What Makes a Weeknight Meal

Weeknight Meals Series Part 1

Ah yes, the time has come upon us, the time when everyone’s getting back into a routine and looking for those easy weeknight meals. 

When searching for weeknight meals myself, I was pretty disappointed. I saw so many recipes advertised as “weeknight meals” while simultaneously using 10 different dishes and taking 2 hours total. Recipe roundups included the likes of fried chicken, shepherd’s pie and enchiladas; none of which I consider to be worthy of the weeknight meal title. 

In my eyes (and in my kitchen), a weeknight dinner is an easy, quick and deliciously filling meal. It really is pretty plain and simple, but let’s dive into these components a little more!

The Four Pillars of a Successful Weeknight Meal

Easy

You know those recipes that use 25 ingredients, steps or pans? Those aren’t my kind of weeknight meals. My weeknight cooking calls on recipes that are easy and simple to make. They don’t have a ton of steps or a bunch of overly complicated moving parts; it’s just straightforward and simple home cooking.

Quick

Weeknight meals are all about utilizing the little time we have on weeknights to make a delicious dinner. So cook time has gotta be a pretty important aspect of weeknight cooking. And of course, along with cooking comes cleaning up. If you cook a meal in 15 minutes, but then it takes an hour to clean up, did the meal really take 15 minutes? Not to me. Along with ease, a weeknight meal must be both quick to cook as well as quick to clean up after. So that means it doesn’t use a ton of dishes or every ingredient in your kitchen. Basically, for a meal to be considered worthy of a weeknight, it’s gotta be made in under an hour max while also avoiding leaving your kitchen looking like a bomb hit it. A tough, but manageable task, I promise.

Filling

One thing I saw a lot of in my search for weeknight meals were recipes that only yielded a protein or a side. But that doesn’t fly with me. Yeah that chicken or whatever only took you 30 minutes, but you can’t just eat chicken for dinner. I mean you could, but I’m not here for that. 

Thus, a good weeknight meal is a full meal, complete with a protein, a carb and a veg (or at least two of the three, we’re doing our best here).

Delicious

With all of its ease, speediness and heartiness, a weeknight meal still must be delicious. A flavorless and sad dinner has no place on my kitchen table, so while the former pillars are important, a quick meal is worthless without being able to fully enjoy eating it!

This is the gold mine of a weeknight dinner: easy, quick, filling and delicious. If a recipe has all of these factors, write it down and save it forever. That is a tall task to ask though, so even if a recipe has just one or two of these factors, it can very well still be a weeknight meal in my house.

Why Look for Weeknight Meals

Okay, now we know what makes a weeknight meal, but what’s the point again? I mentioned it briefly in the quick section of the Four Pillars, but let’s talk a little more about why true weeknight meals are important. 

First, we have to acknowledge why cooking is important. For me, it’s a way to nourish my body in a healthy and happy way while also saving money. Eating out is expensive and usually not sustainable in any way. 

At the same time, cooking takes time and energy that everyone might not have after a long day (whatever that day may have held). But, you don’t need to cook a super complicated meal to reap the aforementioned benefits of cooking at home. 

Enter, the weeknight meal that is easy, quick, filling and delicious. It’s a way to nourish your body, soul and wallet while also not sacrificing precious, fleeting time during the week.

My Last Note

Now, the very last thing I’ll say is that even with weeknight meals, you do not have to cook every single weeknight. That’s a little insane, even for someone who loves to cook. It just isn’t efficient and isn’t sustainable. So even if you can just cook a weeknight meal once or twice a week, I’d count that as a major win! Just don’t get too caught up in it; find what works for you.

Want more inspiration for your weeknight meals?

Worry not. Stay tuned for three (hopefully?) more parts to this Weeknight Meals Series that’ll include meal ideas and recipes!

Weeknight Meals Series Part 2: One Pot/One Sheet Weeknight Meals 

Weeknight Meals Series Part 3: 30 Minutes or Less Weeknight Meals 

Weeknight Meals Series Part 4: 10 Ingredients or Less Weeknight Meals

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