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Oct 29, 2012 11:41 AM

Harried 'hounds: what's your get-dinner-on-the-table-FAST meal plan for this week?

Inspired by some advice I got in this "Cooking strategies for working parents of young children" thread wherein I explained I've been struggling to get dinner on the table during my work week, I've been doing some more structured weekly meal planning.

I'm always curious about what other people have planned for the week. I thought we could help each other out by posting our weekly meal plans in this thread, then reporting back how it worked out for us. Also, it would be great if you could point out anything important about your recipes and plan that are essential for success. For instance, are certain elements "prepped in advance"? Does the recipe rely on planned leftovers? Is the meal a "pantry meal"? Do you double this recipe and freeze half?

You don't have to be working, or a parent, to post in this thread, just someone who is under a lot of time pressure to get meals on the table in a hurry.

I know there are a lot of very harried East coast 'hounds hunkered down right now just hoping they don't get flooded and/or lose power. I hope you folks can join us soon. Be safe!


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  1. Here's my meal plan for the week. Tues and Weds are typically my super busy nights, though I have a commitment on Thursday of this week, too. Also, I have a houseguest with some special dietary needs causing a few departures from my normal approach. Nevertheless, here we go:

    MONDAY: Catfish sloppy Joe (From former COTM "Fish Without a Doubt")

    We use frozen diced onions for this. In FWAD Moonen has you make the BBQ sauce from scratch. We use bottled sauce as per this short-cut recipe from Esquire. This dish makes surprisingly good leftovers.

    TUESDAY: Slow Cooker Chicken Paprikash

    I've done this recipe before as a dump and go and thought it was pretty bland. This time I'm going to go to the extra effort of browning in advance as the recipe requires and hope that gives a flavor boost.

    WEDNESDAY: Slow Cooker Char Siu Roast Pork:

    I've done this one before. It's a fav. Serve over rice...

    THURSDAY: pizza night

    FRIDAY: Roasted Broccoli with Shrimp (from former COTM "In the Kitchen with a Good Appetite")

    This is a pretty good pantry recipe as long as you remember to take the shrimp out of the freezer for defrosting the day before. Alternatively, you can defrost in a cold, salted water, a tip I got from one of the Grace Young books when they were COTM. Salting the defrosting water yields plumper, jucier shrimp.


    8 Replies
    1. re: The Dairy Queen

      I am def going to make those catfish sandwiches! THanks for the recipe!

      1. re: The Dairy Queen

        These are good ideas. I'm going to give that char sui-style slow-cooked pork a try. I bet it would be great in lettuce wraps. Do you use the Boston butt called for or another cut?

        Re: paprikas - if you sautee the onions after browning the chicken and add a minced bell pepper (any color, or a cubanelle), you'll have a much more flavorful base. I also like adding a couple of bay leaves, about 3X the amount of paprika that recipe calls for, and some dried marjoram or tarragon. You could also deglaze your browning pan with a little white wine or vermouth for extra oomph, but be careful, because I'm not sure how much evaporation you can count on in the slow-cooker. I also always add a splash of soy sauce or Bragg's for umamni and a Tbsp. or so of tomato paste.

        Let us know how your second go turns out! I have found that turkey legs work out better for me in the slow cooker than chicken, since the pieces are bigger and hold up under the long cook time.

        1. re: ChristinaMason

          I use pork shoulder. Honestly, I don't know what Boston Butt is, so if I do use that cut, it would only be by chance!

          Thanks for the tips on the paprikash--we may have to save them for the next time around as I don't think I can squeeze in another shopping trip before I have to cook this dish... But they definitely sound like they'd amp the flavor up!


          1. re: The Dairy Queen

            TDQ, you're good on your char sui, because Boston butt = pork shoulder!


            1. re: Caitlin McGrath

              Whew! Thank you! I'm really bad with cuts of meat. I usually just ask my butcher...


        2. re: The Dairy Queen

          Well.. we stuck to our plan for Monday (catfish sloppy joe) and Thursday (pizza night) but the plan fell apart Tuesday morning when our houseguest followed us around chattering Tuesday morning as we were trying to get out of the house for work so that it was impossible to concentrate in the kitchen, even long enough to assemble something for the crockpot. So we tossed the roast pork instead, but just with some beer, which we ended up using for tacos, etc.

