Prepping weeknight meals that all come together in your favorite cooking vessel is just about the easiest way to set yourself up for success. The tool at hand here is a trusty skillet — aka the king of the stovetop — which makes quick work of complete meals with barely any fuss. You'll use your weekend Power Hour to chop and pre-cook the ingredients, so all you have to do come weeknights is toss them into the skillet.
In addition to giving you a big head-start on those easy skillet dinners, this Power Hour Meal Prep Plan (which will take you just about an hour-and-a-half to complete), will also set you up with a week's worth of prepared breakfasts and lunches. Here's how to do it.
This meal prep plan is for anyone who doesn't have the time or energy to start from scratch on weeknights, but still wants to enjoy a hot, homemade meal. By chopping the vegetables, blitzing together a sauce, and pre-cooking pasta and proteins on Sunday, all that's left to do is toss the components into the skillet once dinner rolls around. Oh, and since these easy dinners all come together in one skillet, there's barely any mess to clean up at the end of the night.
A cast iron skillet is my go-to here because it heats evenly and can easily go from stovetop to oven if needed, but any oven-safe skillet will work for this meal plan. Opt for a skillet that's at least 10 inches.
Meal Prep Goals
- Breakfast: Simple yet satisfying option for me and my husband that just needs to be quickly warmed in the microwave, meaning it can be eaten at home or at the office (five days).
- Lunch: Options for me and my husband that require little-to-no effort, like dinner leftovers and simple sandwiches (five days).
- Dinner: Fast skillet dinners for me and my husband, with most of the prep work finished on Sunday. These should also all work well as leftovers (four days).
- Nutritional Goals: We don't have any food restrictions but we generally try to eat a vegetable- and fruit-heavy diet that's balanced with whole grains, whole dairy, and lean protein.
Meal Prep Plan Snapshot
- Feeds: Two people
- Prep Time: About 1 1/2 hours
- Meals Covered: About 75% (no Friday night dinner or weekend meals)
- Weeknight Cooking Required? Moderate (20 to 25 minutes of light cooking to bring dinner together)
- Stovetop Oatmeal
- Mix-and-match toppings and stir-ins: Blueberries, maple syrup, chopped walnuts, raisins, peanut butter
- Leftovers from dinner
- Deli turkey & cheese sandwiches
This week's shopping list is full of vibrant, seasonal vegetables, some meat and frozen fish, dairy, and a bunch of pantry items. It assumes staples like olive oil, salt, and pepper are already on hand.
- Produce: 2 pints cherry tomatoes, garlic, fresh thyme, 1 pound Yukon gold potatoes, 1 red bell pepper, 1 lemon, fresh parsley, package of diced onions, package of sliced mushrooms, 1 pint blueberries
- Meat & Seafood: 4 (6-ounce) frozen skin-on salmon fillets, 1 pound pork sausage, deli turkey, deli cheese
- Refrigerated: Shredded mozzarella, eggs, unsalted butter, whole milk, sharp cheddar cheese, 1 pound pizza dough
- Pantry: Jar of pizza sauce, balsamic vinegar, Panko bread crumbs, Dijon mustard, paprika, all-purpose flour, dry small shell or elbow pasta, rolled oats, maple syrup, raisins, chopped walnuts, peanut butter
- Other: Crusty bread, sliced sandwich bread
Power Hour: How I Get the Prep Done
- Cook oatmeal: Cook a double batch of oatmeal on the stovetop. At the same time, bring a large pot of salted water to a boil to cook the pasta for the mac and cheese.
- Cook pasta: When the water is boiling, add the pasta and cook until al dente. Drain and rinse with cool water to stop the cooking. Drain well again.
- Prep and par-boil potatoes: Wash and cut the potatoes and par-boil them per recipe instructions. Drain them.
- Cook sausage: Cook the sausage in a large skillet, breaking it up with a wooden spoon, until browned and cooked through. Transfer to a paper towel-lined plate.
- Prep bell pepper and garlic: Chop bell pepper into 1-inch pieces and mince garlic. Store them together.
- Make sauce for salmon: Toss the tomato sauce ingredients for the skillet salmon into a food processor or blender and pulse a few times until blended but chunky.
- Grate cheddar cheese: Use a box grater to grate the cheddar cheese for the skillet mac and cheese. At this point, you can also combine the breadcrumbs and thyme.
- Transfer frozen salmon to fridge: Transfer frozen salmon to fridge to thaw overnight.
A Week of Easy Meals and One-Dish Skillet Dinners
Breakfast: I scoop out a serving of oatmeal and reheat it in the microwave, adding a splash of milk or water to loosen it. I mix-and-match my toppings and stir-ins depending on my mood in the morning.
Lunch: I alternate between any leftovers I have from the skillet dinners and simple turkey and cheese sandwiches made with a swipe of tangy Dijon and the sliced sandwich bread I bought.
- Monday, Saucy Skillet Salmon: I sear the thawed salmon fillets skin-side down in the skillet then transfer them to a plate. I pour the tomato sauce I prepped during Power Hour into the skillet to warm up. Once simmering, I return the fillets to the skillet, skin-side up, and simmer a few minutes until cooked-through.
- Tuesday, Fried Potatoes and Sausage Skillet: I heat a splash of olive oil in the skillet, add my prepped potatoes and cook until browned. I add my prepped peppers, garlic, and sausage and sauté for a few more minutes until everything is warmed through. If I'm extra hungry, I'll crack a few eggs into the skillet at the end of the cook time, cover the pan, and cook for a few minutes until set.
- Wednesday, Skillet Mac and Cheese: I melt some butter in the skillet, then remove a spoonful of it and toss it with the breadcrumbs I prepped. I use the remaining butter in the skillet to make a cheese sauce by adding some flour, then milk, and stirring until thickened. I stir in the grated cheese, then the cooked pasta. I sprinkle the breadcrumbs over the top and bake until bubbly.
- Thursday, Skillet Pizzas: I divide the pizza dough in half and roll out each piece to fit the skillet. I heat a splash of olive oil in the skillet, add one dough round, cook it for a minute, then flip it and add some pizza sauce and shredded mozzarella, along with some of the packaged diced onions and sliced mushrooms. I cover and cook until the cheese melts, then transfer to a cutting board and repeat with the remaining dough.
- Friday: Celebrate a successful week of home-cooked dinners by taking the night off — order takeout or head to your favorite restaurant!
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Enjoy making easy skillet dinners? Here's a handful more to check out and add to future meal plans!
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.