Healthy Habits, Meal Planning, My Blog, Organizing Your Life

One Hour — Seven Dinners

Seven Dinners

The Easy Guide to Making a Week’s Worth of Dinners in One Hour

I am all about making things E A S Y (finding ways to eliminate the stress)—that is one of the goals of BrightLightLiving.com and for myself. I have not mastered this (not by a long shot), but the intent is there.

After all, we all lead very busy lives and the simpler we can make it, the more time we have to really enjoy it.

Dinner: That is always a H U U U U G E stressor for me—it’s not just the figuring out what to make that stresses me; it is the MAKING it that stresses me. Making dinner is the last thing that I really want to do after a long workday and commute home. Full disclaimer, I hate to cook.

I decided that pre-planning had to be my solution, so I set out to create a menu of just drop-it-in-a-crockpot dinners. I did a lot of trial and error cooking with my family (aka, my sweet little guinea pigs). I switched out ingredients and modified recipes to suit our liking, which made me more confident in my cooking abilities. As a result, I created a week’s worth of dinner recipes, a complete shopping list divided by grocery store departments, a step-by-step guide to preparing the meals in the most time-saving way possible, and a set of labels with cooking instructions that can be affixed to the meals. In other words,

I did the planning so that I could eliminate your stress.  

I also created this free, printable version of this post complete with preparation labels; click here to receive.

Oh, right. What are we making? Here are the meals—I hope you like!:

Chicken Teriyaki Stir Fry
Chili
Beef and Broccoli
Chicken Taco Soup
Chicken Pasta
Cilantro Lime Chicken over Salad
Pot Roast (a great Sunday dinner)

Let’s get started.

The grocery list:

img_1344-e1491675449374.jpgMeats:
Chicken Breasts (10-12 pieces)
Ground Beef (1 lb.)
Flank Steak, Top Round, or Beef Chuck Roast (1.5 – 2 lbs.)
Pot Roast

Canned Goods:
Dark Kidney Beans 1 Can (15 oz.)
Chili Beans 2 Cans (16 oz.)
Black Beans 3 Cans
Tomato Sauce 1 Can (14.5 oz.)
Canned Diced Tomatoes 3 Cans (one with green chilies) (14.5 oz.)
Corn 2 Cans (14.5 oz.)
Water Chestnuts 1 Can (small)

Produce:
Green Bell Pepper (3)
Onion, Medium (4)
Onion, Large
Limes (2)
Cilatro (1 bunch)
Carrots (Medium Bag of Baby Carrots)
Potatoes (2 lbs.)

Spices and Condiments (you may have a lot of this already; check first):
Honey (1/2 cup)
Black Pepper (In most meals)
Salt (In most meals)
Rice Wine or Red Wine Vinegar (good to have a bottle on hand)
Olive Oil (2 Tsp.)
Soy Sauce (bottle to keep on hand as well)
Minced Garlic (Recommend purchasing a small jar)
Minced Ginger (1/4 cup)
Cumin (2.5 tsp.)
Chili Powder (1 Tbsp)
Chili Flakes (1/4 Tsp)
Taco Seasoning Mix (1 Canister – rather than packets; cheaper and great to have on hand)
Brown Sugar
Corn Starch
Chicken Broth Container (32 oz.)
Beef Broth Two (32 oz.) Containers

Frozen Foods:
Stir Fry Vegetables (1 Bag)
Broccoli Florets (1 Medium Bag or 4 Cups)

Pasta and Rice:
Rotini Pasta (1 Box)
Rice (4 Bags)

Other:
Spaghetti Sauce (24 oz. jar)
Salsa (8 oz.)
Crockpot Liners (this makes your clean up each day so much easier)
Large Freezer Bags
Bottle of Beer
Lettuce or Tortillas (Depends on how you want to serve the Cilantro Lime Chicken; as a salad or wrap)
Sour Cream (optional topping for several meals)
Mozzarella Cheese, Shredded (1 Cup)
Cheddar Cheese, Shredded (optional topping for several meals)

The Preparation (Easy and Time-Saving)

First, let me say that your cooking TOOLS are quite important. I encourage you to visit Cooking Tools I Cannot Live Without. The tools I list are not essential, but they will make your prep work so much easier and shorter. Such as this BLACK+DECKER HC306 One-Touch 1.5 Cup Capacity Electric Chopper, White, which takes the eye-watering and time out of cutting onions, which is step #1 in the preparation work. Shall we get started?

