If you read my post last week about us doing a No-Spend Month, you saw one of our biggest goals was to decrease our takeout/delivery spending. My first trimester, I was significantly more tired than I was used to, and while I still get tired more easily, it’s not to the degree that it was – but I still sometimes use that excuse to not make dinner or not prep lunch and just order out or stop by and grab a meal somewhere; which can get really costly.
So, I am trying to be a bit more intentional in meal planning and making sure I am doing any necessary prep on Sunday’s to ensure that we stick to that meal plan. It’s a lot harder for me to come home and feign laziness is half of the work is already done for me.
We always have staples in our house that we will cycle through like, crock pot steak fajitas, spaghetti, tacos, linguine with sausage and peppers, etc. But, we also like to try out new things regularly so that we don’t get bored with the same meals all the time.
That’s where my ever-growing cookbook collection comes into play. I have collected them randomly for years and I have always enjoyed just reading through them and getting inspiration for dinners and lunches. Often when I feel like we’re in a rut, I pull out one of them to get some new ideas – even the ones I’ve owned for years because tastes change over time and sometimes things I wouldn’t have made before look appealing now.
Since I have been flipping through some of my favorites recently, I wanted to share some of my favorites for easy/simple dinners that I have been reaching for the most. All of them either focus on being one-pot meals or meal prepping, and they all have the most delicious recipes that you can make as written or modify if you have specific nutritional/diet needs (hello fellow celiacs!).
So, let’s take a look at 5 of my favorite cookbooks. Don’t worry these are in no specific order – they are all wonderful resources.
If you ever read the Damn Delicious recipe website and love it as much as I do, you’ll love this cookbook too. I actually own this one as well as Chungah Reeh’s other Damn Delicious cookbook, but I have this one here because it’s the one I reach for the most. If you are someone who is looking to do basic meal prep – maybe you’re just looking to have lunches ready to go every morning, this is perfect. It shows you how to prep every recipe and how to store every recipe to ensure that it is still fresh and ready to go later in the week. Plus, her photos are gorgeous. While I am not one of those people who believes food has to look pretty all the time, but it’s definitely a plus when it does.
2. Cook’s Country One Pan Wonders
I love this one because it has different varieties of one-pot meals. There are slow cooker recipes, ones that you can make in a skillet or a dutch oven, sheet pan meals and casseroles (which is a word I randomly despise, like “moist”, but not every book is perfect). It has indicators on the recipes that say whether or not this would potentially make a good weeknight meal – which typically means all prep and cooking would take less than one hour. We’ve tried quite a number of different things from here and we have really enjoyed everything. When I know I have a busy week, I’ll usually pull this cookbook out to see if there is anything that would be quick and delicious for us to try that week.
This cookbook has a unique layout because it actually gives you 26 weeks of meal plans. Each week centers around three key ingredients that will be used throughout 3 different meals in that week. It also lays out a plan for you to actually prep everything before the week starts, so each night you’re basically just assembling and cooking the meals. Sometimes, you don’t even have to assembly – you just put it in the oven and go on with your evening. You can follow the week in it’s entirety, or you can just pick and choose recipes that you want to make individually. If you do decide to do an entire week, it also has a section of quick meals that you can use as filler meals to create an entire week of meals.
If you are looking to start meal planning and feel overwhelmed by it, this is a great starting place since it gives you the list of ingredients for the week, the meals, and a step-by-step guide on how to prep everything. All the recipes in this book are also gluten-free, however, they are easily customizable, so if you aren’t gluten-free, you can substitute gluten versions of ingredients.
4. America’s Test Kitchen – The Complete Slow Cooker
This book seems pretty self-explanatory, right? It’s all recipes that I can throw in the slow cooker before leaving for work in the morning. I love walking in the house and smelling dinner already cooked in the slow cooker. Typically if I know I’m going to make a slow-cooker meal during the week, I’ll try to prep all of the ingredients the night before so I can just throw it all in the slow cooker in the morning, set the timer and go to work. I typically don’t make things that can’t be in the crock pot for 8-10 hours (because while I have a rather nice slow cooker, I can’t control the time of it from my phone like some of the newer models can), but most of the recipes in here can easily go on low for a long period of time.
5. Instant Pot Bible: The Next Generation
Since getting my Instant Pot last year I have been trying out all sorts of things in my Instant Pot. So far, ribs and soup are our favorites, but this cookbook has over 350 recipes for all different courses and cuisines (it even has breakfast and dessert). I, personally, like that it provides gluten free options for all recipes – while I know not everyone would need it, the celiac people appreciate it. If you are someone who needs pictures for everything, this may not be your favorite cookbook because there are very few of them, but it has a plethora of ideas that you can easily make on a weeknight.
Honorable Mention: My Recipe Binder
This little binder has to be about 10 years old at this point and it one of the things Devon likes to “giggle” at me for. It’s filled with recipes I’ve found in magazines or Pinterest that I’ve tried and loved. Half of these things I’ve made so many times I don’t really need to read the recipe anymore, but still keep it just in case. I keep recipes in the front pocket that I have found and want to try, so a lot of times, when I’m meal planning, I will start with those and see if anything sounds particularly interesting to try that week. Then I’ll usually flip through and see if there was anything that I haven’t made in awhile but should re-visit. I typically grab at least one meal from here a week. If you haven’t started your own recipe binder yet, I highly suggest it. It’s the easiest way to keep track of all of those favorite Pinterest recipes that we all “heart” and then forget about.
If you are looking to get on track this year with meal planning and cooking more at home without having to spend all night in a kitchen, I highly recommend trying out a couple of these cookbooks to give yourself a great selection of recipes to pull from when you need a hit of inspiration.
Let me know what some of your favorite cookbooks are, I’m always more than happy to add to my collection.