Next Week’s Meal Plan: 5 Super-Fast Budget Dinners for a Family of Four from Stacie Billis

published Jun 29, 2019
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Credit: From Left to Right: Naomi McCullough, Stacie Billis, 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 for 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.

In addition to being a cookbook author, food writer, and podcast host, Stacie Billis is a home cook and the mom of two growing (and very hungry!) boys. While Stacie will admit she doesn’t necessarily love meal planning, she sticks with it because, like so many of us, she feels lost without it. She sets aside a small amount of time for meal planning every week, and focuses specifically on time- and money-saving strategies.

Stacie has spent her career giving busy home cooks like you recipes, tips, and tricks to help them meet their mealtime goals, like staying within a food budget and managing cooking and a busy schedule, all while making food everyone loves. “There’s no one-size-fits-all solution, but there is a tool box from which all home cooks can pull, and one of the most indispensable tools in that tool box is a meal plan,” she says. Read on to see what’s on her meal plan this week.

Credit: Stacie Billis

A Week of Family-Friendly Dinners from Stacie Billis

My numbe- one strategy that makes meal planning possible is keeping the actual planning to just 10 minutes a week. I’m a firm believer in keeping track of meals that work and putting those favorites on regular rotation so that you don’t have to come up with new ideas every week. I also enlist the help of family in the kitchen, plan meals around what’s already in the fridge, and try to have intentional leftovers, which makes cooking on another day faster and easier.

Credit: Naomi McCullough

Monday: Fish Tacos

I count on grocery delivery services and typically arrange for my food to arrive on Monday, which means Monday is fish night! If you think your family will only eat fish that’s breaded and fried, these lightened-up tacos will change their mind. A quick marinade in a flavorful combination of lime juice and spices gives big flavor with little fat. It also means you don’t have to go crazy with toppings to make these tacos tasty. A quick cabbage-mango slaw (use pre-cut cabbage from the store) or store-bought guacamole does the trick.

Credit: Stacie Billis

This is one of my kids’ favorite recipes from Make It Easy and a rare vegetarian win with my older son. Thick-cut sweet potato wedges give these fajitas a heft that you don’t often get from all-veggie meals. And while the veggies roast, I’ll throw a second sheet pan in the oven to roast sweet potato halves. It’s a simple as cutting potatoes in half and placing them on a lightly oiled sheet pan, cut-side down. I calculate two halves per person and save them for dinner later in the week. (Intentional leftovers!)

Credit: Joe Lingeman

This is one of those recipes that ends up on my meal plan at least every other week, and sometimes more frequently. It’s affordable, easy, adaptable, and so delicious. Plus, it’s made with a combination of self-stable ingredients and fresh ones that I always have on hand — even if I haven’t meal planned! Whether its this gnocchi or something else, I highly recommend finding at least one meal that you can make over and over with ingredients that you buy reflexively every week.

Credit: Joe Lingeman

Thursday: Stuffed Sweet Potatoes (with Italian Sausage, Swiss Chard & Chickpeas)

With potatoes already roasted, this dinner comes together in a snap. In fact, it doesn’t even require a recipe! Start by sautéing a half pound of sweet Italian sausage that’s been removed from its casing. While that’s cooking, wash and chop a small bunch of Swiss chard. Remove the browned sausage with a slotted spoon, add greens to the same pan (with an extra glug of olive oil if necessary), and cook until wilted. Return the sausage to the pan along with a can of drained and rinsed chickpeas and cook until everything is warm. Season with salt and pepper and pile the goods on top of roasted potatoes. These are delicious topped with a dollop of plain Greek yogurt that’s been seasoned with some fresh lime juice and salt to taste.

Another favorite? Black bean stuffed sweet potatoes (pictured above).

Credit: Joe Lingeman

Friday: Pizza Night!

I mean, Fridays are for pizza, are they not? I also think Fridays are for taking it easy in the kitchen. While that sometimes means ordering a pie, it can also mean buying store-bought dough and letting the kids cook! Store-bought sauce works perfectly fine, of course, but if you have time (at any point in the week), my three-ingredient Rustic Pizza Sauce couldn’t be any easier — and it freezes well, too. The one pizza night catch in my house is that, even when ordering in, there’s got to be a veggie on your plate. These days, we can’t get enough of my Shaved Asparagus and Fennel Salad, which goes beautifully with pizza of any kind.


New to meal planning? Start here.

Thanks so much, Stacie! Follow her around the Internet on Instagram and Twitter and find more of her easy family-friendly recipes in her cookbook, Make It Easy.

Click below to get more tips, insights, and ideas from our Meal Plan Club crew and readers like you.