Meal Planning 101
By Elizabeth Robertson Williams
It’s no secret, those who know me well, know that I’m not exactly a planner. However, I’m beginning to see that when I actually take the time to plan things out, it saves me time, money, and unnecessary stress. Case in point? Meal planning!
When it comes to saving time and money, there are few more productive solutions I can offer you than the importance of a good, solid meal plan.
Whether you’re married or single, I can’t tell you how helpful it is to have everything planned out, only requiring you to make ONE (that’s right, one!) trip to the grocery store per week.
No more last-minute grocery store runs to grab a little of this and a little of that.
No more barrage of take out menus to sift through because there’s no food in the house.
Say goodbye to question that plagues women everywhere, “What’s for dinner?”
With a solid meal plan in place, you can finally have the answer!
Here are a few tips:
- Pick one day a week that works best for you to head to the grocery store and stick with it.
- Go online and peruse the grocery store sales. It might help give you some inspiration to discover that pork tenderloin is on sale for $2.99/lb. Start there.
- Before heading out, write out all of the days of the week on a piece of paper and what events you may have scheduled throughout the week. Then, based on your plans, figure out how many meals you’ll need to plan out.
- Plan to cook more than you need so the meal stretches further. I try to make one meal last for two dinners and occasionally one lunch.
- Now comes the fun part: pick some recipes! For me, Pinterest has become my meal planning haven. They have such great ideas! Then, once you find recipes you love, they’re all stored in one place so you can access them again.
- Life happens. Keep some kind of trusted freezer backup in case your brilliant plan doesn’t work the way it should. Our favorite? Trader Joe’s Beef and Broccoli.
Need some ideas? Here’s a sample of an old meal plan:
Sunday: Turkey meatloaf muffins, sweet potato fries, and romaine lettuce salad with an easy, homemade vinaigrette (recipe below).
Monday: Pot roast, mashed potatoes, romaine lettuce salad. (Note: pot roast takes 3-4 hours in oven, so if you work away from home, you may need to crock pot it.)
Tuesday: Leftover meatloaf muffins, freshly cooked sweet potato fries, and sautéed kale.
Wednesday: Leftover pot roast, mashed potatoes, and a green vegetable TBD. (Broccoli?)
Thursday: Fried rice (recipe below), Annie Chuns frozen pork dumplings, sautéed bok choy with rice vinegar.
Friday: Leftover fried rice.
Sunday: TBD, but generally between leftovers and my pantry, I can scrounge around the pantry to come up with something to throw into a soup or casserole. And if that doesn't work, there's always pasta with olive oil, garlic and parmesan cheese--delish!
And that’s that! Three nights of cooking for six nights of dinners!
* Recipe for an easy vinaigrette:
When it comes to salad, we like to keep things simple. Typically, we just throw some romaine lettuce in a bowl and whip up a quick salad dressing. Some might not realize this, but making your own salad dressing is really easy and it taste so fresh! Here’s one of my favorites:
- live Oil
- Red Wine Vinegar (use less than the amount of oil you use)
- Dijon or brown mustard (1-2 squirts/spoonfuls)
- Squirt of lemon
- A little grated parmesan cheese
- Salt and pepper
Combine everything and shake, shake, shake. Taste it before and adjust seasoning to your liking. The more you do this, the easier eyeballing the ingredients becomes!
Recipe for fried rice
One of our family’s FAVORITE dishes is fried rice! I mean, we just can’t get enough of the stuff. Here’s a loose recipe that is constantly evolving.
- 2-3 cups of rice
- 3-4 chicken tenderloins
- 1-2 eggs
- 1 onion
- Scallions (I say, the more the merrier!)
- Frozen Peas
- Thinly chopped carrots
- Optional: cilantro–try it!
- Cook 2-3 cups of rice. Or if you have it, leftover rice is actually preferable.
- In a wok or frying pan cook some thinly sliced chicken in peanut oil. We season with ginger, sesame seeds, soy sauce, and a little sesame oil.
- After a few minutes, add the sliced onion and sauté until soft.
- When chicken looks done, add the cooked rice.
- Add the thinly chopped carrot and chopped scallions. (This give the rice great color)
- Create a whole in the bottom of pan and crack the eggs. Let them cook a little and then chop it up like you’re a hibachi chef. Once the egg looks mostly cooked, stir it into the rice.
- Lastly, add the peas. We just throw them in frozen and let them thaw, but be careful not to overcook them so they don’t get mushy.
- Taste your creation and season accordingly: we love adding soy sauce, lime, cilantro, a dash of white vinegar (trust me!), a little more ginger, or some extra sesame seeds.
We’ve just recently started pairing this with Annie Chuns dumplings and it has been the most welcomed addition!! You can usually get them on sale around $3. Yummy!
Need more ideas? Check out my Pinterest page.