Do you ever find yourself in a “what’s for dinner” rut? Bored by the same dishes week after week, it sometimes becomes hard to break out of the monotony. Gone are nightly meals of meat, starch, and vegetables. Many people are grateful to have such a dinner once a week!
Because many decisions about what to eat are driven by convenience, taste, familial preferences, time, and budget, thinking outside of the box can feel like it will take too much time, energy, or work. However, sometimes meal planning is possible and easy by using just what you have in your refrigerator, freezer, and pantry. Try these suggestions.
Consider having eggs, cereal, waffles, and breakfast sandwiches. Serve with fresh fruit.
Use up those leftovers:
- Take any meat or vegetables that are left over from the night before (e.g., chicken, beef, pork, vegetables, potatoes, and rice)
- Heat them up in a pan with a little olive oil
- Crack 1–1½ eggs/person and scramble them up with some milk, Dijon mustard, and a bit of shredded cheese if desired
- Pour the egg mixture over the leftovers
- Bake in a 350° F oven for 20–30 minutes
- Serve with toast and a salad
Calzones and Stromboli
Keep pre-made pizza dough, cheese, and tomato sauce in the house for a quick meal. If you want something other than pizza, make calzones or stromboli. Here is an easy-to-make recipe:
- Spread out the pizza dough
- Layer cold cuts, vegetables, and cheese
- Roll it up into a calzone or stromboli
- Bake at 375° F for 30 minutes
- Warm up some marinara or pizza sauce to serve with the calzone or stromboli for dipping
Peanut butter and jelly fixings bar
Put out ingredients for peanut butter and jelly sandwiches. Serve with Greek yogurt and:
- Raisins or other dried fruit
- Bananas or thin-sliced apples or ripe pears
- Whole wheat bread
Make a big salad with a bag of pre-washed lettuce and any fresh vegetables you have in the house. Serve with bread, a roll, or crackers. Look in the cupboard and refrigerator for anything you can include on the salad, such as:
- Tuna fish or canned salmon
- Canned beans
- Roasted peppers
- Sliced or shredded cheese
- Sliced or chopped hard-boiled eggs
- Sliced cold cuts
- Put your leftover meat to good use:
- Buy extra chicken, meat, fish, tofu, or shrimp so you have extra for another night
- Use the leftovers to make a quesadilla
- Load leftovers and vegetables on a tortilla and put cheese on another tortilla
- Toast it in the oven or toaster oven
- Put two sides together
- Serve with sour cream and salsa
Make your own combinations or try this suggestion:
- Bring a carton of chicken or vegetable stock to a boil. Add frozen vegetables and frozen tortellini or ravioli. Reduce heat & simmer for a few minutes until the pasta is cooked. Serve as soup.
- Boil up those noodles with some frozen peas, drain, and then toss with olive oil and a little Parmesan cheese
- Add some extra fresh vegetables for a satisfying meal
Precooked chicken strips, rotisserie chicken, and ham saves time. You can add these precooked meats to salad, soups, and sandwiches.
Use the carcass of a rotisserie chicken to make soup for the next day:
- Boil the carcass in water with fresh carrots, onion, celery, parsley, and salt
- Add some pasta or rice before serving for a heartier meal
Broth and soup
See note under Precooked meats for how to use the carcass of a rotisserie chicken to make a homemade chicken soup.
Also keep boxes of broth and soup on hand:
- Add vegetables, cheese, noodles, or whatever you have to brighten the flavor of the broth or soup, which also makes it more satisfying
- Serve with crackers and cheese
Grilled or toasted cheese sandwiches
It only takes a few minutes to make this quick and satisfying meal. Serve with some fruit or vegetables.
Items to keep on hand
The following items are easy to incorporate into meals. Many also have a long shelf life or can last a while in the refrigerator:
- Baby carrots
- Frozen fruits and vegetables
- Vacuum-sealed precooked chicken
- Plain Greek yogurt
- Frozen shrimp, meats, pastas, vegetables, breads, and soups
- Leftovers, such as chili, stews, and casseroles
- Canned fruit, vegetables, tuna fish, salmon, salsa
- Peanut or almond butter
- Dried pasta, or grains such as quinoa, farro, barley
- Whole wheat flour tortillas
- Nuts and nut butters
- Dried fruits
Want more recipe ideas?
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Erica Leon is a Registered Dietitian and practices from a Health at Every Size (HAES®) lens. She is certified as an eating disorder specialist and is passionate about helping women at midlife, menopause and beyond to make peace with food and body image.
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