I’m going to cut to the chase here, because it’s December and you don’t have time for extraneous information. Here is a weeknight meal plan to get you through this month.
I’m sharing my entire December weeknight meal plan (with links! And serving suggestions for picky eaters!).
I love you, and I want you to enjoy yourself this month. I want you to do all the things you love and I don’t want you worrying about what to make for dinner.
I hope you find something useful here. Merry Christmas!
Is this Weeknight Meal Plan Right For You?
A little background: on the cooking skills front, I fall somewhere in the middle of the road. I’m a capable cook, but since I’m so busy at night, my weeknight dinners tend to be more along the lines of “get the job done” than gourmet. If you’re a foodie… this probably isn’t the weeknight meal plan for you.
BUT, if you have a home with relatively selective eaters, a crockpot or instapot, and a will to get dinner on the table as quickly and efficiently as possible… I’m your gal.
These are all meals I make often, so I know they are consistent.. I selected each one because they are easy to make, use mostly basic, staple ingredients, and have passed the picky eater test in my house (I say this with the knowledge that no two selective eaters are alike, so I’m not making any promises your kids will eat the same things that mine do).
Wherever possible, I have linked the original source of the recipe, but a few of them I’ve adapted on my own so much that they’ve become my own creation I’ve include instructions for those meals, but they aren’t formal recipes. They’re more like… UNrecipes. Take them for what they are.
A few more notes:
- One strategy I’m loving is to make extra “meat” early in the week with meal 1 (M1) and then repurpose it in another dish a couple of days later. This progression is planned with this strategy in mind, so if you make the dishes out of order, it may take more time for you to prep the meat.
- I rely heavily on my All Clad Slowcooker (the removable insert makes it so easy for me to brown my meat, then transfer the same pan to the base for slow cooking). I cook with it at least 3x a week. You can achieve similar results with a classic crockpot or an Instapot too.
- It helps to start the month with a good Costco haul. I would recommend loading up on ground beef, frozen chicken breasts, steak and veggies to reduce you shopping time and save $$$.
- I know Christmas falls in week 4 and you probably won’t be eating anything on this list on Christmas night,… but I included recipes ( or basic dictions) on those days anyway in case a few others didn’t suit you. It’s good to have choices, right?
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Weeknight Meal Plan: Week One
W1D1: Chicken Green Chile (Crockpot)
I don’t want to say that this entire recipe hinges on this one ingredient… but it kind of does.. They have mild and hot (which is way too hot for my family… I always buy mild).
Also, you actually have to go IN to the store to grab these (you can’t order them via Online Ordering for some reason). But they are really, really fresh and really really good. Buy a few bags… you’ll be glad you have them in your freezer.
The basic soup recipe from the back of the package is here.
I tweak it a little bit each time, usually adding a few more Tbsp. of flour to make it thicker and quite a bit more broth.
- Brown cubes of chicken first, then transfer to crock pot with the rest of the ingredients.
- Make sure there is plenty of liquid… THEN add several fresh or frozen chicken breasts to the broth (this is a low effort way to meal prep more shredded chicken for the rest of the week).
- Cook it all on high for 4 hours or preferably low for 8.
- Before serving, remove chicken breasts, shred and reserve for lunches throughout the week.
- You can add some chicken back to the soup if you want heartier soup.
- You can also strain out chicken and chiles from the soup and serve burrito or taco style if kids don’t like soup.
- Leftover soup makes great lunch with crushed tortilla chips or served over a bed of microwavable rice.
W1D2: Korean Beef Bowls
I found this recipe awhile back, and it is so easy, I make it often now. Once you have the staple ingredients, it can be thrown together in 15 minutes.
Find the recipe here.
- Serve over white or brown rice.
- Top with steamed broccoli (microwavable is great!), sesame seeds and Sriracha.
- If you have really picky eaters, reserve some browned ground beef before adding seasonings for taco or serve plain over rice.
W1D3: Ina Garten Lemon Chicken Breasts
My all time favorite chicken recipe.
- You can substitute apple juice if you don’t have white wine!
