4 steps to successful meal planning
You might think that because I’m “in the business” I love to meal plan and am delighted at the opportunity to nourish myself and my loved ones with delicious home-cooked food. Sometimes, yeah, this is totally the case. But I’m also a busy mom just like many of you and there are a lot of other things I’d rather do than just worry about what’s for dinner.
I’ve found that meal planning and doing a big shop at the beginning of the week can make or break my family’s food – and my sanity. And I’ve discovered that the secret to meal planning success is to have a system. Here’s mine:
1) I start with dinner and pick 5-6 meals based on 5-6 different proteins. This gives us dinners for the bulk of the week, with 1-2 nights out (because I keep it real and enjoy a restaurant meal as much as the next person). I’m a big believer in rotating our foods, so I try to be creative and not just do the standard beef-chicken-fish routine. I look for easy recipes – many of which are already tried and true family favorites – and I try to cook at least one brand-new dish each week so that I’m always experimenting and expanding.
For example, this week it’s:
- wild sole on Sunday – I’ll make an easy coconut curry stew I’ve concocted and I know my daughter loves
- chicken on Monday – It’s a busy day and I’m actually not around for dinner, so I’ll make a roast chicken with some roasted veggies and a salad, all stuff I can have ready in advance, and our sitter can easily pull it out of the oven and serve.
- lamb on Tuesday – I’ll make our savory lamb meatballs on spaghetti squash. Everyone loves them, and it’s a recipe my hubby can whip out if I’m not able to prep in advance as I’ll be working during dinner prep time.
- salmon on Wednesday – I’ve fallen in love with this slow-cooked salmon recipe from Bon Appetit. I rotate the greens (arugula and kale), and of course swap out any vegetable oils with extra virgin olive oil or macadamia nut oil. Dinner can be cooking while my daughter and I play after her nap.
- duck on Thursday – this is my new recipe for the week. I’ve always wanted to make roast duck, and we’re giving it a go with friends of ours. Recipe experimentation is always more fun with friends!
- mussels on Friday – I love “Moulles Frittes” so I’m making my own version. Mussels sound glamorous but they’re SO easy and fast. And I’ll make some of what I call “faux frittes” using thinly-sliced sweet potatoes, coconut oil and a baking sheet. Add a green salad and a glass of wine, and now we’re talking!
2) For breakfasts, I make sure we have the ingredients for at least 3 different breakfasts we’ll rotate through during the week. We eat lots of eggs, veggies, and some green smoothies. Plus, we like to have a special fun breakfast one weekend morning where we pull out all the stops and do something like Paleo waffles or eggs Florentine. Yum!
3) For lunches, I usually just serve dinner leftovers either as is, repurposed into a salad (add salad greens and other veggies), or repurposed into a soup (add bone broth and heat). I’m all about efficiency and I don’t believe in “cooking” for every meal. This is just a pull-it-out-of-the-fridge and go kind of thing, sometimes with a brief stop on the stove or in the oven to warm it up. I’ll also keep a few things on hand like hummus, lots of raw veggies, yummy olives, a variety of cultured veggies, some raw cheeses, gluten-free seed crackers, smoked salmon, and so on to throw together an antipasto platter of sorts. Easy and fast, and all of these make great snacks in a pinch.
4) Make a master grocery list. This is the part of the process that’s always a bit of a pain, but don’t be tempted to skip it. I’ve gone shopping with “an idea” of what I need, and all that means is I either get way too much of things we don’t need, or I forget vitally important ingredients and am making quick runs to the store every night for that one essential item that escaped my mind. I make a big list of everything I’ll need and do a big shop usually on Sunday morning at the Farmers Market, supplementing where I have to at a couple of our favorite local shops. By mid-day Sunday, I’ve got everything I need for a week of delicious home-cooked food, and I don’t have to think about it again – I just follow my meal plan and make what’s on the menu that night.
Something that has totally simplified this process is Real Plans’ meal planning tool. I wrote about it recently and highly encourage you to check it out. Have you tried it yet? If not, check it out here.
What’s on your menu this week?
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