IMG_1349

1) Cut up your onions (chop the small onions and cut the large onion in fairly large pieces).
Place your chopped onions in separate small bowls (one bowl for each onion).

IMG_1362.JPG

2) Cut up your green bell peppers in inch strips. 
I recommend cutting these by hand. Place your bell peppers in separate bowls (one bowl for each bell pepper).

3) Peel and cut 2 lbs. of potatoes into 3″ pieces.

4) Cook pound of ground beef, drain grease when done.

5) Open all your cans and remove lids for easy access.

6) Label your freezer bags with menu names.
Take advantage of these printable labels by clicking here.

7) Place 2-3 pieces of chicken breast in the following marked freezer bags:

  • Teriyaki Chicken
  • Chicken Taco Soup
  • Cilantro Lime Chicken
  • Chicken Pasta

8) In the Chicken Teriyaki freezer bag, place in the following ingredients:

  • 1/2 cup honey
  • 1/2 cup soy sauce
  • 1/4 cup red wine vinegar
  • One of the small bowls of chopped onion
  • 1 garlic clove (I use minced garlic from jar)
  • 1 tbsp. of minced ginger
  • 1/4 tsp. of black pepper
  • One bag of frozen stir fry vegetables
  • 3/4 of chopped water chestnuts (optional)
  • Ready to freeze

9) In the Chicken Taco Soup freezer bag, place in the following ingredients:

  • One of the small bowls of chopped onion
  • Can of chili beans, drained and rinsed
  • Can of black beans, drained and rinsed
  • Can of corn, drained
  • Jar of Salsa (8 oz.)
  • Can of diced tomatoes
  • 2 tsp. of taco seasoning
  • Ready to freeze (you will dump in beer when you dump into crockpot)

10) In the Cilantro Lime Chicken freezer bag, place in the following ingredients:

  • 2 cups of chicken broth
  • 1 bunch of chopped cilantro
  • 1 can of corn, drained
  • 2 garlic cloves
  • One of the small bowls of chopped onion
  • 1 can of black beans drained and rinsed
  • 1 tsp. cumin
  • 2 tsp. of taco seasoning
  • Salt and pepper
  • Ready to freeze (you will dump in lime juice when you dump bag ingredients into crockpot)

11) In the Chicken Pasta freezer bag, you will dump in the following ingredients:

  • 1/2 tsp. of salt
  • 1/4 tap. of pepper
  • One of the small bowls of chopped onion
  • One of the bowls of sliced bell peppers
  • 1 garlic clove
  • Spaghetti Sauce
  • Ready to freeze (you will prepare rotini pasta and dump in mozzarella cheese later)

12) In the Chili freezer bag, place in the following ingredients:

  • Ground beef, browned
  • Can of dark kidney beans, drained
  • Can of chili beans, drained
  • Can of black beans, drained and rinsed
  • Can of tomato sauce
  • Can of diced tomatoes
  • One of the bowls of sliced bell peppers
  • 1 tbsp. chili powder
  • ½ Packet of Taco Seasoning Mix
  • 2 cups water
  • One of the small bowls of chopped onion
  • 2 cloves of garlic or minced garlic
  • 1.5 tsp. cumin
  • ½ tsp. pepper
  • ½ tsp. salt
  • Freeze

13) In the Beef Broccoli freezer bag, place in the following ingredients:

  • Flank steak or beef
  • 1 Cup of beef broth
  • 2/3 cup of soy sauce
  • 1/3 cup of brown sugar
  • 1 tsp. of olive oil
  • 1 garlic clove
  • Freeze

14) In the Pot Roast freezer bag, place in the following ingredients:

  • 1 tsp. olive oil
  • 2 tsp. minced garlic
  • 1 lb. of carrots
  • 2 lbs. of the potatoes, cut
  • 32 oz. of beef broth
  • The large onion
  • Freeze.  You do not need to put your pot roast in this bag (it probably wouldn’t fit anyway.)
  • In separate sandwich bag, put in your salt, pepper, tarragon, and thyme.
    Have this ready for when ready to cook.

