I know that those meal prep IG pics have you thinking you should spend your Sunday cooking chicken breasts, broccoli and brown rice, then stuffing them into a dozen plastic containers – but I’m here, speaking for the chunk of us that have kids to feed and picky husbands – meal prepping a la #mealprep is not realistic…
Meal templates are more realistic. It’s easy, you decide how many days you need dinner and assign a template to each night. For example, Mondays are the perfect slow cooker night – because Mondays are rough and if you can get away with tossing a bunch of real food ingredients in a slow cooker and letting it cook away, why the heck wouldn’t you??
Yes, you still have work to do. You have to assign a template to each night and then pick a recipe, write out a grocery list and then actually go grocery shopping(…if you want to skip these steps, check out Real Plans- an online meal planner). You will have to actually make the recipes and clean up the kitchen – such is life. You could get ahead of the game and make a double batch of your favorite soup on soup night and eat that for two days straight. You could prep that casserole, and skip the last bake step, leave that for 40 mins before dinner.
This all takes time but once you decide that eating healthy regularly is a priority in your life – you will find the time. For now, keep scrolling to check out the 11 meal templates and recipes that I put together for you and please let me know if this helped you!
11 Meal Templates and Recipes
1. Soup Night
Soups are a great way to get tons of nutrients into your family! Using homemade bone broth makes everything tastier and super healing. I have the perfect healing bone broth recipe you can check out. Garnish your soups with fresh lime juice, chopped cilantro, chopped jalapeños and maybe a pinch of sea salt – these simple garnishes really freshen up any soup.
- Simple Ground Beef Soup (Mexican Picadillo)
- Caldo de Pollo (Mexican Chicken Soup)
- Faux Fideo Soup Recipe
2. Burger Night
Burgers have been getting a bad rap due to the piss poor ingredients used in fast food restaurants but a homemade burger is not the same thing! You can make burger night just as healthy as a salad night. Actually burger patties on top of a fresh salad with the right toppings can be quite the hit. Try any one of these three burger recipes for your burger night. You may notice that these burger recipes are unless – that’s because buns don’t have much nutritional value at all but if you tolerate gluten – go for it! I only have one request when it comes to gluten/bread consumption – choose organic in order to avoid pesticides, chemicals, GMO’s and choose a product with minimal ingredients. Just those two things: organic and minimal ingredients. I repeated that because it’s that important…
- Whole 30 Garlic Bacon Avocado Burgers
- Sweet Potato Bacon Burger Bites with Maple Chipotle
- Unless Bison Burger with Guacamole and a Fried Egg
3. Chili Night
Chili night can save you time and energy – double win! Typically cooked in one pot (…you had me at minimal dishes) and since chili is one of those dishes that tastes better the next day, after allowing all of the flavors to marry nicely – you can make a big batch and give yourself a cooking break. If you want to mix it up a little, I would recommend you bake a few sweet potatoes or chop up a salad to keep it fresh and interesting for the fam. Here are a few chili recipes that I think you will like…
- Easy Paleo Chili
- Paleo Turkey Sweet Potato Chili
- Slow Cooker Paleo Chili and Paleo Friendly Chili Toppings
*Don’t be put off by the word >>Paleo<< in these recipes. All it means is that they don’t use grains and typically use real food ingredients…
4. Carnitas Night
Carnitas night in my family was actually carnitas morning, lol. If you are Mexican or have Mexican friends or family – you understand. Think of it like brunch – but with carnitas and at home. My dad picks up fresh carnitas from our favorite Mexican butcher, fresh tortillas and my mom makes a cabbage pico (kind of like this one here), some refried beans and pickled jalapeños and it’s a delicious party! Anyhoo, back to carnitas night. I have found that carnitas are crazy easy to make in the slow cooker which is fan-frekin-tastic because you can set them in the evening and let them cook through the morning – guaranteeing that you will have a super tasty dinner! Here are a few carnitas recipes that I think you will like….
Want more healthy Mexican recipes?
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5. Casserole Night
I have to be honest with you, I have only ever made a handful of casseroles in my life. I get the appeal, one pan – you throw it in the bake dish and bake away, no fuss no muss. Now, just because casseroles are not my thing, doesn’t mean they may not be super useful as a meal template. Casserole night could very well be the best thing ever and I am totally missing out. If I were to make a casserole, it would be one of these three, check them out!
6. Salad Night
I love me a solid salad. You have to have the right ingredients to make a salad hearty enough to cover a full meal. We should all be eating 5-9 servings of vegetables per day, 5-9! One serving of vegetables translates to 1 cup of leafy greens or 1/2 cup of any other chopped veggie. The logical way to achieve this is to eat vegetables at every meal – every meal. This is where a salad comes in handy- get those veggies in! These three recipes will make it very easy on you…
- Butternut Apple Chicken Salad with Creamy Maple Dressing
- Bacon and Brussel Sprout Salad
- Chorizo and Roasted Potato Salad
7. Seafood Night
Seafood, 1-2 times per week. Whatever piece of sea food you choose, make sure it’s wild caught! Let me type that again for emphasis, WILD CAUGHT. Farm raised seafood may be inexpensive but it is also way unhealthy. Farm raised seafood is the same as CFLO meats, it’s unnatural, they are crammed in a small space, they are sick, fed high amounts of antibiotics in their GMO corn or soy feed. Just to name a few of the downsides to consuming farm raised seafood.
These three fish recipes call for wild caught fish and use great ingredients, check them out!
8. Sandwich/Wrap Night
When I met my husband, he was eating bagel sandwiches. He was using a bagel, to make himself a sandwich and he was using Dorito chips as a side. We’ve come a long way! If you are a sandwich lover you likely like what’s on the inside of that sandwich more than the actual bread, which is why wraps are such a great alternative. It’s also another excuse to add to that veggie count of the day. These recipes are awesome, you should try one or all of them!
9. Slow Cooker Night
I got my first slow cooker about 4 years ago – it changed my life. These days I prefer my Instantpot because of the automatic timer setting but my crock pot/slow cooker still gets a lot of play around here. Something about letting a dish cook low and slow that leaves you with the perfect meal. Depending on what you make, you could opt for a side salad or some rice cooked in bone broth to keep it fresh.
10. Taco Night
I have a really high standards when it comes to Mexican food – because I am first generation Mexican America and I grew up eating authentic tacos. The kind that didn’t need to be bathed in cheese and sour cream to be delicious. Real authentic tacos need a solid, well seasoned meat, like the recipes below and good toppings. In the spirit of healthy eating, whenever I make tacos at home, I serve a side of persian cucumbers, cilantro and maybe some chopped up romaine hearts because you gotta get those green in.
Also, side note: tacos are also naturally gluten free because typically, tacos are made with corn tortilla. If you use a flour tortilla (which has gluten) – you made a burrito – not a taco.
You don’t know until you know – and now you know 😉
11. Leftover Night
Leftovers are always tricky. Which is why you HAVE to pick recipes that yo can eat day after day. Personally, I could eat my Picadillo Ground Beef Soup for days on end which is why I always make a big pot. Soups also tend to keep well in the fridge and get even tastier the next day. Now, if you make a salad – it may wilt a little and you’re not going to want to eat it – so keep those single serving.
Two things to think about when considering making a large batch of something in order to have leftovers:
- Do you and the fam love this dish?
- Does it keep well? <— this means fridge to re-heat
If you made it this far in the post, thank you! You are awesome and I truly hope you have gained some meal planning wisdom. Cooking healthy meals is not easy but totally worth it – your health including your mental health is worth it!