I love exploring smart ways to serve healthy meals on a budget. And I'm not only talking about budgeting money -- it's also important to budget time! Cooking something in one session and then using it in meals throughout the week is a great way to make ingredients stretch while saving yourself time in future meal prep.
I've devoted lots of energy to making this strategy accessible for everyone from food professionals to home cooks -- writing quizzes, putting together presentations, even adding a blog post or two -- and now I think it's time to bring this topic back into the spotlight! Plus, I just got this request from a reader...
Our facility is doing a cooking demo on healthy meal ideas on a budget, incorporating the cook it once, serve it twice theme to create ideas with leftovers -- any ideas?
So let's talk healthy meals.
I like to call meals that you cook once, then serve twice "planned overs." You use a portion of what you cooked for dinner that night, then another portion the next night. Let's take chicken as an example...
Night #1: Roast a Chicken
You can serve the roast chicken with roast vegetables, mashed potatoes, steamed veggies, brown rice, or any other sides that spring to mind. Keep the serving of protein to roughly 1/4 of your plate, refrigerating the leftovers promptly. If your family can eat a whole chicken in one night, roast 2 chickens so that you have another one ready for the next few days.
Night #2 Option One : Add Chicken to Your Salads and Soups
Shred the rest of your chicken and add it to a salad. This will give the dish a protein boost and help you create a meal that comes together with very little prep time. Do the same with a vegetable soup or stew that you have on the stove.
Here are a few recipes for salads and soups that can help get you started!
- BBQ Chicken Salad
- Country-Style Split Pea Soup with Chicken
- Fajita Chicken Salad
- Peasant Soup
- Quick and Fancy Salad
Night #2 Option Two: Add Chicken to Your Sandwiches and Stir-Frys
If you're not feeling salads or soups, grab some whole grain bread, fresh greens, and your favorite spread and make chicken sandwiches. You can also use your leftover chicken as a base for a tasty wrap.
Now, for a warm and speedy meal, sauté a few of your favorite vegetables in some broth with a few spices, then toss in cubed chicken. Cook the whole thing until it is warmed through. This is super tasty when served over brown rice or quinoa.
Here are a few recipes that may help with this strategy!
- Chicken Lettuce Wrap
- Chicken Salad Sandwich Plate
- Chicken Sandwich
- Peanut Stir Fry
- Stir-Fry on the Grill
If you enjoyed this approach to healthy meals that you cook once and serve twice, don't miss the post Use Beans to Save Time on Busy Nights, where we do the same project with a pot of beans!
And here's a free printable nutrition handout with the highlights of today's post!
Oh, and because we're here to help you look your very best right now, I've also assembled a few of my favorite healthy eating resources from the Nutrition Education Store!
Stephanie Ronco has been editing for Food and Health Communications since 2011. She graduated from Colorado College magna cum laude with distinction in Comparative Literature. She was elected a member of Phi Beta Kappa in 2008.