Power Hour Meal Prep

Meal Prep Plan: How I Prep a Week of Cozy Winter Dinners in Two Hours

updated Feb 9, 2023
We independently select these products—if you buy from one of our links, we may earn a commission. All prices were accurate at the time of publishing.
prepared meals arranged on a kitchen surface
Credit: Joe Lingeman and Jesse Szewczyk

This time of year, the ideal dinner setup involves curling up on the couch with a steaming bowl of something comforting like soup, stew, or mac & cheese — and that’s where this week’s Power Hour comes in. This plan is all about meal prepping for the cold, dark days of winter. I’ll show you how to plan, shop, and prep for a week of cozy winter dinners. After just two hours, your fridge will be packed with everything you need to easily heat and eat this week. Let’s head into the kitchen, dust off the slow cooker, get out the casserole dishes, and parboil that pasta. Here’s a step-by-step plan for putting it all together.

Credit: Joe Lingeman and Jesse Szewczyk

Meal Prep Goals

  • Dinner: Hearty, cozy dinners that are exactly what you want to eat this season.
  • Nutritional Goals: This week’s plan is all about serving warm, filling, and comforting meals during the coldest days of winter with no specific nutritional goals in mind.

Meal Prep Plan Snapshot

  • Feeds: 4 people
  • Prep Time: About 2 hours
  • Meals Covered: About 70% of dinners (no weekend dinners included)
  • Weekday Cooking Required? Yes. Most ingredients are prepped and dinner is easy to bring together and serve.

Meal Plan


Shopping List

This list is filled with all of the ingredients you will need to prepare a week of cozy winter dinners. Before you head to the store, check your pantry, freezer, and refrigerator for items you may already have like spices, long-lasting produce, and proteins. Ingredients like kosher salt, black pepper, olive oil, and vegetable oil are not included on this list so double check your supply of those as well.

  • Bakery: 8 ounces sourdough bread
  • Dry Goods: 1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar, 1 tablespoon Dijon mustard, 6 tablespoons all-purpose flour, 2 teaspoons chili powder, 1 tablespoon plus 2 teaspoons dried oregano, 1 tablespoon ground cumin, 1 1/4 teaspoons paprika, 3/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes, 12 ounces cellentani (or cavatappi or other short dry pasta), 8 ounces dried egg noodles, 1 (28-ounce) can whole peeled tomatoes, 1 cup prepared pizza sauce or marinara, 4 tablespoons tomato paste, 3 (32-ounce) cartons chicken or vegetable broth, 1 (32-ounce) carton low-sodium beef broth, 2 (15-ounce) cans hominy, 1 1/2 cups green French lentils, tortilla chips (for serving)
  • Produce: 1 lime, 15 garlic cloves, 5 yellow onions, 1 poblano pepper, 2 radishes, 1 large tomato, 1 large bunch (or 2 small bunches) broccoli rabe, 1 avocado, 8 ounces cremini mushrooms, 4 sprigs fresh thyme, fresh cilantro, Italian parsley (optional for garnish), fresh basil (optional for garnish)
  • Dairy: 3 sticks (12 tablespoons) unsalted butter, 1/2 cup heavy cream, 3 cups whole milk, 1 1/2 pounds (6 cups) shredded mozzarella cheese, 3 ounces (3/4 cup) grated sharp cheddar cheese, 1 ounce Parmesan cheese, 3/4 cup whole-milk Greek yogurt
  • Meat: 2 pounds boneless, skinless chicken thighs, 1 pound lean ground beef, 1/2 cup mini pepperoni slices

