Simplify dinner prep with connected meal planning (recipe: Chicken & Biscuits)

Easy chicken and biscuits pot pie remake 4

The following is a guest post from Katie of Kitchen Stewardship. Welcome, Katie!

When friends tell me they don’t like leftovers, I generally sort of gape openly at them and stand frozen  for a few minutes, shocked, eyes wide in disbelief.

We eat leftovers for lunch almost every day.

Once I scrape my jaw off the floor, I usually find enough words to stammer, “Why not?!”

Most of the time, people don’t like the idea of eating the same thing two or three days in a row. They get tired of it. In contrast, our family loves leftovers. If I look in the fridge and announce that there are (“only”) two choices for lunch, everyone feels like they have been shorted, like we are practically out of food.

I’m always thrilled to Cook Once, and Serve Twice – that old C.O.S.T. acronym that freezer cookbooks in particular like to use. Typically C.O.S.T. means making a big batch of a meal and saving an entire meal in the freezer for later.

Easy chicken and biscuits pot pie remake 5
All photos by Katie

I love that little “gift to self,” too, but when I Cook Once, Serve Twice, it’s more like “connected meal planning,” my term for a series of meals that use some similar ingredients placed in the same week, so you can use up your perishables and save on prep time by using something from one meal for the next.

For example, when I buy a bag of spinach on sale, I take care to plan at least two meals that will use it so I don’t throw away a half bag of slimy spinach mush the following week. Throwing away food I’ve spent money on is just like throwing away money, so good planning makes good “cents.”

Connected meal planning also saves me time. Some from-scratch meals require quite a bit of prep, things like cooking rice or chicken before beginning a casserole, having homemade tortillas on hand for enchiladas, or using leftover bread for a crunchy casserole topping. If I planned each meal independent of the rest of the week, I could be spending two to three hours just to make a weekday dinner.

If I plan with connections, this is what might happen:

  • Make chili and cornbread one day; a double batch of cornbread becomes the gluten-free topping for this Homestyle Crunchy-Topped Chicken Casserole (free printable recipe) the next day.
  • Serve tacos one night and make extra homemade tortillas for chicken enchiladas a few days later; make chicken broth and chicken rice soup in between (extra broth and chicken for the creamy enchilada sauce and filling); also freeze extra taco meat and tortillas the first day to have quesadillas with bean soup the next week.
  • Have a simple beef stir fry one night and make a double batch of rice, then grill chicken the next night and cook two extra breasts. Use the extra rice and chicken to make a really easy meal the third night, with chicken, rice, onions and seasoning all in one pot.

For those of you in the camp with my friends who don’t like leftovers, this is your ticket to a pseudo “leftovers night” that doesn’t leave you feeling like you’re eating the same thing all the time.

  1. Cook once
  2. Include something for another meal
  3. Serve that component twice
  4. But in a totally new way

Let’s say I also had baked potatoes and steamed veggies with that grilled chicken in the example above. I bake a few extra potatoes and steam a double batch of veggies. That takes less than five minutes of my time.

I already have some cooked, shredded chicken in the freezer, leftover from the stock-making process in the second example, along with a few jars of broth, and now I can get “Easy Chicken and Biscuits” on the table with hardly any work.

