Is weekday meal planning bringing you down? In this article, we go over tips to keep in mind when planning delicious weekday meals.
In this article:
- How to Prep and Plan Regular Meals on Weekdays
- Weekday Sample Meal Plan and Recipe Suggestions
- Weekday Meal Plan Sample Grocery List
Weekday Meal Planning Made Simple With Tips and Recipes
How to Prep and Plan Regular Meals on Weekdays
Planning lunch during the week can be tough. Heck, planning any meals during the week is tough! With most of us working 9-5 jobs, the only thing we can think of when we get out of work is hitting the couch and opening up the book we’ve been meaning to read for the past month.
And as much as we love cooking (I mean, we do run a blog about it), the thought of having to cook a meal after a long day of work sometimes makes us groan or throw temper tantrums. Worse, we buy a $10 sandwich from Whole Foods coupled with a $5 kombucha (we might as well spend if we have to, right?).
Two web editors from Bon Appetit thought the same thing, so when a radio host challenged New Yorkers to bring their own lunch for a week, they thought, “Heck, we’ll do it for an entire month.” And while they’re still in the midst of their challenge, the tips they’ve dropped so far in regards to planning your weekday meals have already been indispensable golden nuggets of wisdom we’ve stored and used every Sunday when we sit at our table and, yup, you guessed it, plan our weekday meals.
Let’s go over some tips to keep in mind when planning your meals, along with things we’ve learned in our journey of work lunches. Imagine being able to enjoy your favorite restaurant meals for lunch? You can with these top-secret recipes!
1. Plan It Out
If there’s anything I’ve learned from having to pack my lunches, it’s that a menu written the Sunday before the week begins helps. A lot.
If planning isn’t really your thing, don’t think of this as a chore! Think of it as a way to find new recipes and enjoy tried-and-true ones.
At least, that’s what I have to tell my husband who hates the idea of planning ahead and says that “planning limits his creativity.” While that may be true for some, I prefer having lunch over having to get creative with no lunch.
Plan every meal — breakfast, lunch, and dinner — before the week and make a to-do list of your prep plans. Only then will you be able to generate a grocery list and shop effectively.
Plan your leftovers ahead of time to ensure every meal is consumed and you never go to work lunch-less and hungry.
In regards to meal planning, I’ve found that the easiest lunch to make is a bowl. What I like to do is create a bowl with five main components:
- grains – quinoa, millet, buckwheats
- greens – spinach, kale
- veggies – whatever’s in your fridge
- nuts/seeds – hemp seeds, pumpkin seeds, almonds
I usually start my bowl with a bed of quinoa, then layer it with salad greens sprinkled with pumpkin seeds or almonds, and then I’ll change up the veggies I use according to what’s in my fridge.
Last, but not least, I either make a big batch of homemade dressing ahead of time (my favorite dressing to make consists of mustard, miso, maple syrup, almond milk, garlic, and hummus) or will bring a bottle of salad dressing to work to use throughout the week.
2. Make Giant Batches That Store Well
Another great option is to make giant batches of everything on Sunday and pre-pack your lunches for the week. Grains hold really well in the fridge, salad is always a great option to make ahead of time, and casseroles and soups are always great options as they’re relatively easy to throw together and store.
3. Snack It Up
I have a pretty large appetite. It may not look like it, but I love eating, or better yet, snacking. While a bowl can be filling (especially when I put chickpeas in there in addition to the protein I’m getting from quinoa), I like to have fruits, nuts, seeds, and bars on hand to dip into whenever I’m feeling hungry (which is all the time).
Just this morning I indulged in a protein bar, some mangoes, and grapes (and it’s not even 11 AM yet). If lunch isn’t enough for you, sexy up your snack drawer with portable, healthy snacks.
Pre-pack chip bags, buy fun-size packages, bring bags of nuts (great source of protein that will keep you full for hours), or buy a boatload of apples to nom on throughout the week. Know your appetite and plan accordingly because a hangry co-worker is never a pleasant one.
4. Dress Up Your Leftovers
This goes back to bringing bowls as your lunch. Bowls are easy to throw together and can be made with your leftovers from the night before.
Made some pasta? Sweet, turn it into a bowl with some greens on the side, nuts or seeds, and veggies. Even if you don’t have leftovers, we can’t emphasize enough how easy bowls are to throw together.
You can, quite literally, put in anything that’s in your fridge. Isn’t that awesome?
5. Don’t Bring it if You Know You’re Not Going to Eat It
I can’t tell you how many times I’ve not pre-packed my lunch the night before and woke up late the next morning, scrambling to get ready and pack whatever it is I can find. What my lunch usually consists of on days like these is a bunch of salad greens thrown into a Tupperware container.
