Get a Head Start on Weeknight Dinners by Cooking These Ingredients Over the Weekend

This is an easy way to speed up your nightly meal prep.

Photo: Ryan Liebe

Cooking dinner doesn't need to be a big affair every night. Smart cooks know that using the weekend to get ahead on dinner prep means less time in the kitchen after a long day at work and speedier, faster meals. Plus, dinner can be tastier when you have more time to focus on the other elements of the meal. Rice and grains, roasted chicken, eggs, vegetables, and salad dressings can all be made ahead, and we have some great ideas for how to enjoy them. If you're new to weekend dinner prep, start by preparing one item; if you're a pro, you could make all five on a Sunday and really be set for the week.

Big Pot of Rice or Grains

Versatile and a great base for any meal, preparing a big pot of rice or grains over the weekend is a fantastic way to get ahead. Rice takes about 20 minutes to cook, though brown rice a bit longer, and grains take at least that long and even up to an hour for heartier options like wheat berries. Switch up the rice or grain you cook each week so there is always a bit of intrigue; what's more, doing so will motivate you to try different grains in new ways. During the week, use either to prepare fried rice-style dishes, toss them into salads or prepare grain salads, serve as a side with a protein and vegetables, or create grain bowls (you can even eat breakfast grain bowls topped with berries and more!).

Roasted Chicken

Ready-to-eat chicken is a wonderful thing on busy nights. Just pair that protein with a vegetable side and rice or grains for a fast meal. You can also use it in any dishes that call for cooked chicken. And if you're going to roast one chicken, you might as well roast two at the same time—your cook time doesn't change and they can both go into the oven together. One chicken should serve a family of four as a main with a bit of leftovers depending on appetites, and the second chicken can be divided up into multiple meals. Prepare our Double Roast Chicken recipe, then shred or dice and toss the meat into soups, casseroles, pasta dishes, tacos, and more.

Boiled Eggs

Since they're relatively easy to cook, it doesn't take a lot of effort to boil a batch of Hard or Soft Boiled Eggs over the weekend. Use them in a bowl of soup like ramen, top grain bowl dinners, or serve on toast with avocado for breakfast or a light meal. Really, there are countless ways to use those boiled eggs all week long. Sure, they're a required ingredient for Salad Nicoise, but you can also dice, chop, or grate them and add to other salads. Boiled eggs are also a perfect quick high-protein snack when your blood sugar is low. When you have them on hand, you'll begin to notice that everything is better topped with an egg.

Roasted Vegetables

Healthy and nutritious, vegetables are always a good dinner option. Make it easy to put vegetables on your plate by having them ready to eat in the refrigerator at the beginning of the week. Roast carrots, cauliflower, sweet potatoes, Brussels sprouts, onions, pretty much any vegetable you have on hand over the weekend. Then, when you're ready to serve them during the week, simply dress them with a favorite sauce or vinaigrette and top with crunchy nuts, toss into grain salads or regular salads, or puree or stir into soups. Trust us, vegetables taste most delicious when the work is already done.

Salad Dressing

It might sound simple, but a well prepared homemade dressing beats anything bottled you'd buy at the store. Don't believe us? Try Martha's Favorite Vinaigrette. Whisk up a batch on the weekend and then refrigerate in a jar with a tight fitting lid. Make sure to shake well before serving as the oil and vinegar may separate and bring to room temperature first if the oil solidifies. Fancy a different dressing? Peruse our collection of salad dressing recipes and find one that speaks to you.

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