The alternate title for this post was “Meal Planning: It’s Not Just for Mormon Mommy Bloggers.” Nothing against Mormon mommy bloggers…clearly they know what they’re talking about when it comes to slow cooker recipes. But I feel like some people just think of meal planning as something you should do if you’re a harried mother of three. Well, I might not have children but sometimes I FEEL like a harried mother of three on the inside, you know?
Meal planning is awesome no matter who you are. It’s not only a way to save a ton of money (you waste way less food and go to the grocery store way less often), but it also decreases my anxiety by a TON. Just knowing that I’ve already planned out my dinners for the week is, for some reason, a huge stress reliever. I mean, why do I stress out about what I’m going to have for dinner, anyway? Clearly I know I’ll be getting food SOMEHOW. But whatever. The point I’m trying to make is that meal planning is awesome and everyone should do it, whether you’re cooking for five people, two people, or just yourself.
I get that some people don’t eat sit-down, full “dinners” every night. I don’t think you have to. But I grew up in a house where we ate a very traditional, home-cooked protein-starch-vegetable dinner every night, so it’s what I’m used to and it’s how I like to live my life. I feel much more centered and healthy when I’m eating balanced, full meals. And I’m not suggesting that you have to eat at a table with proper china and silverware. H. and I usually eat in front of the X-Files or New Girl (classy!). But just the ritual of having a full meal to look forward to every night is really important to me.
I do about 98% of the cooking for me and H., and before you tell me that this is a sexist distribution of labor, let me tell you a few things:
1. If I left cooking up to H., we would have chicken nuggets for dinner every night. He does NOT care about the quality of food he puts into his body and he just eats processed carbs/proteins constantly if left to his own devices.
2. H. is not super comfortable in the kitchen, which is something I’m trying to work on slowly, but right now he definitely doesn’t have the confidence to go “off recipe.”
3. Most importantly, H. does the cleaning. Which is awesome, because I hate doing dishes more than just about any chore. I would rather cook than do dishes any day.
So meal planning is something that’s basically left up to me. Lately a couple of people have asked me how I meal plan, so I thought I’d share. It’s definitely not anything ground-breaking or exciting, but just like packing your lunch, it’s one of those things that I think everyone should do to make their lives WAY easier. Here are my tips for meal planning:
1. Be thinking about food…well, constantly.
There aren’t a lot of times I’d recommend you be more like me, but this is one of them. I’m thinking about food ALL THE TIME, so when it comes time to decide what dinners I want to eat all week, I generally have a few things in mind. I read a lot of food blogs and I love looking through cookbooks (right now I’m into Dinner: A Love Story), so I bookmark/pin/copy the recipes that look good.
2. Get a routine.
Every Sunday morning, I plan out what I want to make all week based on what recipes I bookmarked, what we have in our cupboards, and what I just feel like eating. I don’t like to buy more than one cut/package of meat per week, so generally I plan a couple of vegetarian dinners and a couple of recipes that make use of one roast or something. For example, I might make slow-cooked pork on Monday night, then use the leftover pork to make a soup or something on Tuesday night. Okay, so these tips are pretty basic, right? “Use leftovers!” Gee, thanks Kerry. But you’d be surprised how many people don’t do this! And if I’m making something sort of expensive (like anything that involves beef or necessitates buying a lot of new ingredients), I make sure my vegetarian meals are extra cheap. Soups are the best for this.
Anyway, after I make my list of everything I want to make, I make a list of all the ingredients I need to buy. I organize my shopping list by section, because otherwise I get really stressed out. And that leads into Sunday morning shopping. H. and I like to go when all the moral people are in church. Under NO CIRCUMSTANCES should you go shopping on Sunday afternoon after all the moms get out of church. Those women are gonna clear out the produce section. You need to beat them to it.
3. Sunday prep.
I only do this when I’m being REALLY organized, but it helps SO MUCH if I can chop/pre-cook things on Sunday for the rest of the week. Again, duh. This is pretty obvious.
That’s pretty much the easiest, right? Here’s my meal plan from last week. I planned this out on Sunday and more or less stuck to it. I don’t use recipes all the time, but I tried a few new things last week so I linked to them.
Monday: Slow-cooked pork with balsamic glaze, crispy potatoes, broccoli slaw
Tuesday: Pork and sweet potato hash with avocado and fried eggs
Wednesday: Black bean and quinoa soup
Thursday: Chicken cutlets with roasted potatoes and brussels sprouts
Friday: Take-out. No cooking!
These dinners all gave me plenty of leftovers for the next day’s lunches, they used many of the same ingredients, and a lot of them used things I tend to have in my cupboard anyway (beans, quinoa, potatoes). We really don’t spend too much at the grocery store, which gives us a little more leeway when we want to go out, which is often. Nothing’s gonna get in the way of me and trying a new restaurant.
What about you guys? Do you meal plan? What’s your dinner strategy? Let me know!