I then drive to work and try to rationalize my lunch with, “Well, it’s still a salad. Just a pared-down one. It’ll still be good, right?”
No, it won’t be good and I already know, so once lunchtime rolls around I either eat my dry greens in misery with a huge scowl on my face or nip out to buy an $11 salad that I enjoy only marginally better than my original bed of leafy greens. The point is if you’re not going to eat it, don’t bring it! It will only make you 1) miserable or 2) buy something elsewhere.
Last, but not least…
6. Have Fun
Food is fun — something we often forget when meal planning. Have fun with homemade recipes and if there’s a night where you’re not as busy or tired, make a sexy lunch!
While this happens rarely for me, on the nights it does, I’m always sure to make a downright naughty BLT sandwich I wholeheartedly enjoy (more than I should) the next day.
Weekday Sample Meal Plan and Recipe Suggestions
Food waste is such a shame when there are people who do not have the same resources. One of the beauties of meal planning is you get to identify the ingredients you need on your grocery list and avoid waste.
In making a meal plan, these are your ultimate goals and main concern:
- Avoid food waste
- Save time, money, and energy
- Cook delicious food from scratch
This list of recipe suggestions is only a sample, but great choices just the same. Adjust your recipes and meal entries depending on your nutritional needs and availability of resources.
Weekday Breakfast Meal Ideas
- Monday: Hashbrown Breakfast Cups
- Tuesday: Stuffed bread or Empanada
- Wednesday: Leek, Arugula, and Goat Cheese Frittata Recipe
- Thursday: French toast or Avocado Egg Toast and Egg Omelet
- Friday: Bacon and Cheese Crumpets
Here are some more quick breakfast ideas you can consider in your meal planning.
Weekday Lunch Meal Ideas
- Monday: Easy Chicken Sandwich Recipe with Avocado, Lettuce, and Tomato
- Tuesday: Pasta dishes (Garlic Penne, Macaroni & Cheese, or One-Pot Pasta)
- Wednesday: Thai Peanut Noodles or Noodle Ramen Recipes
- Thursday: Salad in a Jar or Tuna Sandwiches/Wrap
- Friday: Baked Honey Sesame Chicken Recipe or Chicken Enchilada
Get these lunch ideas for work and enjoy healthy meals on a budget.
Weeknight Meal Ideas
- Monday: Baked Salmon and Vegetable Stir Fry
- Tuesday: Garlic Bread and Pork Chops with Roasted vegetables
- Wednesday: Grilled Pork Tenderloin or Flank Steak and Asparagus
- Thursday: Spicy Fried Chicken and Garlic Green Beans
- Friday: Homemade meatballs or Baked Spaghetti & BBQ Meatballs
Here are some very fine and delicious recipes in case you’re wondering what to cook for dinner tonight.
Weekday Meal Plan Sample Grocery List
Given you’ve stored cupboard essentials like long-storing grains, pasta, sugar, honey, spices, and condiments, the plan is to pick weekly groceries of fresh fruits and vegetables, dairy, meat, and poultry.
From your list of recipes and food ideas for the day, these are the most common food items that will appear in your grocery list.
Meat and Poultry Products
- Flank steak
- Trader Joe’s organic ground beef
- Chicken breasts
- Pork chops
- Bananas (a good sub for lunch or breakfast)
- Strawberries (for snacks or desserts)
- Leeks or spring onions
- Leafy greens (spinach, arugula, lettuce, and kale)
- A cabbage head
- Bag of potato
- Bag of carrots
- Broccoli or cauliflower
Canned Foods and Others
- Peanut butter
- Pineapple slices or chunks
- Tomato sauce or paste
- French bread or wheat bread (for toasts and sandwiches)
- Peas and/or beans
- Chocolate or snack bar
- Bag of potato chips for a snack (optional)
- Ramen noodles
- Bag of nuts/seeds (almond, walnuts, pistachio, or sunflower seeds)
Plan your weekday family meals with tips and ideas in this video from The Foulger Family:
Now you have a clearer picture of meal planning and know there isn’t a “one size fits all” approach to it. We also know when cravings take over, so give yourself a bit of leeway and have that covered.
With the hundreds of recipes we have here in Homemade Recipes, you will never run out of delicious food choices and healthy meal planning ideas. In planning your meals, you will observe by and by how you save on cash and time, eats better, and waste food less.
Let us know how your meal planning goes in the comments section below or if you have easy lunch menu ideas of your own! We love hearing what our readers have to say.
Don’t forget to keep in touch, foodies!
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Editor’s Note: This post was originally published on August 3, 2015, and has been updated for quality and relevancy.