Next Week's Meal Plan

These 30-Minute Pantry Dinners from Cookbook Author Dawn Perry Will Save Your Weeknights

published Nov 13, 2021
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Credit: David Malosh

I am the primary meal maker in my house and even though I’m a professional cook, I still get tired of bellying up to the stove every night. In my new book, Ready, Set, Cook, I tried to collect all the recipes, tips, and hacks that I rely on week in and week out to feed myself and my family without too much agitation.

My strategy starts with a well-stocked pantry. I keep the cupboards, fridge, and freezer full of hard-working, versatile ingredients I know my family and I like to eat (key point there). I supplement the stash with a collection of long-lasting homemade staples — an easy vinaigrette, a few house-made spice blends, and some big batches of cooked grains or vegetables, for example. With even a few of these extras on hand, I can turn my most uninspired meals into something exciting to eat.

The recipes in this Next Week’s Meal Plan follow this strategy of combining store-bought and homemade ingredients for meals that are easy to execute on a weeknight after a long day of work and/or childcare but delicious enough to fool loved ones into thinking you worked far harder than you actually did.

And all of these recipes take less than 30 minutes to prepare. I know that lots of recipes make that promise (no one accounts for chopping!) but these truly are a light lift. A few of them even bake in some inactive time — those precious hands-free minutes when you can load (or unload) the dishwasher, wipe down the counter, pour a glass of wine, and unstick that PBJ from the bottom of the kid’s backpack. That is peanut butter, right?

Credit: David Malosh

Monday: Parmesan Lentil Soup

Dried lentils are a wonderful quick-cooking staple, but you can use whatever beans you have on hand for this hearty recipe, whether you cooked them from scratch or cracked open can. A flavorful base of simple vegetables — onion, carrot, celery — and a lot of tomato paste gives this soup plenty of long-cooked flavor. Top with a drizzle of olive oil and a smattering of flaky salt or with a big handful of grated Parmesan. Serve with warm buttered tortillas or a hunk of crusty bread.

Get the recipe: Parmesan Lentil Soup

Credit: David Malosh

Tuesday: Spiced Salmon with Lemon and Chickpeas

My favorite sheet-pan meals yields big flavor and a variety of textures in one shot. This one does just that: delicate buttery fish (I keep fillets in the freezer), charred sweet onions, sticky caramelized lemons, and chewy chickpeas. This recipe really proves that weeknight basics can add up to far more than the sum of their parts. Serve with a simple green salad for a sophisticated spread.

Get the recipe: Spiced Salmon with Lemon and Chickpeas

Credit: David Malosh

Wednesday: Winter Pasta with Garlic, Olives, and Lemon

This bright and sunny pasta comes together in the time it takes for the pasta to cook. I call it “Winter” pasta because it doesn’t require anything particularly seasonal, but feel free to change it up as the weather warms. A handful of tender greens in the spring or cherry tomatoes in summer are welcome additions. I like pasta like spaghetti that I can twirl, but whatever pasta shape you have on hand will do just fine here.

Get the recipe: Winter Pasta with Garlic, Olives, and Lemon

Credit: David Malosh

Thursday: Roasted Potato Salad with Chorizo and Almonds

It can be tough to make a dinner salad feel truly satisfying. To ensure I don’t head straight for the snack cabinet after dinner, I throw a little bit of cured meat in along with sturdy greens — ones that take some effort to chew — and filling roasted sweet potatoes (but you can use Yukon golds or even russets if that’s what you have around). It all gets tossed with my standby Dijon vinaigrette. I make it every week and store it in a jar in the fridge, but feel free to use any vinegar-based dressing in its place.

Get the recipe: Roasted Potato Salad with Chorizo and Almonds

Credit: David Malosh

Friday: Sheet Pan Tacos

Toasted tortillas topped with whatever leftovers might be lurking in the fridge always satisfy whether they’re stuffed with roasted vegetables, scrambled eggs and avocado, or JUST CHEESE, thank you very much (say my kids). They’re a great mix-and-match meal to please a variety of palates without a lot of extra work for the cook.

Get the recipe: Sheet Pan Tacos

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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!