Foods to Include In Your Weekly Meal Plan
Welcome to our meal plan series #4! By now, we’ve organized the fridge and prepared some food containers/bags for some serious actions. Are you ready to rock and roll? Today, we are going to talk about spontaneous cooking.
Wait, isn’t meal planning supposed to be the opposite of spontaneous? You ask! The answer is yes and no.
Yes, meal planning usually requires pre-picked recipes and you following the instructions to make the recipes for weekly meals. Therefore, it’s not so spontaneous.
No, because stuff happens and sometimes we can’t do everything exactly according to the plan. Therefore, a little spontaneousness never hurts. To make that happen, we’ve come up with some shortcuts you can use in your weekly meal plan. We think you’ll find that spending a little time at the beginning of the week to make sure you have the following things in the kitchen will pay off big later on. A healthy meal can be easily thrown together when you don’t feel like cooking.
Hard Boiled Eggs
We know what you’re thinking – aren’t hard boiled eggs just for Easter? No way! Hard boiled eggs are one of those go-to ingredients that you should try to keep in your refrigerator all the time. Your chef salad won’t be complete without the addition of a sliced hard boiled egg on top. Add sliced hard boiled egg to the top of a wilted spinach and bacon salad, too. If you want, you can make a plate of deviled eggs and keep that in the fridge. Eggs are an inexpensive source of protein, and there’s really no reason why you can’t just eat one if you’re feeling a little hungry for a snack in the middle of the day.
This Rainbow Chicken Salad recipe is made even better when you enjoy it with sriracha sauce! Use shredded chicken, eggs and assorted vegetables to build a salad that is perfect for lunch or even a light supper.
Mirepoix – Diced Onion, Celery, and Carrots
If you have this trio on hand, you will really cut down your kitchen prep time considerably. Onion, celery, and carrots make up what is a classic mirepoix, but other chopped vegetables can be a mirepoix, too. A mirepoix forms the basis for so many dishes, but one traditional example is soup. You’ll find that you use this combination in the beginning of many a soup recipe, so keep this in a tightly sealed container in your refrigerator.
Minced garlic is such a convenient kitchen staple that most grocery stores now sell small jars of it near the produce section. You don’t have to spend money on buying minced garlic, though. It’s very easy to make at home. In fact, if you have one of those empty jars left over, you can wash it out and use it for your homemade minced garlic. We’ve got a step-by-step guide to show you how to make minced garlic at home. It’s simple!
Use your homemade minced garlic for all your sautéing, soup making, frying or anything else that needs garlic. If you’re like us, you’ll agree that so many things are tastier with a little added garlic!
Broth can substitute for water whenever you’re making soups, stews, slow cooker recipes, rice, quinoa and so many other things. Using broth means you’re really increasing the nutrient value of whatever you’re cooking. Yes, you can buy broth at the grocery store. But if you have a slow cooker, you can make rich broth at home with no effort and save a few bucks at the same time! Don’t know how? We’ve got you covered with video instructions!
Having shredded chicken in your refrigerator is like having 24-hour access to fast food in your own kitchen. You can use shredded chicken to add heartiness to green salads, stir in some BBQ sauce for a spicy sandwich filling, or make Chicken Tortilla Soup or Chicken Mushroom Risotto.
Grains like rice and quinoa always come in handy for salads, sides, soups, and stews. But they can take so long to cook! (Well, quinoa doesn’t, but it does require a separate pot.) At the beginning of the week, make a large batch of rice and quinoa. Store them each in a tightly sealed Tupperware container. They’ll keep for the entire week.
If there’s one super power salad dressing you should always keep at home, it’s homemade vinaigrette. Vinaigrette dressing can be used to make Kale Quinoa Salad With Oregano Lemon Vinaigrette, or drizzle it on everyday salads to add flavor and moisture. Vinaigrettes can be made with just the base ingredients of oil, lemon juice, and a few spices, or you can make the flavor more complex by adding additional ingredients. Want more specific recipes? Here are 50 salad dressing recipes to get you started.
Prepared Vegetables for Salads
Salads are delicious and healthful, but cutting up all those vegetables each time can be time-consuming and laborious. You’ll probably eat salad more often if you just go ahead and chop up your vegetables ahead of time and have them ready for use on your salads. When you come home from the store, wash and chop your salad vegetables for the week. Store them in individual plastic bags in the refrigerator for convenient use!
Here is a list of ingredients for quick salads to get you inspired.
- Sliced green, yellow or red bell peppers
- A bag of spring mix, or baby kale mix, or baby spinach
- Sliced cucumbers
- Shredded carrots
- Cooked or canned chickpeas, rinsed and drained
- Canned black beans, rinsed and drained
- Cooked quinoa
- Ham or smoked turkey breasts
Whenever you are short on time, just throw some of the ingredients or all of them together in a bowl with some lettuce, toss with a pre-made dressing, then you’ll have a super healthy meal ready in like zero time, seriously!
Pico de Gallo or Salsa
Pico de Gallo can be served with every Mexican dish you can think of. It’s easy to make a big batch of it at the beginning of the week, so you can have it at your fingertips any day. The ingredients are tomatoes, onion, garlic, cilantro, jalapeño pepper and lime. For the exact recipe, and some juicy ways to enjoy Pico de Gallo, check out my blog post here.
Roasted tomatoes are handy to keep in the house during the week to make a quick red sauce or add to soups and stews. To roast tomatoes at home, try this method:
- Preheat oven to 300 degrees.
- Slice beefsteak tomatoes in half.
- Toss tomatoes with ¼ cup of olive oil in baking dish.
- Sprinkle with salt and pepper.
- Roast for 3 hours, or until the tomatoes are darkened and shriveled.
- Store in tightly sealed container for up to one week.
CONVENIENCE FOODS TO KEEP IN YOUR KITCHEN
Frozen fruit can be purchased in bags from your supermarket freezer section, usually near the frozen desserts. Choose from mixtures containing your favorite berries or other fruits like mango and pineapple. Frozen fruit is perfect to make smoothies, quick desserts or even homemade jams.
Add frozen vegetables to soups, stews, and casseroles. In most cases, thaw first to avoid adding too much water to your recipe. You can thaw frozen vegetables fast by simply letting them sit in a bowl with warm water for several minutes. Strain and then use.
Seeds contain valuable nutrients in tiny little packages that are so easy to store in your spice cupboard and use. Sprinkle seeds on salads, on top of muffins, into cookie recipes and more. Two seeds to definitely consider including in your weekly meal plans are sesame seeds and poppy seeds. Sesame seeds go well on top any stir fry, and poppy seeds go perfectly with homemade muffins!
Before we wrap up, we’ve put together a weekly dinner plan for you. Here comes StreetSmart Kitchen’s Meal Plan Week #4.
TGIF! The kitchen is closed today. You may finish leftovers if there’s any, enjoy a glass of wine or go check out the restaurants that you’ve been wanting to try.
Pick a day to do a weekly meal prep including choosing the recipes you want to cook throughout the week, grocery shopping and a little pre-prep work. Make a few foods from today’s list available in your kitchen so that you can wrap up some quick breakfast, healthy lunch or dinner when things don’t go as planned.
So what about you? What are some things that you make every week in your kitchen? We’d love to hear from you about what you can’t live without and how you use it! Leave a comment and let us know.
About the Author
Sharon Chen is an Integrative Nutrition Health Coach, an author and a sous vide fanatic who believes food not only brings healing but also connection. As the creator of StreetSmart Kitchen, she's on a mission to help you find balance, ease, joy, and simplicity in the kitchen as you improve your well-being.