Tips Archives | Stephanie Dreyer


December 9, 2019

I’m a huge Trader Joe’s fan. It’s my main store for my weekly shopping because of the abundance of plant-based products it offers, but this time of year, it’s also my go-to for all of its delicious holiday hacks. Their huge selection of meal helpers for making homemade-ish meals is a time saver with all of the holiday cooking and entertaining in my house.

(Homemade-ish a term I coined that means preparing a homemade meal in less than 30 minutes using prepared products from the store, such as sauces, frozen foods, or prepped produce.) During the holidays when we have so much to juggle and cook, I love a little help from the store…and Trader Joe’s is my go-to helper.

While Trader Joe’s offers lots of dinner hacks and meal solutions featuring their spreads, dips and bagged salads, today I’m focusing on the holidays—and specifically, appetizers and desserts! I go big on the meal so that’s where I can use the most help. Check your Trader Joe’s Fearless Flyer because they’re always adding new seasonal products that may surprise you and become the inspiration for your next family favorite dish. Below are a few holiday hacks to inspire you!

Trader Joe's Holiday Hacks for Appetizers


Small bites are easy to throw together with everything that TJ’s has to offer. These appetizer ideas are fun and easy.

Holiday Antipasto Wreath or Tree

This was a huge hit with my family last year! Choose from the assortment of marinated vegetables and olives that Trader Joe’s offers and also include raw vegetables, such as sliced cucumbers and cherry tomatoes. Secure each bite with a toothpick, arranged in a pattern.

Crispy Vegetable Pouches

Find these in the frozen section and serve with their Carrot Miso Ginger Dressing (found by the salads). I think a bag of Tempura Cauliflower would be a delicious addition to a serving platter with these pouches on them.

Meatless Meatballs with Cranberry Orange Relish

Find the meatballs in the frozen section. Serve with toothpicks for a very simple, yet elegant small bite.

Hold the Corn! Appetizers

These savory cones are the perfect handheld for a cocktail party. Serve with Trader Joe’s Gyoza Dipping Sauce or Soyaki. 

Trader Joe's Holiday Hacks for Cocktails


Everyone loves a festive drink for the season. I’m looking forward to one of these!

Winter Wassail

This “punch” blends nicely with red wine and mulled on the stove or mix it with Prosecco for a lively party libation.

Coconut Milk Nog

This nog is the perfect mixer with Kahlua and vodka…for sipping by the fire. 

Trader Joe's Holiday Hacks


I’m not a baker so I love to take help from the store when it comes to dessert. These are just a few ideas.

Holiday Cookie Plate

Trader Joe’s offers a variety of vegan cookies (chocolate chip cookies, oatmeal chocolate chip, Peppermint Joe Joes, Speculoos cookies, Soft Baked Snickerdoodles and Brownie Crisps are a few of my favorite plant-based options. For the holidays, TJ’s also has Christmas Tree Sugar Cookies and Scandinavian Tidings candies that would add a festive touch to the cookie plate.

Peppermint Marshmallow Brownies

Add flax eggs and vegan butter to TJ’s Brownie box mix and stir in peppermint marshmallows for a chocolate mint treat.

Peppermint Rice Crispy Treats

Swap the peppermint marshmallows for regular in your favorite rice crispy treat recipe. Cut into squares and dip in melted chocolate (use Trader Joe’s semi-sweet chocolate chips).

Do you have a Trader Joe’s holiday hack to share? I’d love to hear it in the comments below.

Want more plant-based meal planning tips? Check out my new Ultimate Guide to Plant-based Meal Planning. 

Trader Joe's Holiday Hacks


December 2, 2019

Hooray for the holidays! Tis the season of eating and drinking. Who else has a few holiday potlucks on the calendar this month? If you need help figuring out what to bring, you’re in the right place! I’ve got a round up of delicious plant-based dishes that everyone will love (omnivores included!).

First things, first: If this is your first season of holiday potlucks as a plant-powered eater, you may have some questions about how to navigate attending a potluck when you’re the only vegan. I’ve been there (and am still there!). These are a few tips that I follow any time I’m going to a potluck:

Eat something before the party.

Give yourself a small bite to tide you over through the party so that if there isn’t much to eat, you won’t be starving until you get home.

Bring a dish you love that you know will satiate you. 

This is your fail safe: you know that if there’s nothing else to eat at the party, you’ll have this one dish! You might even bring two items instead of one. I like to bring an appetizer (something I can graze on throughout the party – like vegetable sticks and a great dip) and a hearty salad.

Stick to “safe” entrees 

Instead of searching down the host or whoever brought each item to check the ingredient list, focus on dishes that are easy to identify (although more power to you if you want to track down and drill the host and guests!).

Holiday potlucks are a great opportunity to share the deliciousness of plant-based food. This is the time to bring your favorite vegan dish and share your love of it with everyone else. Go for it but keep the following guidelines in mind.

The best potluck dishes are ones that:

Taste great at room temperature

Don’t require reheating or keeping hot

Are easy to eat while talking and walking around (while holding a drink in another hand!)

Don’t use obscure ingredients 

Are familiar (Stick to whole plant-based foods and avoid the faux meats and cheeses.)

Travels well (and requires minimal assembly when you arrive at your holiday potluck)

Are visually appealing (Show stoppers are always a win and great conversation starters…”Why yes, I did bring that. Thank you so much…!!”)


The following round up of holiday potluck recipes are just a few ideas to inspire you. These are some of my go-to’s.

Quinoa and Chickpea Salad
Photo by Cookie & Kate


This is a healthy but flavorful choice, and depending on the recipe, can be very filling. It’s a great pick because people are eating so much junk this time of year and appreciate something healthy that is delicious. Let the colors of the season inspire the ingredients you use. Some of my top picks are:

Herbed Chickpea and Quinoa Salad by Cookie & Kate 

Brussels & Pomegranate Salad by Blissful Basil  

Pasta Salad by Well and Full 

Crowd-Pleasing Caesar Salad by Oh She Glows 

Vegan Doughnuts
Photo by Healthy Happy Life

Sweets and Treats

If you’re a sweet person, chances are that the desserts will NOT be vegan so bringing your own is a great choice for you contribution to the holiday potluck. You can’t go wrong with any of these:

Cookies: This chocolate chip cookie gets rave reviews all the time.

Donuts by Healthy Happy Life 

Holiday Bark by Sweet Simple Vegan 

Chicken Shwarma Dip
Photo by Minimalist Baker


An amazing dip, spread or hummus is a great conversation starter. Serve with tasty dippers for an easy win win. These spreads will get everyone talking:

Mushroom Pate with Crackers by It Doesn’t Taste Like Chicken

Chickpea Shawarma Dip by Minimalist Baker 

Artichoke Dip by Healthy Happy Life

Tomato and Basil Pinwheels
Photo by Minimalist Baker


These are great options for that little something you can hold and walk around with as you mingle at your holiday potluck (with cocktail in hand):

Sun-dried Tomato & Basil Pinwheels by Minimalist Baker 

My Vegan Deviled Potatoes 

Garlic Stuffed Olives by The Baking Fairy 

Want more plant-based meal planning tips? Check out my new Ultimate Guide to Plant-based Meal Planning. 

Plant-based meal ideas


November 25, 2019

Turning leftovers into a new meal is one of my most efficient and creative meal planning strategies! I didn’t always enjoy eating leftovers but once I learned a few tricks for turning last night’s dinner into some new and delicious meal, I was hooked! And guess what? It works for holiday meals too!