Power Hour: How to Get the Prep Done

  1. Boil water and heat oven. Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Once boiling, add 12 ounces pasta for the Pizza Macaroni & Cheese and cook to al dente according to package directions. Drain and set aside. Arrange 2 racks to divide the oven into thirds and heat the oven to 425°F.
  2. Prep produce. One-Pot Weeknight Beef Stroganoff: Trim stems from 8 ounces cremini mushrooms and slice 1/4-inch-thick and store. Small dice 1 yellow onion, finely chop 2 garlic cloves, and store together. Slow Cooker Chicken Posole: Dice 1 onion, seed and dice 1 poblano pepper, mince 3 garlic cloves, then place all in a gallon zip-top bag or large food storage container. Slice radishes and refrigerate separately. Pizza Macaroni & Cheese: Finely chop 1 onion and 4 garlic cloves. Tomato Braised Lentils with Broccoli Rabe: Finely chop 1 onion, mince 1 garlic clove. Roasted Tomato Soup with Cheesy Crouton Topper: Empty 1 can whole tomatoes into a Dutch oven and crush with hands, halve and thinly slice 1 yellow onion, and crush 4 garlic cloves.
  3. Make tomato soup. Prepare soup through the oven-roasted part of step 3: Add prepared onion and garlic cloves to the tomatoes in the Dutch oven. Add 2 tablespoons unsalted butter, 4 sprigs fresh thyme, 2 tablespoons olive oil, salt, pepper, and red pepper flakes. Roast on the lower rack of the oven for 40 to 45 minutes or until thickened and bubbling. Transfer to a food storage container, cool, and refrigerate.
  4. Prep lentils and broccoli rabe. Braise the lentils according to the recipe, then transfer to a food storage container, cool, and refrigerate. Bring a pot of water to a boil and prepare an ice bath. Once boiling, cook broccoli rabe for 1 to 2 minutes, then immediately transfer to the ice bath. Drain and refrigerate in a separate food storage container.
  5. Make pizza mac and cheese. Prepare the pizza mac and cheese according to the recipe. Make the mozzarella cheese sauce, then stir in the cooked, drained pasta. Transfer the mixture to a 2-quart baking dish and spoon pizza sauce over the top. Top with the remaining mozzarella and pepperoni slices. Cool, cover, and refrigerate.
  6. Assemble chicken posole. Add 2 pounds boneless, skinless chicken thighs, cumin, chili powder, oregano, and salt to the container with prepared onion, poblano, and garlic. Refrigerate.
  7. Prep tomato soup toppings. Grate 3 ounces sharp cheddar cheese, finely grate 1 ounce Parmesan cheese. Refrigerate cheeses separately. Melt butter and season with dried oregano (or Italian seasoning) add 8 ounces torn sourdough bread, toss to coat. Spread onto a baking sheet and bake on the upper rack until golden-brown and crisp. Cool, transfer to a container, and store at room temperature.
Credit: Joe Lingeman


  • Monday, One-Pot Weeknight Beef Stroganoff: Prepare the stroganoff in a Dutch oven, beginning with the mushrooms. Once the mushrooms are browned and removed from the pot, melt more butter and brown the ground beef. Add the flour and paprika, then stir in the broth and mustard. Bring to a simmer to thicken the sauce, then add the noodles and mushrooms. Cook until the noodles are tender, then remove from the heat and stir in the yogurt. Garnish with fresh parsley, if desired.
  • Tuesday, Slow Cooker Chicken Posole: In the morning, transfer the prepared posole ingredients to a 5-quart or large slow cooker. Add the broth, cover, and cook on LOW for 6 to 8 hours or until the chicken is tender. Shred the chicken, then stir in hominy and lime juice. Serve with lime wedges, prepared sliced radishes, fresh cilantro, avocado, and tortilla chips.
  • Wednesday, Pizza Macaroni and Cheese: Remove the casserole from the refrigerator while the oven heats to 375°F. Bake until bubbling and the cheese is melted, 30 to 40 minutes. If desired, once the casserole is heated through, broil for a few minutes for a browned top. Garnish with fresh basil, if desired.
  • Thursday, Tomato Braised Lentils with Broccoli Rabe: Reheat the lentils on the stovetop, adding more stock or water if too thick. Chop tomato and add to the lentils with cream and butter. Adjust seasoning, then stir in the basil leaves. Heat olive oil in a skillet, add sliced garlic, broccoli rabe, salt, and pepper. Sauté until hot. Spoon lentils into serving dishes and top with broccoli rabe.
  • Friday, Roasted Tomato Soup with Cheesy Crouton Topper: Return the roasted tomatoes to a Dutch oven and remove and discard the thyme sprigs. Pour in broth and bring to a simmer over medium heat. Cook for 10 minutes, then stir in 1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar. Purée with an immersion blender until smooth (or in batches in a stand blender), and adjust seasoning, if necessary. Heat broiler to HIGH. Sprinkle half of the cheddar over the soup, top with prepared croutons, then sprinkle with the remaining cheddar and Parmesan. Broil until the cheese melts, 1 to 2 minutes.


Power Hour Meal Prep is the series where we help you put it all together. We show you how to eat well during the week with an hour or two of Power Hour prep over the weekend. Every plan is different; mix and match to find your own personal sweet spot.