Single Ingredient Menu Planning

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4 minutes
September 30, 2022
Carole Jones

Are you looking to save time when it comes to meal prepping? This post is all about using ONE ingredient and transforming it into FIVE different dinners all week long. It is how I’ve been cooking for years and it is a massive time saver! And be sure to grab your FREE single ingredient menu plan, including all the recipes you need to get yourself started.

1 ingredient cooking

I already know what you’re thinking….

Who wants chicken (or beef, pork, beans…) every single night?

And the answer is, absolutely no one…but the beauty of this style of cooking comes from how you TRANSFORM that single ingredient every night so it doesn’t feel like you are having the same ingredient over and over again.

Plus, this week you might do chicken, then next week you use a different ingredient as the base of your five meals. That is how you create variety while still saving yourself a ton of time.

How does single ingredient menu planning work?

Simply summarized, you cook enough of your single ingredient to last for the week and store it in the fridge. Then every night, you pull some out to use in a recipe from the already cooked protein.

This style is completely flexible dependent on what you like to eat. I do suggest that whatever single ingredient you choose is one that is hearty and can be the foundation of any recipe you use it in. A few suggestions are chicken, beef (roasted or ground), pork, seafood, beans, potatoes, and squash.

All of the above mentioned ingredients work well in all types of regional cuisines and can be cooked ahead of time without losing any quality.

How much of the single ingredient should I prepare?

This is completely dependent on the size of your family and the recipes you use the ingredient in. For a family of 5, I suggest a great starting point is around 5 pounds of your base ingredient. In your free single ingredient menu plan, I used 5 pounds of chicken breasts as the foundation for the 5 recipes included in the plan.

If you aren’t sure where to start, pick your 5 recipes you want to make using the same base ingredient and do the math to figure out how much you want.

For example, let’s say you are going to use ground beef for your next menu plan and these are the 5 recipes you have chosen. Just mark how much ground beef each recipe needs:

Recipe Amount of Beef Needed
Chili1 pound
Tacos1.5 pounds
Spaghetti1 pounds
Stuffed peppers.50 pounds
Tater tot casserole1 pound

So if this was my menu plan for the week, I would need to purchase and cook 5 pounds of ground beef.

Do I season the single ingredient when I am cooking it?

Absolutely! No matter what you are using as your base single ingredient, season it well with a minimum of kosher salt and pepper. I also use onion and garlic powder because they always pair well with whatever recipe application it will be used in.

Doesn’t this mean the ingredient gets cooked twice?

Here is the key to success with this…do NOT cook your base ingredient a second time or it can get tough and overcooked.

You want to use the pre-cooked base ingredients wisely so they are only being reheated. Take the example of chicken noodle soup. You would prepare your soup using veggies, broth, and noodles as normal. Then, before serving, add the already prepared pieces of chicken to the soup and let them get hot. Done!

If you had put the chicken in the soup at the beginning, your chicken would become tough and dry.

Here’s a FREE single ingredient menu plan to get you started

As a way to convert you to this style of cooking, I have put together a fully packed example for you to try on your own. It includes directions for seasoning and cooking the 5 pounds of chicken, how to store it, and the five recipes to use the chicken in all week long. And double bonus….it also includes a shopping list so you know exactly what to get at the store.

Single ingredient menu plan

All you need to do is click here to download your free single ingredient menu plan now!

Carole Jones

Carole Jones is an Arizona-based cookbook author & food blogger. She's authored The 30 Minute Cooking From Frozen Cookbook and the self-published Take 5: Chicken e-cookbook. For the past 15 years, Carole has shared her culinary adventures cooking and baking for her six brutally honest children here on My Kitchen Escapades. Hot, crusty bread is Carole's love language, but her two adorable grandchildren are a close second. Yes, second. Don't judge.

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