Friday, September 5

22 Days of Dinner Meal Plan to Simplify Cooking and Grocery Shopping

I have wanted to do something like this pretty much since Dalin and I got married three years ago. Maybe even longer. I love being organized (though marriage and family life has certainly put my ability to stay as organized as I'd like to the test) and I love saving money so having a meal plan (and a shopping list) is a goal I have meant to accomplish for quite a while.

Now that I'm taking only online classes and staying at home with Tenley all the time, I'm trying to get our life in order so I can figure out the next thing I want to do (like finding a way to run a business at home so I can be with my babies). Part of that organization includes creating a plan to save money.

Probably the biggest portion of our spending apart from necessities such as home, car, insurance, and school, goes to food. We love having good food. I love cooking (though admittedly I'd be happy to forego cleaning up after...) and feel that my skills have improved quite a bit in the last three years mostly thanks to practice and watching Chopped with Dalin.

One thing that is commonly an issue for me is staying organized when I go grocery shopping. Especially being pregnant, I tend to follow my stomach more than my brain. Things go into the cart and when I get home I'm like, great, what meals can I make with this stuff?

So that's where my dinner meal plan comes in. I wanted to title it 25 Days of Dinner Meal Plan but I figured that would be misleading because I could not come up with three more meals! But I still need 25 because the point was I want to be able to plan for at least 5 dinners a week. So I'm leaving the last three up to you to help me fill. I'd like you to comment or message me with your favorite meal, including the ingredients (and a quick recipe so I don't have to guess) to include! Once I have 25, I will change the post title and add your recipe to the post!

But first, here is what I came up with for meal ideas:

1. Chicken Salad Sandwiches

2. Chicken Tortillas

3. Chicken Parmesan & Green Beans

4. Chicken and Veggie Stir fry

5. Beef Stroganoff

6. Spaghetti w/ Chunky Meat Sauce

7. Pork Chops and Spinach

8. Fish and (Kale) Chips

9. Chicken Fajitas

10. Macaroni and Cheese w/ Hotdog

11. White Cheddar Shells and Salad

12. Homemade Thai

13. Steak and Sides

14. Tacos

15. Spicy Sausage Penne

16. Broccoli Pasta & Veggies

17. Marinara over Rotini

18. Asparagus & Tomato Penne Salad

19. Simple Chili

20. Spicy Lemon Trout and Salad

21. Homemade Pizza

22. Grilled Cheese & Tomato Soup




I was trying to plan healthy meals that have a good mix of protein and vegetables. I also tried to choose favorite meals of ours as well as a few that are easy to make if I'm not in the mood for cooking. So after assembling this list, I made a color-coded grocery list of ingredients to help me stay focused in the grocery store;-). 

Here is the color-coded grocery list. Note that the black for on-hand ingredients is what we personally tend to have stocked at home. You may need to adjust it for yourself. Anyway, here it is:

Shopping list code:
Green for fresh items   Red for meats    Gold for other items   Black for on-hand ingredients

1. Chicken Salad Sandwiches
          canned chicken
            French bread/rolls/buns
            2 Tbsp mayonnaise
            ½ cup dried cranberries
1 cucumber, peeled and diced
alfalfa sprouts (optional)
            1 cup sliced green and/or red grapes
            1 cup chopped cashews
            garlic powder
            salt and pepper
            lemon pepper
            lemon juice

2. Chicken Tortillas
          Precooked fajita chicken, heated OR chicken breast, shredded/cooked
            Fresh uncooked tortillas
            sour cream
            1 can black beans, heated
            1-2 cups brown rice, cooked
            2 medium tomatoes, diced
            fresh cilantro
            grated Mexican cheese
            creole seasoning
            salt and pepper
3. Chicken Parmesan & Green Beans
          Chicken breasts
            Tomatoes, thin slices

            Fresh green beans, ends cut and halved
            Cherry tomatoes, halved
            Fresh basil leaves, shredded
            1 yellow onion, diced and sautéed
            2 garlic cloves, minced and sautéed
            garlic salt
            1 Tbsp sugar
            1 lemon (for juice)

