Tag Archives: family meal

Eggs pesto in carrot hash cups by Molly Yeh

Try Molly Yeh’s Healthy Twist on TikTok’s Latest Pesto and Eggs Breakfast Hack

Dubbed TikTok’s easiest breakfast hack, the pesto and eggs trend has swept the globe and has home cooks everywhere swapping in cooking oil with flavourful pesto instead. Registered dietitian Amy Wilichowski shows how to prep a breakfast toast with ricotta, smashed avocado, along with a pesto-infused sunny-side up egg, complete with salt, red pepper flakes and a little drizzle of honey.

@amywilichowski##eggs ##pestoeggs ##homecook♬ cooking video – cooking

But if you’re looking to keep that distinct fragrant pesto flavour while ditching the dough, look no further than Molly Yeh’s super easy, yet delicious carrot hash with eggs and pesto. While Molly’s breakfast recipe includes a homemade nut-free pesto, you can swap in a pre-made one as well to speed up the process. If you’re making your own, be sure to keep those leafy carrot tops to add to your pesto (not only does this minimize food waste, it adds flavour to the Genoa, Italy-originating sauce). You can also skip the skillet and bake the hash in the oven instead to make it even healthier (Molly recommends a cast-iron biscuit pan but you can use a muffin pan as well). Molly’s recipe serves 8, so it’s also a great long weekend brunch idea that’s easy to make and share with your loved ones.

Molly Yeh's carrot hash with eggs and pesto on a plate

Carrot Hash With Eggs and Pesto

Prep Time: 35 minutes
Cook Time: 30 minutes
Total Time: 65 minutes
Servings: 8

Ingredients:

1 bunch carrots with tops (about 1 lb)
1 large russet potato (about 12.5 oz), peeled
3 scallions, white parts minced and green parts reserved
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 cup panko breadcrumbs
¼ cup golden raisins
3 Tbsp harissa
1 Tbsp light brown sugar
½ tsp ground cumin
½ tsp ground sumac
5 large eggs
1 ¾ cups plus 1 tbsp olive oil
20 fresh basil leaves
⅓ cup salted sunflower seeds
1 Tbsp white wine vinegar
1 clove garlic

Directions:

1. Preheat the oven to 450°F.

2. Grate the carrots (set the tops aside — you will use them later) and potato in a food processor fitted with the shredding attachment. Transfer to a colander set over a large bowl and add the scallion whites and ½ tsp salt. Use your hands or a clean dish towel to squeeze as much moisture out as possible. Discard the liquid in the bowl, then add the carrot mixture to that bowl. Stir in the panko, raisins, harissa, brown sugar, cumin, sumac, 2 eggs, 1 ½ tsp salt and a bunch of grinds of black pepper (I did 20) until well combined.

Related: Our Most Popular Dinner Recipes in 2021 So Far (Feta Pasta Included!)

3. Heat ¼ cup of the oil in a 10-inch skillet over medium-high heat (see Cook’s Note). Drop a small amount of the carrot mixture into the skillet. When it starts to sizzle, your oil is ready. Add the rest of the carrot mixture to the skillet and press down using the back of a spatula. Let cook, untouched, until the edges of the carrots turn a very deep golden brown, 4 to 5 minutes. Create 3 small divots in the top of the carrot mixture using the bottom of a measuring cup. Brush 1 Tbsp oil on top and transfer the skillet to the oven. Bake until the carrots are set and the top is a deep golden brown, about 20 minutes.

4. Carefully crack the remaining 3 eggs into the divots and bake until the egg whites are set and the yolks are still runny, about 8 minutes. (Cracking the eggs into a small bowl and pouring them into the divots makes this part a little easier and less messy). Use a spatula to help slide the hash out of the skillet onto a serving platter.

Related: Food Network’s Rigatoni Pie is the OG TikTok Honeycomb Pasta (and Now We Want Both!)

5. Meanwhile, make the pesto. Roughly chop the carrot tops and scallion greens and add to the bowl of a food processor along with the basil, sunflower seeds, vinegar, garlic, 1 tsp salt and a few grinds of pepper. Pulse until everything is very finely chopped. Slowly drizzle in the remaining 1 ½ cups oil and ¼ cup water until smooth and drizzly. Drizzle the pesto over the top of the hash and slice into wedges. Serve with the remaining pesto on the side.

Cook’s Note:
You can also cook the hash using a 7-cavity cast-iron biscuit pan. Preheat it in the oven for 15 minutes, then carefully press the carrot mixture equally into each of the molds, making a large well in the center of each. Brush with 1 Tbsp oil on top and bake until the carrots are set on top and deep golden brown, about 20 minutes. Then carefully crack an egg into each divot and bake until the egg whites are set and the yolks are still runny, about 8 minutes. Serve them from the pan!

Watch the how-to video here:

Food Network’s Rigatoni Pie is the OG TikTok Honeycomb Pasta (and Now We Want Both!)

