Taylor Tries to Cook: Meal Planning

I’ve always been intrigued by the idea of meal planning. It would be so nice to be able to just grab a pre-made, healthy meal through the week instead of resorting to Hot Pockets or Chick-Fil-A like I normally do. Unfortunately, I do not have my life together enough to be proactive and make all of my lunches for the week. If you’ve ever taken a morning class with me, you know that it’s all I can do to get out of bed and show up some mornings. It really just sounded like too much work for me to ever give it a shot.

The cut up chicken in the spice marinade!
The cut up chicken in the spice marinade!

However, I wanted to see how hard it would really be to make something yummy that I could easily eat off of for a few days. And it honestly was not that bad. I found this recipe for the chicken bowls that I made on a website called Budget Bytes, which I will definitely be referring to in the future. They list the cost of each ingredient listed in their recipes, perfect for college students or recent grads on a budget.

While I already had some of the necessary spices before, I had to purchase many of them which made this a little pricy up front. But it is helping me build up a pantry full of things I can use for a long time, and now I have all the spices needed to easily make this again. One of the best things about writing this column every week is that I now actually have things in my kitchen to cook with.

I put the rice on first, which just had to be brought to a boil and then left to simmer in some chicken broth for about a half hour. Then I made the sweet and spicy marinade for the chicken and tossed the chicken in it, putting it in the fridge to marinate while I prepped the pineapple, black beans, green onions, and avocado. Last I cooked the chicken for about 7 minutes in a large skillet. Then I put equal portions of each ingredient into four containers, and I was done.

Prepped fresh ingredients!
Prepped fresh ingredients!

This was super easy and turned out great, however when I make this again I would probably let the chicken marinate overnight in the fridge so that it is more flavorful. I would also make extra of the sauce to drizzle over the rice, as I found the “sweet and spicy” flavor a little lacking once everything was mixed together.

This experience has not converted me into a Pinterest maven that plans every meal, but I am more open to doing this in the future, especially if I know I have a busy week ahead of me. It was really quite nice the next day to have a fresh, healthy meal to eat for lunch.

 

Chicken cooking!
Chicken cooking!

 

Recipe (from BudgetBytes.com):

INGREDIENTS
Spice Mix
  • 1 tsp mild chili powder $0.10
  • ½ tsp cumin $0.05
  • ¼ tsp garlic powder $0.03
  • ¼ tsp smoked paprika $0.03
  • ⅛ tsp cayenne pepper $0.02
  • Freshly Cracked Pepper to taste $0.05
  • ¼ tsp salt $0.02
  • 1 Tbsp olive oil $0.16
  • 1 Tbsp honey $0.12
  • ½ tsp apple cider vinegar $0.02
Rice
  • 1 cup uncooked brown rice $0.60*
  • 1¾ cup chicken broth $0.26
Bowl Ingredients
  • 1 boneless skinless chicken breast (about ¾ lb.) $1.49**
  • 1 8oz. can pineapple tidbits in juice $0.86
  • 1 15oz. can black beans $0.84
  • 1 ripe avocado $0.98
  • 2 green onions $0.22
  • ¼ bunch cilantro (optional) $0.20
INSTRUCTIONS
  1. Begin by cooking the rice. Combine the uncooked rice and chicken broth in a small pot. Place a lid on top and bring to a boil over high heat. As soon as it reaches a full boil, turn the heat down to low and let simmer for 25 minutes. After 25 minutes, turn the heat off and let it sit undisturbed, with the lid in place for 10 minutes. Fluff with a fork.
  2. Prepare the honey spice mix by combining the chili powder cumin, garlic, smoked paprika, cayenne, freshly cracked pepper, salt, honey, olive oil, and apple cider vinegar in a bowl.
  3. Chop the chicken breast into small pieces. Add it to the bowl with the honey spice mix and toss to coat. Set the seasoned meat aside while you prepare the rest of the bowl ingredients.
  4. Rinse and drain the black beans. Drain the pineapple, then chop the tidbits into smaller pieces. Slice the green onions. Rinse and roughly chop the cilantro. Cut the avocado in half, then use a pairing knife to slice or cube the flesh.
  5. Heat a large non-stick skillet over medium heat. Add the chopped and seasoned chicken pieces and sauté until cooked through and slightly browned (5-7 minutes).
  6. Build the bowls by adding ¾ cup cooked rice to each bowl, followed by ¼ of each of the following: cooked chicken, black beans, pineapple, avocado, green onions, and cilantro.
The final product!
The final product!
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