4. Chicken and Veggie Stir Fry
          Chicken breast, sliced or cubed
            1 onion, chopped
            2 garlic cloves, minced
            olive oil
            any seasonings
            salt and pepper
            garlic salt
            lemon pepper
            lemon juice
            Various vegetables, chopped:
                        Bell peppers
                        Cherry tomatoes
                        Green beans
                        Pea pods
            2 cups white or brown rice (optional)

5. Beef Stroganoff
          Beef tenderloin, cubed (or hamburger if nothing else)
            1 bag egg noodles OR 2 cups white rice
            1 ½ cups sour cream
            1 tsp Worcestershire sauce
            1 can (1 ½ cups) beef broth
            1-2 onions, chopped
            1 garlic clove, minced
            ½ tsp salt
            8 oz. can sliced mushrooms
            ¼ cup flour
6. Spaghetti with Chunky Meat Sauce
          Meat of choice (hamburger, sausage)
            ½ box of spaghetti, angel hair, penne, or rigatoni
            ½ container of Prego or other tomato sauce
            ½ onion, chopped
            3 garlic cloves, minced
            Optional: summer squah or zucchini, chopped (for added chunkiness)
            Seasonings (salt and pepper, oregano, etc.)
7. Pork Chop and Spinach
          Pork chops (with or without bone)
            ½ cup orange juice
            lemon pepper
            creole seasoning
            Jamaican jerk rub
            Salt and pepper
            1 bag spinach
8. Fish and (Kale) Chips
          Fish filet (frozen or fresh)
            Lemon pepper
            Lemon wedges (for juice)
            Olive oil
            2 cups rice
            salt and pepper
            2 cups white or brown rice
9. Chicken Fajitas
          1 lb. sliced chicken breast
  1 large onion, chopped
            2 green bell peppers
            1 red bell pepper
            2 Tbsp vegetable oil
            1 lime
            1 Tbsp chili powder
            ½ Tbsp paprika
            ½ tsp onion powder
            ½ tsp garlic powder
            ¼ tsp cumin
            1/8 tsp cayenne pepper
            1 tsp sugar
            ½ tsp salt
            ½ Tbsp corn starch
            8 6” tortillas
            sour cream
            fresh cilantro

10. Macaroni and Cheese with Hotdog (optional)
          Hotdogs, sliced and pan-cooked
            2 cups macaroni
            2 cups grated extra sharp cheddar cheese
            1 Tbsp butter
salt and pepper

11. White Cheddar Shells and Salad
        1 box of Annie’s white cheddar shells
          2 Tbsp butter
3 Tbsp milk
salt and pepper

Spinach or mixed greens
Carrots, cucumbers, tomatoes, peppers (sliced)

12. Homemade Thai
          1 package sliced chicken breast
  2 cups white rice OR ½ package Maifun rice sticks
  2 cups chicken broth
            1 onion chopped
            1 heaping Tbsp fresh ginger, minced
            1 red/orange bell pepper, sliced
            2 Tbsp fish sauce
            2 Tbsp brown sugar
            2 12oz. cans coconut milk
            2 Tbsp red curry paste
            2 Tbsp peanut butter
            1 cup frozen peas, thawed
            2 fresh limes
            fresh cilantro
            ¼ cup salted cashews, chopped

13. Steak and Sides
          Steak (grilled, broiled, pan-cooked)
            Salt and pepper
            Jamaican Jerk rub (optional)
            1 bag frozen peas, microwaved
            Summer squash, sliced and cooked
            Zucchini, sliced and cooked

            4-5 brown potatoes, peeled, sliced to 1” pieces, salted, boiled, mashed
            2+ Tbsp salted butter
14. Tacos
          Hamburger (cooked)
  Soft taco shells
            Taco mix
            Sour cream
            Diced tomatoes
            Shredded lettuce
            Shredded cheese
            Sliced black olives
            Chopped white onion