You might’ve seen the honeycomb pasta hack that has gone viral on TikTok, in which Anna Rothfuss AKA @bananalovesyoutoo stuffs string cheese in rigatoni pasta, layering on sauce, ground meat and grated cheese for good measure. We daresay this popular quick meal evokes a Food Network Canada eye-catching favourite: our very own 20-minute, 10-ingredient Rigatoni Pie. While slightly more elevated in flavour (no string cheese here), this vegetarian version is equally melty and gooey and just as straight-forward to make for a quick weeknight meal — all with simple pantry ingredients you likely already have on hand.

rigatoni pie on white plate

Looking to save additional time? Instead of making your own tomato sauce, swap in four cups of store-bought marinara. For meat-lovers, you can mix things up too by adding cooked ground meat to the sauce (just note: you’ll need less of the sauce). This delicious budget-friendly comfort food will be a fan favourite at home, and the good news is the yield is high, so there will be plenty to go around.

Watch the how-to video here:


Rigatoni Pie Recipe

Prep Time: 20 minutes
Cook Time: 60 minutes
Rest Time: 10 minutes
Total Time: 1 hour, 30 minutes
Servings: 8

Ingredients:

6 Tbsp extra-virgin olive oil, divided
9 cloves garlic, minced
½ tsp crushed red pepper flakes
1 28-oz can whole peeled tomatoes in juice
1 15-oz can whole peeled tomatoes in juice
1 cup loosely-packed fresh basil leaves
Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper
1 lb(s) rigatoni
1 lb(s) part-skim mozzarella, grated
⅔ cup grated Parmesan cheese

Directions:

1. Heat 4 Tbsp of the olive oil with the garlic in a large saucepan over medium-low heat. Once it begins to sizzle, cook, stirring occasionally, until the garlic is soft and just beginning to brown, about 6 minutes. Stir in the red pepper flakes, then add the tomatoes and 1 ½ cups water. Increase the heat to high and bring the tomato sauce to a boil, crushing the tomatoes with the back of a wooden spoon. Lower the heat to maintain a simmer and cook, stirring occasionally, until reduced and thickened, about 15 minutes. Remove the pan from the heat, stir in the basil and season with salt and pepper. Let the sauce cool for 10 minutes then puree in a blender until smooth.

Related: This Feta Tomato Pasta Trending on TikTok is as Easy as 1-2-3

2. Preheat the oven to 375ºF. Grease a 9-inch springform pan with 1 Tbsp olive oil and bring a large pot of generously salted water to a boil. Cook the pasta until it is slightly less than al dente, about 8 minutes. Drain the pasta, spread in a single layer on a rimmed baking sheet and toss with the remaining 1 Tbsp olive oil.

3. Stand the rigatoni on their ends in the prepared pan until it is completely filled (you might not use all the pasta). Place the pan on a foil-lined baking sheet to catch drips. Pour the sauce over the noodles, spreading it with the back of a spoon (You might not use all the sauce.) Sprinkle the pasta with the mozzarella and Parmesan cheeses.

Related: I Tried Meghan Markle’s “Filthy, Sexy” Zucchini Pasta Sauce — Here’s How It Stacked Up

4. Cover the pan with foil, doming it slightly to avoid touching the cheese. Bake for 30 minutes. Uncover the pan and continue cooking until the top is golden brown and bubbly, about 30 minutes more. Let the pasta cool for 10 minutes, then carefully remove the sides of the pan, cut into wedges and serve.

We Tested 4 Popular Canadian Meal Delivery Kits. Here’s How They Compared

I have a confession to make: When it comes to cooking, I have a love/hate relationship with the entire process. In theory, I love the idea of whipping up a home-cooked meal – the gathering of fresh ingredients, discovering new recipes and enjoying the scrumptious finished product. More often than not, however, it’s an often harried battle wherein my husband and I arrive home late from work and we’re just looking for the shortest, fastest route to getting food on the table.

Many of my friends swear by meal delivery services, referring to them as complete game-changers that ultimately expanded their recipe repertoires and drastically cut down the amount of time spent sweating over the stovetop. Perhaps this was the solution I was looking for, even if only on weeknights when time was short and my patience was thin.

Related: Refrigerator Rules: How Long Do Leftovers Last?

If you’re wondering what I’m talking about, meal delivery kits are essentially boxes of raw ingredients with easy-to-follow recipes that typically feed up to four people. You don’t have to be home to receive the box; they can be left on your doorstep or at your condo’s front desk, since they’re stocked with reusable ice packs. Each recipe and its wealth of ingredients are individually packaged in their own brown paper bags and come with printed card stock with all the relevant directions and health information. In an effort to reduce the food waste that accumulates from the typical family meal, these services provide their ingredients in pre-measured amounts – although it often results in a lot of packaging. (Note: pantry staples, such as olive oil, salt and pepper, are not included.)

So, I decided to give it a shot, testing out four of the major Canadian companies that provide fresh meal ideas and ingredients to thousands of hungry fans across the country. Here’s how it went.

Hello Fresh

Availability: A 95 per cent delivery reach in Canada, including Ontario, Quebec, Manitoba, Saskatchewan, Alberta, British Columbia, Newfoundland and the Maritimes.

Average price per person: As low as $10.31/serving.

Packaging: With its paper-based packaging, the boxes are made from 100 per cent recyclable and biodegradable cardboard. Even the insulation and ice packs are made of sustainable cardboard and recyclable plastic, respectively. Hello Fresh has also eliminated single-use packaging for any produce with its own natural skin or peel (for example, potatoes, garlic and limes).

