I recently moved into an apartment building that shares a parking lot with a huge grocery store, and I'd be lying if I said that the proximity wasn't a huge selling point. See, even though I have plenty of experience cooking, developing recipes, and publishing super organized meal plans, I still find myself in need of last-minute groceries on a regular basis—milk for coffee, greens to turn leftovers into a salad, or some dinner ingredient that I swore I bought but then can't find. The fact that I can get to the store in back in under 10 minutes makes life so much easier. (I honestly just ran over to restock my stash of black cherry seltzer. A necessity.)
I know most people aren't so lucky, and that last-minute grocery runs can put a damper on otherwise perfect weeknights. I'm also of the belief that grocery shopping is absolutely the hardest part of cooking. It's easy to whip up a quick meal when you have the right ingredients around, but anticipating what those ingredients will be days in advance isn't easy, and actually takes a fair amount of planning. You can't just throw whatever looks good into your grocery cart and hope for the best, because satisfying meals are all about the right combination of ingredients. You need a mixture of man-that-looks-delicious stuff (meat, cheese, in-season produce) and less exciting things that will complement it (canned beans, dry grains, oils, condiments, eggs, milk, etc.). Basically, you need to go in with a plan.
To help make meal planning a breeze for you, I came up with 7 dinner recipes that you can make with the same 12 ingredients!
There are two chicken recipes, two tilapia recipes, and three meatless recipes. Each recipe serves two people, and has a healthy balance of carbs, protein, and fat, in accordance with current USDA dietary guidelines. The meals are tasty, but they're definitely simple, so you should feel free to customize them by adding spices, extra veggies, toppings, or whatever else you love.
Here's your 12-ingredient grocery list for the recipes.
Baby spinach, 6 ½ cups
Baguette (whole wheat), 2 12-inch baguettes
Basil, 1 ¼ cups
Cherry tomatoes, 3 pints
Chicken thighs, 4
Parmesan, 6 ½ ounces
Tilapia, 16 ounces
White beans, 1 can
Wild rice, 2 cups dry (6 cups cooked)
You'll also need:
All of these ingredients will keep for the entire week when stored properly. If you're not sure how to best store your produce, here's some sound advice. You should only keep raw fish and chicken in the refrigerator for one to two days, so anything you're not planning on eating in that span of time should be put in an airtight container and frozen, then thawed in the refrigerator overnight before you cook it.
Three of the recipes call for cooked wild rice, so you can just make a big batch at the start of the week and reuse the leftovers. Two cups dry wild rice will yield the 6 cups that you need. The cooked rice will keep in the fridge for up to four days, so anything you don't plan to eat in that span of time should be frozen in an airtight container and frozen, then thawed in the refrigerator overnight before you cook with it.