Next Week's Meal Plan

How I Prep a Week of Easy, Pantry-Friendly Dinners

updated Dec 14, 2022
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NWMP meal plan for pantry meals
Credit: Credit: Photo: Joe Lingeman; Food Stylist: Cyd McDowell, Photo: Joe Lingeman; Food Styling: Pearl Jones, Christine Han; Food Styling: Pearl Jones, Joe Lingeman/Kitchn; Food Stylist: Brett Regot/Kitchn, Joe Lingeman/Kitchn; Food Stylist: CC Buckley/Kitchn

Meal planning hasn’t always been the easiest in my household of four, which includes myself, my partner, my college-aged daughter, and a super-energetic 9-year-old. It seems like everyone is always hungry! Cooking for my family doesn’t only mean dinner right now, either — I also need to make sure we have food to graze on throughout the day.

To make my life run a little more smoothly, I needed a plan. I started the week by making pantry-friendly, big-batch dinners that could also be lunch for the next couple of days. Then, for the end-of-the-week push, I planned a few dishes that required less preparation. Here’s what that looks like for us this week.

Credit: Photo: Joe Lingeman; Food Styling: Pearl Jones

Monday: Chicken Pot Pie Casserole

If there’s one thing that brings my family comfort, it’s chicken pot pie. I make one every New Year’s Day with leftovers from our New Year’s Eve roast chicken dinner. We are all craving a little extra comfort these days and I am happy to provide food hugs as much as I can. This is a great recipe because we get a dinner we all love and enough leftovers for lunch the next day. If you don’t have any puff pastry in your freezer (I don’t), make a little pie dough the day before and use that instead.

Get the recipe: Chicken Pot Pie Casserole

Credit: Photo: Joe Lingeman; Food Stylist: Cyd McDowell

Tuesday: Sausage and Lentil One-Pot Pasta

This recipe is a protein powerhouse with just a few pantry staples. I love lentils and keep them regularly stocked in my cabinet. I can mix up the pasta shapes or add greens depending on what I have on hand. Dinner is on the table in under an hour, and my oldest daughter appreciates not having to wash a bunch of extra dishes.

Get the recipe: Sausage and Lentil One Pot Pasta

Credit: Photo: Joe Lingeman/Kitchn; Food Stylist: Brett Regot/Kitchn

Wednesday: Easy Sheet Pan Chicken Nachos

Who doesn’t love nachos? This recipe is endlessly riffable. I use leftover meat from a roast chicken or whatever chicken pieces I have available, I can cook ground beef with packaged or homemade taco seasoning, or I can go veggie with black or pinto beans. I can use canned salsa instead of diced tomatoes and swap the cheese with whatever I have in the fridge. This is also a great recipe to have your child help you prepare. My youngest especially likes this because she loves to eat with her hands.

Get this recipe: Easy Sheet Pan Chicken Nachos

Credit: Joe Lingeman/Kitchn; Food Stylist: CC Buckley/Kitchn

Thursday: Gratitude Chicken and Celery Rice

Being Filipino American means we love fried rice. This one is so easy and can be made if you have just rice and celery. But the options are truly endless here: Add frozen peas, scallions, ginger, or bacon if you don’t have chicken. No stock? No problem. Use water. You can have a meal with a few basics, but you can also embellish at will.

Get the recipe: Gratitude Chicken and Celery Rice

Credit: Christine Han; Food Styling: Pearl Jones

Friday: Easy Creamy Beef and Shells

When I was a teen, my dad had a bowling league on Friday nights. These were nights where I had to “fend for myself” and cook. Often, he would leave out a box of Hamburger Helper Cheeseburger Macaroni and I was never mad about it. This recipe brings me back and I want to take my family there too — except now I’m an adult and I get wine with my cheeseburger macaroni. It’s a great way to close out the week.

Get the recipe: Easy Creamy Beef and Shells

Meal planning isn’t always easy — especially if you’re just getting started. But we’re firm believers that it’s the secret to stress-free weeknight dinners. We want to help you find inspiration and ease some of the pain points that come with getting dinner on the table night after night, whether you’re cooking one or a family of four or five. Every week we share a new meal plan solution specifically customized for you from reader requests or from a guest contributor, for Next Week’s Meal Plan!

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