Dietary Variety: A diverse selection of recipes that will satisfy both vegetarians and carnivores. In addition, you can customize your Meal Preferences online or via the app by clicking on such options as No Beef Meals, No Fish Meals, No Pork Meals, etc. They’re also the first meal kit service in Canada to partner with Beyond Meat, which was only recently announced this summer.

Convenience: The average meal takes approximately 30 minutes, including prep time, and when ordering online or via the app you can choose from options such as quick family-friendly meals to vegetarian dishes.

Favourite Recipe: One-Pot Mexican Quinoa and Black Beans with Cilantro-Lime Crema

Overall Experience: Each meal comes with a detailed, one-page summary that includes total cooking time, ingredients and thorough instructions that are clear and easy to follow. Although the finished product never looked quite as good as advertised (which is on me: I was never good at plating meals), I don’t have any complaints in the taste department. I was genuinely surprised by how flavourful and tender the dishes were. Although the meals are certainly quick and easy to prep, one thing I discovered was that I was often left with a stack of dirty dishes, as some of the recipes required multiple pots, pans and other kitchen utensils. Incidentally, my favourite meal wound up being a one-pot dish, which made clean-up a breeze. The One-Pot Mexican Quinoa and Black Beans with Cilantro-Lime Crema (say that three times fast!) was so delicious that I could have polished off a second bowl in one sitting. The recipe also did something I previously never thought impossible: It made me fall in love with sour cream. I’d debated whether I should even add the dollop of cilantro-lime crema to the dish, but I wanted to try the recipe in all its glory and I’m so glad I did. This dish was such a hit with both myself and my husband that I’ve actually made it a second time already.

Best For:
● Offering Beyond Meat options
● Customizing your Meal Preferences

Chefs Plate

Availability: Currently delivers in Ontario, British Columbia, Alberta, Saskatchewan, Manitoba, Quebec, Prince Edward Island, New Brunswick and Nova Scotia, with plans to expand.

Average price per person: As low as $8.99/serving.

Packaging: All packing is 100 per cent recyclable and can be easily broken down once all the ingredients and ice packs are removed from the box. Many of the containers used to house Chefs Plate‘s ingredients are also ideal for leftovers, so don’t be in such a hurry to dispose of them.

Dietary Variety: Each recipe includes a detailed description of ingredients and instructions in a handy booklet with chef’s notes, portion sizes and caloric intake. Chefs Plate also offers gluten-free and dairy-free options, although they aren’t available every week. You can edit your Taste Preferences profile online or via the app to default to recipes that don’t include meat or fish, for example.

Convenience: For those with hectic work weeks, the fact that Chefs Plate is currently the only meal delivery service that offers an option for 15-minute meals will be vastly appealing to many.

Favourite Recipe: Beef and Black Bean Chili

Overall Experience: Similar to its sister company, Hello Fresh, I found the instructions easy to follow thanks to a clear and concise booklet containing the week’s recipes and ingredient list. I appreciated that the simple and flavourful Beef and Black Bean Chili meal (my favourite of the bunch) provided a handy lunch option made from the leftovers, including the additional provision of six soft shell tacos that helps transform the recipe from beef chili to beef taquitos. I particularly enjoyed the seasoning that came with the meal and appreciated that it listed all the spice blends on the packaging so I knew what it contained. Similar to the other meal kit delivery services, however, I found that there were more dishes to wash afterward than was the norm in our household (although, when cooking for myself and my husband, I typically opt for one-pot or sheet pan meals because I hate washing dishes). I appreciated the wide selection of meals to choose from and was surprised by how fresh the ingredients were when I reached into their bags.

Best For:
● Offering dairy-free and gluten-free options
● Providing 15-minute meal selections for hectic weeknights

GoodFood

Availability: Currently delivers in Ontario, Quebec, Manitoba, Saskatchewan, Alberta, British Columbia and the Maritimes.

Average price per person: As low as $5.85/serving.

Packaging: The GoodFood cardboard boxes, insulation liners, bags, bottles and baskets are all 100 per cent recyclable. Tip: Use the ice packs to keep food cool during a family picnic. My freezer is now fully stocked with them.

Dietary Variety: Choose your weekly meals from a variety of categories such as Clean15 (low-carb) and Vegetarian.

Convenience: The average meal takes approximately 30 minutes to whip up, while those looking to incorporate more smoothies in their daily routine will be thrilled to discover that GoodFood offers fresh ready-to-blend Breakfast Smoothies (starting at $4.99/each) that can easily be stored in the freezer.

Smoothies: Initially, when I learned that GoodFood had recently introduced a series of ready-to-blend smoothies, I scoffed a little. Who can’t chop a few fruits and veggies and toss them into a blender? Little did I know how much easier mornings could be when all I had to do was reach into the freezer, dump the contents of the smoothie into the blender, add a little milk and hit the Power button. In addition, each delivery comes with easy-to-clean reusable straws. Members can choose from 16 original recipes chock-full of superfood chunks and farm-frozen fruits and veggies. I also appreciated that GoodFood included ingredients I typically wouldn’t have on hand at home (acai, hemp, maca, goji, etc.), making for an even sweeter smoothie experience. My husband, in particular, was obsessed with them – he wasn’t much of a smoothie drinker before this experience so I can thank GoodFood for his newfound love.

