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by Steph Saullo RDN

January 18, 2018

Tackle the task of meal planning without feeling overwhelmed

Meal planning can often seem overwhelming, but with a little thought ahead of time, you can be prepared without much effort. Part 1 of this article discussed some simple tips to get the process started. Here we discuss ways to make meals with less effort.

Make Meals with Less Effort

One-Pot Meals

One-pot meal ideas are fantastic not only because they only require one (or very few) cooking vessels and utensils, but concoctions you can make in the microwave or slow cooker tend to be on the easier end of the spectrum. If you happen to search the Internet for slow cooker recipes, look for those that don’t require any cooking beforehand. Often you’ll see these types of recipes described as “Load-&-Go.” Stick to this method and scrap those recipes that require you to brown or sauté or do much more than chop and mix before dumping everything into the slow cooker vessel and pressing start.

Make Extra

Let’s say you decide to grill chicken this weekend. Take a few extra minutes to grill extra chicken for later in the week and, while you have the grill hot and ready, throw on a few chicken sausages or veggie burgers. Of course, you must think ahead and remember to purchase these things when you’re at the store (see Part 1 for how to make this an easier process). You can easily double recipes to either eat for another meal or freeze for another time. Recipes like chili, casseroles, soups, and taco meat freeze well. If you put stir fry on your plan for the week, make extra to eat at another meal. While you’re at it, make extra rice to reheat when it comes time to eat those sausages you grilled up already. By doing this, when Thursday evening rolls around and you had to work late, which means you ended up at the gym training later than expected, which means you got home and you really don’t feel like preparing a meal, all you have to do is reheat.

Keep Staples on Hand

Sometimes we don’t make it to the grocery store. For those instances, it is nice to have some nonperishable food items around. Some of my favorite pantry and freezer staples include the following: frozen vegetables, canned beans (like black beans and cannellini beans), canned tomatoes, pasta, seasoned boxed rice, and canned or pouched tuna or salmon. You can easily throw together a quick meal with a combination of a few of these items. For example, you might make seasoned rice and mix in a pouch of salmon and steamed, frozen peas.

Remember These Easy Ideas

  • Peanut butter and jelly or substitute in your favorite sliced fruit
  • Microwave egg and cheese sandwich (add some baby spinach and place on an English muffin, bagel, bread, or tortilla and grab a piece of fruit)
  • Wraps (load these up with your favorite lunch meat, cheese, sliced veggies, and avocado)
  • Quesadillas (make these with corn or other favorite veggie, black beans, cheese, and salsa)
  • Burritos (wrap up those quesadilla ingredients and add brown rice)
  • Loaded baked potatoes or sweet potatoes (pile on steamed broccoli, seasoned ground beef or turkey, canned tomatoes, and a dollop of Greek yogurt or sour cream)
  • Pasta and rice bowls (combine pasta or rice with canned tuna and frozen peas that have been steamed)
  • Stir frys (make with frozen vegetables you don’t have to chop—many grocery stores carry a frozen stir fry blend or pepper medley)
  • Smoothies (blend milk, whey protein powder, and frozen fruit)

Of course, there’s room for going out to your favorite restaurant or ordering pizza—just remember that you can easily prepare healthful meals to fuel your activity and it won’t leave you stranded in the kitchen for hours at a time.


  • Health and Nutrition


  • Meal Planning