Meal Prep Plan: A Week of Winter Meals in Two Hours

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(Image credit: Joe Lingeman)
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(Image credit: The Kitchn)

If your New Year’s resolution is to eat better, with less stress and bother, meal prep is probably the answer. The smart art of prepping ahead for your week on Saturday or Sunday can be life-changing, and we want to help make that so easy and straightforward with our Power Hour series. (Did you know that we’re launching a newsletter to send these direct to your inbox every week?)

To start the year off right, here’s a meal prep plan straight from my own kitchen. It’s cozy, practical, and protein-heavy, with everything from pot roast and pulled chicken to slaw and oatmeal muffins. It’s all the food a family of two to four needs for a week, and you can prep it all in about two hours.

Kitchn Meal Prep Plan

Created for real people with busy lives, this weekly email will feature doable plans and helpful recipes so that you can prep, cook, and eat for the week ahead.

My meal realities and challenges look like this: I’m a mom of two little ones (3 and 1, as of this month). I work full-time and don’t have many spare minutes to cook in between my last meeting and putting the baby down for the night. I would rather have those minutes with my kids than be working on dinner. My husband is a fabulous partner in all things, but he also has a busy research and teaching schedule this winter, and focuses more on dishes and other chores than on cooking.

So meal prep is a necessity for us. Without meal prep, we do just a little too much takeout.

Fortunately, the winter foods I crave (hearty, comforting) also all lend themselves well to meal prep. I also included a little more variety in this plan; my husband and I are seriously tolerant of repetitive meals, but I know not all of you are so I threw in an extra dinner. This does make a lot of food; we ended up freezing about half of the pot roast for a later meal — and if that isn’t a win, I don’t know what is.

My Meal Prep Goals

  • Breakfast: Big-batch breakfast to last all week
  • Lunch: Lunches for me and my husband (five days).
  • Dinner: Dinner for me and my husband (five to six days).
  • Nutritional Goals: We don’t have any food restrictions, but I look for high-volume yet relatively low-calorie lunches with lots of vegetables, and whole food-driven, simple dinners with a lot of flavor. And it’s cold out so I want warming but still healthful foods.
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(Image credit: The Kitchn)
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(Image credit: Joe Lingeman)

My Meal Plan

Breakfast

  • Taco Breakfast Casserole with Salsa

Lunches

  • BBQ Chicken with Tahini-Miso Slaw
  • Snack Lunch: My husband’s preferred way of eating lunch. He takes a bento box filled with cheese, fruit, nuts, sliced bell pepper, and some sliced chicken sausage.

Mix-and-Match Dinners

Meal Prep Plan Snapshot

  • Feeds: Two to three people
  • Prep Time: About 2 hours
  • Meals Covered: About 90% (a full week running into the weekend)
  • Weeknight Cooking Required? Very little.
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(Image credit: The Kitchn)
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(Image credit: Faith Durand)

My Shopping List

These are the things I bought or used for this meal prep plan.

  • Produce: Broccoli slaw, shredded cabbage coleslaw mix, red onion, yellow onion, garlic, fresh basil, fennel bulb, fresh salsa, chopped kale, celery, small red potatoes, 2 pounds Brussels sprouts
  • Meat: Top round or chuck roast (3 pounds), Italian sausage (12 ounces), chicken Andouille sausage (12 ounces), boneless, skinless chicken thighs (2 pounds)
  • Dairy: Large eggs (12), shredded cheddar cheese, whole milk
  • Pantry & Frozen: White miso, tahini, 12-ounce bottle of BBQ sauce, crushed tomatoes (28 ounces), fire-roasted tomatoes (14.5 ounces), diced tomatoes with peppers (10 ounces), ditalini pasta (1 cup), linguine, rolled oats, shredded frozen or refrigerated potatoes (ideally with onions and/or seasoning), 2 quarts boxed or frozen chicken or turkey stock, raisins
Rubbermaid Brilliance Food Storage Container, 14-Piece Set
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Rubbermaid Brilliance Food Storage Container, 14-Piece Set
OXO Good Grips 16-Piece Smart Seal Leakproof Glass Food Storage Container Set
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OXO Good Grips 16-Piece Smart Seal Leakproof Glass Food Storage Container Set
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(Image credit: The Kitchn)

Power Hour: How I Get the Prep Done

The loveliest thing about this Power Hour is how it will make your kitchen smell. This is a week’s worth of food whipped up in one focused afternoon, and you will feel amazingly accomplished and stocked-up and nourished by the cooking itself as well as the end product.

Ready to cook along with me? (We’ve created a handy pinnable image with the menu and prep list, if you’re interested!).

1. Cook pot roast: Season and sear a 3-pound pot roast for a few minutes on each side. Slice red onion into half moons and put in pressure cooker/Instant Pot with some oil. Start on sauté. When the onions are softened, place the well-seared pot roast on top and spread a few cloves of chopped garlic over it with 1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce and 2 tablespoons soy sauce. Add 1 cup water. Cook for 65 minutes on high with natural release. (Note: If you don’t have a pressure cooker or Instant Pot, you can do this in the slow cooker. Follow these instructions and start it early in the day.)

