I am all about simplicity in the kitchen. If there is a way that I can make my meals work together and save myself time, effort and dishes, I am all over it!
One of my favorite ways to do this lately has been to coordinate the meals within my weekly meal plan. By this, I mean that I try to think of dishes that will work together to create leftovers and/or other elements that will lend themselves to different dishes that same week. The easiest way to accomplish this is to choose a protein type (eg. beef, chicken, fish, vegetarian) and then come up with a combination of meals all using that same protein.
Here are some examples of how I do it:
Start with a roast in the crockpot and eat it with potatoes, veggies and gravy. The next night the leftover beef turns into fajitas, with added onions, peppers, sour cream and guacamole. A day or two later, the extra gravy/juices from the crockpot are added to the last bits of (now diced) beef with some beef bone broth, carrots, celery, onions, garlic and potatoes and become a delicious crockpot stew.
Roast a whole chicken in the crockpot in the morning. That afternoon, remove all chicken from the bones, dice it and put it into meal sized portions. Put the bones back into crockpot for another day, along with water, apple cider vinegar, sea salt, and veggies to make broth. That first night, use some of the chicken along with broth, veggies and your topping of choice to make a savory potpie. The next night that chicken can be tossed with pasta, along with some olive oil, sun-dried tomatoes, garlic, or whatever strikes your fancy. Later that week, the remaining chicken gets added the lovely bone broth you've made and becomes your favorite type of chicken soup (chicken noodle, chicken rice, gumbo, spicy Thai, etc.).
Bake a whole salmon, with some lemon slices, butter and dill. Eat it that first night with a side of brown rice and steamed broccoli. A couple nights later you can use some of the leftover salmon and make a spinach and salmon quiche. For lunch the next day, finish off the fish by serving up some salmon melts with raw veggies or a green salad on the side.
Soak overnight and then cook up a big pot of beans (maybe pinto or black or a combination of 2 favorite types of beans). Simmer the beans with some taco seasoning and use them to top a fresh taco salad or as a filler for soft tacos. Next toss them into the crockpot along with diced tomatoes, other veggies, maybe some ground beef, and seasonings to make a chili served alongside soaked cornbread. Finish them off by making a batch of refried beans, perfect for using in quesadillas or burritos, or to simply eat with rice and veggies.
For a great twist on this idea, check out FishMama's excellent post on cooking once and eating three times!
For more on meal planning, see my previous posts:
How do you make your meals and menu plans work together for easier meals and greater simplicity?