IMG_1367

Please note: You will later put in corn starch and water in several of these meals.

Ready to eat?!

Cooking Instructions

* Put freezer bag and meats in the refrigerator the night before you are going to cook up meal.

Chicken Teriyaki:

(1) Put freezer bag in refrigerator the night before.
(2) Dump all your ingredients (except the water and corn starch) into the crockpot, starting with the chicken.
(3) Cook on low for 6 hours.
(4) Take out chicken and cut up; it should fall apart fairly easy.
(5) Add cornstarch and water, stir, and then cook for an additional 20 minutes.
(6) Cook rice as instructed on package.
Serve over rice. You can also add La Choy Rice Noodles for extra goodness.

Chicken Taco Soup:

(1) Put freezer bag in refrigerator the night before.
(2) You take all of the above ingredients and DUMP them in a crockpot.
(3) Cook on low for 7 hours or high for 4 hours.
(4) Take out the chicken and cut up; place back into crockpot.
Serve with your favorite toppings such as sour cream or cheese.

Chicken Cilantro Lime Salad:

(1) Put freezer bag in refrigerator the night before.
(2) Dump all your ingredients into the crockpot.
(3) Cook on low for 6 hours.
(4) Take out chicken and cut up; it should fall apart fairly easy.
(5) Dump crockpot contents into a strainer to drain juices.
(6) Serve over a healthy salad.

Chicken Pasta:

(1) Put freezer bag in refrigerator the night before.
(2) Dump all your ingredients into the crockpot.
(3) Cook on low for 6 hours.
(4) Take out chicken and cut up; it should fall apart fairly easy.
(5) Thirty minutes before food is ready, cook pasta as instructed on package.
(6) Dump pasta (drain) and cup of mozzarella cheese.
(7) Cook for additional 20 minutes.

Chili:

(1) Put freezer bag in refrigerator the night before.
(2) Dump all your ingredients into the crockpot.
(3) Cook on low for 6 hours.
Serve with your favorite toppings such as sour cream or cheese.

Beef Broccoli:

(1) Put freezer bag in refrigerator the night before.
(2) Dump all your ingredients (except the water and corn starch) into the crockpot, starting with the chicken.
(3) Cook on low for 6 hours.
(4) Take out chicken and cut up; it should fall apart fairly easy.
(5) Add cornstarch and water, stir, and then cook for an additional 20 minutes.
(6) Cook rice as instructed on package.
Serve over rice. You can also add La Choy Rice Noodles for extra goodness.

Pot Roast:

IMG_1376(1) Put freezer bag and pot roast in refrigerator the night before.
(2) Rub pot roast with olive oil and sprinkle 2/3 of the spices on to roast.
(3) Place pot roast in crockpot.
(4) Put in contents of freezer bag into crockpot and sprinkle with remaining spice mix.
(5) Add another cup of beef stock to crockpot.
(6) Cook on low for 7 – 8 hours until vegetables are tender and the meat pulls apart easily.
(7) Optional: Use beef broth and mix with cornstarch and water to make gravy.

Lessons Learned

There are a few things that I learned in this recipe process. One is that the clean-up was so much easier with the use of the crockpot lines. Two is that you should be creative–I was. I sometimes added broccoli or other ingredients if I needed my meals to stretch farther, i.e., if one of the boys had a friend over for dinner. Regardless, it was such a relief to know that I didn’t have to think about what to make. I would simply dump the ingredients in the crockpot in the morning and return home to an aroma-filled house with dinner ready.  What a relief!

Don’t forget to download a free, printable version of this post complete with a shopping list, recipes, preparation instructions, and freezer bag labels. Click here.

Bon Appetit

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5 thoughts on “One Hour — Seven Dinners”

  1. Love this! I always prep my dinners for the week on Sunday and it makes the weeknights SO much easier!! I usually only do one crockpot dinner though. I’ll have to try these recipes!

    Like

  2. Ok–we so make dinner the same! I need simple, quick, and something that let’s me roll in after teaching teenagers all day and decompress! I love how you have this laid out for us. Makes it totally doable! Thank you!!

    Like

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