5 Easy, Delicious Dinners for Meal Plan Beginners
I've been sharing my weekly meal plans here on Kitchn for over a year, and between reader comments and our Meal Plan Club Facebook group (have you joined yet? Click here!) I've really come to understand that every person who meal plans has ups and downs.
We talk often about what recipes give us our mojo back or the recipes we reach for when we don't actually want to cook, but this week's meal plan is for anyone who is new to meal planning and needs a place to start. The dinners are easy, use some similar ingredients (to cut down on prep and shopping), and are so delicious they'll prove that meal planning truly is the secret to stress-free weeknight dinners.
Welcome to This Week's Meal Plan
I believe meal planning is the secret to stress-free weeknight dinners. Since I'm frequently asked by friends and family what I'm cooking for dinner each week, I share my weekly meal plan here. Whether you're just learning to meal plan and looking for a real-life example of how this works or you're an old pro on the hunt for inspiration, here's a peek at how I'm feeding my family this week.
New to meal planning? Start here.
This is a recipe I make so often I no longer need the recipe for, and it's worth you memorizing too. The ingredients are all pantry staples and it cooks up in one pot in just 15 minutes. It's unfussy but totally swoon-worthy and will make you so glad you put it on your meal plan.
Plus, if Monday goes awry and you pick up takeout on the way home, all the essentials will be fresh at hand when you do decide to make it.
Tuesday: Firecracker Chicken Thighs
Chicken thighs are cheap, full of flavor, and quick cooking, and these sweet and spicy firecracker thighs will prove it. Make a big pot of rice (you'll want leftovers for Thursday) to serve with them and steam some broccoli in the microwave while the rice and chicken cook.
Wednesday: Sausage & Potato Foil Packets
The middle of the week is where I tend to bail on my meal plan, but these packets can be made on Sunday and then thrown in the oven on Wednesday night without fuss. This technique forces me to keep cooking, like "Oh I can't abandon my sausage packets — they'd be disappointed to not be cooked into deliciousness!"
Thursday: Breakfast Fried Rice
Finish up your first week of meal planning with two recipes that can turn leftovers into fresh, tasty dinners — namely, fried rice and pizza (below). Tuesday's leftover rice and Wednesday's sausage and green beans can all be cooked up in one pot with an extra egg and maybe a few green onions. Or follow this recipe verbatim for a breakfast-for-dinner-meets-leftover-rice dish that you'll come back to again and again.
Friday: French Bread Pesto Chicken Pizza
Here's why I alway include pizza in my meal plan: If you've cooked four of five nights this week, takeout pizza is your reward for a job well-done. Really, it's OK and important to schedule off nights, even for takeout, when you're meal planning. And if you're feeling virtuous but don't want to put in too much effort, French bread pizza is your BFF. Again, any leftovers from the week can make their way onto pizza for toppings.