I’m sure you’ve heard that question once or twice. Maybe once or twice this week…
Last week I gave you a bit of a teaser, and left you hanging… But, I’m not going to do that today! I’m finally going to spill the beans about how to make the perfect meal plan.
I have a number of meals that I can whip up quickly. Like tonight: wild salmon, topped with lemon juice, dill, and garlic granules. With veg and some sort of carb on the side. Tonight’s veg & carb was leftover from a few nights ago. Delicious! However, tonight’s meal was an anomaly, though. Normally, if I whip something up, it’s not well planned. But when I plan, I definitely eat much better!
I plan meals on Sundays. My Sunday mornings go a bit like this:
- Wake up & grab the paper
- Make coffee & breakfast
- Eat breakfast while reading the paper & clipping coupons
- Break out the Grid
- Review the coupons, food in the fridge, freezer & pantry for what’s best this week (pull out the grocery circulars, too – ours come on Wednesdays)
- Complete the Grid
After that, I’ll start with dinners. I’ll move some chicken, fish, or beef from the freezer (usually enough for 2 meals) to defrost in the fridge. I also base my decisions on the veg that I have in the fridge. We get a CSA delivery once every 2 weeks. I do my best to use that up within a week and a half with planned meals. So, if I get celery root (for example), I’ll search for recipes that have celery root.
I have few go-to cookbooks, as well as a file folder of recipes from magazines (that I’ve torn out). If I have something odd in my CSA bin that week, I’ll head to the inter webs to find a tasty-sounding recipe. I’ll usually try 1 to 2 recipes per week that I haven’t tried before, and mix in a few meals that I’m super comfortable making (if the new recipes don’t turn out, I don’t want to be disappointed a few days in a row!).
Once I finish the dinners, it’s really easy to complete the lunches! For lunch on Tuesday, for example, I eat leftovers from Monday’s dinner. I’ll do my best to mix it up though. If I had grilled chicken breast with roasted veg for dinner, I’ll top that on arugula and add some goat cheese for a great salad! Since we typically make 4 meals’ worth of food for dinner, for my hubby & I, this works out perfectly! Once we’re finished with lunch the next day, no more leftovers! (But, if we’re making something larger, like lasagna, I’ll add in a few more days / nights of leftovers. It’s all in the plan!)
On to breakfast! I have a number of go-to breakfasts that I have every single week. 4 hardboiled egg whites with some sort of fruit. A smoothie with frozen fruit, protein powder, and oatmeal. Egg white scramble with loads of veggies. Oatmeal with berries, granola, and nut butter. The list goes on! So, I mix a few of those in there (keeping in mind any early meetings), and plop those into the Grid.
Snacks are easy. Every snack has protein & some type of carb. So, I have a number of go-to snacks, too: greek yogurt with fruit or granola, almonds with fruit, nut butter with celery, cheese and fruit or veg, 2 hardboiled eggs and veg, granola and fruit. I make sure that I’m not having too much nut butter in 1 day – so I’ll be sure that on a day when I’m having oatmeal or a smoothie with nut butter, I won’t also have a snack with nut butter. It’s all about balance!
Now your Grid is complete!
Time to plan the grocery shopping! We shop at Trader Joe’s or Sprout’s on a weekly basis – your local store would work too. I hit up Costco about once every 3 to 4 weeks for the major items (wild salmon or organic chicken breast – which can be frozen, although I prefer my fish never frozen).
I flip over the Grid, and start determining, based on the items on the Grid, what I need to buy. I’ll separate the page into various sections of the grocery store: Pantry, Dairy, Meat / Seafood, Frozen, Produce. Then I’ll start adding in the ingredients from my recipes and the grid boxes, along with how much I need. How many tubs of yogurt? What size of Vegetable broth? (Would a can work, or do I need one of those 4-cup boxes?) I’ll then take stock of standards that we always have on hand, to be sure that I’m all set. Do I need more garlic? How are we on whole wheat flour? (I usually have a list going of staples, like those – so I won’t forget).
Most Importantly: When I’m in the store, I stick to the list! Since I already know what I want is on sale, I’ve already factored that in. And I don’t let myself get sucked in by something that looks tasty at the store. Because if it’s not in my house, I won’t eat it!
Do you meal / menu plan? Any tricks that you’d recommend for me?