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Finally! Weekend Meal Prep That Doesn’t Take All Weekend

Updated July 10, 2019
prep containers for meal prep
Don’t let dinnertime bring you down again. With just an hour or two of meal prep on Sunday, you’ll have a week’s worth of easy dinners ready in no time.

The purpose of meal prep is to make the weeknight dinner rush easier, but oftentimes, it just makes the weekend that much busier. We’ve come up with a better plan—one that gives back precious time during the week but doesn’t take it all from the weekend, either. Yes, it’s possible—you can have your dinners prepped and still have your weekend, too! Here’s how we do it with these five meals.

Dinner #1: Chicken-Bacon-Ranch Baked Penne

Chicken-Bacon-Ranch Baked Penne

Keep Monday super simple (yet delicious): It is Monday, after all. Start the week off right with one of our favorite flavor combinations baked into an easy, comforting pasta dish.

Get Recipe: Chicken-Bacon-Ranch Baked Penne

Penne, bacon, shredded chicken, shredded mozzarella, Alfredo sauce with ranch dressing,

Sunday Prep Plan:

  • Portion the 2 cups shredded cooked chicken; cover and refrigerate
  • Portion and chop the 6 slices cooked bacon; cover and refrigerate
  • Stir together 1 jar Alfredo pasta sauce and 1/2 cup ranch dressing; cover and refrigerate

Day-Of Prep Plan:

  • Cook and drain the pasta; stir in the chicken and Alfredo-ranch mixture, then pour into baking pan
  • Top with bacon and cheese; bake as directed in the recipe

Dinner #2: Taco Crescent Ring

Taco Crescent Ring

We love this twist on Taco Tuesday! And it’s even better this week, because you’ve prepped ahead for it. Enjoy all the flavors of tacos tucked inside this tasty crescent ring for a meal the whole family will devour.

Get Recipe: Taco Crescent Ring

Shredded lettuce, shredded cheese, browned ground beef, salsa, chopped olives and red peppers, 2 cans of Pillsbury crescents

Sunday Prep Plan:

  • Cook and drain the beef; stir in taco seasoning mix and water and simmer as directed in the recipe
  • Transfer cooked beef to a medium bowl; cool slightly, then cover and refrigerate
  • Chop the lettuce, if desired, and portion the remaining toppings as desired (tomatoes, olives, taco sauce, salsa) in covered containers; refrigerate

Day-Of Prep Plan:

  • Stir the cheese into the taco-seasoned beef mixture
  • Assemble the crescent ring; top with the beef mixture, then bake as directed
  • Serve with prepared toppings

Dinner #3: Easy Chicken and Dumplings

Easy Chicken and Dumplings

Reward yourself for your meal prep work with a cozy midweek dinner, like our Easy Chicken and Dumplings. Get all of the chopping out the way on the weekend so you can spend more time enjoying every last bite of this comfort food.

Get Recipe: Easy Chicken and Dumplings

Progresso broth, shredded chicken, 1 can of Pillsbury Grands! Biscuits, chopped carrots and celery, cream of chicken soup

Sunday Prep Plan:

  • Portion the 3 cups shredded cooked chicken; cover and refrigerate
  • Chop the carrots and celery; cover and refrigerate

Day-Of Prep Plan:

  • Cook chicken in broth mixture in Dutch oven as directed in the recipe
  • Shape the biscuits; drop into the hot chicken mixture
  • Add carrots and celery; simmer until cooked through

Dinner #4: 5-Ingredient Beef Enchilada Casserole

5-Ingredient Beef Enchilada Casserole

We love this weeknight dinner wonder for so many reasons, but our favorite might be the fact that, with a little bit of weekend prep, you’re even closer to ringing the dinner bell when it’s time to make the meal.

Expert tip: Cook a double batch of ground beef and assemble one casserole. Freeze the assembled casserole as directed in the recipe for dinner later in the month; cover and refrigerate the remaining unassembled casserole ingredients for this week’s dinner. Win-win!

Get Recipe: 5-Ingredient Beef Enchilada Casserole

Browned ground beef, package of Old El Paso tortillas, shredded cheese, 1 can of Old El Paso enchilada sauce, salsa

Sunday Prep Plan:

  • Cook and drain ground beef; cool slightly, then cover and refrigerate

Day-Of Prep Plan:

  • Combine cooked ground beef, enchilada sauce, black bean and corn salsa and cheese in a bowl
  • Divide beef mixture among tortillas in dish; wrap and top with more enchilada sauce and cheese
  • Cover and bake as directed in the recipe

Dinner #5: Classic Chicken Pot Pie

Classic Chicken Pot Pie

It’s finally Friday—hooray! Kick off the weekend with a cozy, classic pot pie. When you combine a creamy sauce with tender chicken and vegetables and a flaky, buttery pastry, you can never go wrong. Bonus: If you decide to go out for dinner tonight instead, no worries! You can keep the filling frozen up to 1 month, making this dish extra meal prep -friendly.

Get Recipe: Classic Chicken Pot Pie

Pillsbury pie crust, chicken, vegetables, chicken broth

Sunday Prep Plan:

  • Make the chicken filling as directed in the recipe; cool uncovered in refrigerator 30 minutes
  • Spoon chicken filling into a 1-gallon resealable freezer bag or food storage container, leaving 1/2 to 1 inch at the top for expansion; seal and freeze

One Day Before:

  • Thaw chicken filling overnight in refrigerator

Day-Of Prep Plan:

  • Pour chicken filling into 2-quart saucepan; heat over medium heat 5 to 6 minutes, stirring frequently, until thoroughly heated
  • Assemble, fill and bake pie as directed in the recipe

Grocery List

Now that you’ve got the lowdown on how to rock a weekend meal prep session, here’s what you’ll need to make each recipe (save common pantry items such as salt, pepper, oil and cooking spray).


Meal Prep Tips

1. Make a Plan

We’ve come up with one week’s worth of ideas for you above, but for long-term success, you’ll want to take a few minutes at the end of each week or beginning of each weekend to make a menu for next week’s meals. Expert tip: Save your plans for future weeks! Once you have a few weeklong meal prep menus on hand, you can rotate through them on a monthly basis for ease and convenience.

2. Shop in Bulk

Try to plan meals that have similar ingredients, such as ground beef or chicken, so you can shop in bulk if possible. If possible, plan your meal prep around your big warehouse club shopping trips, too; for example, if you know you’re going to need a lot of peppers for next week’s meal plan, plan to buy them in bulk at a discounted price on your next grocery run.

3. Invest in Food Containers

Purchase a wide variety of reusable food storage containers in multiple shapes and sizes so you don’t have to use your everyday dishes to store prepped foods.

4. Spice Things Up

Getting a little bored with your current rotation? Instead of having to start from scratch on a meal plan, keep it interesting by swapping spices in the recipes or by buying a few premade sauces to serve with your meals, such as sriracha, salsa, chipotle mayonnaise, hummus or salad dressing.

5. Multitask

If you’ve got an Instant Pot™, slow cooker, air fryer or another small appliance that can do the work for you on one meal while you prep another, go for it! Being able to prepare more than one meal at once is a major timesaver. Here are some of our favorite Instant Pot™ meals to inspire you.

More Meal Prep-Friendly Recipes

We have so many meal prep-friendly recipes on for you to choose from, but we’ve handpicked a few more of our favorites to get you started: