Recently one of my sweet friends asked me to put together a week of quick, healthy meals for her family that she could make in “less than 10 minutes” and that her three-year-old would eat. She said she could put aside Sunday afternoon for meal prep, but probably no more time than that. I’ve wanted to do something like this for a while, so I thought I would tweak her request a little and make sure the meals I chose were SmartPoints-friendly.
Here’s menu plan. I feel like there are so many places I could go with this, but for this plan, I chose chicken as the main protein. I also thought I would model this plan after my week, with leftovers on Thursday, a frozen meal on Friday, and dinner out or leftovers again on Saturday. For lunch, I usually have Mason jar salads or leftovers. For breakfast, good options would be these baked oatmeal cups or these make-ahead breakfast burritos. A great snack/dessert option would be any of Drizzle’s loaves or sweeter recipes; I’m partial right now to her Peanut Butter Cup Banana Loaf.
Bacon Cheeseburger Bubble-Up Casserole, Drizzle Me Skinny
Chicken Quesadillas, Pioneer Woman (I leave out the butter and use Ole Wellness Wraps instead of flour tortillas)
Pumpkin Alfredo Tortellini Skillet, Emily Bites
Curried Chicken Salad, Skinnytaste
Italian Chopped House Salad, SkinnyMom modified for Mason jars
Here’s the shopping list, including a section on things you probably already have in your pantry (if you don’t, just add them!). If you’re like me and don’t live near a Trader Joe’s, you can purchase another type of pre-made meal at your local grocery store. These meals are lifesavers for me after a busy week when all I want to do when I get home is lie down. Plus, having something easy, quick, and points-friendly in the freezer helps me avoid the temptation to go out or order in.
Meal prep plan: Sunday afternoon
Here’s the plan for meal prep. A lot of people meal prep on Sundays, and while I don’t do this myself, I see the value in it. After planning out this week I just might have to give it a try!
1. Poach chicken
Use your favorite method for poaching chicken, whether in the crock pot, on the stove, or in an instant pot. I like this recipe, but if you prefer to wing it, I say salt and pepper the chicken thoroughly, lay them in the bottom of the pan, and cover with chicken broth and water. Add a bay leaf for good measure and poach until cooked through, about 160° on a meat thermometer.
2. Cook bacon
My favorite method for cooking bacon is to bake it on a cookie sheet lined with parchment. After you’ve got your chicken poaching, preheat the oven. You’ll cook your whole package of center-cut bacon because we need it for two recipes. Lay each strip of bacon on the prepared sheets, then bake at 400° for about 15 minutes until crispy but not burnt. Remove to paper towels and let cool.
3. Cook sausage
Here we’re going to prep the first part of the Tortellini recipe. Chop one small onion and two garlic cloves (or use squeeze garlic). Place your pound of Italian turkey sausage (casings removed) in a large skillet over medium heat and cook for a few minutes, breaking apart with a wooden spoon until it starts to brown. Add the onion and garlic and stir together. Continue to cook while breaking up meat and stirring regularly until sausage is cooked through and onions are soft. Remove to paper towels and let cool. When cool, put the sausage mixture into a container and store in the fridge until Tuesday.
4. Cook ground beef
Drain your sausage skillet and add your pound of lean ground beef. Cook until browned. Remove to paper towels and set aside until later; you’ll use this in tonight’s dinner.
5. Cook pasta
While you’re at the stove, get some water boiling for the Ditalini pasta need for the Mason Jar Italian Chopped Salads. You’ll need about a half-cup dry pasta for three salads. Measure it out and boil in salted water until al dente. Put aside to cool; you’ll be assembling the salads later today. (Sometimes I make a little extra pasta and save it for my kids to eat on days they’re less than excited about my dinner choice.)
6. Make guacamole
Contrary to popular belief, guacamole CAN be made ahead of time! Just be sure when you place it into the container you cover the surface completely with plastic wrap and secure the lid tightly. Of course if you prefer, you can make the guac the day of, or do store-bought (SmartPoints are the same). My favorite guacamole recipe is from Minimalist Baker: Mash 2 ripe avocados with 1 Tbsp lime juice, 1 Tbsp lemon juice, ¼ tsp sea salt, ½ jalapeño, deseeded and sliced, ¼ cup diced red onion, and ¼ cup diced cilantro. It’s a great basic recipe that you can tweak as you like.
7. Make Curried Chicken Salad
For this, you’ll have to wait until your chicken is done poaching. When it’s done, remove it from the pot to a cutting board and let cool. When cool cut into half-inch cubes or shred (I prefer cubes). For the chicken salad, you’ll need about 2 cups diced cooked chicken. Since we cooked the chicken ahead of time, you don’t have to worry about cooking it through; just make sure when you’re cooking that it’s evenly covered with the curry and onion mixture. This chicken salad is DELICIOUS and even better the next day. When you’ve finished making it, store it in the fridge until Wednesday.
8. Assemble Mason Jar Salads
First, gather your ingredients. You’ll need fat-free Italian dressing, tomatoes, 1 cup of cooked chicken, the Ditalini pasta, six slices of the cooked bacon, chopped; 2 hearts of romaine, chopped; 3 green onions, chopped; and a container of reduced-fat blue cheese crumbles. In each jar, place 3T dressing, 5-8 cherry tomatoes (your preference), 1/3 cup cooked chicken, ⅓ cup Ditalini pasta, 2 slices bacon, ⅓ of the chopped romaine, 1 chopped green onion, and 1T reduced fat blue cheese crumbles. Seal the jars tightly and refrigerate for this week’s lunches.
9. Make Bacon Cheeseburger Bubble-up
You’ve come to the end! Congratulations!!! When you’re done with all your cooking, rest a little bit. Maybe even take a nap. Then about an hour before you plan to eat dinner, assemble and bake your Bacon Cheeseburger Bubble-Up casserole. We already prepped the beef and bacon, so just follow the recipe. Then while it cooks, you can clean up your mess from earlier today. After you eat, portion the leftovers into containers for the week and poof! You’re done.
Any questions? I’d love to answer them! Just leave them in the comments below.