Thanksgiving leftover makeovers are where it’s at! Transform your Thanksgiving meal into a whole new feast that won’t taste like leftovers at all! How about one of these:




Fritters / Cakes 


Wraps (forget the sandwich!)





A quick Google search for any of these meal ideas with “Thanksgiving Leftovers” will pull up an abundance of meal options. Below are 10 Thanksgiving leftover makeover recipes that I’ve rounded up to save you the trouble!

Thanksgiving Leftover Makeover

Thanksgiving Leftover Poutine by Sweet Simple Vegan

Homemade fries smothered with gravy, stuffing and whatever else you’ve got leftover is like Thanksgiving nachos!

Shepherd’s Pie by The Veg Life

Combine your Thanksgiving favorites into a savory pie crust for a fun way to dish out leftovers.

Mashed Potato Cakes by The Veg Life

I love making fritters and “cakes” with almost anything but leftover mashed potatoes is at the top of my list.

Thanksgiving Leftover Makeover

Cranberry Sauce Bread by Oh My Veggies

Leftover cranberry sauce is a great condiment for cereals, oatmeal, pancakes and yogurt with granola, but it’s also genius as a mix in to a sweet breakfast bread.

Brussels Sprouts Gratin by Yup It’s Vegan

A gratin works with any vegetable but is especially delicious with my favorite, Brussels sprouts.

Stuffing Cupcakes by Chow Vegan

This is a great project with the kids – and what fun to eat!

Leftover Wrap by This Savory Vegan

Forget the Thanksgiving leftovers sandwich and wrap it up instead! I think a burrito would work great too!

Thanksgiving Leftover Makeover

Thanksgiving Bowl by I Love Vegan

I haven’t met a vegan that doesn’t love a bowl. Add in a holiday and it’s a match made in heaven!

Spinach Salad with Roasted Fall Vegetables by Well Vegan 

Need some inspiration for the extra veggies? A salad is always a great pick. Tossed with spinach, arugula or some other zesty green is sure to change things up…especially when drizzled with a tasty dressing.

Tofu Scramble by Well Vegan

Transform a simple and traditional tofu scramble with your Thanksgiving leftovers for a creative and inventive brunch main the next day.

Sweet Potato Cookies by Go Dairy Free

I love a good breakfast cookie! This recipe is an efficient and genius way to use up the leftover sweet potato casserole.

Thanksgiving Leftover Makeover

Pumpkin Pie Breakfast Casserole by Oh She Glows

Can anyone ever have too much pumpkin pie? Just in case, here’s a yummy recipe to take your leftover pie to the next level in a casserole that will make you feel like you’re have dessert for breakfast!

Which one of these Thanksgiving leftover makeover recipes is your favorite? Plan for leftovers in your meal plan by mapping it out in my 7 Day Meal Planner. Download it free here.

Thanksgiving leftover makeover


November 18, 2019


Thanksgiving is one of my favorite holidays to host…and I get all the cooking (and cleaning and decorating…) done without breaking a sweat! So what’s my magic secret to Thanksgiving meal prep so you’re not wiped out by the time the big day rolls around? Read on!

My goal is to always have everything done about a half hour before guests arrive so I can pour myself a glass of wine and take in an attitude of gratitude (vs overwhelm). My Thanksgiving meal prep plan includes a few tips:

Break up all of your work into bite-sized tasks and schedule them in your calendar

I start by making a giant to-do list of EVERYTHING I need to get done for the big day. That includes the cooking, but also the grocery shopping, making (or ordering centerpieces), confirming the guests, cleaning the house, and all the other things that go into the day. Then, I break down each of those tasks further if I can, (such as dividing up the menu and the meal prep for each recipe), and I schedule a time for each task into my calendar over the course of one to three weeks, depending on how many tasks I need to get done and how much time I have available.

Delegate what you can and give assignments

While you’re cooking, have your partner or kids set the table. Assign another family member the task of making place cards (this is a great job for kids!) and get some help by having your partner do the grocery shopping. (I build my Thanksgiving shopping into my weekly trip to the store but I add in an extra trip 2 days before for all the produce and send my husband to do that shopping!)

Take some help from the store where no one will notice

Holiday entertaining is the perfect time to include a few “homemade-ish” items to your menu. Dips, for example, are easy and delicious to buy at the store. I also utilize the vegan frozen pie crusts at Whole Foods and spend my time and energy on a decadent filling instead.


When it comes to my actual Thanksgiving meal prep plan, here’s how I break it all down: 

3-4 weeks in advance:

  • Plan the menu, confirm guests (and anything they are contributing to the meal)

2 weeks in advance:

  • Plan and purchase supplies for centerpieces; dinnerware, etc.
  • Place any special food orders

1 week in advance: 

  • Make the shopping list and shop for everything but produce
  • Make place cards (if using)

3 days ahead: 

  • Shop for produce
  • Make centerpieces (if not floral)

2 days ahead: 

  • Shop for produce
  • Start cooking: Dressing, dips and desserts

1 day ahead: 

  • Continue cooking: Sides (such as mashed potatoes, sweet potatoes, stuffing and mac ‘n cheese)
  • Make centerpieces (if floral)
  • Set the table (take out all serving platters and utensils)
  • Pick up any ordered food items

Morning of: 

  • Finish the cooking:
  • Salads and veggies that can’t be made in advance


I use my Meal Planner to map all this out and add it to my Erin Condren planner so it’s easily outlined for me. For ideas on what cook, check out What to Cook for a Plant-based Thanksgiving and tell me below what your biggest challenge is when it comes to Thanksgiving meal prep.

Thanksgiving meal prep

November 11, 2019

Ultimate Guide to Plant-based Meal Plannng

As the solo vegan in my household, I know a thing or two about introducing your family to a plant-based diet! Whether you’re looking to incorporate a few vegan meals into your family’s weekly menu or go plant-based all the way together, a plan is essential if you’re going to be successful—and enjoy the journey. (Going vegan on Sunday and then declaring the rest of the family must follow on Monday isn’t going to work—trust me, I tried!)

This Ultimate Guide to Plant-based Meal Planning is my heart and soul! It’s what I wish I had when I went vegan and brought my family along for the ride 10 years ago and didn’t have a clue what I was doing. It’s the go-to checklist I wish existed when I was struggling to plan healthy, whole foods meals for three kids while juggling work, life…well, everything! I needed a step-by-step plan to teach me how to meal plan to save time and stop being a short order cook. I needed someone to share their favorite tips, products and brands. I needed meal ideas and recipes that my whole family would eat.

This is it, friends! I hope the Ultimate Guide to Plant-based Meal Planning will answer all your questions to make your plant-based meal planning dreams come true!  

Download it for free (my gift to you!) and receive:

  • A step-by-step guide to introducing your family to plant-based foods
  • A meal planning 101 checklist
  • Fun worksheets
  • A blank meal planning template to plan family menus week after week
  • Plant-based food essentials
  • A list of my favorite meal prep tools and containers
  • 13 meal ideas and 10 recipes

Ultimate Guide to Plant-based Meal Planning

Before I created a meal planning process, mealtimes were stressful and tiresome. I struggled A LOT. Now (with the process I outline in this guide), I look forward to dinner prep, enjoy my Sunday batch cooking sessions, and prepare breakfast and lunches quickly and easily without breaking a sweat. Download your copy of The Ultimate Guide to Plant-based Meal Planning and start experiencing the magic of meal planning just like me!

