5 Days of (Truly) 30-Minute Meals from Marge Perry

(Image credit: Kimberley Hasselbrink)
  • Meal Plan By: Marge Perry of A Sweet and Savory Life
  • Number of Meals: Five weeknight dinners
  • Sized For: Four people
  • Primary Ingredients: Fresh tuna, black beans, chicken breasts, pork chops, skirt steak
  • Diet: Clean, healthful, and well-balanced, with minimal saturated fat, added sugar, or processed food.

You are not alone if you’re making the same three to five dinners week in and week out. At the end of a busy day, when we mere mortals are not at our most energetic or creative best, of course we turn to the dishes we can get on the table quickly and without thinking too hard.

Here are a week’s worth of my favorite super-easy, 30-minute meals to add to your regular rotation. They are made with minimally processed ingredients you can get at your local supermarket, require uncomplicated cooking methods, and are healthful and wholesome.

(Image credit: Kimberley Hasselbrink)

Confession: Although my husband and I cook and eat for a living, there are times when we’ve been working on, say, a dessert story and have no dinner-appropriate leftovers, or days we’ve been out at meetings all day and our work has not provided dinner. I try to anticipate those days ahead of time so I can be sure we have the ingredients on hand to make a fast, simple, and clean dinner. It’s either that, or we’d end up resorting to take-out, which is never as nourishing or as satisfying.

This one-week meal plan calls for a balance of different types of protein: fish, pork, beef, chicken, and meatless. But to give every recipe extra value in your weeknight rotation, I’ve given you at least one alternate way to prepare it. That way you can tailor the plan to your own preferences, take advantage of sale items, and keep your dinners fresh and interesting.

Oh, and for Friday night, just in case you’re feeling a little celebratory that the week has come to a close, I’ve given you alternatives to dress the meal up a bit.

(Image credit: Kimberley Hasselbrink)

The Meals






The Recipes

Your Meal Prep Plan

What to Do Ahead of Time

While all these meals are designed to be made entirely in 30 minutes on a weeknight, there are a few things you can do ahead if you have time:

  • Prep the cauliflower, green beans, and asparagus for the side dishes.
  • Make the chimichurri for the skirt steak a day or two ahead and press plastic wrap against the surface to keep it from browning.
  • Make the port wine sauce for the pork chops up to three days ahead.

Weeknight Task List

Monday – Tuna Puttanesca: Get the cauliflower roasting and the brown rice cooking, then prep the ingredients for the tuna. Ten minutes before the cauliflower and rice are done, start making the tuna.

Tuesday – Stuffed Chicken Breasts: Start the water boiling for the orzo and preheat the oven. Prep the chicken and start baking; while it cooks, make the orzo and zucchini.

Wednesday – Skirt Steak: Preheat the oven and start the potatoes boiling for the side dish; next make the chimichurri sauce. When the potatoes are tender, smash and roast them in the oven. While they roast, make the shallot vinaigrette, prep the green beans, and get the steak ready. When the potatoes come out of the oven, broil the steak and sauté the green beans.

Thursday – Oven-Baked Burritos: Assemble the burritos and start them baking in the oven. Meanwhile, toss the salad and reheat any leftover vegetables from the week’s side dishes.

Friday – Pork Chops: Prepare the port wine sauce for the pork chops (if you haven’t already done so). Roast or boil the asparagus and cook the polenta. When the sides are ready, cook the pork chops on the stovetop and serve.

Your Shopping List

To buy at the store:

  • Shallots (2 whole)
  • Garlic (1 head)
  • Orange (1 whole)
  • Lemons (2 whole or 2 tablespoons + 2 teaspoons lemon juice)
  • Lime (1 whole or 1 tablespoon lime juice)
  • Salad greens (1 4-ounce package)
  • Avocados (2 medium)
  • Zucchini (1 pound or 2 medium)
  • Asparagus (1 pound)
  • Green beans (enough to serve 4 as a side dish)
  • Cauliflower (1 head)
  • Red or white potatoes (12 small)
  • Cherry tomatoes (2 cups)
  • Plum tomato (1)
  • Parsley (1 bunch)
  • Basil (1 bunch)
  • Cilantro (1 bunch)
  • Peas, fresh or frozen (1 cup)
  • Corn kernels, fresh or frozen (2 cups)
  • Non-fat milk (2 cups)
  • Light or regular sour cream (1 cup)
  • Dubliner cheese or cheddar cheese (3 ounces)
  • Parmesan cheese (small wedge to make 1/4 cup grated)
  • Light cheddar or Monterey jack (enough to make 1 cup shredded)
  • Gruyere cheese (enough to make 1 cup shredded)
  • Flour tortillas (1 package of 8-inch tortillas)
  • Anchovy fillets (1)
  • Diced tomatoes (1 14.5 ounce can)
  • Kalamata olives (1/4 cup)
  • Capers (1 tablespoon)
  • Chipotles in adobo (1 can or jar)
  • Black beans (2 15-ounce cans)
  • Salsa (2 cups)
  • Low-sodium chicken broth (1/3 cup)
  • Plum preserves or jam (1/4 cup)
  • Quick-cooking brown rice (1 package)
  • Orzo pasta (1 package)
  • Quick-cooking polenta (1/2 cup)
  • Tuna steaks (4 6-ounce steaks)
  • Bone-in chicken breasts (2 pounds)
  • Skirt steak (1 1/4 pounds)
  • Bone-in center cut pork chops (4 whole or about 1 3/4 pounds)
  • Port wine (1/2 cup)

In your pantry (double check to make sure you have these on hand):

  • Salt
  • Pepper
  • Crushed red pepper
  • Ground coriander (1 teaspoon)
  • Ground cumin (1/2 teaspoon)
  • Chili powder (1/2 teaspoon)
  • Cayenne pepper (1/8 to 1/4 teaspoon)
  • Dried crushed rosemary (1/4 teaspoon)
  • Dried oregano (1/4 teaspoon)
  • Garlic powder (1/4 teaspoon)
  • Olive oil
  • White wine vinegar
  • Sugar
  • Light mayonnaise (1/2 cup)