1000 Dinners Later :: My Secret to Meal Planning Success

I know what you’re thinking. “1,000 dinners?? That HAS to be clickbait!”

It’s not. I’ve legitimately made over 1,000 meals thanks to one person and her thirty minute meals. You guessed it – Rachael Ray.

I didn’t always love to cook. There was a time I thought throwing in one-pan frozen meals counted as cooking. Then I upgraded to frozen chicken nuggets and boxed macaroni and cheese (just ask my husband about those days!). Things have changed drastically the past five years. Know what I made for dinner tonight? Warm chopped chicken piccata spinach salad. Last night I made chicken and leeks in a wine reduction sauce over couscous.

It all started with watching Rachael Ray’s cooking show which led to the purchase of my first Rachael Ray cookbook. Rachael Ray, if you’re reading this, I love you! Here, let me count the ways.

Rachael Ray brings variety in my life.

I once had someone tell me they cook the same thing week after week. That is mind-blowingly boring to me. The last two years, I used Rachael Ray’s 365 No-Repeats cookbook and cooked something different for dinner every single night. Granted, my kid doesn’t always love every single meal, but just because he eats chicken nuggets or grilled cheese for dinner doesn’t mean I have to!

The recipes are easy to adjust.

There have been times I couldn’t find a particular ingredient (like escarole or wax beans), so I either used a close substitute or went without it. Since my family has milk allergies, I do not use any milk, butter, or cream. No problem! Want to go low carb? Use spaghetti squash instead of pasta and lettuce wraps instead of buns!

I have learned how to cook in a low-pressure way.

If you’ve ever seen a Rachael Ray recipe, you probably noticed that she doesn’t use exact measurements. Need olive oil? That’s a drizzle twice around the pan. Chili powder? 1/2 a palmful. I like that I don’t feel like I’m cooking up a science experiment! Because it’s so easy and the finish product is so delicious, I enjoy cooking dinner each night.

There are SO MANY RECIPES!

Each week, I sit down and choose 4-5 meals to cook for the following week. Sometimes I pull recipes from a Rachael Ray cookbook (365 No Repeat and Express Lane Meals are my favorites). Other times I’ll pull recipes from her magazine or her website. Then, I make my list, and I’m all set for the week.

Are you intrigued? Want to give it a go?

Here’s a menu I used just a few weeks ago with the links to the recipes. I even included my shopping list (I added in seasonings you’re going to need, too).

Monday: Carbonara with Sausage and Mushrooms

Tuesday: Chicken Paillard Francese

Wednesday: Smoky Tex-Mex Sloppy Joses

Thursday: Chicken and Herb Pot Pie Stoup

Friday: Mamma Leone-Style Eggplant and Sausage Ragu

Meal Plan Shopping List

Bon Appetite! If you make some of these for dinner, snap a picture and share it with NOMB! I’d love to hear how it went!

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