Meal planning: Recipes to get you through the week

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Meal planning – two magic words that get me in a tizzy because it means I get a break from cooking for at least two nights of the week.

I’ve listed here some of my (and my two picky eaters’) favourite, meal-planning ideas. Each recipe has a main meal that you can prepare over the weekend, and you can keep the leftovers in smaller batches in the fridge (if using the next day) or freezer (if using later in the week). Each recipe is enough to make 2 to 3 meals for a family of two adults and two young children.

MEAL PLAN 1: Bolognese ragu

Main meal: Spaghetti bolognese

Image credit: Nourish and fete


  • 2-3 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 onion, finely chopped
  • 3 cloves garlic,  finely chopped
  • 1 carrot, finely chopped
  • 1 stalk celery, finely chopped
  • 1kg mince beef
  • 2 x 500g canned diced tomatoes
  • 1 small red capsicum, diced
  • 1 cup zucchini or broccoli, finely chopped
  • 2 tablespoons tomato paste
  • 1/4 teaspoon oregano
  • 1/4 teaspoon basil
  • 2 bay leaves
  • Salt and pepper
  • Grated parmesan


  1. Heat the olive oil  in a saucepan, then add the onion, garlic, carrot and celery. Turn the heat down to low and fry for 2-3 minutes, stirring occasionally, until the vegetables have softened.
  2. Turn up the heat to medium-high and add the beef. Once the meat has browned, add the diced tomatoes, capsicum, vegetables, tomato paste, oregano, basil and bay leaves.
  3. Bring to a simmer then turn down the heat to low. Cook on low heat for 1-3 hours (until the sauce has reduced to your preferred consistency), stirring regularly so it doesn’t burn.
  4. About 10 minutes before you turn off the heat, season with salt and pepper to taste.
  5. Serve with spaghetti and top with grated parmesan.

Meal 2: Burritos

Easy beef burritos served on tortillas
Image credit: BBC Good Food


  • Leftover bolognese ragu
  • 1 tablespoon oil
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground coriander seeds
  • A pinch of cayenne powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1 avocado
  • 1 lime
  • 1 tomato, chopped
  • 1 shallot, finely chopped
  • Salt and pepper
  • Sour cream
  • Grated cheese
  • Tortillas


  1. Heat the oil on medium, add the coriander, cayenne and half of the cumin. Fry for 30 seconds, then add the ragu.
  2. Cook until heated through.
  3. For the guacamole, scoop the avocado into a bowl. Add the remaining cumin, lime juice, chopped tomatoes and shallots. Season with salt and pepper. Mix until combined.
  4. Serve the meat sauce with the guacamole, tortillas, sour cream and grated cheese.

Meal 3: Cottage pie

Easy cottage pie
Image credit: BBC Good Food


  • Leftover bolognese ragu
  • 2 large potatoes, cut into chunks
  • 5 tablespoons cream
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • Grated cheese


  1. Boil the potatoes in salted water for 20-30 minutes.
  2. Remove from heat. Drain the water, but leave the potatoes in the saucepan and mash it.
  3. Add the cream and butter to the saucepan, and heat on low until the butter melts.
  4. Remove from heat and mix potatoes, cream and butter well. Season with salt and pepper.
  5. Preheat oven to 180 degrees Celsius.
  6. In a separate saucepan, heat the bolognese ragu until warmed through.
  7. Spread the bolognese in an ovenproof dish. Top with the mashed potatoes and sprinkle with grated cheese.
  8. Cook in the oven for about 10-15 minutes, or until the cheese starts to melt and brown.


Main Meal: Classic Pot-au-feu

Related image
Image credit: Finecooking.com


  • 1kg beef chuck
  • 2 pieces of oxtail
  • 1 stalk celery
  • 3 small potatoes, skin on
  • 1 carrot
  • 1 turnip
  • 1 parsnip
  • 1 onion
  • 1 leek, halved & cut lengthwise
  • 1 bouquet garni (a mixture of parsley, marjoram, thyme, rosemary, bay leaves)
  • 1 small bunch English parsley
  • 10 black peppercorns
  • Salt  to taste


  1. Put all the ingredients in a large stock pot with 2 litres of water.
  2. Bring to a boil then simmer on low for 3-4 hours until the beef is tender.
  3. Remove the herbs and peppercorns, and discard.
  4. To serve, remove the beef and vegetables on to a plate. Serve with some mustard or horseradish.

Meal 2: Tortellini/Ravioli in broth

tortellini in broth recipe
Image credit: Holly A. Heyser


  • Leftover pot-au-feu broth
  • Tortellini or ravioli


  1. Cook the pasta according to package instructions. Drain and scoop individual portions into soup bowls.
  2. Heat the broth until warmed through and pour on to the pasta.
  3. Serve with a side salad or steamed vegetables.