          I thought I had shrimp on hand (and apparently didn't) for Friday's dish so we ended up going out to dinner.

          I hope for better this week. Houseguest gone. We're pretty exhausted, but hope to get back on track. I'll post my menu for this week now.


          1. re: The Dairy Queen

            I forgot to mention that this is what we did with our chicken instead of the Slow Cooker Char Siu pork I'd planned for Weds. I was poking around the new Epicurious cookbook index on Amazon and Mahogany was listed as one of their best weeknight recipes. This was the such recipe I found on their website...

            It was delicious, but it took over an hour to prepare. Not sure if that was the fault of the recipe or of the chef (my husband). Admittedly, it was overcooked...


            1. re: The Dairy Queen

              Thanks for mentioning that Mahogany Chicken Recipe! It was a smash hit tonight at dinner. Took about 40 minutes for me and was loved by everyone. I am normally not a huge chicken skin fan, but the skin was a thing of beauty. Not a great one for a really rushed weeknight (all the splattering oil not so great for the toddlers underfoot either) but this one has been tagged as a favorite in Pepperplate!

        3. Copied from the other thread. To give background, I work 4 days a week, have a 5 year old in Kindergarten and a 5 month old in daycare those 4 days. Plus a long commute. I usually get home between 6:30-7 M-Th.

          My week begins on Fridays since I don't work Fridays, so I try to get my shopping in while Thing 1 is at school. This week is as follows:

          Friday: Chicken in basil red pepper cream sauce and cold roasted Brussels sprouts. (this was a pinterest recipe, not my favorite)
          Saturday: a sweet potato dish I made in the afternoon for my blog, pork chops with apple cider sauce ( a pan sauce is the quick cooker's best friend), salad with some doctored bottled dressing (added buttermilk and fresh dill to ranch)
          Sunday: roast chicken, polenta with gorgonzola, kale and avocado salad, pie (again, for the blog)
          Monday: meatloaf (made Sunday afternoon to reheat, roasted broccoli (roasted yesterday) and sprouts
          Tuesday: middle eastern garlic chicken with pita, lettuce, tomatoes (chicken is marinating -- I plan to pressure cook -- about 4 minutes.
          Wednesday: chicken thighs with artichokes and mustard cream sauce (this is a new recipe - I'm getting home early Wed for Halloween. It's promised as a quickie, but this gives wiggle room)
          Thursday: Cauliflower soup with cheddar (using cauliflower I roasted this weekend. ) probably a salad (I bought a few heads of romaine).

          Bought a frozen turkey this weekend - it's defrosting and I'll roast it next weekend.

          10 Replies
          1. re: Savour

            RE: your middle eastern garlic chicken on Tuesday: I'm always impressed by people who use a pressure cooker without fear. I usually have to enlist my husband's help. When you say 4 minutes, does that include the time to come to pressure and then come down from pressure? Are you going to let it come down naturally or use a quick release or that water cooling method?

            I always wonder if I'd really save time using a pressure cooker after all the time to come to and down from pressure. I'm curious to know how a person who knows what they're doing manages it and how long the TOTAL time is...


            1. re: The Dairy Queen

              In general, when someone says it cooks in "X minutes" that is the time it cooks AT PRESSURE. It does not include the time it takes to get up to pressure or any release time.

              If you include those, it will add an additional 20-30 minutes.

              1. re: The Dairy Queen

                I bought an electric pressure cooker, which takes all the guesswork out of it (I say "I bought" but it was a Christmas gift one year). The 4 minutes is at pressure, but since the chicken is literally ready to go I anticipate that the chicken will be done in no more than 15 or 20 minutes (The electric cooker seems to come up to pressure pretty quickly). The cookbook "Pressure Perfect" recommends 4 minutes after cooking before you do the quick release. I'm adapting a slow cooker recipe (All chicken slow cooker recipes seem to call for 3 hours on low, which is not very convenient when you work outside the home) so I will report back on timing.