Favourite Recipe: Butter-Poached Lobster Fra Diavolo over Fresh Fettuccine with Pine Nut-Basil Gremolata

Overall Experience: This rich, buttery pasta dish was just the type of carb overload I needed on the night I decided to prep it. I was expecting a flimsy lobster portion given how pricey the shellfish can be, so I was pleasantly surprised to find that the meaty chunks were as plentiful as they were flavourful. I also appreciated that the Fra Diavolo spice blend had a list of its ingredients. Again, clean-up was a bit more chaotic than I’d like, but nothing quite beats the feeling of being able to simply reach into your fridge for one of those brown paper bags with everything you could possibly need for a well-balanced meal.

Best For:
● Those who want to incorporate more smoothies in their diet
● Introducing more Clean15 (low-carb) meals to your routine

Cook It

Availability: This Montreal-based company is currently only available in Quebec and Ontario but it’s looking to expand. All packaging and instructions come in both French and English.

Average price per person: As low as $7.89.

Packaging: All the ingredients come inside a chilled, 100 per cent recyclable and reusable cardboard box. Of all the companies I tested, Cook It had the most manageable box in terms of size (the majority are pretty bulky and I don’t quite have the wingspan to carry them comfortably) and was the easiest to break down and discard.

Dietary Variety: Members can choose from a diverse selection of meat and vegetarian options.

Convenience: There are a couple of unique features here. Unlike the other meal delivery services I tested, Cook It offers a Pantry section on their website where customers can order local products to add to their box, such as smoothies, milk or granola bars – which is ideal if you’re looking to get in a little grocery shopping as well. They also offer a Ready-to-Eat selection each week that allows you to select from cooked meals that are ready to go once you’ve popped them in the oven or microwave for five minutes.

Favourite Recipe: Curry-Spiced Chicken and Peach Salad

Overall Experience: These were probably the simplest recipes of all the meal delivery kits I tried, both in terms of easy-to-follow instructions and minimal ingredients. The Curry-Spiced Chicken and Peach Salad was a lot easier to prep than I first anticipated and it was savoury and refreshing simultaneously. In fact, all the meals were consistently delicious, including the ready-to-eat beef lasagna that I just needed to heat up in the microwave. I’m leery of pre-cooked packaged meals because I tend to associate it with awful plane food, but the lasagna tasted homemade – my husband, who arrived home late that night, didn’t even realize it wasn’t freshly-prepped. (Airlines might want to consider hiring Cook It to prep their in-flight meals.) In addition, because the recipes I received were so low-maintenance, it also meant the least amount of clean-up afterward, compared to the other companies.

Best For:
● Offering a Pantry section and a selection of ready-to-eat meals
● The most manageable boxes in terms of size and break-down

Final Verdict

There are plenty of pros when it comes to trying out a meal delivery service. It’s ideal for people short on time, who hate meal planning or dread making regular trips to the grocery store. An added bonus is that it truly does help cut down on food waste as everything is so expertly measured out in advance that nothing gets left behind. I loved being able to reach into my fridge each night, pull out a brown paper bag and know that everything I could possibly need for my meal was all in one place.

At the same time, things start to add up and it’s likely going to be more costly overall to rely on meal delivery kits (unless you’re not planning on doing it every single week). Also, be prepared for more of a clean-up than you might be accustomed to and lots (and lots!) of boxes and recyclable materials to take out to your bins.

Related: Here’s How a Nutritionist Meal Preps Every Sunday

9 Easy Weekly Meal Plan Ideas That Really Work

Between busy schedules and a family full of picky eaters,  the dinner struggle is real. Finding inspiration for quick, budget-friendly and (at least somewhat) healthy meals can challenge the best of home cooks, never mind those whose plates are already heaped pile-high.

That’s where meal planning becomes a lifesaver—if you can take the time to actually do it. If you don’t have the means to sit down weekly and plot out your favourite fare, we’ve got your back with this simple guide that will help you plan your meals and grocery list, too. These meal ideas and recipes (one for every night of the week, plus two bonus ideas to swap in and out) makes preparing a weekly meal plan  or menu easy while helping you to create dishes that are anything but routine.

How to Start Meal Planning? Try These No-Fail Meal Planning Ideas!

easy-pasta-pumpkin-sausageGet the recipe for Pasta with Pumpkin and Sausage

1. Start with Pasta

Pasta is an affordable universal favourite, so why not make it a weekly thing? Having a designated pasta night is genius because you can essentially pair any kind of pasta with whichever sauce, protein and veggie you feel like, and then you can do something completely different the following week.

Looking for some inspiration other than another plate of spaghetti and meatballs? Try these recipes instead:

Pasta with Pumpkin and Sausage

15-Minute Three-Cheese Spring Pasta with Peas

Sweet Potato and Zucchini Noodle Pasta with Garlic Scapes and Grilled Shrimp 

Anna Olson’s Beef Stroganoff

Ina Garten’s Bow Tie Pasta with Broccoli and Peas

korean-steakGet the recipe for Korean-Style Marinated Skirt Steak

2. You Can’t go Wrong with Protein and Veg 

A  barbecued, baked or even pan-fried cut of meat or fish always pairs well with some steamed or baked veggies. Switch up your marinades and cooking methods for even more variety, and then throw in some rice, lentils or potatoes for a complete meal.