Meal 3: Philly cheesesteak sandwich

Image result for philly cheese steak sandwich
Image credit: Garlic & Zest


  • Leftover pot-au-feu beef, sliced into strips
  • 1 onion, sliced
  • 200g button mushrooms, sliced
  • Hotdog buns
  • Butter
  • Grated cheese


  1. Fry the onions in some oil until soft and slightly caramelised.
  2. Add the mushrooms and fry until cooked through, then add the beef and cook until warmed through. Season with salt and pepper.
  3. Preheat the grill to 180-200 degrees Celsius.
  4. Slit the hotdog buns down the middle, spread it with butter and lay them open-faced on a baking tray.
  5. Top with the beef and mushrooms,  then sprinkle the grated cheese.
  6. Heat the sandwiches under the grill for a few minutes until the cheese has melted.

Meal 4: Onion soup gratinee

Related image
Image credit: Allrecipes


  • 3 cups leftover pot-au-feu broth
  • 1 tablespoon frying oil
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 1 brown onion, sliced
  • 2 sprigs fresh thyme
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1/4 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
  • 1 baguette, cut into slices
  • Grated cheese


  1. Heat the oil and butter in a saucepan.
  2. Once butter has melted, add the onions and fry, stirring regularly, for 10 minutes on low heat until softened and slightly caramelised.
  3. Add the broth, thyme and bay leaf. Bring to a boil then simmer gently for 10 minutes to allow the flavours to infuse.
  4. Turn off the heat and add the Worcestershire sauce.
  5. Arrange the oven-proof bowls on a baking tray and ladle the soup into the bowls.
  6. Top each bowl with a baguette slice and sprinkle with the grated cheese. Heat the soup and baguette under a grill until the cheese melts and turns golden brown.


Main Meal: Classic roast chicken

Image credit: Bon Appetit


  • 1 whole chicken
  • 1 teaspoon sage powder
  • 1 teaspoon dried thyme
  • 1 teaspoon onion powder
  • 1 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon cracked black pepper
  • 4 tablespoons melted butter or olive oil
  • 1 bulb garlic
  • 2-3 sprigs fresh thyme
  • 2-3 sprigs fresh sage


  1. Heat oven to 180 degrees Celsius.
  2. Place chicken on a roasting tray and pat dry with a paper towel.
  3. Mix the sage powder, dried thyme, garlic and onion powder, salt and pepper with the olive oil or melted butter to form a paste.
  4. Rub the paste all over the chicken and on the inside.
  5. Stuff the chicken with the garlic bulb and fresh herbs.
  6. Cook the chicken in the oven at 180 degrees Celsius for 45 minutes. Then turn the heat down to 160 degrees Celsius and cook for a further 45 minutes. If using a large chicken (more than 1.5kg), add on another 20-30 minutes of cooking time until juices run clear when the chicken is pierced with a knife.
  7. Let the chicken stand for 10 minutes before serving with roast potatoes and steamed vegetables.

Meal 2: Chicken caesar salad

Image credit: Recipe Geek


  • Leftover roast chicken, deboned and cut into strips
  • Romaine or cos lettuce, torn into bite-sized bits
  • Croutons
  • Grated parmesan
  • Anchovies
  • Caesar dressing
  • Hard-boiled eggs, peeled and halved


  1. Toss the lettuce, croutons, anchovies and caesar dressing together in a bowl.
  2. To serve, top with the parmesan, eggs and chicken.

Meal 3: Chicken avocado wrap

Image credit: Downshiftology


  • Leftover roast chicken, deboned and shredded
  • Wraps
  • 1/2 celery stalk, chopped
  • 1/2 avocado, cut into bite-sized chunks
  • Shredded lettuce
  • Wholegrain mustard
  • Mayonnaise


  1. Spread some mustard and mayonnaise on the wraps.
  2. Add the shredded chicken, celery, avocado and lettuce and roll into wraps.

Meal 4: Chicken pasta salad

Image result for chicken pasta salad
Image credit: Food & Wine Magazine


  • Leftover roast chicken, deboned and shredded
  • Short pasta
  • 1/2 celery stalk, chopped
  • 1/4 shredded cabbage
  • 1 shallot, finely chopped
  • Mayonnaise
  • 1/2 teaspoon Dijon mustard
  • Salt and pepper


  1. Cook pasta according to package instructions. Drain and leave to cool for 30 minutes.
  2. Combine pasta with the rest of the ingredients in a salad bowl and mix well. Season with salt and pepper to taste.

Happy meal planning!

Alena is a coffee-guzzling mother of two living in Queensland, Australia. Formerly working in sales and marketing, she is now a stay-at-home mum trying to balance living a sustainable, eco-friendly lifestyle with her love for travel, good food and online shopping.