7-Day Menu Planner

A week's worth of quick, healthful meals for budget-minded families.

SUNDAY: Lemon Chicken With Rice and Artichokes (see recipe) is perfect for family day. Serve the one-dish meal with an Herb Salad: In a large bowl, use a whisk to combine 3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, ¼ teaspoon grated lemon zest, 1 tablespoon lemon juice, ¼ teaspoon coarse salt and pepper to taste. Add 2 cups Italian parsley leaves and 2 cups mixed tender herb leaves; toss until evenly coated with dressing. Season to taste with additional coarse salt. Serve immediately. (Adapted from "Modern Bistro," America's Test Kitchen.) Add dinner rolls. Apple turnovers (from frozen) and vanilla ice cream are a family kind of dessert. Frozen Grated Carrot

7-Day Menu Planner

Plan ahead: Save enough ice cream for Saturday.

MONDAY: Beef Stir-Fry With Spinach (see recipe) is easy on the food budget. Serve it over brown rice, and add a romaine salad and whole-grain rolls. For a light dessert, try pears.

Plan ahead: Save enough stir-fry, rice and whole peppers for Tuesday.

TUESDAY: Take advantage of those leftovers and make Beef Stuffed Peppers: Split leftover bell peppers in half lengthwise. Place cut side down in baking dish. Cover and microwave on 100% power for 1 minute per pepper; drain. Meanwhile, chop the leftover stir-fry and combine with leftover rice. Moisten with unsalted beef broth and heat. Stuff peppers with mixture; sprinkle with crumbled feta cheese and serve. Add tiny green peas (from frozen) and whole-grain bread. Fresh or canned tropical fruit is a light dessert.

WEDNESDAY: Pick up some heat-and-serve burritos for a super-easy meal. Garnish the burritos with sour cream and serve with steamed carrots. For dessert, plums are easy, too.

THURSDAY: What could make kids happier than to have Cheeseburger Melt for dinner? Heat oven to 400 degrees. Coat a 9-by-13-inch baking dish with cooking spray. In a medium bowl, mix 1 1/3 cups baking mix (such as Bisquick), ¼ cup water, 2 eggs and 1 cup (of 1 ½ cups total) shredded cheddar cheese. Spread in dish. Cook 1 pound lean ground beef or ground turkey breast, or a mixture of both, in a large nonstick skillet on medium-high for 6 minutes or until no longer pink; drain well. Add 1 (10 ¾-ounce) can condensed cream of mushroom soup and 1 cup frozen mixed vegetables; heat 5 minutes or until hot. Spread over batter. Bake 23 to 25 minutes or until edges are light golden brown. Sprinkle with remaining ½ cup cheese. Bake 1 to 3 more minutes or until cheese melts. Cut into squares, garnish with salsa if desired, and serve. Add cherry tomato halves on the side. Fresh pineapple chunks make a good dessert.

FRIDAY: There were no leftovers of Spaghettini With Goat Cheese and Fresh Basil at our house. Place cooked whole-wheat spaghettini in a large bowl. Add 2 ounces herb-flavored goat cheese cut into small pieces, ½ cup chopped fresh basil, ½ teaspoon coarse salt and ¼ teaspoon pepper; stir until well-blended. Heat 1 tablespoon olive oil in a large nonstick skillet on medium-high. Add 2 teaspoons minced garlic; cook 30 seconds. Add 2 cups halved grape tomatoes; cook 2 minutes, stirring frequently. Add 2/3 cup unsalted vegetable broth; cook 1 minute. Add tomato mixture to pasta mixture; toss gently to combine. Serve with mixed greens and garlic bread. Make instant pistachio pudding for dessert.

SATURDAY: We're putting Herb-Baked Tilapia (see recipe) on our favorites list. Serve it with hash-browned potatoes (from refrigerated), green beans, a bibb lettuce salad and crusty bread. An easy dessert is leftover ice cream with strawberry sauce.

Lemon Chicken With Rice and Artichokes

Heat a Dutch oven coated with cooking spray on medium-high. Add chicken, onion and bell pepper; cook 7 minutes. Stir in cooked rice, lemon juice, salt, black pepper and half the broth; cook 2 minutes. Stir in artichokes and remaining broth; cook 1 minute or until heated. Sprinkle with cheese and serve.

Nutrition information: Each serving contains approximately 409 calories, 39 g protein, 5 g fat, 51 g carbohydrate, 105 mg cholesterol, 517 mg sodium and 4 g fiber.

In a small bowl, stir together soy sauce, sesame oil, cornstarch and ginger until smooth; set aside.

Heat a wok or large skillet over medium-high heat until a drop of water sizzles in pan. Add 1 teaspoon canola oil; swirl to coat. Add steak and stir-fry 3 minutes or until browned. Transfer to plate.

Microwave spinach on 100% power for 2 to 3 minutes or until wilted.

Heat remaining oil in same skillet over medium-high and swirl to coat. Add peppers, onions and garlic; stir-fry 3 minutes or until vegetables soften. Return steak to skillet. Stir soy sauce mixture; add to skillet. Stir-fry until sauce bubbles and thickens, about 1 more minute. Divide spinach among 4 plates; top with steak mixture.

Nutrition information: Each serving contains approximately 233 calories, 25 g protein, 9 g fat, 13 g carbohydrate, 56 mg cholesterol, 330 mg sodium and 4 g fiber.

Place tilapia on a baking sheet lined with nonstick foil.

In a small bowl, combine cheese, mayonnaise and onions; spread evenly over fish.

In another bowl, combine breadcrumbs, basil, oregano, salt and pepper; sprinkle over fish. Coat fish lightly with cooking spray. Bake 10 minutes or until fish flakes easily with fork.

Nutrition information: Each serving (prepared with low-fat mayonnaise) contains approximately 153 calories, 19 g protein, 4 g fat, 11 g carbohydrate, 48 mg cholesterol, 460 mg sodium and 1 g fiber.

Susan Nicholson is an Atlanta-based cookbook author and registered dietitian. She can be reached by email: [email protected]

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7-Day Menu Planner

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