Ultimate Guide to Plant-based Meal Planning

November 4, 2019

You don’t need a bird to celebrate Thanksgiving, but you do need a menu of mouthwatering dishes and a plan for sharing them if you’re hosting a plant-based Thanksgiving. I’m hosting this year, but even when I’m not, I make a plant-based feast and bring it to my destination!

I have observed that non vegans have a strong emotional connection to their Thanksgiving foods so although you can veganize mashed potatoes, stuffing and many other traditional dishes with an easy swap of vegan butter, milk, etc., many will be resistant. So, I plan ahead to make sure there is a bounty of food for me to eat, which usually means I travel with my own plant-based Thanksgiving!

When it comes to deciding what to cook for a plant-based Thanksgiving (whether you’re hosting or not), I recommend checking off this short to-do list first:

1. Set expectations: Let your guests know what you plan to cook and ask if there is anything missing that they’d like to add to the menu.

2. Set ground rules and compromises about the non vegan foods on your table. (For example, there will be a turkey at my feast, but my brother-in-law is cooking and bringing it so it won’t be in my kitchen or oven.)

3. Make sure your menu includes delicious foods (that you’ve tried and approved in advance!) so that your guests are only talking about how good it tastes (vs that it’s vegan). Good food is good food!

To help with #3 above, let’s talk about what to cook. My go-to cookbooks for any holiday menu planning are:

The Vegan Table by Colleen Patrick-Goudreau

The Vegan Holiday Kitchen by Nava Atlas

The Super Fun Times Vegan Holiday Cookbook by Isa Chandra Moskowitz

Below are over a dozen ideas to inspire and help you plan your plant-based Thanksgiving menu.

Plant-based Thanksgiving


For a cruelty-free “turkey” main attraction, try one of these faux turkey roasts: 

Gardein Savory Stuffed Turkey

Gardein Holiday Roast

Field Roast Celebration Roast

Tofurky Holiday Roast

Trader Joe’s Vegan Turkey

The Herbivorous Butcher Stuffed Turkey Roast (This is the vegan turkey I’m feasting on this year. In select areas, you can order from your local Whole Foods. Otherwise, The Herbivorous Butcher ships nationwide.

If a faux turkey, isn’t your thing, try one of these stunning main attractions.

Gardein Turkey Cutlets

Stuffed Acorn Squash


Mini Pot Pies 

Stuffed Sweet Potatoes


Traditional favorites can easily be veganized with easy swaps such as dairy-free butter, mayo, and milk.

Mashed potatoes 

Green Bean Casserole 

Sweet Sweet Potato Casserole

A quick Google search will also yield a plethora of options for vegan versions of old favorites, such as mac ‘n cheese and stuffing.

Don’t forget soups! A butternut squash bisque, and a pumpkin or potato leek soups are all festive choices for a plant-based Thanksgiving meal.

Start planning your holiday menu with this list of plan-based Thanksgiving recipes. From main dishes to sweet treats, enjoy my favorite dishes. #plantbased #healthyfood #healthyeating #vegan


When non vegans think of a plant-based Thanksgiving, vegetables and salads are probably the first thing that comes to mind when what will be on the menu. However, as you can see from the list above, there are lots more options for what to eat…but since we’re talking veggies, how about a few of these?

Roasted Root Vegetables

Garlicky Green Beans 

Brussels Sprouts

Herb Roasted Potatoes and Butternut Squash

Stuffed sweet potatoes:


Salads that incorporate the produce of the season, such as kale, butternut squash, Brussels sprouts, apples, pomegranates and cranberries are also a great choice.

Kale & Brussels Sprouts Salad

Kale Harvest Grains Salad

plant-based Thanksgiving


When it comes to a sweet ending, what’s Thanksgiving without pie? (Did you know you can purchase pre-made vegan pie crusts at Whole Foods in the frozen section?) If pie’s not your thing, how about one of these festive treats:

Dairy-free Pumpkin Chocolate Mousse

Pumpkin Bread with dairy-free ice cream

Trader Joe’s Pumpkin Rolls

For more plant-based Thanksgiving recipes, check out my Thanksgiving Pinterest board with over 100 recipes. What are your favorite Thanksgiving foods? Share what you’re planning to cook in the comments below.

plant-based Thanksgiving

Cover image: Cadry’s Kitchen

October 28, 2019

I’ve shared batch cooking tips and ideas before, but today I want to focus specifically on plant-based snack ideas that you can prep ahead on the weekend and eat all week long. If you’re not incorporating a couple of snacks into your batch sessions, you’ll find that adding 2 or 3 into your plan can make a huge difference in the amount of packaged snacks you purchase at the store.

These plant-based snack ideas are healthy and delicious, and they are also versatile for snacking on the go, packing in school lunches or changing up a dozen different ways with different spice blends and ingredients.

1. Seasoned Nuts

DIY your favorite nut with a drizzle of olive oil and your favorite seasoning blend. Spread out on a baking sheet at roast at 350 degrees for 30 minutes. Some of my favorite sprinkles are: Everything Bagel Seasoning (Trader Joe’s) and a blend of cumin, sea salt and chili powder.

2. Snack / Trail Mixes

My Savory Snack Mix goes so fast in my house that I usually fill up two baking sheets with this mix to last us the whole week!

3. Frozen Grapes

It doesn’t get much simpler than this! Just wash, dry and freeze your grapes in a freezer-safe container. Then, take out a bunch when you’re ready to enjoy them. This is a favorite snack of my son, Jake, who especially likes to eat them on hot afternoons after school.

4. Hummus

In my opinion, hummus and vegetable sticks is one of the quintessential plant-based snack ideas that you can eat. Homemade hummus is simple to make in under 5 minutes, and you can change it up by just adding a few ingredients to play with the flavors: lemon juice, roasted red peppers, artichokes, olives, or sun-dried tomatoes, to name a few!

5. Muffins

Whether I’m veganizing a box mix from Trader Joe’s to make these Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Muffins or batching something from scratch, muffins are made for batch cooking!

6. Energy Balls

This plant-based snack is portable and easy to adapt to whatever your family likes. They are a great alternative to the packaged protein bars you buy at the store and much healthier too.

7. Roasted Chickpeas

Use the same method you would for the seasoned nuts above but swap in chickpeas for a protein alternative. You can buy these at the store in a variety of flavors but they’re so much better when they’re homemade.

Change up your snack game with one of these 5 delicious ways to eat popcorn. From Popcorn Bark to Cracker Jacks, these aren't your regular bowl of kernels.

8. Seasoned Popcorn

We LOVE popcorn in my house. We make a pot at least 3 times a week so it saves time to batch a big pot once and portion it out throughout the week. If we’re feeling fancy, we’ll sprinkle on one of my homemade seasoning blends (taco seasoning + sea salt + nutritional yeast) or crush homemade Cheesy Kale chips over a batch.

9. Fruit and Vegetable Chips

If you have access to an air fryer, these are simple to make. Some of my favorite produce go-to’s: Bananas, apples, kale and rainbow carrots.

10. Fruit Leathers

Ditch the fruit roll ups and make homemade fruit leathers instead with a dehydrator. Just peel, thinly slice and let the air fryer do the work. My favorite is mango!

Are you interested in more batch cooking tips and tricks? Check out my Ultimate Guide To Batch Cooking and download my free Batch Cooking Starter Guide below.

Which of the ideas above is your favorite? I’d love to hear your snack ideas too! Share them below.