Easy chicken and biscuits pot pie remake 2

Easy Chicken and Biscuits
Print

Author:
Prep time:
Cook time:
Total time:
Serves/Yield: 4-6 adults
This dish looks like it could take halfway to forever to prepare when you scan the list of ingredients, but with the chicken, potatoes and veggies already cooked, it really only takes 10 minutes to put together, plus the time to make biscuit dough. If you’ve been paying attention, you’ll probably make a double batch of biscuit dough and bake the extras while you’re eating dinner, and then you can have sausage with gravy over biscuits the next night, or biscuits with leftover soup from the freezer.
Ingredients
  • 3-5 Tablespoons butter
  • ¼-½ cup chopped onion OR 1 Tbs. dried minced onion, optional
  • ¼-½ cup chopped celery
  • ¼ teaspoon garlic powder OR 1-2 garlic cloves, crushed
  • ½-¾ cup whole wheat flour (¼-½ cup arrowroot or corn starch for GF)
  • 1 ½ cups chicken broth
  • 1 ½ cups milk
  • ¼ teaspoon dried thyme
  • ½ teaspoon poultry seasoning (optional)
  • ¼-½ teaspoon black pepper
  • ½-1 teaspoon salt (more with homemade broth)
  • ¼ teaspoon dried parsley
  • Dash of paprika
  • 1-2 large leftover baked potatoes, diced, OR 2 raw potatoes, diced
  • 4 cups cooked cut-up vegetables
  • 2 cups cooked chicken
  • Homemade biscuit dough (or use your favorite recipe for biscuits)
Instructions
  1. Prepare biscuit dough using your chosen recipe. Preheat the oven to 400°F.
  2. In a large saucepan, melt butter over medium heat and sauté celery and onion, if using. Sauté and stir at least 5 minutes or until vegetables are limp, adding fresh garlic for the last minute. (If your other vegetables aren’t already cooked, get them going now.) Add flour (if using) and stir and cook on medium-high until you see bubbles, then one minute longer. Add the broth and milk all at once. Stir and add all the remaining seasonings, including dried onion and garlic, if using.
  3. GF adaptation: Reserve a half cup of cold milk when you pour in the liquid. Bring everything in the pot to a boil. Mix the starch with the cold milk and pour into the boiling liquid, then add the spices.
  4. Cook and stir often/constantly over medium to high heat, depending on how closely you can monitor the pot. Once liquid is boiling, stir for at least 2 minutes over medium-high heat. Watch for the “soup” to thicken, then turn heat off.
  5. Mix the cream soup with the chicken and cooked vegetables in a 9×13” baking dish. Place cut-out biscuit rounds or dollops of biscuit dough liberally over the top. Bake 25-30 minutes or until biscuits are golden.
Notes
You can always use a bag of frozen mixed veggies in place of fresh for another time-saving strategy.

I’m excited to share more time- and money-saving strategies, plus more variations on this recipe and some of the others I mentioned above, in Better Than a Box: How to Transform Processed Food Recipes into Whole Foods Favorites. Simple Bites readers are invited to save 25% HERE with the coupon code BITETHEBOX25 through 2/15.

Better Than a Box is available on Kindle via Amazon and Nook. The PDF download also includes the Kindle and Nook files, as well as free printable recipe cards, a freezer supply list, how to make chicken stock one-page printable and other handy dandy charts and tips.

How do you use meal planning to make your life easier?

 

This post includes affiliate links.

About KatieK

Katie Kimball is a mother of three from Michigan who spends a ton of time in the kitchen making real food with whole ingredients and then blogs about her successes and failures at Kitchen Stewardship. Visit KS for real food and natural living dished out in chewable, baby step portions.

Subscribe For Free!

Like reading this post?
Get more delivered to your email inbox.

Comments

  1. We do the same thing each week with our menu plan. We think of ourselves as “leftovers PR agents”: we are rebranding leftovers as “Planned Overs”. We love to plan mashed potatoes on day, and then top shepherd’s pie with the “planned overs” a couple days later. Etc etc. Such a time saver!
    Robin from Frugal Family Times’s last post: Better Than Take-out: Baked Chinese Chicken with Lemon Sauce Recipe

  2. I typically make a lot at the beginning of the week so that I don’t have to cook as much as the week goes on. I almost always make a big batch of chili or soup on Sunday which will last for several days. I also like to have beans cooked on hand for whatever meal we might want to have. I love cooking, but I don’t love cleanup so doing a lot of cooking at the beginning of the week is always my preferred method of meal planning :-)
    Heather’s last post: what i am eating

  3. This is great! I agree with the whole you-don’t-like-leftovers-shock! We wouldn’t have anything to eat if we didn’t have leftovers, lol. But we rarely eat straight up boring leftovers. “connected meal planning” – I like your name for it! It’s so smart! Thanks for breaking down the steps.

  4. I am always shocked by people who look down their nose at leftovers…we also love leftovers in this house…if it wasn’t for leftovers, I’d have to cook a full meal everyday!! I like Robins name for them “Planned Overs” because you can bet I “Plan” on having them a lot!! :) Things like soup, stew and chili are always better after the first day.

  5. I don’t have time to cook on most weeknights, but I do love leftovers. I can eat the same thing at least 3 times in a week, so that’s not a problem for me–and taking leftovers to work means I’m not eating out during my lunch hour, and that saves me even more money.
    Tragic Sandwich’s last post: What’s In Your Wallet–Er, Earthquake Kits?