                1. re: Savour

                  Interesting! I can't wait to hear how it goes. I have a presto pressure cooker, a new one, but it seemed like there was a ton of guesswork and I found it frustrating. I suppose you just have to learn how to use it, like anything else, and I honestly haven't invested the time. But, I'd like to!

                  I'm curious to hear how your adapted recipe turns out!


                  1. re: The Dairy Queen

                    Report: My pc takes six minutes to come up to pressure. Chicken wasn't quite cooked after 4 min at high pressure, so I did another 2. Then it sat at warm for a while while bedtime came so the chicken was a bit dry Still edible with some yogurt dressing, shredded lettuce and flatbread, but next time I'd use thighs..

                  2. re: Savour

                    Wow, an electric pressure cooker? That sounds ideal for me! I've never had any success with mine and now I'm too afraid to use it. But I love my electric rice cooker.

                    1. re: sarahcooks

                      I have a Fagor 3 in 1. It's an electric pressure, rice and slow cooker. Amazing. Beans on a weeknight. Saute the onion right in the pan before pressure cooking and, walk away after setting. It's really helped me in the after-work realm

                      1. re: debbypo

                        Sounds pretty great... I might have to investigate this one.


                      2. re: sarahcooks

                        I have the Cuisinart. It gets pretty mixed reviews on Amazon, but it's worked fine for me for a couple of years and it's pretty foolproof.

                2. Order a large pizza
                  While the pizza is on its way:
                  Make a salad
                  Set the table and set out the drinks

                  1 Reply
                  1. re: todao

                    Well, that's one day. :) What are you planning on doing the other four to six dinners this week? Or, do you plan on doing pizza delivery every day (which, by the way, everyone else in my household would totally be on board with...)?


                  2. Here's my plan for this week and next. Just started working on next week's so it's not finalized yet. I do not have kids, just a non-cooking boyfriend, but I work 9-6 and commute 1 hour each way, so I don't get home til 7. I'm not a big fan of freezer meals as I do enjoy cooking and it's a nice way for me to relax after work. I do sometimes freeze a few portions though, for BF or myself to eat for lunches if there aren't enough leftovers, or for the nights when he's not around.

                    I plan my meals a week in advance and grocery shop on Saturdays for the coming week, but I have a pretty well stocked pantry/fridge so my trips to the store are mostly to get fresh ingredients, or to replenish a pantry item if I've ran out. I buy meat in bulk at Costco or or at the store when it's on sale so I always have a big selection of a wide variety of meats to choose from. I also try not to pick recipes that have a lot of ingredients I don't have, as it gets expensive to buy them all at once. Oh yeah, to make things more fun, I am limited to 1700-1800 calories a day, so I have to plan around that too.

                    Monday night:
                    Marinated London Broil (made the marinade and put meat in last night). It's not too cold today so I think I'll grill it instead of broiling.
                    Cheesy Cauliflower Bake (cut up the cauliflower yesterday so I just have to make the sauce and put in the oven tonight)

                    Tuesday night
                    Chicken Pesto Lasagna Rolls (It's just a cheese/chicken/pesto filling rolled up in a single lasagna noodle, then topped with red sauce (good ol' Ragu) and cheese and cooked in the oven. I roasted the chicken yesterday and already cut it up, so I just have to make the cheese filling and roll and throw in the oven).
                    Broccoli (Green Giant Seasoned Steamer bag) :)

                    Leftovers. BF plays hockey on Wednesday nights so he's not home, so I eat whatever seems appealing from the leftovers in the fridge or freezer, or I make something basic like grilled cheese.

                    Glazed Pork Chops
                    Chipotle mashed sweet potatoes

                    If we don't go out to eat, tacos

                    Mustard Roasted Chicken with Vegetables

                    Butternut Mac and Cheese w/ Bacon (still need to figure out a protein to go with this)

                    Chicken Parmesan Meatballs with spaghetti

                    A version of "pastitsio" with penne and ground turkey.


                    I'm volunteering at a Cooking Matters class until 8, so I won't get home til 830, so I will pick up something on the way home.

