5-Day Meal Plan: Hearty Chicken Dinners & Make-Ahead Breakfasts
- Meal Plan By: Faith Durand, Executive Editor of The Kitchn
- Number of meals: 5 dinners, 2 breakfasts, mix-and-match lunches
- Sized For: Two adults, but kid-friendly and easy to double.
- Primary Ingredients: Chicken thighs, lentils, winter vegetables, eggs
- Diet: Low-carb friendly. Gluten-free friendly.
After a fall and early winter full of travel and scrambled meal schedules, I am finally back on track with planning meals with my husband. We were eating out for convenience more than pleasure last year, and we resolved to plan and cook meals more diligently for reasons of both health and budget.
Here is what a week of winter meals looks like for me. In fact, this is almost exactly what we ate this whole past week. Maybe parts (or all) of this will work for you too, so I offer it up as a meal plan from my own kitchen.
How We Plan & Eat Meals
- Our Time: My husband and I regularly work 12 to 14-hour days, and while the fact that I work at home helps, it doesn’t necessarily give me any extra time to cook. I do a lot on the weekends and then eat off that all week, with one or two quick meals, like stir-fry, midweek.
- Our Usual Plans: I plan several suppers a week, but make just one thing for breakfast. My husband eats lunch out at least a couple times a week for his job, but on other days he takes dinner leftovers for lunch. I don’t need much midday, so I just cook a pot of lentils and have some salad on hand and mix those up in different ways throughout the week.
- Our Appetites: We also aren’t huge eaters, and we have high tolerance for repetition throughout the week. Hence the chicken repeated here. I often buy a big budget pack of chicken thighs and use them several ways all week.
- How This Week Compares: This week I actually made two breakfasts, but kept it easy with lunch. As far as dinners go, this is actually quite a bit of cooking for me. We don’t usually have five distinct dinners each week. Three is more my speed, with plenty of leftovers. But this week we decided we wanted to vary it more.
The Meal Plan
Dinner: 5 Hearty Meals
- Sunday – Roasted Chicken Thighs & Squash Over Polenta – The recipe I actually made is fromThe Kitchn Cookbook (page 190). If you don’t have the book you can make something similar with the recipes linked above.
- Monday – Slow Cooker French Onion Soup & Roasted Cabbage with Bacon
- Tuesday – Chicken Ragù with Bacon over Roasted Rutabaga with Brown Butter. Salad dressed with Balsamic Vinaigrette.
- Wednesday – Stir-Fried Chicken with Cauliflower Rice
- Thursday – Leftovers
- Friday – Date night! We eat out on Fridays.
- Saturday – Twice-Baked Potatoes stuffed with leftover prosciutto and other bits from the week’s meals, plus some greens and Parmesan.
Breakfast: 2 Make-Ahead Meals
Lunch: Mix & Match Staples
For lunch I make a few staples — lentils, a salad dressing — and eat them in various ways, sometimes topped with an egg or a piece of leftover chicken. My husband mixes and matches, eats out, or takes dinner leftovers.
- Fruit: Clementines, bananas, oranges
The Cooking Plan
What to Prep on Sunday
As I said earlier, I do a major cooking day on Sunday and try to keep cooking to a minimum the rest of the week.
- Soft-boil a dozen eggs
- Make the savory muffins
- Cook a pot of lentils
- Shake up a jar of the balsamic salad dressing
- Make cauliflower rice and freeze it
- Cook the chicken ragù and refrigerate
- Cook the chicken thighs, squash, and polenta for dinner
- Cut up onions and put in the slow cooker overnight to cook.
In the morning, pour broth into the now-caramelized onions and let the soup keep cooking. Before dinner, roast the cabbage and warm up the soup and broil with bread and cheese. (You can microwave the soup in its bowls to get the cheese melted, then broil briefly just after the cabbage comes out of the oven.)
Warm the chicken ragù. Roast the rutabaga and dress the salad. (OR cook pasta or gnocchi and have the rutabaga on the side.)
Make the chicken stir-fry and serve with cauliflower rice.
Leftovers night! We always seem to have plenty of leftovers.
We almost always go out on Friday, either on a date together or with friends.
We usually eat a late brunch and a light dinner on Saturday. Depending on where we went to dinner the previous night, we may have leftovers to eat. This weekend I am making twice-baked potatoes, a great Saturday comfort dish and also a good way to use up all the little bits and scraps from the week’s cooking. I have extra bacon, some scallions, a tiny bit of leftover chicken ragu, and cheese scraps.
Recipes Not Pictured Above
Tips Relevant to This Menu
The Shopping List
This menu is sized for two adults. It could stretch to cover a young child without increasing the quantities of most of the food.
At the Grocery Store
- 1 large head cauliflower
- 1 butternut squash
- 1 head green cabbage
- 1 small fennel bulb
- 1 cup sugar snap peas
- 1 red bell pepper
- Bagged mixed baby kale or greens
- 3 lemons
- Clementines or oranges
- 4 large Russet potatoes
- 1 large rutabaga
- 1 head garlic
- 4 pounds onions
- Small container whole roasted cashews
- Pistachios, for snacking
- 3 pounds chicken thighs
- 12 ounces thick-cut bacon
- 8 ounces prosciutto
- 2 dozen large eggs
- 8 ounces cottage cheese
- 4 ounces Parmesan cheese
- Gruyere cheese, for topping French onion soup
- 1 pound unsalted butter
- Greek yogurt
- Almond meal
- 1 quart low-sodium chicken broth
- 3 quarts low-sodium beef broth
- Green French lentils
- Gnocchi or pasta, optional — to go with the ragu
- Coarse cornmeal for polenta
- Baguette, for topping French onion soup
We buy a couple of budget bottles a week.
- Drinking this week: Capela das Freiras, a soft, light red wine from the Alentejo region of Portugal. A super buy at $9/bottle.
From Your Pantry
- Whole wheat flour
- Baking powder
- Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
- Smoked paprika
- Fresh ginger
- Red pepper flakes
- Soy sauce
- Rice wine
- Balsamic vinegar
- Olive oil
- Vegetable oil
On Budget: I am not ultra budget-conscious, but I think this menu does pretty well. If you are stocked up on the pantry staples portion of the list and just buying the first part of the list, the groceries — not including wine! — should run somewhere between $100 and $130 for five dinners, five lunches (if leftovers stretch), and at least five breakfasts. For two people that comes out to about $3 to $4 per person per meal.
Happy cooking this weekend!