How to CookMeal Plan

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

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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:

Monday

Crispy, Custardy Baked Tofu That Just Happens to Be the Easiest
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Crispy, Custardy Baked Tofu That Just Happens to Be the Easiest

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.


Tuesday

Crispy Chicken Thighs with Kale & Croutons
Crispy Chicken Thighs with Kale & Croutons

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.


Wednesday

Victoria Granof’s Pasta con Ceci
Victoria Granof’s Pasta con Ceci

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.


Thursday

Brown Butter Scrambled Eggs
Brown Butter Scrambled Eggs

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.



Friday

Back-Pocket Canned Salad
Back-Pocket Canned Salad

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.


Saturday

The Food Lab's Ultra-Smashed Cheeseburgers
The Food Lab's Ultra-Smashed Cheeseburgers

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.


Sunday

No-Buy Night Is the Money-Saving Strategy I Swear By
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No-Buy Night Is the Money-Saving Strategy I Swear By

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.

SUPER SIMPLE CAULIFLOWER TACOS

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

Tags: Dinner, Faster