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story.lead_photo.caption Courtesy of America’s Test Kitchen

SUNDAY: Family night

Fire up the grill for economical flat iron steaks (also called shoulder top blade steaks). Grill the 6- to 8-ounce steaks on medium 13-15 minutes for medium-rare to medium. While you're at it, grill your own fresh asparagus and potatoes for some add-ons, and serve mixed greens and sourdough bread alongside. Buy or make chocolate eclairs for dessert.

PLAN AHEAD: Cook an extra pound of steak for Monday and buy enough eclairs for Tuesday.

SHOPPING LIST: flat iron steaks (shoulder top blade steaks), fresh asparagus and potatoes to grill, mixed greens, sourdough bread, eclairs.

MONDAY: Express cooking

Make this quick beef stew for an easy meal and let the grilled flavor of the leftover steak perk up the stew. Combine 2 cups water with two (0.87-ounce) packages less-sodium brown gravy mix; mix well. Pour mixture into a Dutch oven and add one (14.5-ounce) can no-salt-added diced tomatoes, 1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce and one (16-ounce) package frozen vegetables for stew (potatoes, carrots, celery and onion); bring to a boil on medium-high. Add chopped steaks; reduce heat to low, cover and simmer 10 minutes or until vegetables are tender. Season to taste with coarse salt and pepper.

For something different, serve the stew in bread bowls (follow directions on bread dough package), or serve with refrigerated crusty French loaf. Add a fresh spinach salad. For dessert, red and green grapes are simple.

SHOPPING LIST: packaged less-sodium brown gravy mix, canned no-salt-added diced tomatoes, Worcestershire sauce, frozen vegetables for stew (potatoes, carrots, celery, onion), coarse salt, pepper, bread bowls or refrigerated crusty French loaf, fresh spinach, red and green grapes.

TUESDAY: Kids' favorite

Teach the children some Spanish tonight with tortas de huevos con aguacate (egg and avocado torta). A torta is a warm and filling sandwich. Heat oven to 350 degrees. In a small bowl, mash one peeled avocado with 1 tablespoon fresh lime juice; set aside. In a medium bowl, beat three eggs with 1/4 teaspoon coarse salt; fold in one (4-ounce) can drained chopped chilies. In medium nonstick skillet, melt 2 teaspoons butter over medium-high heat. Add eggs and chilies; cook, stirring until desired consistency. Spread avocado mixture on inside surfaces of four split, soft sandwich rolls. Spoon hot eggs onto rolls. Top each with a tomato slice and cover with tops of rolls. Place tortas on baking sheet; bake 5 minutes or until rolls begin to toast.

Serve with deli carrot salad. Leftover eclairs for dessert will make the children even happier.

SHOPPING LIST: avocado, lime, eggs, coarse salt, canned chopped chilies, butter, soft sandwich rolls, tomato, deli carrot salad.

WEDNESDAY: Budget dining

We're always in the mood for a low-cost meal, especially when the slow cooker does most of the work, so Italian chicken-lentil soup (see recipe) fits the bill. Serve it with deli broccoli salad and whole-grain rolls. Try kiwis for dessert.

PLAN AHEAD: Save enough soup for Friday.

SHOPPING LIST: onion, zucchini, carrots, dried lentils, unsalted chicken broth, coarse salt, pepper, boneless skinless chicken thighs, fresh mushrooms, canned no-salt-added fire-roasted or regular tomatoes, dried basil, shredded parmesan if desired, deli broccoli salad, whole-grain rolls, kiwis.

THURSDAY: Meatless meal

Chickpea salad with carrots, arugula and olives (see recipe) offers lots of flavor without meat. Serve it with a packaged Italian salad and garlic bread. Cool your palate with lime sherbet for dessert.

SHOPPING LIST: canned reduced-sodium chickpeas, extra-virgin olive oil, lemon, coarse salt, black pepper, cayenne pepper, fresh carrots, pitted kalamata olives, baby arugula, packaged Italian salad, garlic bread, lime sherbet.

FRIDAY: Heat and eat

Heat the leftover chicken-lentil soup and serve it over brown rice tonight. Munch on celery sticks on the side. Make cornbread (from mix). Juicy plums are good for dessert.

SHOPPING LIST: brown rice, celery, cornbread mix, plums.

SATURDAY: Entertain the family

Your family will enjoy simple baked tilapia with dill butter. Heat oven to 350 degrees. Melt 2 tablespoons butter in a 7-by-11-inch baking dish in oven. Place four (4- to 6-ounce) tilapia fillets in dish; turn to coat. Sprinkle with 1/2 teaspoon dried dill and coarse salt and pepper to taste. Bake 15-20 minutes or until fish is opaque throughout. Meanwhile, melt 11/2 teaspoons butter in small skillet over medium heat. Add 2 tablespoons unseasoned dry bread crumbs; cook until crumbs are light golden brown, stirring constantly. Sprinkle over fish during the last 3 minutes of baking.