Plant-based snack ideas

October 21, 2019

I usually call it in for Halloween (literally). With everyone in and out trick-or-treating, pizza has always been the easiest way to feed everyone while getting everyone dressed and out the door for the festivities. This year, however, I’m challenging myself to kick things up a notch or two! I always have a crowd for Halloween so this year, I’ve been scouring Pinterest, Instagram and Google for some simple and fun dinner ideas that are easy to eat on the go as we stroll for treats. I know you’ll be inspired by these plant-based Halloween meal ideas!

But first, a few tips:

    • For instant spooky, use cookie cutters in Halloween shapes. Bats, ghosts and pumpkins in different sizes are all handy to have on hand.
    • Bell peppers and mini pumpkins make great serving “bowls” for your favorite taco fillings, stews, pasta and more.
    • Use strips of dairy-free cheese or pre-made dough to slice strips for mummy wrappings (an easy way to spook-ify a dish.

There is no shortage of Halloween inspiration when it comes to food. A quick Web search will reveal a bounty of creative appetizers, snacks and dessert recipes, but I’m focusing on the main affair: dinner! Since Halloween falls in the middle of the week, I want to be able to prep something ahead of time or be able to assemble it easily while the kids are getting into their costumes. Also, because our festivities always include grandparents, my sis and her hubby and sometimes cousins, I need meals that can feed a crowd. Below are a few plant-based Halloween meal ideas that are up for the challenge.

Plant-based Halloween Meal Ideas

Mummy Meatloaf

How cute is this mummy meatloaf by Annabel Karmel? I’d create a simple vegan version with a plant-powered “meatloaf” using Beyond Meat. Try this one. While the meatloaf bakes, cook the pappardelle. When meatloaf has only 10 minutes of cook time remaining, layer the pasta over the loaf like a mummy. Slice Miyoko’s VeganMozz for eyes and arrange olives inside the slices for pupils. Bake for the last 10 minutes.

Plant-based Halloween Meal Ideas


You can get super creative with pizza! Use cookie cutters to cut out veggies and cheese in Halloween shapes or try these mummy pizzas from Veggies Save the Day or these deliciously creepy skull pizzas from Fork and Beans.

Plant-based Halloween Meal Ideas

Mummy Dogs

These mummies are almost too cute to eat. I suggest using Beyond Meat brats as the mummy stand in and instead of pizza dough, try packaged crescent roll dough (the ones at Trader Joe’s are vegan).

Plant-based Halloween Meal Ideas

Stuffed Pumpkins or Peppers

I love the idea of stuffing one of the cute mini pumpkins you see all over the stores this time of year…or an orange bell pepper that’s carved as a jack-o-lantern. There are many ways you could stuff these…The pumpkins are the perfect vessel for a hearty stew with quinoa, rice, beans or lentils, like this one from Simple Seasonal. I think this chili would also be tasty inside. For the peppers, make your favorite taco filling or spaghetti.

Plant-based Halloween Meal Ideas


A salad isn’t just a salad with this cute graveyard presentation from Fork and Beans.

What are some of your favorite Halloween meal ideas?

Plant-based Halloween Meal Ideas

October 14, 2019

homemade-ish meal ideas

Homemade doesn’t mean you have to make everything from scratch! I’m committed to getting a home-cooked meal on the table 5-7 nights a week, but I take some help from the store when I can to simplify my meal prep and get dinner on the table faster. Homemade-ish is a term I coined for when you cook something but incorporate store-bought prepared foods into your recipe.

When it comes to choosing ingredients for my homemade-ish meal ideas,  I not only look for convenience, but also the opportunity to be creative and inventive with the prepared ingredients from the grocery store. Some of my favorite store-bought recipe helpers include:

Salads in a bag

Salad kits are a plant-based mama’s best friend. You can change these up a dozen different ways into more than just salads. (Check out these ideas for inspiration.)

Sauces and dips

These make for easy meals, such as wraps, entrees and more

Canned beans

When you don’t have time to make them from scratch, a can of beans is a quick and easy protein option, plus they add texture and heartiness to any meal.

Pre-washed and cut veggies

The time saved with these meal helpers and are worth the extra cost if you’re only using them every once in a while.

The homemade-ish meal ideas are limitless once you start thinking outside of the salad kit, can of beans, salad dressing…or whatever store-bought prepared ingredient you’re using in your recipe. Below are a few ideas to inspire you.

Lunch Box Bowls


Use an ethnic salad kit, such as Trader Joe’s Southwest Chopped Salad or Sesame Crunch Chopped Salad and add a can of drained and rinsed beans or chopped, baked tofu (depending on the flavor profile). Scoop over rice or sesame noodles, and top with your favorite toppings, such as salsa, chopped avocado, peanuts, nori strips, etc. to match the flavors in your bowl.

Wraps and Sandwiches

Baked Tofu Lettuce Wraps

Cube a package of baked tofu with an Asian inspired slaw or salad kit. Serve with romaine leaves, lime wedges, cilantro, peanuts and a homemade peanut sauce (mixing 1 part peanut butter with 1 part rice vinegar and soy sauce). 

Spring Rolls

Combine an Asian salad kit and shelled, cooked edamame. Spread on rice paper and roll!

Buffalo Hummus Chickpea and Cauliflower Wraps

Let the abundance of hummus flavors inspire a new wrap. The new Buffalo Hummus at Trader Joe’s is tasty when tossed with chickpeas and roasted cauliflower. Layer on tortillas, along with chopped romaine, shredded carrots, chopped celery and dairy-free ranch.


Squash Noodles with Bruschetta and Olive Tapenade

Tapenades and sauces such as pesto and bruschetta are a quick homemade-ish meal with spiralized yellow squash or zucchini (or buy pre-spiralized from the store). 

Polenta Lasagna

Slice a roll of prepared polenta. Layer into a lasagna pan and top with traditional lasagna ingredients, such as Beyond Meat Italian sausage, Kite Hill ricotta, spinach, artichoke hearts, canned tomatoes and marinara sauce. Bake for 20-30 minutes until heated through.


White Bean Salad Pizza

Roll out a premade whole wheat pizza dough and spread with one tablespoon of olive oil, three cloves of thinly sliced garlic and a pinch of salt. Bake at 400℉ for 10 minutes. Combine your favorite salad kit along with a can of white beans (drained and rinsed). Top the pizza with the salad combo. Slice and serve!

Yellow Curry Salad Pizza

Cube a block of tofu and toss with your favorite curry sauce. Roll out a premade whole wheat pizza dough and spread with more sauce. Bake at 400 for 10 minutes. Combine a salad kit, such as the Trader Joe’s Yellow Curry Chopped Salad Kit but omit the dressing and toss in 2-4 tablespoons of the yellow curry sauce instead. Spread on top of the pizza and slice!

Greek Pita Pizzas

Spread a store-bought garlic sauce across a whole pita. Add a spoonful or two of prepared tabbouleh on top, along with 1-2 frozen falafels (that have been cooked and chopped).

Get more homemade-ish meal ideas in the video below and tell me in the comments which one is your favorite.


Want more meal ideas? Check out my weekly meal prep membership, Batch Cooking Club.


homemade-ish meal ideas

October 13, 2019

weekly dinner plan

I love to meal plan! Mapping out a weekly dinner plan in advance is the only way I’d ever get a homemade meal on the table 5 to 7 nights every week. Trust melife is better with a meal plan! It takes the thinking out of what to cook and it allows you to streamline your daily meal prep. With a weekly dinner plan, you can also organize your grocery shopping once during the week, instead of having to run to the store every other day (or daily!) for what you need.

