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The Great Dinner Time Saver: Prep Once, Eat All Week

We all want to cook healthy homemade meals during busy weeknights, but finding the time is a major challenge.

Here's a simple strategy that will give you back hours during the busy work week: Prep all your ingredients for the week at one time. You'll be amazed how much time you save -- and weekday dinners will come together 1-2-3.

Here are time-saving tips -- and four weeks' worth of recipes -- to get you through the busy weekdays with your sanity fully intact (and your family fully fed!).

Pre-Prep Quick Tips

1) On Sunday, do your grocery shopping for the entire week -- a big time saver in its own right!

2) Once you have the goods, check out the recipes' ingredient lists to determine how much and what kind of prep you'll need for each ingredient throughout the week. (We've made it simple in our menu plans below.)

3) Sunday afternoon, set aside some time for washing and prepping ingredients. Note: Don't pre-prep fresh herbs, potatoes, and other ingredients that are delicate or might discolor if pre-prepped.

4) Put the pre-prepped ingredients into containers or baggies for each recipe, label them, and pop 'em in the fridge.

 

Prepped Vegetables in Containers

Photo by Meredith

OK, let's get to the recipes.

WEEK 1 RECIPES

 

Easy Philly Cheese Steak Pizza

Photo by gnomeygoose

 

Monday: Easy Lasagna I

Tuesday: Yummy Honey Chicken Kabobs

Wednesday: Homemade Black Bean Veggie Burgers

Thursday: Boilermaker Tailgate Chili

Friday: Easy Philly Cheese Steak Pizza

WEEK 1 PRE-PREP

Here's what you'll prep on Sunday:

8 onions:

  • 2 onions, chopped
  • 1/2 onion, cut into wedges
  • 5 small onions, cut into 2 inch pieces
  • 1 onion, thinly sliced

Approx. 3 cloves of garlic:

  • 1 tablespoon minced garlic

3 red bell peppers:

  • 2 red bell peppers, cut into 2 inch pieces
  • 1 red bell pepper, seeded and chopped

3 green bell peppers:

  • 1/2 green bell pepper, cut into 2 inch pieces
  • 1 green bell pepper, seeded and chopped
  • 1 green bell pepper, thinly sliced

2 green chile peppers:

  • seeded and chopped

3 stalks celery:

  • chopped

1/2 pound fresh mushrooms:

  • sliced

WEEK 2 RECIPES

 

Broccoli Chicken Divan

Photo by Reyna

Monday's chicken casserole is a great way to use up leftover chicken. Roast a chicken (or two) for Sunday dinner, then cube up the breast meat for Monday's casserole.

Monday: Broccoli Chicken Divan

Tuesday: Classic Goulash

Wednesday: Zucchini Caprese
Same-Day Prep: 2 tablespoons chopped fresh basil

Thursday: Italian Spaghetti Sauce with Meatballs

Friday: Chicken Stir-Fry
Same-Day Prep: 1 tablespoon minced fresh ginger

WEEK 2 PRE-PREP

This week, we introduce broccoli (chopped and broken into florets) and zucchini (chopped and sliced).

Here's what you'll prep on Sunday:

2 heads broccoli:

  • 1 pound chopped fresh broccoli
  • 1 head broccoli, broken into florets

5 onions:

  • 3-1/2 large yellow onions, chopped
  • 1 onion, cut into large chunks

10 cloves garlic:

  • 3 cloves garlic, chopped
  • 7 cloves garlic, minced

2 green bell peppers:

  • 1 green bell pepper, diced
  • 1 green bell pepper, cut into matchsticks

4 zucchini:

  • 1 zucchini, chopped
  • 3 medium zucchini, halved lengthwise and sliced

1 bunch green onions:

  • chopped

Approx. 3 carrots:

  • 1 cup sliced carrots

2 plum tomatoes:

  • diced

WEEK 3 RECIPES

 

Slow Cooker Beef Stew I

Photo by Dianne

Monday: Slow Cooker Beef Stew I
Same-Day Prep: 3 potatoes, diced

Tuesday: Actually Delicious Turkey Burgers

Wednesday: Spaghetti Carbonara II

Thursday: Slow Cooker Chicken and Dumplings

Friday: Terrific Turkey Chili

WEEK 3 PRE-PREP

Here's what you'll prep on Sunday:

5 onions:

  • 3 onions, chopped
  • 1-1/2 onions finely diced

3 cloves garlic:

  • minced

1 stalk celery:

  • chopped

1 bunch green onions:

  • chopped

1 green bell pepper:

  • diced

4 carrots:

  • sliced

Fresh Parsley:

  • chopped, 1/3 cup

3 medium zucchini:

  • halved lengthwise and sliced

WEEK 4 RECIPES

 

Sloppy Joes II

Photo by Dianne

Monday: Easy Meatloaf

Tuesday: Spicy Beef Fajitas
Same-Day Prep: 4 large cloves garlic, crushed

Wednesday: Chicken Pot Pie IX

Thursday: Sloppy Joes II

Friday: Chicken and Biscuit Casserole
Note: The recipe calls for baby carrots, but you can use "grown-up" carrots, too.

WEEK 4 PRE-PREP

This time we're cutting bell peppers into thin strips for fajita night and chopping them for sloppy joes.

Here's what you'll prep on Sunday:

3 yellow onions:

  • 2-1/2 onions, chopped

1 red onion:

  • thinly sliced

1 green bell pepper:

  • 1/4 cup chopped

1 red bell pepper:

  • cut into thin strips

1 yellow bell pepper:

  • cut into thin strips

2 anaheim chile peppers:

  • thinly sliced

Approx. 6 carrots:

  • 1 cup sliced carrots
  • 1/2 cup chopped carrots

Approx. 4 stalks celery:

  • 1/2 cup sliced celery
  • 1/2 cup chopped celery

2 cloves garlic:

  • minced

More Top-Rated Recipes to Pre-Prep

Need a substitute recipe? We've got a deep bench. Here are more 5-star favorites to choose from.


Here's a great way to keep it simple: The Weekly Bag of Veg! It's the easy way to sneak fresh, seasonal veggies into every meal -- cut up a variety of vegetables, pop 'em into one bag, then add them to recipes during the week. Read more of Chef Bill Telepan's tricks for getting kids to eat veggies.


Related: Turn Main-Dish Leftovers Into Easy Lunch Wraps


 

Carl Hanson

About Carl Hanson

Carl will eat that. Share with him @CarlNo9 on Twitter.