I like to say that leftovers are life and that is my strategy.
Instead of planning exactly what I’m going to have every night, I stock my fridge, pantry, and freezer with whole foods that I can easily make various meals with. It’s never worked for me to try and think a week (or even further) in advance what I’m going to want that night. I make sure that I have those staples on hand and fresh foods ready to go. From there I can make whatever the kids are feeling.
Instead of cooking a lot of new recipes, I tend to stick with what I know my family likes and make variations of those foods.
I typically fix a meat and 2 veggies. (think chicken, pork tenderloin, fish,) veggies (green beans, broccoli, sweet peas, potatoes, corn) That is the easiest option.
To utilize leftovers in different ways:
Make em crispy
Heat a little butter or other oil in a skillet and put your leftover veggies, or meat in.
Throw it in a stir fry
This is always a good option when you have chicken, veggies and rice or noodles. I love adding coconut aminos over top for a sweet salty flavor.
Plop it on a salad
I”ll put anything on a salad! You would be surprised how tasty roasted veggies, rice, potatoes or meats are simply put on a salad. Here are more instructions on how to make the perfect salad!
Upgrade your toppings.
I’m ALLLL about the toppings! Here are some of my favs: marinated onions, hot sauce, garlic infused olive oil, nutritional yeast, sriracha, sauerkraut, special sauce, everything but the bagel seasoning, flakey sea salt.
I only cook about 2 maybe 3 nights a week.
I normally like to cook a big dinner on Sunday nite and then cook again on Monday and or Tuesday. That way we can eat leftovers for the rest of the week. Often we will eat out or with family on Friday and/or Saturday nite.
So on Sunday I check the inventory I have in the fridge and base my Sunday /Monday night meal on that. I’ll put meat in the fridge to thaw on Sunday night for the week.
Here are Julie’s tips and strategy:
Stepwise Approach: “A week in the life of meal prep/planning”
1) make a list (to keep) of you and your families “go to” or favorite meals
Keep it in your kitchen, recipe book, phone, add to when you find new favs. If you don’t have a list you spend more time wondering what to cook!
2) look at your schedule for the week ahead (plan to do this by Friday, assuming you will grocery shop on Saturday). Determine what nights you have time to cook a quick meal and what nights you need to have a pre-cooked meal you can heat up. Thursdays are almost always breakfast night at our house.
3) Choose your 3 meals from your “go to” recipe list to make for the week. Throw in a new one if you like. Choose only 1 new recipe each week. The week could look like: cook Sunday, leftovers Monday, cook Tuesday, Wednesday, Breakfast or leftovers Thursday. Eat out Friday, eat out Saturday or grill at home.
4) choose 2-3 items you and your family will have for breakfast, lunch (can be some of your leftovers from dinners), and snacks. For lunch I have a salad and send leftovers with my husband and sometimes to school with kids. NEVER throw away anything!
5) make a grocery list of what you need for those recipes and other meals/snacks.
6) on Saturday, head to the grocery store with your list. Buy only items in your list unless there is some amazing looking produce. Use coupons and the Kroger app (great for lower prices on Simple Truth organic items) use grocery delivery services to save time and money.
7) on Sunday, carve out those 1-2 hours to prep for the week and set yourself up for success! This might look like boiling eggs, roasting veggies, chopping some veggies for the week ahead for salads. I do this in the afternoon or when I am prepping for dinner to make the most of my time in the kitch
Prep for the next day:
Know what’s for breakfast
Make lunches and lunch boxes while getting dinner together (get family involved). As I plan for weeknight meals, I try to choose 2 meals that make for hot lunches for the kids. ie Spaghetti, chicken noodle soup, lasagna, lemon and garlic shrimp pasta, fried rice, hamburger helper.
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