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(Image credit: Faith Durand)

2. Cook BBQ chicken: While the pot roast cooks, heat oven to 350°F. Pour half of a 12-ounce bottle of BBQ sauce over the chicken thighs in a shallow casserole dish. Cover tightly with a lid or foil and bake in oven for 1 hour or until very tender.

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(Image credit: Faith Durand)

3. Make breakfast casserole: While the pot roast cooks and the BBQ chicken bakes, whisk 10 large eggs and 2 cups milk together and add 10 ounces shredded cheddar, 20 ounces shredded frozen potatoes (ideally a frozen shredded potato with some onion in the mix), and 10 to 14 ounces diced tomatoes plus 1/2 teaspoon salt and 1 teaspoon taco seasoning. Pour into a lightly greased 9×13-inch baking dish. Bake 45 minutes or until puffy and a knife comes out clean. Serve with salsa in the mornings.

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(Image credit: Faith Durand)

3. Start soup: While the pot roast cooks and the BBQ chicken and breakfast casserole bake, cook the Italian sausage in a large Dutch oven or deep 5-quart pot. Brown over high heat, and while it is browning dice 1 onion, 4 stalks celery, and half of the fennel bulb. Cook with sausage until softened, stirring occasionally. Add a drained 28-ounce can of crushed or diced tomatoes, half the bag of kale, and 2 quarts turkey or chicken stock. Bring to a boil then simmer gently for however long you want or need to (but at least an hour). At the end, stir in the rest of the kale and 1 cup small pasta, such as ditalini or macaroni, and cook for another 10 minutes or until kale is wilted and pasta is al dente. (The pasta will absorb broth as it sits in the fridge, becoming more and more like a stew or saucy pasta dish.)

4. Make slaw: While the pot roast cooks and the chicken and breakfast casserole bake and the soup simmers, whisk together 1 tablespoon miso, 2 tablespoons tahini, the juice of a lemon, and enough water to make a thick, creamy dressing. Toss with the broccoli slaw and cabbage slaw. Salt liberally! Taste and add additional lemon if desired. Cover and refrigerate.

The breakfast casserole and chicken should be out of the oven by now. Let cool for at least 30 minutes. Turn the oven to 425°F.

5. Bake muffins: Stir together everything in this oatmeal muffin recipe and bake for 15 minutes. Remove and let cool before packing up.

6. Finish the pot roast: To finish off the pot roast, add 1 pound small red potatoes. Place lid back on the pressure cooker and set for 6 to 8 minutes at high pressure. When finished, manually release the pressure. Remove the pot roast meat and put in a storage container. Remove about 1/2 cup of the juices, whisk in 2 tablespoons flour, then whisk back into the pot. Simmer on the sauté setting for several minutes or until a rustic gravy thickens up. Pour gravy and potatoes over the meat in the storage container, let cool for 30 minutes, then cover and refrigerate.

7. Shred chicken: Uncover the baked chicken. Shred with two forks and toss with the remaining BBQ sauce.

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(Image credit: Faith Durand)

8. Prep one-pot pasta kit: The last step of prep is doing almost everything to prep the One-Pot Spicy Sausage and Tomato Pasta (see it in this post). Slice the Andouille sausage and fennel, and spread in the bottom of a 3-quart Dutch oven with 14.5 ounces of drained diced tomatoes. Add chopped fennel fronds (so as not to waste the fennel) and torn basil leaves. Add 4 1/2 cups water, cover the pot, and refrigerate.

9. Roast Brussels sprouts: To finish off cooking for the day, I roast trimmed and halved Brussels sprouts with a little oil at 425°F for about 20 minutes. I squeeze lemon over top and season with salt and pepper and serve with the pot roast for Sunday dinner.

10. Make lunch boxes: Make up lunch boxes with a bed of slaw and shredded BBQ chicken on top. At this point I also sometimes make up some snack lunches for my husband.

Total time: A little over two hours.

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(Image credit: The Kitchn)
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(Image credit: The Kitchn)
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(Image credit: Faith Durand)

A Week of Hearty Meals with Almost Zero Weeknight Cooking

All that cooking, for me anyway, means a week of almost zero cooking.

Breakfast: Taco casserole with salsa, and sometimes an oatmeal muffin.

Lunches: Slaw with pulled chicken, and small assemblies of snacks and sausage from the fridge.

Dinners: We alternate pot roast with the sausage soup, pairing them with veggies like the slaw, leftover Brussels sprouts, or a salad kit. On one night I pull the one-pot pasta I prepped out of the fridge, add the pasta, and cook for about ten minutes. Voila! Instant pasta magic. Prepping ahead made it so quick and easy. (If you haven’t tried one of these magic one-pot pastas yet, what are you waiting for?)

The kids eat off of all this when we can coax them to (the toddler is in the picky stage of life) and especially like the egg casserole and the muffins. The 1-year-old loves soup. We supplement with chicken nuggets, PB&J, sliced fresh cucumber, and fruit.

I hope this meal prep plan is helpful to you as you stay warm and well-fed this winter! If you need another angle (vegetarian? More slow cooker?) check out our archive of meal prep plans, and in the meantime, power on.

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.

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