future meals during that week.
Here are some examples.
Meal #1: Barbecue chicken breasts, broccoli and quinoa (make lots of everything, especially chicken)
Meal #2: One-pot southwestern quinoa skillet (makes great leftovers, too!)
Meal #3: Chicken and veggie quesadillas
Meal #4: Barbecue chicken pizzas with salad
Meal #5: Healthy chicken fried brown rice
Meal #1: Lean ground meat tacos (make triple or quadruple the meat that you need)
Meal #2: Taco Salad with lettuce, tomato, cheese, crushed taco shells
Meal #3: Weeknight burrito bowls (make extra for leftovers)
Meal #4: Taco pizzas with veggies and salad
Meal #5: Baked pasta
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Meal #1: Over-medium eggs (make lots!) with toast and fruit
Meal #2: Egg, tomato, avocado and cheese wraps with salad
Meal #3: Homemade BELTs: bagel, egg, lettuce and tomato grilled sandwiches
Meal #4: A classic breakfast sandwich!
Meal #5: Healthy veggie and egg fried rice (It's easy to riff on this fried rice recipe!)
Meal #1: Salmon, asparagus and whole grain pasta
Meal #2: Homemade salmon burgers with salad
Meal #3: Salmon salad sandwiches, raw veggies and dip
Meal #4: Homemade fish tacos with coleslaw
Meal #5: Parchment salmon
See what I mean? With a little pre-planning (and maybe some bulk shopping), making extra meat (or meat alternative) in one meal at the start of the week can save you time, money and decrease stress by taking the most time-consuming and stressful step (defrosting and cooking meat) out of your dinner prep.
What’s your most useful meal planning tip?!
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