The key to creating a weekly dinner plan that brings more ease to your daily routine is to make a meal plan that works for you! Incorporate family favorites, existing ingredients in your pantry and recipes you enjoy making. Ideally, you want to schedule a weekly date in your calendar to complete your dinner plan and make your grocery list. You want to select a date that allows you enough time later in the week to grocery shop and meal prep. For example, I create my meal plan and grocery list on Thursdays, shop on Fridays and meal prep for the week on Sundays. (I call that Batch Cook Sunday).

When it comes to actually creating a weekly dinner plan, follow these steps.

weekly dinner plan

1. Review your schedule for the week.

Make your meal plan a working document. You can set up your weekly dinner plan in your calendar or create your own worksheet to map out your meals. (I offer a free blank dinner plan template in my Dinner Plan Challenge.) Add notes to your dinner planner to include info about meetings and activities that will affect your meal prep and cooking time.

2. Assign a night off from cooking.

Whether you work leftovers into your weekly dinner plan or plan to dine out or take in, give yourself a night off from cooking. Maybe it’s a night where you’ll have little or no time to prep, or a night that follows an active day where you’ll appreciate an easy reheat and serve meal.

3. Assign meal ideas and / or themes to each night.

Looking at the schedule notes you put in your planner, assign meal ideas or themes to each night that work for your schedule. Meal themes help organize your thoughts about what to cook by giving you some structure to narrow down your recipe choices. Some of my family’s favorites include Taco Tuesday and DIY Pasta Bar. Check out my Pinterest boards for ideas and inspiration.

4. Gather and select recipes.

Once you have your meal ideas completed in your planner, review your recipe library and select a few that fit the categories or themes you assigned to each day. My library includes recipes from email newsletters from food brands I love, Instagram food feeds, Pinterest, food blogs, cookbooks and magazines.

5. Complete your prep plan

Once you’ve created your weekly dinner plan, spend a few minutes to plan how you’re going to cook it. Review your recipes and look for parts of the meal that you can prep in advance on a lighter day during the week (such as a weekend) to speed up your cooking during the week. 

If a soup or casserole is on your menu, for example, maybe you’ll make that on Sunday to eat on Monday or Tuesday. Also look for ingredients such as salad dressings and roasted vegetables that you could batch cook on the weekend to simplify your prep during the week.

6. Complete your shopping list

The best time to make your list is while you’re making your weekly dinner plan. You have all your recipes in front of you so you can transfer what you need straight to your list.

weekly dinner plan

Need a little help and accountability to create your weekly dinner plan? Take the Dinner Plan Challenge! Whether you’re a novice meal planner or meal planning warrior, this challenge is set up to help you get into a meal planning groove that makes dinner easy and fun. Cooking for your family should be joyful, not stressful. All you need is a proven process and plan—a step-by-step guide to set yourself up for mealtime success. My Dinner Plan Challenge does just that!

Join the Dinner Plan Challenge and:

  • Enjoy healthy, homemade meals: Create a week of pre-planned, home-cooked meals with my step-by-step planner and recipes
  • Take the thinking out of what to cook: Learn how to set yourself up for meal planning success each week with my proven process that simplifies meal prep
  • Have fun: Create a weekly habit that sets you up for dinner success 

Download the FREE Dinner Plan Challenge Guide and get dinner on the table every night with ease.

weekly dinner plan

August 29, 2019

back-to-school dinners


Only two of my kids are back in school and I’m already feeling the all too familiar angst of the dinner rush. The first few weeks are always a bit rough with the transition back to after-school activities and carpools, along with the onslaught of school meetings. Gone are the dinners made in a summer haze wearing my swimsuit with a glass of rosé in hand. But even as the luster of summer fades, I’m determined to savor and enjoy my family’s dinner time together.

I truly believe that the dinner table is where all the best stuff happens: celebrating wins, supporting losses and sharing laughter. Special bonds and connections happen around a meal together and I do my best to make the most of them every night. So I’m sharing a few of my best tips to help simplify back-to-school dinners. Read on and ease back into the school year groove!

1. Front load family favorites.

You know it’s going to be a good night when everyone clears their plate! Ensure dinner success by adding a few tried and tried family favorites that you know your family loves. Keep a running list and you’ll never have to think about what to cook.


2. Institute a theme night.

I love a good theme! They set the mood for fun times ahead and turn back-to-school dinners into celebrations. From Taco Tuesday to Souper Sunday, there’s something for everyone. They also simplify what to cook by allowing you to rotate a few recipes over the course of the month that fit the theme. Taco Tuesday is a weekly standby in my house and the kids would revolt if I even thought of changing up our fillings!


3. Cook from your pantry.

It’s a no brainer to throw together a quick meal (pasta and marinara, anyone?) when you’ve got a few staples on hand. Cooking from your pantry makes simple work for back-to-school dinners with little prep time.


4. Do it all in one pan.

Sheet pan meals are a busy mama’s and papa’s best friend! Who doesn’t want to prep everything on one pan, toss it in the oven and serve? And then there’s the minimal clean up. Prep, cook and clean all in one? Yes, please! Check out my Pinterest board for lots of plant-powered sheet pan meal ideas and recipes.


5. Make it DIY.

Food bars are one of my favorite family meal ideas because everyone can serve up their dish exactly how they like it. From a pasta bar and tacos to bowls and paninis, you’ve got lots of options for creating interactive back-to-school dinners that will infuse fun into your family’s meal time together.


6. Plan to reuse leftovers. 

Serving leftovers doesn’t have to mean eating the same thing over again. Turn those extra meatballs from Monday’s dinner into meatball subs Thursday and no one will realize they’re eating a leftover makeover!


7. Prep ahead!

This tip isn’t just for back-to-school. Schedule meal prep sessions into your weekend all year long to ease your prep during the week to get dinner on the table faster and with less stress. Download my free Batch Cooking Starter Guide for tips, tricks and recipes to get started with batch cooking.


8. Put your appliances to work.

If I’ve got a lot going on in the evening, I set myself for dinner success with a slow or pressure cooker meal that will do the work for me while I’m out and about! Prep it in the morning while you’re making breakfast or the night before while you’re cleaning up that night’s dinner. Need some inspiration? Check out my slow cooker Pinterest Board or try my Slow Cooker Chili, Jackfruit Noodle Soup or Tofu Salsa Verde.


9. Get some help from the store.

It’s no secret that my heart belongs to Trader Joe’s for their great variety of plant-based food options. Their salads, dips and sauces are essential meal helpers for preparing homemade meals in a flash that are so delicious no one will guess you weren’t a slave to the kitchen.


10. Make a plan!

No matter what time of year it is, dinner is easier with a meal plan. Set aside time each week to create a menu, select recipes and make your grocery list. I plan on Thursdays, shop on Fridays and meal prep on Sundays. Find a schedule that works for you and mark it in your calendar.

back-to-school dinners

Want more help getting a healthy, home-cooked dinner on the table? Join my FREE Back-to-School Dinner Challenge and:

  • Enjoy healthy, homemade meals: Create a week of pre-planned, home-cooked meals with my step-by-step planner and recipes
  • Take the thinking out of what to cook: Learn how to set yourself up for meal planning success each week with my proven process that simplifies meal prep
  • Have fun: Create a weekly habit that sets you up for dinner success 

The cooking fun starts September 9th. Get my free Back-To-School Dinner Challenge guide to learn more.

