When you’re browsing through cookbooks or the internet for recipes to make in a week, it’s easy to get too ambitious.
But don’t forget that you’re not going to be making dinner in a vacuum! In fact, you may even be trying to get the vacuuming done while making dinner.
Or the laundry, or finishing up work email, because working from home is not always the most efficient.
There are dozens of tasks that pull at our attention in a day, even more so now that our families are home for school and work.
My mantra when creating meal plans and choosing recipes is to keep it simple!
A good recipe is one that can be made with:
- Minimal ingredients that are also staple ingredients
- Minimal cookware, so we’re not cleaning up for an hour after dinner
- Minimal time, so dinner is done quickly
- Minimal hands-on time, so we can get dinner going, then do something else while it cooks
The more of these criteria a recipe hits, the better! Here’s a recipe that ticks all those boxes:
That recipe is from our Slow Cooker/Instant Pot Plan this week.
All of the Eat at Home Meal Plans use common ingredients and have down-to-earth, practical recipes.
If you’re putting your own menu and grocery list together, remember not to get too ambitious while recipe browsing!
And if you’d like to save hours of time and decision making, check out Eat at Home Meal Plans and save during the sale.
Tomorrow, I’ll have one of my secrets about making dinner easy. This one makes so much sense, but it rarely gets mentioned in meal planning articles.
P.S. If you didn’t have a chance to download your Pantry Essentials list, you can do that here.
You’ve probably seen the advice to create your meal plans with a template like this:
Monday – Italian
Tuesday – Tacos
Wednesday – Soup
But that template idea ignores a key part of making sure dinner gets done every day.
When planning your meals, the biggest thing to think about is not if you’ll have Italian or Mexican etc.
The key to making sure you can get your dinner done every day is to match the type of recipe to your day.
If you know you’re going to be out of the house all day (or more common right now, you know your late afternoons tend to fall apart after juggling everyone’s work/school from home situations), then plan for a slow cooker meal that you can start in the morning.
If you’re facing a very busy day, plan to make a 15 minute meal.
Have a few minutes in the late afternoon to work on dinner? Try an Instant Pot recipe, which has the same convenience as a slow cooker, but needs a shorter cook time.
Or do a bit of prep work to chop up vegetables and get them on a sheet pan or in a pot for cooking later.
This bit of thinking about how dinner fits in your actual day is so much more important than the flavor of cuisine you’ll eat.
We build all of our Eat at Home Meal Plans to make it easy for you to match the recipes to your schedule. You’ll find at least one slow cooker recipe and one 15 minute recipe each week in the Traditional Plan. And you’ll find plenty of those recipes in our other plans too.
If you’re planning your own menus, be sure to build in these types of meals so you make your life easy when it comes to dinner.
Tomorrow, I’ve got some prep-ahead freezer tips and recipes for you.
P.S. Have you heard about the new Eat at Home Meal Plan,? Our Whole Food Plant Based Plan is here! Members get access to this plan, as well as all our other plans. No need to choose, because you get it all!
Your freezer can be a secret weapon in your dinner arsenal.
And you don’t need to have a giant deep freeze to make use of these ideas.
Freeze your proteins
Having cooked meats or beans in the freezer means you’re only minutes away from having dinner ready.
Here’s how to cook and freeze chicken, beef, turkey and other meats.
I also keep beans and chickpeas in my freezer. They taste better than canned, and dry beans are cheaper as well.
I often set up the chickpeas and black beans at the same time and do a big bean cook! Here’s the recipe for making the chickpeas in the Instant Pot, but you could easily adapt it for the slow cooker or stove top.
Freeze 6 dinners in 1 hour
Did you know we give Eat at Home Meal Plan members a new Freezer Cooking plan every month?
These plans are a great way to prepare for those inevitably busy days or for any day when there’s just no time to think about dinner. Having complete meals in your freezer is the ultimate in homemade convenience food.
If you want to get a taste of what we give to members each month, this post shows you how to make 7 meals in 1 hour.
Tomorrow we’ll talk about another key type of recipe you need for easy dinners.
Who am I kidding? All this planning and prepping we’ve been talking about all week is great, but let’s be honest.
We all get to the end of the day sometimes and realize that…
- We forgot to plan dinner.
- We’re missing a key ingredient (more about how to substitute tomorrow).
- We have no energy left to even think of dinner, much less fix it.
Those nights are when it’s essential to have some 15 minute recipes in the line up.
One great thing about 15 minutes meals is that they can almost always be built with pantry ingredients. That means you’re likely to have everything you need on hand already.
We give Eat at Home Meal Plan members 15 minute meals every week as part of the Traditional Meal Plan. And our No Flour/No Sugar Plan and Whole Food Plant Based Plan include plenty of 15 minute meals as well.
Here’s a recipe to get you started: Sausage and Corn Quesadillas.
If you’re eating a whole food plant based diet, swap the sausage for any type of bean, skip the cheese and use whole grain tortillas.
Tomorrow is the last day of Victory Week. We’ll be talking about how to substitute ingredients when you don’t have a recipe ingredient.
Making easy ingredient substitutions
I’ve always been a big believer in making do with what you have in your kitchen versus running out to the grocery for a missing ingredient.
Now more than ever, we often have to make substitutions. Thankfully, most Eat at Home recipes are very versatile so substituting is easy.
Here are a few guidelines for when you need to substitute:
Substitute chicken for pork or pork for beef. Depending on the recipe, you can also swap chicken for beef and vice versa.
If you need to use a different cut of meat – boneless for bone-in, for example – just adjust the cooking time.
Any type of ground meat can be subbed for any other type of ground meat. If you don’t have ground meat, look for a recipe for the same thing that uses lentils (Lentil Tacos, Lentil Sloppy Joes etc)
Swap one type of bean for any other type – kidney, black beans, pinto, black eyed peas, chickpeas… The recipe may turn out a bit different, but it should still be good.
All the broths – chicken, vegetable and beef – are pretty interchangeable. If you’re trying to keep a soup on the lighter side, you might stay away from beef broth, but in a pinch it will work.
Canned Tomato Products
No crushed tomatoes or tomato sauce? Use a can of diced tomatoes. Depending on the recipe, you might run them through a blender or use a masher to crush them a bit.
Tomato paste can be used instead of tomato sauce, just thin it with water. Crushed tomatoes will also work instead of sauce.
Freely substitute rice, quinoa, barley, farro etc. Just be sure to adjust the cooking to accommodate the switch. This works best if you’re adding cooked grains to a recipe versus a casserole where the grain cooks with the rest of the dish.
Need quick oats for a baking recipe? Spin old-fashioned oats in a blender or food processor to chop them up a bit.
Any kind of green for another type. Spinach, kale, swiss chard, collard, mustard, turnip greens are fairly interchangeable, especially if you’re cooking them. Some take longer to cook than others though, so be aware of that.
Carrots and parsnips can be subbed for one another.
Broccoli and cauliflower can be swapped.
Thanks so much for joining me for Victory Week!