  6. I have to agree, it is a creative outlet for me to try to think of new ways to re-purpose last nights leftovers. yesterday I made chicken soup and I stir fried a few veggies. I added a few slices of the chicken to the stir fry, saving the rest for tonights supper. Today for lunch I will add rice to the leftover soup for chicken and rice, and have the extra chicken pieces in either a casserole or over noodles tonight. Using leftovers is the perfect frugal lifestyle. Every couple of weeks we eat a “leftover” pizza, kind of a garbage can pizza, and I freeze small amounts of veggies to add to stews or soups.
    Shelley Hopkins’s last post: beach and cake

  7. My husband and I cook large meals, usually 4-8 servings, then freeze leftovers to take to work throughout the weeks ahead. There is a great variety in the freezer, and we try to make food so good that we don’t mind eating it often. Sometimes we nearly fight over the containers with the previous night’s dinner because it is fresh on our minds how delicious it was.
    Why cook meals we don’t love when there are so many that we do?

  8. This is the kind of meal planning we use at our house too. Leftovers for lunch – every day! I think lots of meals actually taste better the second day. My favorite meal morph is taking leftover mashed potatoes and using them to make potato dumplings later in the week. Mmmm….

  9. The look of delight on my son’s face when I asked if he wanted the leftover mu shu chicken from last night over a thawed pad of rice leftover from last week in his lunch thermos would have been shocking to your non-leftover-loving friends.

    What would I put on a pizza if I didn’t have leftovers?
    kirsten@FarmFreshFeasts’s last post: Roasted Beet, Caramelized Onion, and Goat Cheese Pizza (Pizza Night!)

  10. I’ve been doing this for years and didn’t know it had a name! COST. My family loves leftovers and I’m proud to say my adult children are carrying on in this mindset.
    Great article!

  11. This is quite honestly the only way to go for me. I always cook a pot of beans whenever I cook beans and throw the extras in the freezer. I try to make more then enough for our dinner so that there’s leftovers for lunches or for a whole other meal.
    You broke it down a lot better and simpler then I could have. And with some great ideas for new menus! =)
    Breanne :: This Vintage Moment’s last post: 5/52

  12. I just recently found your site in a search for Leeks (great recipes by the way!) and stayed for the lovely writing- thanks for sharing!
    RhoAnna’s last post: Aubry the Innkeeper

  13. This is what I really have to work on. Increasingly crazy schedules make leftovers an ideal solution, but DH doesn’t fully appreciate them. Yet. I have started making larger quantities of things and stashing components for multiple meals, but they have to kinda get tucked behind something uninteresting so they don’t get used by someone as a meal independent of the other planned components, or recognized by someone else as leftover. Freezing, even for a few days sometimes gets meats “out of sight, out of mind”. If it was just me, I could make enough of one dish to last several days and just work my way through it. I love leftovers!

  14. I’m the minority here, this is my weak spot in meal planning. I’m getting better at meal planning and using my pantry but “connected planning” is difficult for me. It’s been done accidentally but not deliberately these last couple of weeks.

    I’d love more posts like this, please.

    • Jennie,
      I’m sure you’re not a minority – you’re just the brave one speaking up in the comments! :) Accidental success is a great first step, reading this post will give a little more fuel to your motivation, and you’ll be well on your way the next time you sit down with a few recipes and your calendar to meal plan! :) Katie

  15. I love leftovers (eat them every day for lunch).
    My husband “does not like leftovers.”
    However, the concept of freezing half of a meal to reheat and eat later, somehow doesn’t count as leftovers to him. I always make large quantities of soup or taco meat, or whatever “main” we are eating. Whatever we don’t eat gets portioned into 1-2 lunch servings for me and the rest goes in the freezer for a future meal.
    PLANNED OVERS is my new favorite food term!

  16. My husband is one who doesn’t like leftovers, so I have to be creative about hiding that I only really cook three times a week. If I’m chopping veggies on Monday, I’ll cut enough for the next night or two. Roast chicken with mashed potatoes and salad becomes salad topped with chicken the next day, and potato pancakes with chicken soup the next. If he doesn’t want to eat leftovers, fine, but I don’t want to spend my life in the kitchen!
    Katie B. of HousewifeHowTos.com’s last post: A Printable Cleaning Checklist For Kids Rooms

  17. I would LOVE an Ebook on this topic with connected recipes and help for menu planning. Maybe like recipe #1 and recipe #2 on each page to help us non creative cooks connect the dots :). At the very least a whole blog series on the topic. I love the idea, but am really bad about being able to figure out how to do it on a regular basis. Thanks!

  18. These look delightful, and I have stewing chicken in the freezer. Cannot wait to try.
    The Girls’ Guide to Guns and Butter’s last post: The Perils of Toddler Hair Styling

Speak Your Mind

*

Rate this recipe:  

CommentLuv badge