30-Minute Meal Plan: Quick and Simple Recipes to Free Up a Busy Week

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J. Kenji López-Alt

I've been vowing to stop answering the question "How are you doing?" with some variation on "So busy." We're all burning the candle at both ends, it seems. And talking about being busy doesn't put words on the website, or dinner on the table. These days, I need to get really honest with myself about how much I can take on, especially when it comes to meals. I want to be excited about the food I'm cooking—it's easy to get bored with the same salad or the same pasta over and over—but I usually can't swing a recipe with 25 ingredients and a dozen steps.

That's where this week's meal plan comes in. Below you'll find a week full of truly delicious—and fun—homemade breakfasts, lunches, and dinners, all of which can be ready in 30 minutes or less. Which will leave you a bit of extra time in your week to actually relax, and maybe even to forget to talk about how busy you are.

Sunday

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Daniel Gritzer

I'm not great at doing kitchen inventory, so I often find a bizarre assortment of veggies in my fridge at the end of the week. They're best put to use in a filling hash with some par-cooked potatoes (follow Kenji's advice for the best potato hash technique). Then, come cocktail hour, send off the weekend in style with a dirty martini and a quick-cooking hanger steak, served with a fresh green salad. Leftover steak will be awesome in Monday's sandwich.

Brunch: Crispy Kale, Brussels Sprouts, and Potato Hash or Spicy Potato, Bok Choy, and Shallot Hash
Snack: Cheese and salumi
Dinner: Dirty Martinis and Hanger Steak With Bagna Cauda Pan Sauce with a simple green salad
Dessert: Light and Easy 5-Minute Fruit Mousse

Monday

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J. Kenji López-Alt

If you didn't manage to snag some leftover steak bits for a sandwich, no worries: A hearty bean salad, flecked with red onions and smashed Marcona almonds, is quick to make and sure to keep you satisfied through the afternoon. And, while you could order delivery, it's actually faster to pull our crispy bar-style pizza fresh out of the oven.

Breakfast: Date, Tahini, and Cardamom Smoothie, or yogurt, fruit, and granola
Lunch: Leftover steak in a sandwich with onions and arugula, or Bean Salad With Radicchio, Radish, Pickled Onions, and Marcona Almonds
Snack: Nuts, raw veggies, and olives
Dinner: Extra-Crispy Bar-Style Tortilla Pizza Supreme with Kale Caesar Salad

Tuesday

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J. Kenji López-Alt

I don't know why it took me so long to get a pressure cooker; it's one of the best tools I know for whipping up shockingly quick and low-effort protein-packed meals. I've made pulled pork in 20 minutes and tender, saucy chicken thighs in 10. This week, the plan involves Kenji's 30-minute green chili, flavored with tomatillos, Poblano peppers, and cumin.

Breakfast: Toast with almond butter and banana
Lunch: More bean salad or Quinoa Salad With Dried Tart Cherries, Mint, and Feta in Lemon-Sumac Vinaigrette
Snack: Hummus and veggies
Dinner: Easy Pressure Cooker Green Chili With Chicken. No pressure cooker? Go with this quick Tortilla Soup With Chicken and Avocado instead.

Wednesday

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J. Kenji López-Alt

Wednesday's chicken dinner depends on whether you have access to a grill. If you do, go for quick-marinated cutlets. Cooking indoors? Restaurant-worthy pan-roasted chicken breasts with a rich pan sauce can be yours in half an hour. Stash away some leftovers for Thursday's lunch.

Breakfast: Soft or fluffy scrambled eggs, with salsa or hot sauce and tortillas if desired
Lunch: Leftover chili or soup, or Avocado Toast With Smoked Salmon, Goat Cheese, and Capers
Snack: Fresh mozzarella and olive oil
Dinner: Easy Pan-Roasted Chicken Breasts With Lemon and Rosemary Pan Sauce or 5-Minute Grilled Chicken Cutlets With Rosemary, Garlic, and Lemon, served with our Easy Greek Chopped Salad

Thursday

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Vicky Wasik

Part of the reason I need a weekly meal plan is that, if left to my own devices, I'd eat spaghetti every single night. And, while that may not be the best idea, I can't cut out pasta completely; these recipes are just too damn good. Choose umami-packed puttanesca or silky carbonara, or go all in with mushroom and sausage pasta baked in a cast iron skillet.

Breakfast: Gateway Green Smoothie or Toast With Refried Beans and Avocado
Lunch: Leftover chicken and salad
Snack: Almonds, carrots, and hummus
Dinner: Pasta night! Spaghetti Puttanesca (Spaghetti With Capers, Olives, and Anchovies), Spaghetti Carbonara, or Crispy Baked Pasta With Mushrooms, Sausage, and Parmesan Cream Sauce

Friday

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J. Kenji López-Alt

To celebrate the end of a busy week, make yourself the platonic ideal of an Egg McMuffin. The English muffin halves get toasted in butter, the Canadian bacon gets sizzled in a little more butter, and the egg is cleverly cooked into a perfect round, nestled in a Mason jar lid. It's a breakfast that's hard to top, though a dinner of juicy pork tenderloin with a bourbon and fig glaze isn't a bad way to try. (Pair it with a bourbon cocktail if you want to get fancy.)

Breakfast: Homemade Egg McMuffin
Lunch: Roast Beef, Pickle, and Horseradish Smørrebrød
Snack: Ricotta, honey, and fresh fruit
Dinner: Easy Pan-Roasted Pork Tenderloin With Bourbon-Soaked Figs

Saturday

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Yasmin Fahr

Turkey burgers can be bland, but our moist and tender versions are anything but. Flavorful dark-meat turkey is mixed with fresh herbs and garlic, then cooked and topped with creamy avocado-cumin mash or spicy Sriracha mayo. Candy bar–inspired milkshakes will close the meal on a fun note.

Breakfast: Perfect Steamed Soft-Boiled Eggs or Eggs Baked in Avocados, with toast or tortillas
Lunch: Grilled Mozzarella Sandwiches With Mortadella, Pesto, and Artichokes
Snack: Sliced mango with a sprinkle of chili powder
Dinner: Juicy Turkey Burgers With Sriracha Mayo and Charred Scallions or Juicy Turkey Burgers With Avocado-Cumin Mash
Dessert: Peanut Butter Cup Milkshakes or Better Than Snickers Milkshakes

Sunday

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Vicky Wasik

For a Sunday seafood feast, try cooking halibut and clams in a broth that's flavored with fennel, white wine, dill, and celery. Sounds elaborate, right? But it takes only 30 minutes in the kitchen. Even after you've put together our super-simple strawberry shortcakes for dessert, you'll likely have a little extra time on your hands.

Brunch: Diner-Style Asparagus, Bacon, and Gruyère Omelette for Two with Plum, Date, Banana, and Maple-Bacon Salad
Snack: Cheese and crackers
Dinner: Halibut à la Nage With Clams, Dill, and White Wine or 15-Minute Mussels With Fennel-Saffron Broth
Dessert: 5-Ingredient Strawberry Shortcakes