August 5, 2019

Different Dinner Times

I strive to prepare and eat a home-cooked meal with my family at least 5 nights a week. However, I realize that’s not always possible and you may need to be flexible to accommodate your family with different dinner times, especially if you’ve got young kids that eat earlier than the adults in the home, or older kids with activities that run later in the evening. So, how do you make sure there is a home-cooked meal for everyone in your family at different dinner times without having to meal prep 2 or more times in an evening? Check out the tips and meal ideas in the video below.

Set yourself up for success:

  • Determine a meal time that works for the majority of people in your family and / or minimizes the amount of time between dinner “shifts”
  • Post your meal plan and times
  • Make agreements with your family and partner

My favorite meal ideas for serving at different dinner times:

Watch the video below for the details:

July 29, 2019

I’m a planner at heart: I map out my family’s weekly meal plan on Thursdays, shop on Fridays and meal prep for the week on  Sundays during a batch cook session. So, it may come as no surprise that when my family goes on a trip, I also do some vacation meal planning. It’s a flexible meal plan but it gives us some framework to work from. Otherwise, it would be “Mom, what’s for dinner, lunch, etc.” and I’d have to figure it all out when we get there…not much of a vacation for me! 

Most of my trips with my family are at timeshares or vacation rentals. It’s super expensive and (not very practical with my mixed bunch) to eat every meal out, so if we’re at rental home or timeshare, I do a little vacation meal planning when I’m doing my pack list to bring more ease to the meals we’re going to eat in.

If we’re at a timeshare or hotel, that’s primarily breakfast and lunch (it’s not vacation if I have to cook dinner!) and eat out most of the time for dinner. However, we also do an annual trip with my side of the family and stay at a rental home so we also eat a few dinners in. In the video below, I share some easy and delicious ideas for those meals so no one has to do much cooking while we’re on vacation. 

Additional vacation meal planning tips:

  • I make a shopping list of what we’ll need when I’m doing my packing for the trip (one of my pre-travel tasks)
  • I pack snacks for the plane and any other “staples” I want to have while I’m away and can’t get at our vacation destination
  • I keep a running list of restaurants for places we travel to often (or every year).

I also pay my future post-vacation Stephanie forward with a special meal planning gift that helps me hold onto my vacation bliss a little bit longer upon the first day back home.

Watch the video below for the details:

Free download:

Download my free meal plan template for mapping out your family’s meals while on vacation.

vacation meal planning


June 24, 2019

bagged salads

Getting a homemade, healthy dinner on the table for my family five to six nights a week means that I take a little help from the store at least once a week. Thank goodness for Trader Joe’s! It’s the main store I shop every week and offers lots of plant-based foods and meal helpers for making homemade-ish family dinners. 

When it comes to meal helpers, bagged salads are some of my favorites.  I mix these up for lunches and dinners for my whole family with lots of success. Beyond the obvious, salad kits make savory wrap fillings, inventive pizza toppers, pasta mix-ins and more!

Watch the video below for a dozen different ways to use these bagged salads as meal helpers for fun and delicious family meals:

  • Gochujang Chop Salad Kit
  • Organic Spinach and Riced Cauliflower Salad Kit
  • Cruciferous Crunch
  • Organic Mediterranean Style Kit
  • Southwestern Chopped Salad Kit
  • Yellow Curry Chopped Salad Kit
  • Tahini, Pepita and Apricot Slaw Kit
  • Caesar Style Salad Kit

bagged salads

Gochujang Chop Salad Kit

This Korean inspired medley features a powerhouse of crunchy vegetables, including cabbage, lettuce, carrot, celery and radish. Taking a cue from the vinaigrette, the package also contains puffed brown rice and black sesame seeds, adding authentic flavor (and more crunch!) to this delightful salad mix.

Meal idea #1: Spring Rolls

Combine the salad kit and shelled, cooked edamame. Spread on rice paper and roll!

Meal idea #2: Tofu Noodle Salad

Cube a block of Trader Joe’s Extra Firm Tofu and marinate it in Trader Joe’s Carrot Ginger Miso Dressing for 20 minutes or more. Drain and cook the tofu in a medium pan until slightly golden on each side (or bake for 30 minutes). Meanwhile, prepare a package of rice or soba noodles and set aside. Combine the salad with the noodles and stir in the dressing. Toss in the tofu and serve.  

Meal idea #3: Baked Tofu Lettuce Wraps

Cut one package of Trader Joe’s Savory Baked Tofu into bite-sized cubes. Prepare the salad kit. Spread out several romaine leaves on a platter. Top with the salad and tofu. Serve with lime wedges.

Meal idea #4: Veg Sushi Bowls

Prepare jasmine or sushi rice and top with a handful of the salad greens and a cup of chopped baked tofu. Sprinkle with the add ins on the salad, the dressing and chopped avocado.


Organic Spinach and Riced Cauliflower Salad Kit

In addition to organic spinach leaves and riced cauliflower, this salad also includes roasted golden beets and California-grown almonds. The tangy balsamic vinaigrette dressing is a perfect complement to the sweet beets and pungent cauliflower.

Meal idea #1: Quinoa Lentil Bowls

Spoon a half cup of quinoa in the bottom of the bowl. Combine one package of Trader Joe’s Steamed Lentils with all of the contents of the kit (except the dressing). Spoon a portion of the lentil salad mixture on top of the quinoa and drizzle with a tablespoon or two of the dressing.

Meal idea #2: Vegetable Polenta Rounds

Slice a roll of Trader Joe’s prepared polenta. Brush lightly with olive oil and season with salt and pepper. Bake at 350℉ for about 10 minutes on each side until golden. Meanwhile, saute the spinach and cauliflower in a medium pan with one tablespoon of olive oil and 2 cloves of minced garlic. Cook just until the spinach is slightly wilted. Stir in the beets and almonds. Place rounds on a serving dish. Top each with a few heaping tablespoons of the vegetable mixture. Drizzle the dressing on top.

Meal idea #3: White Bean Salad Pizza

Roll out a premade whole wheat pizza dough and spread with one tablespoon of olive oil, three cloves of thinly sliced garlic and a pinch of salt. Bake at 400℉ for 10 minutes. Combine the salad kit along with one can of white beans (drained and rinsed). Top the pizza with the salad combo. Slice and serve!


Cruciferous Crunch

The complete cruciferous family is included in this crunchy blend—kale, Brussels sprouts, broccoli, green cabbage and red cabbage. Aptly named, each bite of these raw veggies delivers a bite.

Meal idea #1: Cruciferous Crunch Chickpea Omelet

Sauté two shallots in 1 tablespoon of olive oil along with the salad. Season with salt and pepper, to taste. Meanwhile, combine one cup of water with one cup of chickpea flour to form a batter. Spoon a ladleful of the batter into an oiled medium pan. Cook 3-4 minutes until golden brown on the bottom. Top with the greens and vegan ricotta cheese (such as Kite Hill). Fold the omelet in half.

Meal idea #2: Garlicky Greens, Beans and Pasta

Prepare a bag of Trader Joe’s Organic Italian Artisan Pasta according to the package directions (we favor the Gigli variety!). While the pasta cooks, heat two tablespoons of olive oil in a large pan. Sauté two minced garlic cloves until golden. Add the cruciferous blend and saute until slightly wilted. Stir in a can of white beans (drained and rinsed) and the pasta. Add the juice of one lemon, salt, pepper and a sprinkling of nutritional yeast.

