I’ll admit it – I consider 99% of the meals I make to be weeknight meals. I’m not a fancy cook, and I rarely use fancy ingredients. I don’t even like to roast chicken because the only times I’ve tried, I never cook it all the way through (obviously I need to work on that.)
What I do have on my side is experience and repetition. I cook dinner (either on the stovetop or in the CrockPot) most nights of the week, if not all of them. Paul and I go out to dinner sometimes, but it’s an occasional indulgence.
I started doing weekly meal plans about three years ago, and it’s long become second nature. At this point, it would be more work – and more stress – for me not to meal plan. When I first started out, I’d regularly have to stop at the grocery store on my way home from work to pick up an ingredient or two that I’d missed. No longer. Now I grocery shop once a week, or sometimes once every-other week (which is fantastic because while I enjoy making dinner, I dislike grocery shopping).
Thanks to meal planning, I know exactly what I’m having for dinner every night (with enough flexibility to switch the days around as needed). All of the meals listed below have been made by me on a weeknight after work.
Note: I do buy meat like chicken, pork, and ground turkey in bulk, chop it up, and put it into meal-sized portions in the freezer (a 2-lb bag of chicken breast already pre-cut into bite-size pieces, for instance). Having the meat already cut saves a ton of time when making dinner during the work week.
Many of these meals link back to the original authors. Whenever I link to a blog post that’s not my own, I’ve listed any adaptations that I make while cooking.
Just like with the CrockPot meals I posted, these were all made gluten-free (with brown rice and/or brown rice pasta noodles), but they don’t have to be.
These meatballs are so, so, so good — I find myself wanting to make them once a week (I don’t, but I could).
Changes: 1) I don’t add green onions or kaffir lime leaves; 2; Use regular coconut milk instead of light (I also use the full can because the meatballs don’t have enough sauce otherwise).
Changes: 1) I use 1.5 lb ground turkey; 2) Use minced garlic rather than grated; 3) Don’t add green onion; 4) Cook broccoli slaw for a bit in the hot pan (after cooking the burgers) to soften, instead of serving it raw.
#4: Cuban Picadillo
Changes: 1) I use 1/4 cup organic cane sugar instead of 1/2 cup (for the candied walnuts); 2) Don’t pre-toast the walnuts; 3) Substitute white wine for the Chinese rice wine; 4) Use arrowroot powder instead of cornstarch; 5) Don’t add scallions.
#9: Chicken Taco Salad
I link to the Pioneer Woman’s recipe here but the ingredients can be put together any way you wish. My husband likes her Ranch/salsa/cilantro dressing, so that’s why I linked to this version in particular.
My favorite ingredients are: shredded green leaf lettuce, diced chicken (cooked with homemade taco seasoning), red bell pepper, olives, and guacamole.
I limit my corn intake but Paul doesn’t, so he adds corn kernels (I use frozen corn that’s reheated in advance) and corn tortilla chips to his plate.
#13: Citrus Carnitas
This takes about an hour and a half to cook on the stove, but I wanted to add it here because I made it for the first time not long ago (for my husband and in-laws) and it was a huge hit. The ingredients are simple but the flavor is outstanding.
#15: Yum-Yum Fish Stew
#17: Thai-Inspired Salmon
Changes: 1) I don’t add lemongrass; 2) Use full-fat coconut milk instead of light; 3) I double the amount of red curry paste it calls for because I like the extra flavor.
#18: Chana Masala
#20: Thai Quinoa Chili
Changes: 1) I used a full can of coconut milk, 4 cups veggie broth, 2 tsp curry paste, 2 cans kidney beans, and 1 cup quinoa; 2) Didn’t add optional ingredients.
Changes: 1) I usually double this recipe because I like to have leftovers; 2) Use chicken broth instead of vegetable; 3) I’ve substituted canned black olives for kalamata in the past and it turns out just fine.
Optional: I’ve added black olives and fresh spinach to this and loved it.
Changes: 1) Use 6 cups of chicken broth; 2) I add a 28-oz can diced tomatoes (undrained) instead of the smaller/drained can it calls for; 3) Only added one onion instead of two; 4) Used brown rice pasta (spiral shape) instead of regular pasta.