- Serve over a bed of rice and pour the pan juice (it’s delicious) over the whole plate like a fancy chef.
- We like it with grilled or roasted asparagus or green beans.
- Slice for kids and give them a bowl of “special sauce” aka pan juice to dip it in.
W1D4: Grilled Steak w/ Simple Seasoning + Roasted Veggies
If you’ve never purchased Tri-Tip, I encourage you to try it! It’s my favorite cut of meat for dinner. I buy it in strips from the butcher department at Sam’s or Costco, season the whole package, and then freeze half for another day.
- Mix up a batch of this simple seasoning.
- If you have enough spices, you can quadruple the ingredients and make a huge batch. Save it in an airtight container and it will last you several months
- Rub the seasoning on the meat, let it rest, then grill or smoke as desired.
- Serve with frozen corn, roasted green beans, or baked potatoes.
- I usually make a batch of Annie’s Mac and Cheese with this and serve it as a side dish.
W1D5: Rachel Ray’s Chili-Mac
Find the recipe here.
- Skip what your family doesn’t like (looking at you, onions). Or… Sneaky Chef it and puree chunky ingredients in the blender to reduce chances of suspect foods being discovered.
- Reserve plain noodles for picky eaters and simply top with butter/olive oil and Parm.
Weeknight Meal Plan: Week Two
W2D1: Shredded Chicken Tacos (Crockpot)
- Fill a crockpot with fresh or frozen chicken breasts.
- Sprinkle seasonings over chicken.
- Add 1/2-3/4 cup water.
- Cook on low for 8 hours (flip once if you think about it).
- Shred an hour before serving, and return to juice to soak up the flavor!
- Serve with your favorite taco fixings.
W2D2: Honey Chicken + Sweet Potatoes (Crockpot)
This is another super easy non-recipe that you can toss in the crockpot in the morning and forget.
- Toss desired amount of fresh or frozen chicken breasts in slow cooker.
- Top with 1/3 cup olive oil, 1/3 cup balsamic vinegar, and 1/3 cup honey.
- Sprinkle 1 tsp. each kosher salt and dried rosemary (or a fresh sprig) on top.
- Cook on low 6-8 hours.
- If desired, throw in some washed and cubed sweet potatoes halfway through cooking time (you can do it at the beginning, but they can be a little mushy if you do).
- If you need to stretch it, serve over egg noodles!
W2D3: Skinny Creamy Chicken Enchiladas (using D1 Shredded Chicken)
My sister turned me on to Lillie Eats and Tells, a blog focused on healthy recipes with good macros. I really like her approach of batch cooking protein and repurposing it throughout the week.
Her Skinny Creamy Chicken Enchiladas can be made using leftover taco chicken from D1 this week.
You don’t NEED all the extra toppings (Cotija, avocado, sour cream), but they sure take this meal over the top!
W2D4: Skinny Chimichangas
Skinnytaste always has good recipes, and this Skinny Chimichanga recipe is great because it (ahem) works with leftover meat (beef or chicken… it’s all good).
- It probably makes them less “skinny”, but they are extra tasty brushed with melted butter before baking.
- You can add beans in place of meat for a meatless dinner.
- I have mixed a little bit of greek yogurt or sour cream in the burrito mixture and it is delicious!
- Serve with a side of beans, corn, or make some cilantro lime rice!
- Picky eaters can just have a quesadilla.
W2D5: Lettuce Wraps (or Lo Mein)
I originally made these as lettuce wraps for years. But I didn’t always have lettuce cups when I wanted to make them. So I started cooking a pot of spaghetti and mixing it together with the filling and some fresh veggies on my electric skillet, stir-fry style.
- Brown the ground chicken with the garlic and ginger. Now is a good time to add about a quarter cup of chopped carrots if you like them.
- Then, add all remaining ingredients, stir, and let simmer for awhile over low heat. Keep stirring occasionally.
- Cook a lb. of spaghetti or wash lettuce.
- Preheat a wok, skillet or pan if you are going to make lo mein.
- I use a little bit of sesame oil on the pan to get the noodles a bit crispy, and I add some more soy sauce at the end to blend it all together).