Serve with sweet and spicy vegetable couscous (see recipe). Add sliced cucumbers in sour cream and flatbread. Dessert is fresh strawberries over chocolate ice cream.

SHOPPING LIST: butter, tilapia fillets, dried dill, coarse salt, pepper, unseasoned dry bread crumbs, olive oil, red onion, carrot, unsalted chicken broth, canned Mexican-style corn, frozen tiny green peas, golden raisins or dried cranberries, curry powder, cumin, crushed red pepper, couscous, toasted slivered almonds, cucumbers, sour cream, flatbread, fresh strawberries, chocolate ice cream.

Susan Nicholson is an Atlanta-based cookbook author and registered dietitian. She can be reached by email: [email protected] Follow Susan on Twitter: @7DayMenu. The Menu Planner is also accessible at 7daymenuplanner.com. Read Susan's blog: makingthemenu.com. And check out Susan's book! "7-Day Menu Planner for Dummies" is on shelves now. Order yours on Amazon.com today!

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THE RECIPES

ITALIAN CHICKEN-LENTIL SOUP (Wednesday)

Makes: 8 servings

Preparation time: 15 minutes

Cooking time: 5-6 hours, plus 15 minutes

1 medium onion, chopped

2 medium zucchini, chopped (about 3 cups)

3 cups sliced carrots

12 ounces dried lentils, sorted and rinsed

6 1/4 cups unsalted chicken broth

1 teaspoon coarse salt

1/2 teaspoon pepper

1 1/2 pounds boneless skinless chicken thighs

8 ounces sliced fresh mushrooms

3 (14.5-ounce) cans no-salt-added fire-roasted or regular tomatoes, with liquid

5 teaspoons dried basil

Shredded parmesan, if desired

In a 4-quart or larger slow cooker, mix onion, zucchini, carrots, lentils, broth, salt and pepper. Top with chicken. Cover; cook on low 5 to 6 hours. Remove chicken from cooker to plate. Shred, using 2 forks; return chicken to cooker. Stir in mushrooms and tomatoes. Cover; cook about 15 minutes longer or until thoroughly heated. Top each serving with basil and parmesan.

Per serving: 336 calories, 29 grams protein, 5 grams fat (14 percent calories from fat), 1.4 grams saturated fat, 42 grams carbohydrate, 79 milligrams cholesterol, 442 milligrams sodium, 9 grams fiber. Carb choices: 3.

CHICKPEA SALAD WITH CARROTS, ARUGULA AND OLIVES (Thursday)

Makes: 4 servings

Preparation time: 10 minutes

Cooking time: about 1 1/2 minutes

2 (15-ounce) cans reduced-sodium chickpeas, rinsed

1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil

2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice

3/4 teaspoon coarse salt

1/2 teaspoon black pepper

Pinch cayenne pepper

3 carrots, peeled and shredded

1/2 cup pitted kalamata olives, chopped

1 cup baby arugula, chopped

In a medium bowl, microwave chickpeas on high (100 percent power) about 1 1/2 minutes or until hot. Stir in oil, juice, salt, black pepper and cayenne pepper and let sit 30 minutes. Add carrots and olives and toss to combine. Bring to room temperature before adding arugula. Toss and serve. (Adapted from "The Complete Summer Cookbook," America's Test Kitchen.)

Per serving: 408 calories, 12 grams protein, 20 grams fat (44 percent calories from fat), 2.5 grams saturated fat, 45 grams carbohydrate, no cholesterol, 737 milligrams sodium, 10 grams fiber. Carb choices: 3.

SWEET AND SPICY VEGETABLE COUSCOUS (Saturday)

Makes: 10 servings

Preparation time: 15 minutes

Cooking time: about 10 minutes

1 tablespoon olive oil

1/2 cup chopped red onion

1 large carrot, shredded

2 1/2 cups unsalted chicken broth

1 (11-ounce) can Mexican-style corn, rinsed

1 (9-ounce) package frozen tiny green peas

2 tablespoons golden raisins or dried cranberries

1 1/2 teaspoons curry powder

1 teaspoon cumin

1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper

1 1/2 cups couscous

2 tablespoons toasted slivered almonds

Heat oil in Dutch oven on medium. Add onion and carrot; cook and stir 2-3 minutes or until softened. Increase heat to medium-high. Add broth, corn, peas, raisins (or cranberries), curry powder, cumin and red pepper; mix well. Bring to a boil. Stir in couscous. Cover, remove from heat and let stand 5 to 7 minutes or until liquid is absorbed. Garnish with almonds.

Per serving: 185 calories, 6 grams protein, 3 grams fat (13 percent calories from fat), 0.3 gram saturated fat, 33 grams carbohydrate, no cholesterol, 167 milligrams sodium, 4 grams fiber. Carb choices: 2.

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