By Kristin Neusel, MS, RD, LD, CDCES
Let’s face it: making time to prepare and cook a healthy, balanced dinner every weeknight can be a huge challenge while juggling all the other things life throws at us!
It can get even trickier when trying to plan these meals out at the beginning of every week.
That doesn't mean they have to be boring and bland, though.
Here are some tips for quick and easy weeknight meals:
- Plan ahead: Some people find it helpful to make a list or calendar of what they are going to cook for dinners throughout the week. You could also use a meal-planning app (there are tons for free, like PlateJoy or Eat This Much) to help with this. By planning out your meals, you can create a grocery list to ensure you have all the ingredients you need for the week.
- Prep some of the ingredients ahead of time and store them in the refrigerator or freezer: This makes things go much quicker throughout the week. For example, chopping up vegetables and storing them in the refrigerator until you need them a few days later is a good idea. When the night comes around you need those veggies, they are already cut and ready for cooking!
- Make enough to have leftovers! Sometimes doubling, or tripling, the recipe will allow for you to have leftovers for you and your family for the next night. This will free up the next night from having to prep and cook another meal.
- Pick recipes with easy ingredients. One of my favorite quick-and-easy meals to make—pistachio chicken—only has 5 ingredients. I crush up pistachios in a Ninja chopper (you can also put the pistachios in a Ziploc and pound them) so they are ground up finely, then “bread” thinly sliced skinless, boneless chicken breasts in the pistachio crumbs. I bake this in the oven along with another pan full of a variety of veggies (butternut squash, broccoli, cauliflower, or Brussel sprouts to name a few). For flavor and crispiness, I’ll toss the veggies in algae or olive oil and season with any leftover pistachio crumbs. Pop both of these trays in the oven and voila, a healthy and easy weeknight meal!
- Try freezer cooking for crockpot meals. Spend a few hours in the kitchen prepping different healthy crockpot meals. For each meal, you will need a gallon ziplock bag (or reusable bag). Write on the ziplock bag in permanent marker what “wet” ingredients you will need to add the day of cooking, the crockpot cooking time/settings and the date you prepped the food. Put all of the dry ingredients for each meal in the bag then store it in the freezer. This way, you will have many options all-ready for you. Before heading into work, pull out a freezer meal and add the “wet” ingredients to the crockpot along with the bagged ingredients. Come home from work to your home smelling wonderful, dinner being ready, and easy cleanup!
- Try using an Instant Pot. There are many quick and easy instant pot recipes, and this is a kitchen tool that is gaining popularity.
Here's another easy and healthy recipe that I love to prepare with minimal work.Crockpot Roast Beef + Veggies
1 lb beef round, lean only*
1 cup green beans*
2 ½ cups carrots, chopped*
½ cup beef broth
1 cup cauliflower rice or brown rice (don’t add until later)
3 tbsp. Balsamic vinegar
2 tbsp. Mesquite seasoning, dry*
*Denotes “dry” ingredients you can put in your freezer bag. Add the remaining “wet” ingredients on the day of crock-potting!
- Combine all ingredients except rice in a crockpot.
- Cook on low for 8-10 hours, or high 4-5 hours. Meat will be tender and shreds easily with a fork.
- Cook rice when crockpot is almost done, per instructions on the container of the rice of your selection.
- Serve crockpot ingredients over a bed of the rice. Enjoy!
Interested in submitting a question to Kristin? Email it to her at firstname.lastname@example.org and we’ll try to answer it in an upcoming post!