Easy Peasy Meal Planning
I prompted a question when I posted this on Twitter this afternoon:
I responded via Twitter in three or four short burst tweets before I realized this would make a great post. Because who among us (author Elle Asher included) couldn't use a trick up our sleeves when it comes to planning meals?
I'm no stranger to planning. I bought a new Erin Condren planner this year, and let me tell you, this little bugger is a LIFELINE. Seriously. If you want to to stay organized and look fashionable doing it, Erin is your gal. She even gives first-time buyers a $10 coupon. Here's my referral code if you are interested: CLICK HERE.
But, you don't need a fancy-pants planner to meal plan. I tried it in my
planner, but found myself needing it on the fridge. In fact, the easiest way I've found to do it is this extremely boring Excel spreadsheet here. Or, if you prefer, there are about a ZILLION printable meal plans sheets on Pinterest here.
Also, pick a time that's best for you to do your meal planning. When are the kids quiet? (NEVER! I hear you wailing. I know, I know, I don't have kids. Gimme some leeway here. When is the husband home to help? When do you have an hour where you can relax and take the time you need to do this? Mr. Lemmony and I do meal planning on Sunday at the same time I pull out my planner to suss out my week.
Okay, let's begin.
COOKBOOKS. I don't know about you, but I have about a million cookbooks. I try and meal plan for the week from no more than TWO. This is very important. You don't want 12 books stacked up on the kitchen table all week. I decide whether I feel like fancying things up (Chloe Coscarelli and Giada DeLaurentis) or if I want to cook down and dirty from the pantry in small portions (Happy Herbivore to the rescue) or if I feel like using my slow cooker (Vegan Slow Cooker for the win). Once I have chosen which cookbooks to use, I mark the recipes with post it notes.
THE FORM. Now I pull out my laptop and start plugging things in. Here is my form for this week. As you can see, breakfast rotates from eggs & toast to oatmeal or cold cereal. Scrambled, fried, omelet? Who cares. We just do what we feel like that morning.
PLAN TO PLAN AHEAD. Once you have plugged in your recipe, look for opportunities to prep ahead. For example, on Monday, we are having burrito bowls, so I wrote all in caps on the breakfast box "PREP 1 CUP BROWN RICE". That way it's done for dinner and I've saved myself a 45-minute step.
Other helpful notes:
List the recipe book and page number right on your meal plan, keeping those Post-its in place for easy reference.
Jot down helpful notes like I did on Thursday's Chickpea Tenders recipe. "REQUIRES 40 MINUTES BAKING TIME" lets me know not to rush into the kitchen last minute and try and whip up dinner.
Make your grocery list at the same time. The hubs does this, which is SO helpful. He will also check on pantry staples as I read off recipe. If you're doing this on your own, it'll take a little longer, but making sure you have the ingredients you need is essential to things running smoothly.
Be flexible. Don't feel like a 40 minute prep time on Thursday? Bump it to Friday or, if nothing is going to spoil in the fridge, bump it to the next week.
Have emergency quick food on hand. We keep a frozen pizza in the freezer at all times. We also keep 1 or 2 bags of fried rice and veggie egg rolls in the freezer for a quick-fix dinner.
Wing it. I like to make Saturday or Sunday a "wing it" day. That's the day we either eat out or eat leftovers in prep for meal planning on Sunday.
Cook the items that will spoil FIRST. If you stocked up on produce, be sure you are having that stir-fry with lots and lots of fresh veggies in the beginning of the week rather than letting them languish until Friday.
If all else fails, and you're calling the pizza guy, go easy on yourself. Sometimes, the week just eats your brain and there's nothing you can do about it. This system has saved me lately especially since I got into a BAD habit of fast food last year. Now with a plan on the fridge, and food inside the fridge (very important), I find myself eating at home more, which is a relief to both my wallet and my waistline.