15. Spicy Sausage Penne
          1 lb. Italian sausage, sliced
            1 box Penne
            1 10oz. can Ro-Tel tomatoes with green chilis
            2 cups shredded/grated cheese
  1 cup (small container) heavy whipping cream
            2 cups chicken broth
            sliced green onions/scallions
            1 white onion chopped
            2 minced garlic cloves
            crushed red pepper
            olive oil

16. Broccoli Pasta with Veggies
            1 head of broccoli (washed, steamed, then chopped)
            olive oil
            garlic salt
            garlic powder
            parmesan cheese
            dried oregano
            summer squash, sliced and cooked
            zucchini, sliced and cooked
            tomatoes, sliced and cooked
            olive oil
            salt and pepper

17. Marinara over Rotini
          1 lb. Italian sausage sliced
  1 tsp olive oil
            ½ cup chopped onion
            2 minced garlic cloves
            2 Tbsp fresh OR 2 tsp dried basil
            2 Tbsp fresh OR 2 tsp dried parsley
            1 tsp sugar
            ½ tsp dried oregano
            parmesan cheese
            salt, pepper, crushed red pepper
            1 can undrained diced tomatoes OR 1-2 diced tomatoes
            4 cups rotini for 4 servings

18. Asparagus and Tomato Penne Salad
          2 cups penne
            2 minced garlic cloves
            sliced asparagus spears
            halved cherry tomatoes
            olive oil
            salt and pepper
            1 cup fresh peas
            2 Tbsp chopped basil leaves
            1 Tbsp minced shallots
            2 Tbsp fresh lemon juice
            Baby spinach/baby arugula
            Crumbled cheese (goat/parmesan/feta)

19. Simple Chili
          Cooked ground beef (optional)
  2 cups chopped onion (sautéed)
            3 minced garlic cloves (sautéed)
            3-4 cups water
            2 cans diced tomatoes undrained
            1 can chickpeas (garbanzo beans), drained
            1 can black beans, drained
            1 can kidney beans, drained
            1 can cannellini or other white beans, drained
            1 6oz. can tomato paste
            ½ cup shredded cheese
            olive oil
            sour cream
            2 Tbsp sugar
            2 Tbsp chili powder
            2 Tbsp Worcestershire sauce
20. Spicy Lemon Trout and Salad
          4 6oz dressed trout filets
            2 tsp fresh lemon juice
            olive oil        
            1 tsp dried thyme
            ½ tsp paprika
            ¼ tsp ground red pepper
            thin lemon slices (2  lemons)
  cooking spray

spinach or mixed greens
sliced mushrooms
sliced tomatoes
lemon juice
salt and pepper

21. Homemade Pizza
          3 ½ - 4 cups flour
            1 packet (about 2 tsp) instant yeast
            1 tsp sugar
            1 ½ cups water
            2 Tbsp olive oil
            2 tsp salt
            1 can tomato sauce (pizza sauce)
            2 cups cheese, shredded
            Toppings (tomato, mushroom, pepperoni, pineapple, green pepper)

22. Grilled Cheese & Tomato Soup
            Sliced bread
            Extra sharp cheddar cheese, sliced thin
            1 Tbsp butter, softened
            1 Tbsp cream cheese, softened (optional)
            tomato slices (optional)
            salt and pepper
            2 small cans (or 1 large) tomato soup (optional)

If you want the recipes to any of these meals, let me know! I might have a link already in my recipes tab above, and if not, I'd be happy to get it for you! 

I hope that this list helps give you some ideas for your own dinner meal plan and maybe helps simplify your shopping list. I know I'm excited to pick out five meals for this week and go shopping (for ONLY those ingredients...ideally;-).

Now I need your help. Please share your favorite recipe or two (or if you have an incredible variation) below or with me on Facebook so I can add to this list! I'm so excited to try some new healthy (and hopefully easy) meals! 

Happy dinner time! 

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