Meal Idea #2: Cruciferous Slawcos

Toss the slaw with your favorite salsa. Meanwhile, cook Trader Joe’s Beef-less Ground Beef with your their taco seasoning. Spoon the vegan meat into a taco shell, along with a heaping serving of slaw and more salsa. Top with sliced avocado, chopped cilantro and fresh lime juice.


Organic Mediterranean Style Kit


Meal idea: Mediterranean pitas

Omit the cheese and combine the salad, including the dressing. Add in your favorite plant-based cheese (I love Violife’s feta). Cut a piece of pita bread in half and spread each half inside with a half of a tablespoon of hummus. Prepare 2 frozen Trader Joe’s falafel (or any falafel you love !). Scoop a half a cup of salad into each pita half and top with the falafel. 


Southwestern Chopped Salad Kit

I love this salad, complete with chopped green cabbage and romaine, cotija cheese (which I omit to keep it plant-based), roasted pepitas, tortilla strips, green onion, and cilantro. The spicy Southwest avocado dressing is light and 100% vegan.

Meal idea: Southwesthern Black Bean Burritos

Omit the cheese (I sub Follow Your Heart’s Mozzarella) and mix the salad together, along with 1 can of drained and rinsed black beans. Add sliced cherry tomatoes and scoop onto a large flour tortilla along with sliced avocado. Wrap it up and slice in half.⠀

Yellow Curry Chopped Salad Kit

This complete salad kit includes chopped Romaine, crunchy red and green cabbages, shredded carrots and green onions, IN addition to this great veggie blend, crunchy naan chips, cashew pieces and golden raisins also come in this delicious salad blend. The dressing unfortunately includes egg so I ditch that for Trader Joe’s Yellow Curry Sauce (100% plant-based) in this meal idea.

Meal idea: Yellow Curry Salad Pizza

Cube a block of tofu and toss with Trader Joe’s Yellow Curry Sauce. Roll out Trader Joe’s whole wheat pizza dough and spread with more sauce. Bake at 400 for 10 minutes. Combine the Yellow Curry Chopped Salad Kit but omit the dressing and toss in 2-4 tablespoons of the yellow curry sauce instead. Spread on top of the pizza and slice! 


Tahini, Pepita and Apricot Slaw Kit

This kit includes a blend of shredded rainbow carrots, broccoli stalks, green cabbage, and kale for a crunchy slaw that is different from your typical fare. Pepitas, chopped sun-dried apricots, and a creamy tahini orange dressing make create a truly unique flavor profile for adding to your family recipes. (Note: The dressing has honey in it.)

Meal idea: Chili Slaw Dogs

Mix the slaw kit together and set aside. Meanwhile, prepare a carrot or veg dog. Place the “dog” in a bun and top with vegetarian chili. Spoon a heaping tablespoon or two of the slaw on top.


Caesar Style Salad Kit

This kits contains romaine lettuce, croutons, shredded parmesan and a vinaigrette Caesar dressing (which is 100% plant-based).

Meal idea: “Chicken” Caesar Wraps

Prepare Trader Joe’s chickenless nuggets and chop into bite size pieces. Prepare the salad kit. (Omit the cheese. I sub Follow Your Heart’s Parmesan shreds instead.) Toss in the “chicken” and scoop onto a flour tortilla. Roll and cut in half.

bagged salads

For even more meal ideas with bagged salads, download my free Salad Kit Meal Helper.

Want more meal planning help? Check out my weekly meal prep membership, Batch Cooking Club.


June 17, 2019

This post contains affiliate links.

Bullet journal meal planning

This post is the third of my “meal planning with tools” series! In the first part of this 3-video series, I broke down my meal my meal planning process and showed how I use my LifePlanner and the EC Meal Plan Dashboard to sync my schedule with my family’s weekly meal plan every week.

In the second part of this series, I added Erin’s Petite Planners to the mix and demonstrated how I use them to plan, organize and archive my weekly menus.

In this last post of the series, I’m taking about bullet journal meal planning! Shout out to my fellow bullet journalers and scrapbookers. If that’s you, you’re going to love this post! If not, welcome to the world of bujo (bullet journaling for short)! Bullet journaling is a type of journaling where you jot down quick notes instead of long sentences. People use them for all sorts of things, such as daily schedules, habit tracking and to-do and ongoing lists (like books you want to read, wines you want to try, places you want to visit, etc.). Search the hashtags #bulletjournalmealplan, #bulletjournalmealplanning and #bulletjournalmealplanner on Instagram for inspiration.

The pages are dotted or lined and free form so you can draw grid lines and add text (and images and stickers!) for whatever you want. Bullet journal meal planning is a fun and visual way to create your weekly menus.

Take a look at some sample layouts I’ve created in the video below, including ideas for:

  • Tracking your recipe wins (and losses)
  • Your Family Favorites list 
  • Pantry, fridge and freezer inventory lists
  • Shopping lists
  • Recipes you want to try
  • Cookbooks you want to buy

The notebooks and stickers from make bullet journal meal planning easy and fun! Check it all out in the video below and tell me in the comments if you’re excited to give bullet journal meal planning a try.

P.S. In addition to my tools, I post a weekly “menu” in my kitchen for my family to reference throughout the week. Make your own by downloading my free meal planner template.


June 10, 2019

This post contains affiliate links.

How To Meal Plan with Erin Condren Petite Planners

I’m having a blast showing you how to meal plan with some of my favorite tools! In the first part of this 3-video series, I gave you a tour of my meal planning process and how I use my LifePlanner and the EC Meal Plan Dashboard to sync my schedule with my family’s weekly meal plan every week.

In the second part of this series, I add Erin’s Petite Planners to the mix! I print and post my blank meal plan for my family to easily see what’s on the menu each day, but I use these Petite Planners to plan, organize and archive my weekly menus.

As I keep saying: Your meal plan should work for you, not create more work! These Petite Planners do just that by taking the thinking out of what to cook. They also help you organize your prep notes and recipes. Get a step-by-step look at my weekly meal planning process through these planners along with the following:

  • The types of notes to take and where to simplify your daily (and weekly) meal prep
  • Options for organizing your meal plans (and shopping lists) 
  • Why and how to archive your meal plans

Check it all out in the video below.

How To Meal Plan with Petite Planners

Post your weekly meal plan in place where you family can see it – download my free meal planner template.



This post contains affiliate links.

I don’t know what I’d do without my family’s weekly meal plan. I have a date with myself every Thursday – same time, same place – and I map out what me and my family are going to eat for the following week. Then, I hit the grocery store on Friday and batch cook some delicious fun on Sunday.

My weekly process starts with me gathering my meal planning tools, including:

Your meal plan should work for you, not create more work so the first thing I do when I sit down to meal plan is sync my schedule with what I want to cook for the week. I walk you through how I do just that in my latest video, including:

  • The types of notes I make in my meal plan for easy, seamless meal prep
  • What I make on days when I have limited or no meal prep time
  • My favorite Erin Condren meal planning tools that keep my meal prep on track

Check it out in the first video of this 3-part series!

Download my free meal planner template (or click on the image) and comment below with your meal planning questions.


Need ideas for your weekly meal plan that your family is going to love? Create a family favorites list! This running list of recipes wins is one of the tools I use each week when I sit down for my Thursday meal plan sessions. Along with my schedule, a blank shopping list, my recipe library and an inventory of my pantry / fridge / freezer, I use this resource to help me keep track of the recipes my family loves most and use it to complete my meal plans.