                    Not sure yet :)

                    5 Replies
                    1. re: juliejulez

                      Wow, you're looking ahead TWO weeks! Very impressive!


                      1. re: The Dairy Queen

                        I start to on Mondays, yeah ;) I just came up w/ my list for next week this morning. But I don't really finalize it til at least Wednesday, when the grocery ads come out, especially for side dishes. I should have mentioned I also do some grocery shopping on friday afternoons, since I work near a produce market that sometimes is cheaper than the grocery store near my house.

                      2. re: juliejulez

                        My Saturday already changed, going to make pizzas instead. I realized the mustard chicken dish is actually a fast one to prepare, so I'll save it for a weeknight at a later date. I try to reserve the quick prep ones for weeknights, and stuff that takes longer for weekends.

                        1. re: juliejulez

                          I've had to adapt my menu already, too!


                          1. re: The Dairy Queen

                            Changed my menu again! Sprouts has steaks on sale so I'm going to do those on Saturday night with baked potato and asparagus instead of the pizza! The pizza was going to require me to buy pretty much all the ingredients and with Thanksgiving coming, funds are a bit short.

                      3. I work 12 hour shifts every weekend and can't face cooking those nights. Plus the Duke won't cook for himself beyond microwaved oatmeal and Gardenburgers lol. So every Friday I cook for Friday night through approx Monday lunch. I make a small assortment of meats, beans, soups, sides, veggies, sauces and package up separately in transparent containers in fridge; one-to-four choices of each depending on what's in the house, the intended meal, and our preferences.

                        I leave a list of "Weekend Eats" for the Duke so he can select what he'd like for lunch; when I get home I assemble dinner and gently re-heat. The assortment means we can be flexible; if we feel like different proteins or even different meals we can have them.

                        I try not to plan too firmly because sometimes I'll just get an irrational idea that "I.Just.Can't.Eat.Chicken.Tonight" or similar. Having a variety helps avoid a fast food run.

                        A typical assortment might be:
                        roast chicken, either parts or torn up (or pulled pork; or fajita beef; or lamb)
                        grilled sausage (or hamburgers/meatballs/meatloaf; or falafel patties)
                        beans, plain: chickpeas, black beans, or red beans, etc.
                        baked/roasted veggie (sweet potatoes, squash, asparagus, etc.)
                        sauteed or steamed veggie (broccoli, zucchini, spinach, greens, etc.)
                        cold side: marinated cucumber or cole slaw or potato salad or hummus
                        raw sliced veggies (ALWAYS) (carrots, celery, snowpeas, grape toms)
                        salad greens
                        polenta (or quinoa or couscous or plain pasta)
                        brown rice (or pita or crusty bread or flatbread)
                        marinara (or garlic/butter or ginger/chili or sesame/soy or BBQ)
                        curry "sauce"

                        So a lunch/dinner meal could be:
                        cucumber salad; cold chickpeas w/greens and chopped toms/onions/feta in vinaigrette
                        sweet potato; chickpeas, broccoli and greens in curry
                        crudites; sausage w/greens and marinara with polenta
                        salad; chicken w/chickpeas and squash in curry; rice

                        Come Monday, I can pull some chicken broth out of freezer and toss in veggie, meat, and bean remnants for soup.

                        2 Replies
                        1. re: DuchessNukem

                          Weekends sound pretty intense for you! What's your plan for the rest of this week?


                          1. re: The Dairy Queen

                            During the week I generally have time to indulge in more elaborate and/or spontaneous daily cooking so I leave that unplanned. I still keep salad greens, sliced raw veggies, and a lunch/snack protein around so there's always a healthy snack; I tend to crockpot small amounts of various beans 2-3 times a week also.

                            Today I was reading the "Shawarma vs Gyros" thread and decided to make some gyro meat since I had most everything. It's cooling on the counter now. :)

                            (Edited to add: The Friday cooking is actually pretty easy since we eat a lot of our veggies very simply, and I save heavier seasoning of meats/grains for the saucing. I often have 2-3 slow-cookers going during the day and the cooking is on-and-off for the rest.)