Want some new ideas? Check out these simple-to-prepare recipes:

30-Minute Kimchi Chicken Patties

No-Mess Sheet Pan Chicken Fajitas

Slow Cooker Pork Tenderloin With Veggies

The Best *Vegan* Steak Recipe Ever 

10-Minute Blackened Trout With Green Beans

Dill Salmon Burgers With Dairy-Free Tzatziki

chourico-kale-soupGet the recipe for Portuguese Chourico and Kale Soup

3. Soup and Salads are Your Friends

There are so many hearty salads and filling soups out there these days that it’s easy to make either one a meal in itself. If the weather is nice, plan on eating an elevated salad one night of the week with some fancy ingredients to make it interesting. Or, for those weeks when you need something a little more comforting, plan on having a hot soup and some crusty baguette to go with it.

Get started with these recipes:

Immune-Boosting Bone Broth, Chicken and Vegetable Soup

The Pioneer Woman’s Cheesy Cauliflower Soup

Slow Cooker Chicken Tortilla Soup

Marinated Artichoke Salad with Prosciutto and Parmesan

The Pioneer Woman’s Lighter Asian Noodle Salad

Instapot-Pulled-Pork-recipeGet the recipe for Instant Pot Barbecue Pulled Pork Sandwich

4. Make Use of Your Slow Cooker or Instant Pot

Who doesn’t love a meal that you can throw together and then forget about until it’s ready? That’s the beauty of slow cookers and Instant Pots—they do all of the heavy lifting for you. Figure out which night of the week will be your busiest, and then plan to use either tool to help pull dinner together in a breeze.

Need a new Crockpot or pressure cooker recipe? Check out any of these delicious dishes:

Instant Pot Barbecue Pulled Pork Sandwich

Instant Pot Chicken Adobo

Slow Cooker Vegetarian Sweet Potato and Black Bean Enchiladas

Slow Cooker Swedish Meatballs

The Pioneer Woman’s Slow Cooker White Chicken Chili

Get the recipe for Slow Cooker Sweet Potato and Black Bean Enchiladas

5. Stock up on Easy-to-Assemble Ingredients

Having a well-stocked pantry is always key when it comes to throwing together last-minute dinners, or figuring out how to use up fresh ingredients that have been sitting in your fridge for a few extra days. Make sure to keep things like canned tuna  and lots of stock, tomato sauce and a few protein-filled grains and legumes on hand.

Check out these simple ideas to elevate your basic pantry staples:

The Pioneer Woman’s Classic Tuna Melts

The Pioneer Woman’s Tuna Noodle Casserole

One Can of Chickpeas, Six Different Meals

10-Minute Spicy Sautéed Cauliflower and Chickpea Dish

One-Pot Spaghetti with Fresh Tomato Sauce

How to Make the Perfect Veggie Burger (Plus One Easy Recipe!)

Get the recipe for The Best Homemade Veggie Burger

6. Find Your Freezer Meals

Remember those meals you made a few months ago that have been sitting in your freezer just waiting to be eaten ever since? Well, make use of them already, especially if you know you have an evening coming up where preparing dinner is just going to be another thing to worry about. And if you haven’t gotten on the freezer meal train just yet, you may want to think about starting. Whether it’s doubling up on your next pasta sauce or cobbling together a second lasagna or tray of enchiladas, there are plenty of freezer meals that you can make ahead of time to enjoy on those hectic nights when cooking is the last thing you want to be doing.

Turkey-Burger-Patty-Melts-recipeGet the recipe for Guy Fieri’s Turkey Burger Patty Melts

7. Have an Eat-With-Your-Hands Night

Whether it’s a burger, pizza or taco, it’s always fun to eat with your hands. That’s probably why these are the same fast-food items we tend to usually order throughout the week. If you want to save money, use better ingredients and still have a meal in a matter of minutes for a well-deserved Eat-With-Your-Hands night!

From pizza and tacos to sloppy joes and charcuterie boards, there are plenty of hands-on dishes to choose from here:

The Pioneer Woman’s Sloppy Joes

Mushroom Lovers’ French Bread Pizzas

The Pioneer Woman’s Shrimp Tacos

Guy Fieri’s Turkey Burger Patty Melts

cauliflower-pot-pieGet the recipe for Vegan Shepherd’s Pie with Crispy Cauliflower Crust

8. Make One Night a Meatless Night

We’ve heard of Meatless Mondays, but really any night of the week is a good excuse to go meatless—especially when you incorporate foods like whole grains, quinoa and barley that fill the tummy and soul. Stir yourself up a creamy risotto, build a yummy Buddha bowl with all the things, or stuff an eggplant or squash with some whole grains and nuts. Keep it simple and hearty, and before long, you won’t even remember a time when you didn’t incorporate a meatless dish into your meal planning.

Check out these easy vegan recipes for beginners to get you started.

Leftover-Turkey-Chili-recipeeGet the recipe for Leftover Turkey Chili

9. Plan a Designated Leftover Night

Last but not least, it’s always a great idea to make one night an evening of no planning. That’s right, we’re talking leftovers. Once a week, throw whatever leftovers you have in the fridge on the table for everyone to enjoy, or reimagine them into a creative, brand new dish that requires very little effort.

Check out some of our favourite ways to use up leftovers here:

The Best Leftover Turkey Pizza 

Our Favourite Leftover Chicken Recipes

The Most Genius Ways to Use Leftover Rice

Weeknight Dinners That Taste Even Better as Leftovers

Looking for more meal planning tips? Try these hacks that will help you plan like a pro.

