Meal Plan

16 Simple & Satisfying Make-Ahead Meals for One

April  5, 2018

In my experience, single-serving dishes tend to be of-the-minute, speedy affairs, while recipes for make-ahead meals feed small armies. And while I want to plan ahead, I don’t want to eat the same thing over and over and over again.

One way to keep dinners fresh is by freezing portions for my future self. But recently, my freezer’s been getting a bit full of soups and loaves (and some ice cream). So I’ve thought of another tactic: prepping one base ingredient on Sunday nights, like grains or sauces, so I’m halfway to dinner the rest of the week. It’s the perfect compromise between the comforting predictability of meal planning and the creative freedom of making dinner on the fly. Here, I’ve gathered four make-ahead components that are perfect blank canvases for dinners I can finish on my own—no small armies required.

Make a pot of rice

Quick, easy, filling rice is ready to help you with dinner all week long. Use it to bulk up salads or cobble together leftovers. And if you’re looking for a fluffy, stress-free method, check out our guide here.

Boil a batch of eggs

Hard-boiled eggs are not only portable snacks, but also adaptable, affable best friends to salads, stews, sauces, and sandwiches. There are loads of ways to get your perfect egg, but we’ve got some pointers.

Soak a bunch of beans

Whether or not you’re a fan of the overnight soak, beans are a great make-ahead base. Dress them up in salads or pulse them into dips. (You can even use canned—we won’t tell.)

Pulse some pesto

Pesto can be made out of practically any vegetable or herb that’s green and flavorful. Arugula? Yep. Peas? Yes. Mint? Of course! And what’s more: You can add any nuts, oils, or cheeses you’d like. Now, get to grinding.

How do you prep dinners without getting tired of leftovers? Share tips in the comments!

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A New Way to Dinner, co-authored by Food52's founders Amanda Hesser and Merrill Stubbs, is an indispensable playbook for stress-free meal-planning (hint: cook foundational dishes on the weekend and mix and match ‘em through the week).

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Katie is a food writer and editor who loves cheesy puns and cheesy cheese.


btglenn April 29, 2018
One of my great make-aheads is ratatouille, with zucchini, yellow squash, eggplant and sauted onion... peppers, optional. With a large pot of ratatouille you can use it as a delicious and filling pasta sauce, as a base for a panzanella salad, and, of course, as a side vegetable with a pork chop. Puree some and add water or broth and you have a great soup. If you add some sliced sausage or ham, or top with a couple of eggs, it is sturdy enough for a meal on its own. You can freeze it if you want to, but you probably won't have any left at there end of the week.
ashley's B. April 12, 2018
Freeze portions of *cooked* beans. I'll cook a batch during a weekend and season them lightly so I have options as to how I ultimately use them. (For me, I pretty much always love thyme with white beans, so I put a bit in when I cook them; black beans are cooked with a little Mexican oregano. Both are cooked with onion, garlic, and seasoned with just enough salt to not be bland.) Freeze with the liquid (a.k.a. pot likker) in about 2 cup portions.

Easy to thaw gently in the microwave and toss into or on top of whatever (soups, grains, greens), or have as a side or alone with a spot of flavor (pesto/herbs, cheese, flavored oil...). Easy protein and a step up from canned (as Mschief points out, another good option).
ashley's B. April 13, 2018
Nope -- the textures remains just fine.

And true confession: I learned this from Mark Bittman. Tho' my mom was a Home Ec teacher and I learned to plan ahead and stock the freezer like a pro at a young age, even she didn't know about this one. :-)
Mschief April 10, 2018
Canned beans, we won’t talk but we can tell. 😎