Meal planning and creating new meals with your leftovers

Before we had Peanut, I wasn’t much of a planner.  Nor the kind of person who liked stability or a predictable schedule.  I loved living my life by the seat of my pants (is that how that saying goes?) and the only meal planning I did was when I was at the grocery store and noticed something I wanted to have.

When Peanut graced us with her presence, it took me a little while to get my bearings straight and adjust to the new family life.  One of the things that changed almost immediately was the way our days were laid out – I grew to love a predictable schedule and planning ahead.

Although I’m still not great at planning out all the meals and there are plenty of times when we have fridge/pantry meals (aka pull things out of the fridge and/or pantry, scratch your head for a while, figure out what goes together, throw it all in the pot or in the frying pan and hope for the best), I’ve made quiet an effort to plan ahead.  I prep most of the things that I can on Sundays, use a slow cooker at least once every two weeks, and double most recipes so I can freeze half and have it on a day I am too spent to think of a dinner.  Our shopping list includes the staples (lunch meat, bread, cheese, yogurt, fruit, granola, milk, avocado) and whatever will help us come up with 5 meals.  Here’s a sample week.

What’s for dinner:

meal plan

What you’ll need:

  • 1 can tomatos, diced with chilis
  • 1 can corn
  • 1 jar salsa
  • 1 can pento beans
  • 3 lbs ground turkey
  • 1.5 onions, peeled and diced
  • 2 alarm chili kit
  • 4-5 celery stalks, diced
  • whole wheat macaroni (we like medium shells)
  • 1/4 cup butter
  • 1/4 cup all purpose flour
  • 3 cups milk (for mac n cheese and orzo salad)
  • 4 cups cheese of choice (we used mexican with jalapeños; using this for mac n cheese and quesadillas)
  • whole wheat breading (to sprinkle on top of mac n cheese and to bread the chicken)
  • 2 eggs
  • orzo
  • fresh veggies of choice (we used 1 cucumber, 1 medium tomato, 1 zucchini)
  • chicken breasts (6-8)
  • quesadillas wraps
  • parmesan cheese
  • olive oil
  • salt, pepper, and herbs if you want some

Prep everything for the chili and orzo on Sunday (cut veggies, pull cans to the front of the pantry, etc).

Monday: throw the chili ingredients in a slow cooker and head on out the door.  Dinner will be ready when you get home. (If you have a toddler that isn’t ready for the spiciness in this chili, you can do what we do – add the red peppers after the chili is made or make them some chicken nuggets and use the veggies as a side).

Tuesday: boil the macaroni according to directions, then drain it.  While draining, melt butter, add milk and flour and mix well.  Remove from heat, add the cheese, then mix in the macaroni.  Put the whole thing into a pan, sprinkle the top with whole wheat breading and put it in the oven for about 20 minutes at 350 degrees.

Wednesday: mix in the leftover chili into the leftover mac n cheese and rewarm in the oven for about 20 minutes at 350 degrees.

baked mac n cheese with chili

Thursday: tenderize the chicken breasts, then dip into eggs and breading.  Fry them up in a pan.  While frying the chicken, boil the orzo and mix in the rest of the ingredients once it’s cooked and drained.  Serve with chicken breasts.

Friday: Use the leftover chicken from Thursday, cut up into thin strips, add some mexican cheese and put in a wrap (folding over like a quesadilla).  You can fry these with some butter or do what I do – stick them on some foil and put them in the toaster oven for about 10 minutes at 400 degrees or until the cheese is melted and before they’re burnt.  Serve with a side of veggies or, if you have leftover orzo salad, salad.


For more recipes and posts, visit Living Like the Kings.


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