Next Week’s Meal Plan: 5 Fully Make-Ahead Dinners

updated Aug 10, 2019
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Credit: From Left to Right: Ghazalle Badiozamani, Joe Lingeman, Lauren Volo, Joe Lingeman

Welcome to Next Week’s Meal Plan! Meal planning isn’t always easy — especially if you’re just getting started. But I’m a firm believer that it’s the secret to stress-free weeknight dinners. I 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 eight. Every week, I’ll be sharing a new meal plan solution specifically customized for you from reader requests or from a guest contributor.

This week’s reader-requested meal plan comes from a home cook with a busy evening schedule. She notes that even basic meal prep isn’t quite enough: With no time to cook dinner each night, she needs fully make-ahead meals, where all the cooking can be done early.

Not only can these five dinners be made entirely in advance — either on the weekend or when you have spare time throughout the week — but some even get better as the ingredients sit together. Others leave you with great-tasting leftovers to stash in the freezer, as a gift to your future self. Come dinnertime there’s no prep or additional cooking required — these dinners can simply be reheated and/or assembled, then it’s time to dig in.

Monday: The Easiest Slow Cooker Pulled Pork

This pork takes some time to cook. It’s an ideal option for cooking overnight or prepping at the beginning of the day. But don’t let the long cook time dissuade you: It truly couldn’t be easier and requires very minimal prep. I like to mix it together with barbecue sauce and pile it on a bun with coleslaw (another easy thing to make ahead), but it also makes a great filling for assemble-yourself tacos or for simply eating as is. Tuck the leftovers in the freezer for future dinners.

Credit: Joe Lingeman

Tuesday: Make the Easiest Pasta Salad

While you may mostly think of pasta salad as a side dish, I think this tangy, creamy dish makes the perfect straight-from-the-fridge cold summer dinner. The best part about making it in advance is that pasta salad always tastes better the next day (and the day after)!

Get the recipe: The Easiest Pasta Salad

Credit: Joe Lingeman

Wednesday: Instant Pot Chicken and Rice Burrito Bowls

Pile this dinner in a bowl and top with Greek yogurt, cilantro, and avocado or stuff it all into a big flour tortilla for a handheld meal. Pro tip: Mix a little extra salsa in when reheating, to keep it moist and give it even more flavor.

Credit: Lauren Volo

Thursday: Roasted Cauliflower & Lentil Bowl with Sweet Potato Hummus

Make this the night (or weekend) before, and when dinnertime rolls around all you need to to do is warm up the cauliflower and lentils before assembling the bowls. I like to think of it as a DIY dinner where every eater at the table can add as much (or as little) of each ingredient as they like.

Credit: Joe Lingeman

Friday: Instant Pot Spaghetti

I can tell you from experience that not only does your Instant Pot make the best spaghetti and meat sauce around, but it’s also perfectly suited to being made ahead. It somehow tastes even better as leftovers!

Get the recipe: Instant Pot Spaghetti


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