Meal Plan

A Super Simple Meal Plan for Weeks When You Just Can't

June 25, 2018

Here’s the thing. I may work at a food publication, but most nights I have little to no time to cook. The irony, the irony, I know. On the brightside! This means that I’m on par with, well, you. And you. And you. Because most of us are squished and squashed for time when it comes to cooking dinner.

And some weeks, especially so. Maybe it’s a bananas workload. Or tired body. Or sick kitty. (Feel better, kitty!) Whatever it is, there are weeks when you just can’t. But you can. You just need a strategic meal plan with on-your-side recipes.

I mean, of course, of course, all recipes are on your side. But a super-simple meal plan means each recipe should be...

  • Quick, quick, quick. Get in, get out. Couch, here we come.
  • Or, hands-off. Maybe the recipe goes a little longer, but its active time is slim.
  • Comforting. Cozy dishes that make you feel taken care of.
  • Nourishing. Hearty, sustaining dishes that help your body feel its best.

Here’s a week’s worth of meals that’ll pat you on the back and tell you everything’s gonna be okay:


Follow Caro’s advice toward the perfect tofu tacos: minced garlic, chipotles, olive oil, salt. These cubes turn custardy and crispy in the oven—while you get your toppings together. I like canned black beans, yogurty mashed avocado, chopped red onion, and hot sauce. But see what your pantry and fridge have in store. Crack open a cold beer if it feels right.


These set-it-and-forget-it chicken thighs turn out extra crispy. I snagged the method from our Genius column, who snagged it from Canal House’s Melissa Hamilton and Christopher Hirsheimer. Blanch double the amount of kale called for in the recipe and reserve the surplus in the fridge. It’ll come in handy soon.


This tomatoey chickpea and pasta soup comes together in two shakes of a lamb’s tail. To go with: my go-to weeknight salad. Pre-washed, pre-cut greens. Olive oil. Vinegar. Flaky salt. Toss with your hands. That’s it. Just a little something raw and bright to balance things out.


Breakfast for dinner is like a big hug. My go-to scrambled eggs feel special—brown butter, hi, hello—but cook in the blink of an eye. Throw in some of that extra blanched kale from Tuesday. And pair with an extra-big piece of toast.


Whew, we made it to Friday. Let’s relax. This pretty-as-heck salad comes together in no time thanks to...a can opener! If you want to bulk it up a little more, some options: Turn to another canned good, tuna. Pile on toast. Or toss with noodles.


Happy weekend! Time to treat ourselves. Hamburgers cook like—snaps fingers—that. These take even less than that because they’re smashed. While you tend to the burgers, have some tater tots going in the oven. When they get out, toss with some smoked paprika or Old Bay to spice things up. And, if you’re me, serve with an extra-cold martini.


No-Buy Night means harnessing all the week’s leftovers, plus the standbys in your fridge and pantry, and turning them into their own, of-the-moment meal. Here’s what I would cook: We have leftover beef from the burgers, so let’s take that, combine it with the now-stale bread from earlier this week, and form some minimalist meatballs with an egg and some grated parmesan. Bake on a sheet tray with whatever’s left of that kale. Bundle in warm tortillas with a big smear of yogurt.


What recipes do you turn to when you just can’t? Tell us in the comments below!

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Emma was the food editor at Food52. She created the award-winning column, Big Little Recipes, and turned it into a cookbook in 2021. These days, she's a senior editor at Bon Appétit, leading digital cooking coverage. Say hello on Instagram at @emmalaperruque.

1 Comment

Wendyl R. July 16, 2018
1. leftovers > frittata
2. B&M baked beans and either hot dog or kielbasa (Bostonians all know this!)
3. pasta (There's always bolognese, marinara, and mornay in the freezer)
4. grilled cheese (tomato, bacon, tuna or whatever)