- Stir in some stir fry veggies or broccoli if you have them!
- Top with sesame seeds and Sriracha.
- Can also be served on top of rice as a rice bowl.
Weeknight Meal Plan: Week Three
W3D1: Spaghetti Sauce (Crockpot)
Sometimes I make this on the stove if I didn’t plan ahead, but if I have time, I prefer to make it in the crockpot in the morning.
If you choose to use a slow cooker, make sure to keep it on LOW and only cook it for a few hours…then switch to warm. Otherwise the sauce will reduce too much and it will be too thick and rich.
- I make it with sauce instead of tomatoes because I live with chunk-haters, but you can also do it with diced tomatoes!
- Brown the ground beef, then toss all remaining ingredients in the slow cooker and simmer on low for 4 hours.
- Make a double batch today and save the rest for Lasagna on D3!
W3D2: CYO Pizza Bar
There are so many ways to do DIY Pizza bars.
My recent favorites involve:
- Trader Joe’s Pizza Crusts (or dough). Top, then grill on a 350 degree Traeger or grill. It gets crispier than the oven!
- Stonefired Naan also makes great a great base, and Pillsbury Pizza Dough makes good calzones (kids love these).
- Out of the box toppings include fruit, crumbled bacon, balsamic glazes, leftover chicken, bbq sauce… sky is the limit!
Or… just order the dang pizza. It’s December, cut yourself some slack!
W3D3: Lasagna (using D1 Spaghetti Sauce)
If you haven’t made sauce, see the recipe above, If you have leftover sauce, warm it up. If it is too thick, add some additional tomato sauce or crushed tomatoes to thin it out.
Make a ricotta filling by combining 2 1/2 cups Ricotta cheese, 1 egg, t tsp. each garlic salt and parsley flakes. Season with salt and pepper.
Layer the following in a baking dish: 1/2 cup sauce, 3-4 NO BAKE lasagna noodles, 1/2 ricotta mixture, and an even layer of mozzarella cheese. Repeat once more, then top with remaining sauce, a sprinkle of mozzarella and some parmesan cheese,
Cover with foil and bake for 40-45 minutes at 350 degrees. Remove foil and bake about 10-15 minutes more (until cheese is melted).
W3D4: Loaded Grilled Cheese Sandwiches + Tomato Soup
I’m sure you know how to make grilled cheese. But much like the CYO pizza bar, Grilled Cheese can be upgraded for dinner. Here are a few ideas!
- Get the good bread. I love Francisco brand Sourdough for grilled cheese. You can buy unique varieties freshly sliced from the bakery.
- Add a protein! I like bacon, ham + turkey. Or… all 3!
- Add a sauce! Honey mustard, jam, mayo, pesto, and bbq sauce are all delicious on grilled cheeses. Let your crew invent something unique!
- Use a fancy cheese! American and cheddar are great… but how about fresh Mozzarella? Pepper Jack? Jarlsberg?
Tomato soup is a classic pairing. There are a lot of good prepared versions available, and although it is delicious made from scratch… it wouldn’t hurt anyone if you bought this bit from the store.
W3D5: Roasted Chicken + Smashed Potatoes
A slow roasted chicken is one of the most amazing treats there is. But for a quick weeknight dinner, you can create a comparable effect in a fraction of the time.
Here is a great recipe for making a roasted chicken in your InstantPot or pressure cooker in under 30 minutes. If you don’t have an instant pot, try this recipe from Ina Garten. I never use the fennel or fresh thyme… and it still turns out delicious.
I like to serve potatoes with my chicken. Mashed potatoes can be time consuming, so try “smashed potatoes,” These are delicious. You boil some mini potatoes, slice them, smash them, drizzle them with butter + oil, then roast them in the oven. It sounds complicated, but it really isn’t. Your family will love them.
Weeknight Meal Plan: Week Four
W4D1: Chicken Gyros
I am seriously obsessed with the Gyros at Cafe Athens. This isn’t a copycat, but it helps me get my fix.
- I prep a bunch of plain, unseasoned chicken in my InstantPot pressure cooker for this recipe. Make extra and save half for Wednesday night.
