Welcome back to the kitchen. We’re here to help with meal-planning recipes and tips to streamline your effort and get a workable routine going. The best part? You make the rules. This is a great time to explore; take your time and figure out what works best for you — you might find yourself rediscovering some hidden joys in the kitchen, too.
Don’t overwhelm yourself.
Definitely don’t stress out by trying to plan a month’s worth of meals at once up front. Start with two or three days at a time and work up to more as you learn what does and doesn’t work for you.
A little homework now will save you later. Once you’ve collected your ideas, sketch out a schedule and make your shopping list, sorting it by department to make your shop as efficient as possible.
Bookmark recipes you’d like to try.
Keep yourself inspired by looking up exciting new recipes to mix in with tried-and-true familiar ones. Get ambitious. It’s all about learning new techniques and trying out new flavor combinations.
Keep your sides fresh.
If your plan includes reheating leftovers or warming up a frozen pizza, make a really delicious salad or easy fruit dessert to keep meals vibrant and exciting.
Try: Spinach Salad with Pears, Walnuts and Goat Cheese opens in a new tabor Mediterranean Crunch Salad opens in a new tab
Aim for high flavor impact, low workload.
You can get a big payoff with minimal effort. Sheet-pan dinners are easy ways to focus on lots of flavor without a lot of prep, and slow cookers are great for developing deep, slow-simmering flavor.
Try: Peruvian-Style Roasted Chicken with Sweet Onions opens in a new tab or Slow Cooker Chickpea and Lentil Stew opens in a new tab
Remember: Classics are classics for a reason.
If you already have some fail-proof meals that you know and love, make sure to include those in the rotation. Taco night? Pizza Fridays? Pair it with a movie and turn it into a fun weekly theme night.
Have a backup plan.
Cook at least one large-batch meal for serving later in the week or to have on hand in the freezer opens in a new tab for the days you don’t really feel like cooking. Bonus: Some dishes like chili or casseroles just taste better after they’ve sat for a day or two. Try: Quick and Easy Veggie Chili opens in a new tab or Spinach and Cheese Lasagna opens in a new tab
Don’t forget breakfast.
Make-ahead breakfasts are one of the easiest ways to feeling like you’ve conquered this whole meal-planning thing. Change up your usual cereal or toast and try baking a batch of muffins or oat bars that can be heated for a warm breakfast.
Try: Whole Grain Morning Glory Muffins opens in a new tab or Apple, Raspberry and Pear Baked Oatmeal opens in a new tab
Have kids? They can help.
Children of any age can help assemble meals like sandwiches and quesadillas and no-cook recipes like salads come together quickly with minimal chopping.
Try: Apple and Cheddar Whole Wheat Quesadillas opens in a new tab or Sesame Noodles opens in a new tab