Uggggghhh what do I make for dinner? Is this a common phrase you mumble when you little ones are
clawing climbing up your leg, or as you finally take off your heels after a brutal ten-hour day (are you checking all of the above)? Do the burners of your stovetop look like judgmental, beady little eyes?
Planning for weekly dinners really can be as intricate or as easy as you want it to be. As I continue to bring you meal planning tips I will dig deeper in to this subject, but for now let’s assume you need easy, basic tools for getting food on the table.
My surefire rule for making sure I have healthy dinners in a crunch is to follow two basic principles: Protein. Vegetables.
Now of course you can expand on that to add other elements. But for the easiest, simplest way, do this: buy stuff like meat/fish and fresh vegetables, freeze or refrigerate, cut & prep, cook, eat, stay sane. Easy right? It really is – read on.
Let me break this down.
Buy four to five days worth of meat or fish. This gives a few days of leftovers and maybe a day of going out or a meatless meal. It looks something like this:
- chicken breasts (make extra for leftovers)
- pork loin (I usually have leftovers here too)
- ground beef or turkey
Then grab a variety of vegetables. Everything from regular staple items (broccoli, sweet potatoes, mushrooms, peppers) and seasonal veggies (green beans, zucchini, asparagus, etc.)
Next step is learn the basic ways to cook meat. Using a crockpot can do all the work for you during the day, or throwing dinner on the grill is easy too. Brown ground beef or turkey and sauté sliced veggies like mushrooms or peppers, add in simple condiments like balsamic vinegar, sesame oil/rice vinegar/coconut aminos, or pump it up with bold spices. Then serve on top of cauliflower rice. A one pot wonder!
But for this fun exercise, let’s pretend we have a love affair with our oven.
Knowing how long your protein of choice takes to cook, at what temperature and the vegetables that cook for roughly that same time makes healthy dinners a cinch. Write these down or print and tape this to the back of a cabinet. You have no idea how helpful that simple step will be! Here is a chart with general cook times and temps for meat and coordinating vegetable sides:
Coat your veggies with a little oil and play up the flavor with spices, herbs, and vinegar blends. I love making roasted red potatoes with a rosemary/thyme blend. Or brussels sprouts with balsamic vinegar. Zucchini works well with lemon juice and asparagus is great with a little salt, garlic powder, and dried onion flakes.
Don’t be afraid to experiment, I promise the oven will never fling anything at your or throw out snide comments. Pinky promise.