How I Cooked for My Family of 4 for a Week on Less Than $100

Let’s be real — if you buy in bulk and stick to a budget, it shouldn’t be hard to feed a family of four for a week, right? Right. Except that’s without considering any of the things life throws at you. I’m talking about picky toddlers, a packed schedule and those nights where the last thing you want to do is putter around in the kitchen soaking your own beans, despite your inherent love for culinary adventures. Or is that just me? Regardless, as a working mom with a husband who travels and two toddlers that would be content eating nothing but bread and cheese for the rest of their days, I decided to purge the fridge and cupboards to start fresh for a week. The goal? Feeding the entire family three nutritious meals a day (plus snacks) without breaking the bank. Here’s how it went.

The Overall Plan

Full disclosure: I love grocery shopping. There’s something calming about walking up and down the aisles and planning what I’m going to create next. Unfortunately, when you’re cooking on a budget, that doesn’t necessarily translate. Instead, I used a grocery app to determine the best deals of the week and then created a meal plan based on what was on sale. I started with dinners, because that’s where the bulk of my budget was going (we like leftovers, y’all) and then I went to a store that price-matched. We eat meat in our house, so I wanted to include some animal protein, but we also try to include plant-based dinners at least two to three nights a week.

The other thing I had to consider was stocking up on staples. I was in good shape for things like olive oil and nutritional yeast (more on that below) but I needed some basics like flour, rice and quinoa. In the end, I thought it was going to take hours gouging my eyes out with an Excel sheet, but it was actually pretty painless. I’d say 30 minutes of planning, tops.

Cost Savings Vs. Convenience

Sometimes I’ll buy pre-washed, boxed spinach or mixed greens, because I absolutely hate running salad greens one by one under the faucet and then drying them. Not hate, loathe. I loathe it. But I’m obsessed with doing it properly, because let’s just say I’ve had plenty of experience accidentally ingesting “extra protein” in the past. For this experiment, however, I got four times as much fresh spinach and lettuce for less than a box would have cost me. So I was OK with it.

Then there are the beans. Usually I’ll buy dried beans for less and stock the pantry, but because I wanted to prep once for the entire week, I didn’t want to pressure cook beans and then have them sit there for seven days. It was a lot easier (and not that much more expensive) to buy the canned stuff, so I splurged a bit in that department.

The Grocery List

You probably want to get to the goods, right? Without further ado, here’s everything I bought to stock up the fridge and pantry.

Produce

– Broccoli, $1.27
– Cauliflower, $1.99
– Bagged carrots, $1.49
– Bagged onions, $1.49
– Grape tomatoes, $2
– Bagged beets, $1.97
– 2 bunches spinach, $4
– 2 bunches red leaf lettuce, $3
– Garlic, $1.49
– 2 cucumbers, $4
– 6 bananas, $1.63
– Bag of apples, $4
– Strawberries, $2.5
– Bagged peppers, $2.98
– Bagged mandarins, $2.97
– Celery, $3
– Frozen peas, $0.99

Meat, Dairy and Deli

– Fresh olives, $5.12
– Bagged milk, $3.97
– Brick marble cheese, $3.97
– 18 eggs, $2.99
– Ground turkey, $2
– 2 fresh, whole chickens, $13.62

Pantry and Bakery

– Brown rice, $1.27
– Pasta (my daughter picked “little shells”), $0.88
– Yeast packets, $1.97
– Peanut butter, $3.77
– Flour, $3.99
– Quinoa, $3.47
– 2 cans salt-free chickpeas, $1.58
– 2 cans salt-free black beans, $1.58
– 2 cans diced tomatoes, $1.96
– Tomato paste, $0.59

Total: $93.50

Meal Prepping

If you love devoting an entire Sunday afternoon to meal-prepping, raise your hand. What, no one? I’m shocked. While meal-prepping often feels daunting, I’ve discovered several ways to make it less painful over the years. Sometimes I’ll get my kids to help out and we make it a family affair. Other times, I consider it “me time” and I’ll put on a TV show or listen to a podcast. The bottom line is that I consider it a necessary evil if I want to save time during the week and still eat healthy, so I try to find a positive spin.

My Meal-Prepping Included:

– Hard-boiling eight eggs
– Washing and drying lots of lettuce and spinach
– Cooking a batch of quinoa
– Roasting beets (to add to salads)
– “Ricing” cauliflower in a food processor
– Peeling and cutting carrots
– Washing and cutting celery
– Making a giant vat of homemade tomato sauce
– Roasting both chickens, cooling them and removing the meat
– Making stock from chicken bones (once this was simmering, it pretty much made itself over the course of the night).

Was this work? Very much so. But it saved me so much time during the week on lunch and dinner, as you’ll see below. I should also note that I added nutritional yeast (instead of Parmesan, which I didn’t buy) to the tomato sauce for an extra hit of cheesy, vegan fibre and protein. I also threw in an entire pepper and a few handfuls of spinach, before blending it up with my immersion blender so my kids would never know. I then froze half the sauce, which means sometime in the near future, I’ll have instant tomato sauce for pasta, lazy cabbage rolls or even pizza.

