I wish someone would have warned me before I moved out and became an adult, but half of adulting involves your kitchen. Whether you are figuring out what to eat for dinner, cooking dinner, or, the worst of them all, cleaning your kitchen after cooking. I simultaneously love food and hate cooking. Scratch that; I don’t mind cooking, but I hate cleaning up during and after cooking. Something in my brain throws a tantrum like I’m a two-year-old told to clean up my toys by their mom. So hopefully, these dinner ideas for the week help alleviate the stupid stress that is cooking dinner the week.
Meal prep for the week
First things first, meal prep is your friend. I’d rather spend all Sunday afternoon cooking and meal prepping for my week and cleaning one giant mess than cooking every night and cleaning seven small messes. Maybe it’s a lazy person thing, or maybe it’s an ADHD thing. Who knows?
I’ve already accepted that even if I don’t use my kitchen for a week, it still requires cleaning every day, but I can manage the mess with meal prepping. Especially since I work from home, I tend to cook three meals a day. (Cook is an overstatement of what I sometimes do, but you get the point.) My favorite meals for prepping are breakfast and lunch. Dinner is a monster all on its own, but having easy to go and ready meals for breakfast and lunch is one less thing I have to deal with in the morning or during work hours.
Honestly, overnight oats are not my favorite food in the world, but I have two weddings at the end of this year, and I’m trying to look good in the pictures, so overnight oats it is. Overnight oats are probably the easiest thing on this list to assemble. Here’s a quick link to an overnight oats recipe. But it’s oats soaked in a milk of your choice and yogurt. Sounds gross, I know, but that’s why you add honey, fruit, peanut butter, and chocolate chips to the mess. It helps the medicine go down.
I like Eggo Waffles, but I don’t feel like spending $6 on five tiny frozen waffles.
And I love freshly-made waffles, but they are a pain to make on a work morning. I barely have the mental energy to get out of bed, let alone stir six ingredients into a bowl and then cook them in a waffle iron that I have to find in the abyss that is my cupboards. But once a month, I will make a crapload (that’s a legit measurement, I swear) of waffle batter and make like 30 plus waffles and freeze them. There is no better joy in life than starting a cold, wet Portland Monday with a delicious Belgian waffle and a nice cup of coffee.
P.S. It takes about two hours for the waffles to freeze completely. And make sure you separate the waffles with parchment paper when you store them away. You’ll thank me later.
Leftovers from dinner the night before
I hate leftover food. Or, at the very least, I hate eating the same thing repeatedly for a week straight, which feels like all you can do when you live alone. You make a giant pot of something, and that dish becomes your breakfast, lunch, and dinner for the next week. Then, after three days, I give up on the food. Maybe it’s the curse of growing up in a big family, but I do not know how to cook for less than five people. So if you can learn to cook for one or two people, you will have the perfect leftover portion for lunch the next.
Smoothie (cause I’m really lazy sometimes)
I’ve said it a bunch of times, but I’m lazy. (But like in a good way. Or so I rationalize it.) There are days when I have zero desire to turn on a stove, let alone get a pot or dish dirty. Smoothies are the best thing ever when I’m feeling like that. Some frozen fruit (I’m partial to berries and mango), greek yogurt, honey, almond milk, protein powder, and peanut butter, if you like it, all come together to create food so lazy that you don’t even need to chew it. And on a hot summer day, it just hits the spot. (Fingers crossed we don’t get another 100-plus degree day like we did last year.)
Chili is the easiest thing in the world to make for dinner. You take everything you have in your fridge; meats about to go bad, veggies that need cooking, that one beer you bought but didn’t end up liking, so you’ve had the last bottle sitting in your fridge for six months, and you dump it into a pot with crushed tomatoes. And then you walk away for like an hour. So here’s a simple guide to cooking chili, but don’t get too caught up on what goes in the pot. It’s supposed to be a dish that lets you empty your pantry and fridge.
Rice, protein of choice, and veggies
There are few things as easy as throwing ingredients in the oven and calling it a meal. If I don’t want chili, I will throw whatever protein I have, usually chicken and veggies, into the oven and let them roast. If you season and cook everything correctly, I promise it will be delicious and not dry. Make a pot of rice and throw it all on a plate. Bon appetit!
You can get creative with how you season everything, but the idea is to throw it in the oven and walk away until the timer dings. The easiest veggies to roast are potatoes, broccoli, asparagus, and Brussel sprouts. Send a picture to your mom so she knows you are eating your vegetables. That or so you can impress her with your cooking skills. What I’m trying to say is you should call your mom more!
Nothing sucks more than throwing out food that went bad. That’s wasted money, and with the cost of food and groceries right now, none of us can afford to be spending money aimlessly. If you meal prep and get into a groove of things, you will start to save money. When I Uber Eats, a meal is because I don’t want to cook, and there is nothing already made in my fridge. Plus, planning your meals and having them ready to go will help with stuff spoiling in your fridge. Nothing sucks more than smelling something going bad in your refrigerator and having to go hunting for it. It makes my skin crawl just thinking about it.