Weeknight Meal Planning Made Simple

RyanJ Blogger



If you regularly embrace the philosophy of “Sunday Funday,” you’ve likely experienced the inevitable “Monday Not-So-Funday” that follows.


Don’t get us wrong, we’re all big fans of squeezing the most out of the weekend. But there’s something to be said for dedicating a portion of the weekend to preparing for a good week ahead. Let’s call it “Sunday Get-Organized-And-Make-Some-Deliciously-Healthy-Food-So-You-Can-Maximize-Your-Productivity-All-Week-Long-Day.” Yes, we’re working on a catchier moniker.


Here’s the idea: Take time on Sunday to plan and prepare meals for the week ahead and avoid the weeknight, post-work scramble to get food on the table. Think healthy, think economical, think shelf-stable, and think fridge-and-freezer-friendly. And if you can’t think of any ideas, think internet. An internet search for dinner planning ideas is like reading the menu at The Cheesecake Factory — it just never ends.


To help narrow your focus, here are some thoughts.


Keep it simple

The good people at Real Simple consistently deliver recipe ideas that strike a balance between interesting (often exotic) flavors and uncomplicated preparation. On this list of “Easy Make-Ahead Meals,” they offer a combination of meals that are meant to be made and refrigerated for just a few days, and others that can be frozen for up to three months. For many dishes, a day or two in the fridge just means more time for the flavors to marry and come alive. Check out the Sausage and White Bean Casserole, Chicken and Pepper Stew with Olives, and Spiced Braised Beef with Sweet Potatoes.


Once you’ve mastered the art of weekly meal prep, Real Simple also offers a “Four-Week Dinner Plan.” Full transparency: We’re not quite sure what we’ll be craving 19 days from now. Just saying.


Get organized

If you’re a “live in the now”-type person, the very act of sitting down and planning a week’s worth of meals can feel a little overwhelming. At choosemyplate.gov, you’ll find thoughts on how to better organize the process. Tips like starting with what you have on hand, creating calendar worksheets, thinking about your schedule, and recipe inspiration can help you get started. You’ll even find ideas on how to save money at the store.


Go light, easy, clean…

Counting calories can be challenging when you just want to keep things simple and convenient. Cooking Light is here to help. With an engaging, interactive weeknight meal planner, you can sort ideas by five basic categories: 5 Ingredients, Clean Eating, Low Cal, Quick & Easy, Vegetarian, and Grilling. An easy-to-use, drag-and-drop function lets you build the week’s menu and then email or print the recipes. And if you don’t intend to cook every night, you’ll find “Eat Out” and “Leftover Night” tiles to drop into your calendar.


Budgets be darned, eat the good stuff

Suppose you’ve got nothing but time and money on your hands. Well, good for you! Whole Foods can help you part with ample amounts of both. Take a look at their Healthy Eating Meal Plans. Explore the Healthy Comfort Food Meal Plan, Plant-astic Plant-Based Meal Plan, Great Grains, and Easy Week categories, among others. Be warned, this is a deep dive on delicious and often labor-intensive planning. And the planner isn’t limited to weeknight dinners – you’ll find ideas for three meals a day, seven days a week. Noticeably missing from this helpful tool is a cost calculator. But gosh, it’s good food.




Don't forget about Trader Joe's! It's such a great place to shop if you have one near you, basically a cheap Whole Foods. Smiley Very Happy Thanks for the links to those great resources. I definitely want to master the art of planning meals so that my shopping is more targetted instead of wandering around the store with a cart putting "things that look good" into it and then getting home with a red beans, a bag of Twix, and some bananas....

lilliankafka Blogger

I just found a 24-hour boutique grocery with prepared food. Sure, it's a bit more expensive than normal, but it's so delicious Smiley Happy 

ctsai Blogger

@lilliankafka whaaat? 24-hour grocery of prepared foods? Where is this magical unicorn

lilliankafka Blogger

@ctsai (and those in Denver) Choice Market!