The Meal Planned Menu

Breakfast: I wanted to leave breakfasts fairly neutral, since my kids and husband are perfectly content with toast and fruit or eggs. On busier mornings, we’ll whip up peanut butter banana smoothies (with spinach thrown in there), which my kids can drink in the car. I also bought English muffins so that we could make egg-and-cheese breakfast sandwiches on Saturday morning before we all ran out the door to dance class and I planned for our lazier, traditional Sunday morning pancake breakfast, too.



Get the recipe for Anna Olson’s Fluffy Blueberry Pancakes

Lunches: I figured a combination of leftovers, salads and sandwiches would do. The kids love peanut butter and jam sandwiches or a plate of cut up veggies, cheese and fruit, while my husband and I are happy to concoct a variety of salads with different proteins in them, like beans, a scoop of quinoa or hard-boiled eggs. Because I found chicken on sale, I also factored in leftover chicken to make a multitude of dishes.

Snacks: We’re trying to get away from sugar-laden and expensive pre-bought snacks, so that’s why I stocked up on apples, mandarins, carrots, celery, tomatoes and cucumber. I thought about making hummus with one of the cans of chickpeas (I have some tahini still in my cupboard), but ultimately passed because sometimes it’s so much easier to pair produce with a pre-bought healthy dip, peanut butter or even cheese. At least it is with my kids.

And that brings us to…

Dinners

Sunday: Roasted Chicken and Broccoli With Rice

Because I was already roasting the chicken, I figured it would make for a good Sunday night family dinner. I paired that with steamed broccoli in the microwave, which my kids either love or hate depending on the day. This particular night, the dog seemed to eat more of it than the kids thanks to their scheming, but that’s why I feed the dog last. I also cooked a big batch of brown rice (factoring in leftovers) and both kids devoured that.

Monday: Cauliflower Fried Rice

We’re typically out the door by 5:30PM on Monday nights to make the kids’ activities, so I needed something simple. Enter cauliflower fried rice! While the “healthy” me would prefer to just have cauliflower, that’s not possible with kids. Instead, I masked the cauliflower rice by adding in actual leftover rice from the night before. I stir-fried it with onions, garlic, egg, soy sauce and mushroom oyster sauce, which I bought about six months ago at an Asian food store for a couple of bucks. I also added frozen peas, but I wish I hadn’t, because both kids basically threw them at each other. Everything else was eaten, so I’ll take that win.

Tuesday: Pasta With Ground Turkey

This quick dinner was super simple thanks to the pre-made sauce, and I could have made it vegetarian, except I found that amazing $2 deal on ground turkey. So I cooked that up quickly on the stove as the pasta boiled and then threw it all together for a veggie-filled dinner that my kids devoured. Yes, I did a devious happy dance and maybe even high-fived my husband as we did the dishes afterwards.

Wednesday: Grainy Salad

My daughter is a weirdo like me and she loves cold beans. My son hates beans, but likes the texture of quinoa, which my daughter doesn’t. So I succumbed to motherhood hack and gave her beans on the green plate and him quinoa on the blue plate, with some cut up peppers, cucumbers, cheese cubes and tomatoes. My husband and I essentially ate an adult version of this (quinoa with roasted beets, cucumbers and peppers) mixed together and dressed with a concoction of olive oil, garlic and balsamic vinegar. It would have been even better with feta cheese, but it was still pretty hearty and satisfying. And, thanks to the pre-made quinoa, the whole thing took about 10 minutes to whip up.

Thursday: Chicken Noodle Soup

Once again, my meal-prepping proved to be an amazing decision because I was able to throw chicken stock, carrots, celery, leftover chicken and leftover pasta shells into a pot, heat it up and dole it out into bowls. It was rich, low in sodium and perfect for that day’s colder weather, and there was only one bowl leftover at the end of the night. Oh and for those keeping track, my daughter ate the carrots, my son ate the chicken, they both ate the pasta and then they asked me for some cheese.

Friday: Pizza Night

Does anyone ever want to cook on a Friday night? There’s no better way to usher in the weekend than with pizza, which is why we tend to order them at least every other week. The thing is though, making homemade dough is super easy. I also happen to have pizza stones, which I find give the crust a nice crispiness. So I planned ahead to whip up the crust after work, then I used the leftover secret-veggie tomato sauce as a base and added olives as a topping, which both my kids freakishly love. There wasn’t a single slice left and I wasn’t out money on delivery.. Win, win.

Get the recipe for Roger Mooking’s Buffalo Mozzarella and Tomato Pizza

Saturday: Leftovers

The best part about “cooking” all week was that I had ample food leftover for customized dinners on Saturday night. My husband wanted the soup, while the kids clamoured for pasta. Meanwhile, I was craving a lighter salad after the pizza the night before, which I was able to quickly cobble together with the remaining veggies and hard-boiled eggs in the fridge.

The Results

This entire experiment definitely required planning and a whole whack of prepping, but in the end, it wasn’t as difficult as I thought it would be. The kids ended up eating fairly well, and we didn’t turn to takeout pizza or chicken nuggets once, which is a serious feat for our household.

Would I do this every week? No. But, I’m definitely going to try and keep up when I can, because on those lazier weekends where we’re not running around trying to fit everything in, getting a jump on feeding the family turns out to be an amazing time- and money-saver… with only a small number of peas and broccoli on the floor.

