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How To Do Weeknight Dinners Without Totally Stressing

What's for dinner? It's the dreaded question we all face at the end of the working day. Here are five tried-and-true strategies that could help you get dinner done faster, easier, and better than ever.


Mushroom Chicken Piccata

Photo by naples34102

Recipe: Mushroom Chicken Piccata

You'll find tons of advice out there for solving the dinner dilemma, but the truth is there's no one-size-fits-all solution. Here's a more personalized way to help you get dinner done: Take a look at these five easy meal-planning ideas, then use them, adjust them, or combine them any way you want to come up with a solid plan that works for you.

1. Meal Templates

How It Works
Assign a consistent theme for each weeknight, then plan and shop accordingly. For example, if you know you're going to eat meatless every Monday, you're already halfway done; all that's left is to decide on the recipe. And if you know that every Thursday is jam-packed with after-school/after-work commitments, then make that your super fast and easy night: soup and sandwich, leftovers, take-out. Whatever works.

Here's an example of weeknight template themes and recipe ideas to go with them.

Meatless Monday

Taco Tuesday

Pasta Wednesday

Stir-Fry Thursday

Pizza Friday

More meal template ideas to have fun with:
Finger-Lickin' Chicken Night
Big Ol' Sandwich Night
Up in Your Grill Night
Breakfast for Dinner Night
Fried Rice Night
Noodle Bowl Night
Old-Fashioned Casserole Night
It's a Chili Night
More Cheese, Please Night
International Intrigue Night
Put An Egg On It Night

2. Big-Batch Cooking

How It Works
Made a double batch of of a one-pot meal such as chili, stew, or soup, and freeze it in portions. Hook it with up with the Meal Templates and/or Slow Cooker plan, and dinner is a just a reheat away. Big-batch cooking is usually best done on a weekend, but you can also slow-cook a big batch of something on a weeknight while you're doing something else. Like sleeping.

More: Get tips for freezing food and thawing food, including how long things will last in the freezer.

3. Slow Cooker

How It Works
It's the ultimate cook-while-you-have-a-life approach to easy dinners. You just fill 'er up, scoot out, and come home to a hot meal. Check out our highest-rated slow cooker recipes for ideas, and find more inspiration in our entire collection of slow cooker recipes.

More: Use these super easy slow cooker beans in about a million different dishes.

4. Cook Once, Eat Twice

How It Works
Cook enough to turn the leftovers into a whole new meal the next night. Depending on whether you're cooking for one, two, or a crew, you could even have enough leftovers to turn into a third meal. Here's an excellent example of how this cook got four great meals for two out of just one chicken.

More: See 12 ways to use leftover steak that are even better than steak.

5. Prep Once, Eat All Week

How It Works
Prep a week's worth of ingredients all at once and turn them into meals the rest of the week. You'll save a ton of prep time when you're actually cooking, and you'll save money by buying and prepping only what you know you'll use. Here's a full rundown of how it works, complete with recipe recommendations.

More Easy Dinner Ideas

Sheet pan dinners are the new one-pot meals.

Get recipes for simple, healthy meals in a bowl.

Discover more quick and easy dinner recipes.

About Vanessa Greaves

Good food, friends, and fun are always on the menu. Find me as foodelicious on Allrecipes and vanny.gee on Instagram (but only if you don't mind cat pics and cocktails).