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Meal planning may seem like a lot of work, but it can actually save you time in the long run. Having a plan can save you money on groceries, reduce your food waste at home, and help you eat healthier.
Planning in advance, checking what you have, and making a shopping list will ensure you always have what you need and use up what you have.
We tapped into PlateJoy, a digital meal planning app, to create a simple and easy meal plan to get you started. These recipes rely on pantry staples you can keep on hand and are flexible enough to substitute ingredients when you don’t have time to grocery shop.
This collection of five easy dinner recipes, one breakfast, and one lunch can be followed as is or used to inspire you in the kitchen. Happy cooking!
Recipe: Speedy Huevos Rancheros
This quick savory breakfast has the right balance of protein, fiber and heart-healthy fats to keep you feeling full and fueled until lunch.
Mix up the flavors by trying a salsa verde or a fruit-based salsa, like pineapple or mango. If you don’t have black beans, you can substitute pinto or kidney beans.
This recipe for Speedy Huevos Rancheros is a quick morning meal but also makes an easy and 10-minute dinner.
Recipe: Quick Rice & Bean Burritos
If you’re prepping lunches for on the go, this recipe is great to add to your rotation. It’s easy, portable, and even freezable.
The burritos can be made in advance, wrapped tightly in plastic or foil and frozen for up to three months for easy grab-and-go meals. The recipe is intentionally simple, so it works for a wide range of dietary preferences.
Jazz up your burritos by adding cheese, avocado, hot sauce, or some chorizo (veggie chorizo works too). Get creative with your favorite flavors and what you have on hand.
Recipe: Quick and Easy Vegetarian Black Bean Soup
This recipe is perfect for whipping up at the end of the week when the fridge is looking bare. Just four simple pantry ingredients are needed to make the soup, but a few fresh toppings will bring it to the next level.
We recommend sour cream and green onions, but chopped red onion or chives are also delicious. You can also substitute Greek yogurt in place of sour cream and serve with sweet potato chips for a little crunch.
Recipe: Quick Chicken Fried Rice
We know leftovers can be a drag, but this recipe helps make them shine again! If you have leftover rice, chicken and vegetables, you can make this family-friendly meal in under 10 minutes.
Rotisserie chicken from last night and takeout rice from the weekend? No problem. Toss in some frozen veggies, and dinner is almost done. If you’re more of a planner or love to meal prep, you already know pre-cooked grains and proteins make meals a breeze.
Pre-mixed frozen veggies work well if you’re in a rush, but you can also reduce waste and save money by using up whatever fresh veggies you have on hand — just plan a little more time for chopping.
Recipe: One-Pan Glazed Chicken & Cabbage with Rice
Comfort food that’s delicious, healthy, and ready in just over 30 minutes? Sign us up.
Chicken thighs and thick wedges of napa cabbage are roasted with a savory, spicy glaze until crispy and tender. Keep the leaves of cabbage together by cutting through the main stem, and roast with the chicken to let the cabbage soak up some of the juices.
Simple and flavorful, you can serve this chicken and cabbage duo over rice or noodles or make it a lower-carb meal with steamed cauliflower rice.
Recipe: Moroccan Baked Eggs with Turkey and Simmered Greens
Eggs are often thought of as breakfast food, but they make an easy and inexpensive choice for dinner too. This unique dish can spice up your dinner routine and deliver a huge protein punch at the same time.
Traditionally made with ground lamb, we substitute ground turkey for a healthier (and more affordable) version that still leans on the flavors of Morocco for inspiration.
If you don’t have kale, any dark leafy green can be used: collards, chard, or spinach are great alternatives. To use frozen spinach, thaw and drain well before adding. A little extra liquid is fine, but too much will make the eggs watery.
Recipe: Chana Saag Over Rice
Chana saag is a combination of chickpeas (chana) and spinach (saag) stewed in a curry sauce. This recipe adds crushed tomatoes and coconut milk for a rich, creamy sauce that balances the strong spices.
If spicy foods aren’t your thing, skip the cayenne and opt for a mild curry powder.
Using dried spices is a great way to add lots of flavor to a dish. Buying dried spices can be expensive, but there are ways to save. Look for a store that carries spices in bulk so that you can buy just what you need.
Check if there is an ethnic or international grocery store in your area — these stores often have fresher spices at a lower cost and carry a wider range of package sizes.
Meal planning doesn’t need to be stressful, rigid, or require you to spend all day in the kitchen on a Sunday. Having some easy dinner ideas, plus a few breakfasts and lunches for the week, can help you easily make a shopping list and stick to your cooking plan.
If you’re looking for more help putting meal plans together, consider signing up for a meal-planning service like PlateJoy.