- Serve on Garlic Stonefire Naan or Papa Pitas.
- Kids can make flatbread “pizzas” if they don’t like the other toppings.
- I substitute apples for the tomatoes to create a sweet twist (plus, I always have apples on hand). I also omit the onions.
W4D2: Pot Roast (Crockpot)
I’ve tried a bunch of pot roast recipes, and this is the best recipe (with the clearest directions) that I have found.
I brown it in the morning and let it cook all day. Sometimes I add potatoes, sometimes I don’t. We like the au jus, so I usually prefer to make mashed potatoes as a side and pour it over the top. Yum!
Buy a big cut of meat… you’ll want the leftovers for Thursday night.
W4D3: Chicken Noodle Soup (Using D1 Chicken)
This is another meal that totally hinges on one specific ingredient in our house. Grandma’s Egg Noodles are available in the frozen section at Walmart and King Soopers and they come in wide noodles as well as spaghetti. Both are delicious. You may never make soup without them again once you try them.
This one is super easy. Saute some diced carrots + celery in a drizzle of olive oil. Then add to a slow cooker with 2 boxes of chicken broth and leftover chicken from Monday.
- If you don’t have leftover chicken… don’t panic! You can toss fresh or frozen chicken breasts in the broth and let them slow cook (just shred before serving).
- Set the frozen noodles on the counter to defrost a bit while the soup cooks.
- About an hour before serving, break up the noodles and stir them into the soup.
- As the noodles cook, they thicken up the broth. It will almost resemble chicken and dumplings.
- Season with salt and pepper as needed.
- Serve with crackers or biscuits and a side salad.
W4D4: Beef Burritos (Using Day 2 Shredded Beef)
Heat up leftover beef from Tuesday and roll into burritos.
Some additions to consider:
- Hash brown potatoes (you can air fry them or make them on a waffle iron if you don’t want to fry them)
- 505 Green Chile (jarred, premade)
- Refried Beans
- Fresh pico, lettuce + sour cream
- Sliced avocados
Alternatively, you could make enchiladas, nachos or tacos using the meat.
W4D5: Chili (Crockpot) + Potato Bar
Another great make ahead. Here is the recipe I usually make.
- I usually leave out anything I don’t have on hand, use all ground beef (no sausage), and add corn. This is a forgiving recipe.
- Puree the tomatoes (or use sauce) for a less chunky chili.
- Wash potatoes, poke holes with a fork, and smear with kosher salt, pepper, and olive oil. Wrap in foil and bake at 425 degrees for about an hour (or until soft). Turn off heat and leave them in the oven until time to eat… they will stay hot for a looooong time.
- Serve chili on top of potatoes (or, er… Fritos).
- Avocado, cheese, sour cream, and salsa are all great toppings.
Weeknight Meal Plan: Week Five
W5D1: Grilled Lemon Pepper Chicken
Now that Christmas is over, it’s back to grilled chicken for you!
Just kidding. But this is my favorite simple way to prep grilled chicken. Season chicken breast with kosher salt and lemon pepper. Squeeze lemon juice on top and let sit for a few minutes before grilling or smoking.
Serve over salad, with plain rice, or your favorite roasted veggie.
W5D2: Roasted Corn Chowder
Perfect comfort food… with a kick!
Pioneer Woman’s Corn Chowder recipe has an interesting combination of chipotle chiles and cornmeal that I absolutely adore.
It’s best with fresh corn off the cob, but it is pretty darn good with frozen corn too.
Don’t tell anyone, but… I usually throw some extra cheddar cheese into the pot right before I serve this. Get this in before you have New Year’s resolutions to stick to.
Well, there you have it! A December weeknight meal plan to keep you pushing through December… taking care of your family and yourself.
You may not make everything on this list, but I hope that you’ll remember that you can come back here for some ideas if you’re feeling stumped. Kind of like this site, without the cursing.
Or use it in January! Lord knows. I need all the help I can get to make it through that month.
Now, go forth, meal plan, and enjoy the holidays.
Thanks for stopping by… I’m so glad you’re here.