A family favorites list is a huge time saver. I find myself repeatedly scratching my head each week, trying to remember the meal that everyone loved two weeks ago. This list takes the guesswork out of trying to remember and also, is a great reference sheet when you’re just out of ideas and don’t know what to plan to cook.  I just pin up my family favorites list and add to it whenever I get a rave review from someone at my table!

In the video below, I walk you through creating your own “family favorites” list and how to use it with your weekly meal planning, including:

  • 4 tips of what to include on your list
  • How to organize your list
  • The types of notes to include on your list 

I also share a template that you can use to create your own “family favorites” list.

Get a free “family favorites” list template here.

Watch the video and comment below some of your family’s favorite meals!

Want more meal planning help? Check out my weekly meal prep membership, Batch Cooking Club.


How to cook from your pantry

Want to save time and money on your meal prep? Cook from your pantry!

Taking stock (and using up) what you’ve already got adds up to shorter grocery shopping trips and lower grocery bills. Plus, it means you’ll have an even more organized and efficient kitchen and pantry.

The truth is, when you use your staples to cook from your pantry (as well as your refrigerator and freezer), there is lots of inspiration to be had, for example:

  • Kitchen sink salads
  • Freezer soups
  • Buddha bowl creations

In the video below, I walk you through my pantry, refrigerator and freezer to reveal meal ideas and solutions for quick meals and easy meal prep, including:

  • How to find recipes that use up your stock
  • Ways to use surplus ingredients in your kitchen
  • More meal inspiration for common foods founds in the pantry, refrigerator and freezer

I also share the “Stocking Your Pantry” download in my free Batch Cooking Starter Guide.

Get my free Stock Your Pantry checklist here.

Watch the video and comment below with your favorite meal to cook from your pantry.


How to cook from your pantry

November 8, 2018

My weekly meal planning success is dependent upon batch cooking. I couldn’t get school lunches made or dinner on the table every night without my Sunday sessions. There’s no feeling like the one after 2 hours in the kitchen when the dishes are cleaned up and stacks of food are packed and stored away for the week.

One of my favorite strategies during these lifesaving Sundays is to batch cook one ingredient and then use it in a variety of ways. I typically make a pan of roasted veggies and some kind of sauce or dressing for easy vegan bowls to eat all week long. I’ve recently been inspired by butternut squash. I’m obsessed, actually!

I roasted it with garlic, cremini mushrooms and Italian herbs for a sweet and savory delight!

Batch cook butternut squash and cremini mushrooms and use them all week long in these 3 delicious meals perfect for the Fall season.

But, don’t stop there! Take those roasted veggies and turn them into 3 different meals. That’s right, cook once and eat 3 times!! Even better, roast some extra squash and get a bonus sauce. That’s 4 recipes:

Roasted Garlic + Butternut Squash Cream Sauce

Butternut Squash + Lentil Fall Bowl

Black Bean, Butternut Squash + Mushroom Enchiladas

Spinach, Mushroom + Butternut Squash Fajitas

First things, first: Roast your veggies.

Roasted Butternut Squash & Cremini Mushrooms


  • 1 butternut squash (about 6 cups) peeled and cut into 1-inch cubes
  • 16 ounces cremini mushrooms cleaned, stems removed and quartered
  • 6 cloves garlic minced
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons Italian seasoning (basil, thyme and oregano)
  • salt and pepper, to taste


  1. Toss the squash, mushrooms and garlic with the olive oil and herbs.

  2. Split onto two baking sheets.

  3. Bake at 350 degrees for 25-30 minutes until the squash is fork tender.

Next, make your sauce:

Butternut Squash Cream Sauce


  • 2 cups butternut squash 1-inch cubes
  • 1 cup vegetable broth
  • 1 cup cashews soaked overnight if not using a high speed blender
  • 1/4 cup nutritional yeast
  • 3 cloves garlic
  • salt and pepper, to taste
  • 1 tablespoon butternut squash
  • 1/2 tsp olive oil


  1. Roast the squash and garlic at 400 degrees for 30 minutes.

  2. Combine the roasted squash and garlic cloves in a blender, along with the broth and remaining ingredients. 

  3. Blend until smooth.

  4. Season with salt and pepper.

This sauce is savory and sweet all in one. I think it would taste amazing tossed over fresh pasta or baked between lasagna noodles and more butternut squash! But I’ve got more recipe ideas for you!

First up is my Butternut Squash & Lentil Fall Bowl. I’ve been lunching on this all month! The creamy butternut squash sauce is the perfect “dressing” for this scrumptious bowl.

Batch cook butternut squash and cremini mushrooms and use them all week long in these 3 delicious meals perfect for the Fall season.


Second on the list are these hearty Black Bean + Butternut Squash Enchiladas. I could eat the filling on its own but nestled between layers of corn tortillas and sauce, it’s indulgent.


For the filling:

  • 2 15 ounce cans black beans
  • 2 tablespoons cumin
  • 2 tablespoons garlic powder
  • salt to taste
  • 6 cups Roasted Butternut Squash + Cremini Mushrooms

For the enchiladas:

  • 12 corn tortillas
  • 2 cups Butternut Squash Cream Sauce
  • 1 bottle / can enchilada sauce


  1. Pour the beans (do not drain) and seasonings in a medium saucepan. Bring to a boil and simmer 15 minutes. Season with salt.

  2. Stir in the Roasted Butternut Squash + Cremini Mushrooms.

  3. Mix 1/4 cup of Butternut Squash Cream Sauce wit 1/4 cup enchilada sauce. 

  4. Spread 2 tablespoons of the sauce on the bottom of a 9-13-inch casserole dish.

  5. Heat the tortillas on the stove burner for 15 seconds or so on each side until pliable. 

  6. Fill each tortilla with about 2 tablespoons of filling. Roll the tortilla away from you and layer in the dish. Continue until all 12 tortillas

  7. When all tortillas are full, top with the remaining sauce and bake at 350 degrees for 15 minutes until heated through.

Batch cook butternut squash and cremini mushrooms and use them all week long in these 3 delicious meals perfect for the Fall season.

Last but not least are these Butternut Squash, Spinach & Mushroom Fajitas. I used the Butternut Squash Cream Sauce like a crema dolloped on top. I used mini tortillas which are fun for small hands (my kids love it when I serve them).

Butternut Squash, Spinach & Mushroom Fajitas (with Butternut Squash Crema)


  • 2 cloves garlic thinly sliced
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 4 cups baby spinach
  • salt and pepper, to taste
  • 3 cups Roasted Butternut Squash & Cremini Mushrooms
  • 1/2 cup Butternut Squash Cream Sauce
  • 12 mini corn tortillas (or 6 regular size)


  1. Heat the olive oil in a medium sauce pan and add in garlic. Cook 2 minutes until fragrant.

  2. Add spinach. Using tongs, saute the spinach until slightly wilted. Season with salt and pepper.

  3. Stir in the roasted vegetables and cook for 4-5 minutes until heated through.

  4. Meanwhile, heat the tortillas on a stove burner, about 30 seconds on each side until the tortilla is pliable.

  5. To serve, spoon the filling onto the middle of the tortillas and top with a dollop of the cream sauce.

Batch cook butternut squash and cremini mushrooms and use them all week long in these 3 delicious meals perfect for the Fall season.

Which recipe will you try first?