Looking for more meal planning inspiration? Here’s how a nutritionist meal preps every Sunday.

Photos courtesy of Getty Images and Amber Dowling

Do You Really Need an Instant Pot? What You Need to Know Before You Buy

The Instant Pot is a time-saving, multi-purpose, customizable cooking machine that’s transforming meal-time and building a cult-like following.

But if you’ve received this trendy tool as a gift or you’re thinking of buying on, there are a few things you need to know first. From models to meals, to why they’re so darn popular, our Instant Pot review is your guide to the appliance everyone’s talking about.

instant-pot-pork-recipeGet the recipe for Instant Pot Barbecue Pulled Pork Sandwiches

What is an Instant Pot, Anyway?

Like your slow cooker, Instant Pots house an inner pot warmed by an electric element. But the Instant Pot is more than a slow cooker, it’s a multi-cooker. It replaces up to seven common kitchen appliances, like a pressure cooker, rice cooker and yogurt maker, and speeds the cooking process so you can simmer, braise, slow cook, steam, and warm faster. And according to some, you can make wine in it too.

Related: Best Instant Pot Recipes for Quick and Easy Dinners

How to Choose an Instant Pot Model

If you aren’t sure which one to buy, Instant Pot model comparison can be a bit overwhelming. That’s because you can select from eight different models within five distinct product series ranging in size (six to eight quarts), and features (from 6-in-1 to 10-in-1).

Beginner (and busy) meal makers can take advantage of the 10 Smart Built-in Programs found in the Lux Series models, while intermediate cooks can play with the 14 programs in the Duo and Duo Plus models. True Instant Pot enthusiasts can wield the Bluetooth enabled, Ultra model and its whopping 16 programs to expand their repertoire to include yogurt, cake, eggs, and even sterilized baby bottles.

Be sure to consider how you cook now. Are you a big batch cooker, or are you more prone to making smaller meals for a family of two? Go through some of your favourite recipes and consider which ones could be made faster or better in an Instant Pot. Do you make a lot of braises, stews, grains, yogurt, legumes already? This will help you decide the model and size best fit for your cooking habits.

If you are in the market to replace your ageing slow cooker, this might be a good option, as it can be used in a variety of ways.

Related: The 30-Minute Instant Pot Curry a Nutritionist Makes Every Week

5-Ingredient Instant Pot Mac and CheeseGet the recipe for 5-Ingredient Instant Pot Mac and Cheese

The Pros and Cons of Buying an Instant Pot

Pros
1. Faster Cooking with Pressure

What drives the Instant Pot’s popularity—apart from its ability to make great food—is that it provides users with the most sacred resource of all: Time. Yes, meal prep and warming the machine are required, but the dishwasher-safe Instant Pot dutifully (and silently) cooks two to six times faster than conventional methods. That means you can cook braises like pulled pork, tender stew and roast beef in under an hour, making them weeknight accessible.

2. It Makes Great Rice

When it comes to taste and texture, the machine’s evenly distributed heat and steaming process ensures vegetables keep their colour, and that grains emerge fluffy and soft.

3. The Sauté Function Brings the Flavour

Like your Dutch oven, you can sauté meats, onions or bloom spices right in the Instant Pot. So go ahead and sear that pork tenderloin, then deglaze with wine or stock, pop the lid on and pressure cook it right in the same pot. The result is tender meat without losing any of that beautiful flavour caused by browning right in the pot.

4. There are Tons of Great Instant Pot Recipes

The Instant Pot also delivers variety. Between the app, cookbooks, and innumerable blogs, novel recipes are just a click away. Easy dishes like an Instant Pot whole chicken are great for weeknights while time-saving staples like Instant Pot beef stew or our 5-Ingredient Instant Pot Mac and Cheese are ready in a snap. What’s more, the Intelligent Programming and Save Customized Cooking settings on the LUX and DUO models memorize your preferred settings and learn to cook your meal exactly the way you like it every time.

If you are already making your own yogurt weekly, or are looking for a way to make faster curry, the Instant Pot might be your dream machine.

Instant Pot Chicken AdoboGet the recipe for Instant Pot Chicken Adobo

Cons
1. You Need Counter Space

Fast though it may be, Instant Pots can eat up much needed counter space so be sure it will get enough use to justify its prime real estate next to the toaster or the coffee maker.

2. There’s a Learning Curve

This may be the Swiss army knife of kitchen appliances but mastering the extensive features, double-digit programs, and hefty instruction manual can be time-consuming. Compared to the ease of turning the knob on your trusty Crock Pot, the learning curve can be steep. Also, dealing with high pressure makes some people nervous and you want to feel confident that you’ve sealed it correctly before bringing it to full pressure.
But there is good news: Instant Pot’s website is home to a mountain of getting started and troubleshooting videos, FAQs, and even live support.

3. It May Not be as Fast as You Think

On the practical side, not everything is cooked faster in the Instant Pot. By the time the machine gets up to pressure, cooks, then depressurizes, you could have boiled those potatoes on the stove. Keep in mind how much braising, rice and yogurt-making you do regularity to determine if this will indeed be a timesaver for you and your family. Also, because the pressure and slow cooker functions seal in the steam, you’ll need to give yourself extra time to bubble or boil off extra liquid, so your stews are the right consistency.