A pre-summary of this article:
1. Identify your goals with meal planning; I mean, you’re going to eat…
2. Choose your themes and give it a try. WTH.
3. Plan a planning time. Use a timer.
4. Make the list. Check the pantry.
5. Buy the goods. Prep the goods.
6. Eat the goods and congratulate yourself on KISS.
What? Talk about meal planning? I think this comes from the Now For Something Completely Different Department.
Why meal plan? In order to succeed at eating the way I desire. In order to succeed at using my resources wisely. In order to succeed, I get to plan.
Why does it feel so onerous?
I feel as though I’m being bossed around. I experience resistance. I experience petulance. I cross my arms and stick out my tongue. You can’t make me.
No, I cannot make you plan your meals. I don’t even want to make you plan your meals. Nope.
I am asking that you try it. I am asking that you be open and teachable. I mean, let’s be realistic here. You know you’re going to eat at least twice, usually three times, each day, so why resist something which might support you? Which might create success?
First. What are your goals? Very important to be clear. If your goals don’t line up with being organised and mindful in the kitchen, if your goals involve wanting to forage wildly for each meal, then stop here. No need for planning.
Which meals do you want order around? Do you desire to plan just breakfasts? Go for it. All meals? Perfect.
I’m a creature of habit. Most of us are. We like simplicity. If I hired a full time chef, I would seek more diversity in my meals, but that’s not my priority right now. Ha. So I Keep It Super Simple (KISS).
Theme nights. Let’s try that. As goofy and little-kid-ish (as my kids like to say) as it sounds, it’s a fun and simple way to organise. And once those are established, we get to spend 15 minutes choosing recipes for the week. Fifteen. That’s all it needs to take. Then the shopping list. Then the shopping—after first checking what’s already in the house.
Methodical. Magic. For the win.
Monday. Beginning of the workweek. Whether you’re working for pay or not, it is still The Day After The Weekend, so keep it super super simple (KISSS) for the win. Get the week started well. As Mary Poppins was so fond of saying, “Well begun is half done.”
Monday. Meatless Monday and a chickpea curry with cauliflower rice. Middle Eastern Monday and turmeric cauliflower rice under chicken shawarma. Recipe here. If others in your home are eating rice rice, you can even skip the cauliflower rice for yourself—fewer things to cook—and serve the meat over arugula, lettuce, or steamed veg to simplify further.
What other Monday themes? Easy Monday? Why does it need to start with the same letter?
Easy Monday. Yep. Slow cooker time. Choose a slow cooker recipe, prep the ingredients Sunday and pop them in Monday morning. Boom. I’m a fan.
Oh! Here’s another one: Marinate Monday. I literally did this two days ago, on a Monday. Cut up some chicken and threw it in a glass dish with lime juice, mustard—mixed with water because it was the end of the bottle—and minced garlic. I let it sit in the fridge all day to contemplate its life and then Monday evening I was ready to go.
Pro tips: 1) I use scissors to cut up chicken straight from the package—no board to wash, fewer questionable chicken bacteria to deal with, just the scissors to pop in the dishwasher. 2) I have finally figured out to prep my veg first—especially if I’ve had the forethought to marinate the protein—so first thing I do is wrangle the vegetables out of the fridge, out of any packaging and get them cut so they can rest before cooking. This also gives me time before anything is getting hot to get a bandaid for the finger I might nick while cutting roly-poly carrots. Oops.
Back to Marinade Monday—that’s better than Marinate Monday, yeah—Marinade. So the chicken is thinking in its bowl, I put some rice on the “hob”, and the whole broccoli and fennel are chopped. I use the broccoli stems after peeling the outer layers because they’re yummy and sweet—and because my partner only likes that part of the broccoli, and I don’t want him left out of the meal. Poor guy.
I digress: my family is complicated. I’m eating low-carb, plus no gluten or dairy; one kid eats vegetarian; another has specific things she doesn’t like—namely all the soups the rest of us like—and my partner doesn’t do broccoli or egg dishes. So I get to be creative and cook things separately and make good use of all leftovers.
It’s called knowing your parameters and working with them.
Let’s move on here. Tuesday?! Taco Tuesday? Oh, why not? To me this means Mexican food Tuesday, but that doesn’t have the ring of Taco, so Taco Tuesday it is. Planning says: get the beef, preferably grass-fed, out of the freezer over the weekend so it can thaw gracefully. If I haven’t planned, I get to run it under cool water in a bowl in the sink for a few hours. Wastes water and doesn’t do much to make me feel successful, but it happens, so I bless it and move on. I cook the beef with onion and garlic, taco seasoning. Read the label, of course, if you haven’t made your own.
Wacky Wednesday? Try a recipe you’ve not attempted before? Eat leftovers? Depends upon your particular situation. Maybe you’ve been eating the leftovers for lunches and breakfasts. Fantastic. That makes a ton of sense.
Which meals are the most challenging for you? I’m focusing on dinners here, but it’s just as important to plan the first and second meals of the day. I will create separate posts for those. Yep.
Wacky Wednesday. Wild-caught? Wild-grown? Just plain Wild? Wilderness Wednesday. World Wednesday. Yes! An international dinner day. My favourite is Indian food. How about you? Can go Greek. Italian. Choose an ethnicity to celebrate. Do some research. Get kids involved. Nice in the middle of the week.
Can also be super simple with the slow cooker or Instant Pot. Prep the veggies ahead of time and store them in the fridge. Carrots, onion, garlic, cauliflower all hold up well. Toss them in the slow cooker with a few cups of stock-of-your-choice, some protein-of-your-choice, and a can of coconut milk plus salt and curry powder. Add zucchini towards the end of cooking time. Green beans. Yum!
Can you tell I cook by feel rather than specific measures? Quantities depend upon your audience. Make a lot and bung the leftovers in glass containers to store in the freezer for another time. I aim for 3-4 ounces of protein per person. And lots of vegetables. Plenty. Our government tells us to eat 5 cups each day of veggies plus fruits. Dr. Terry Wahls, who put her own advanced MS into remission using diet, recommends 9 cups—and that’s just veggies.
Eat veggies. Lots of them. As Michael Pollan says, “Eat food. Not too much. Mostly vegetables.”
Thursday! Thoup Thursday? Think Thursday? Thai Thursday? Yum, by the way. Choose a casserole. Prep it one evening or Thursday morning. Throw soup ingredients in the slow cooker.
Throw Thursday? Or...egg-based day. Or Breakfast for Dinner day. Theme-less day?
Ah! Plenty of theme ideas here.
Throwback Thursday. Thrifty Thursday. Leftovers! Foods from childhood which we remake in our current image. Perfect.
Friday. Ah. Would that it could be Fish Friday. I’m the only one that likes fish in my household. And fish is, in general, so good for our good bodies. So I eat mine for lunches.
Fried Foods Friday?! If we’re talking occasionally using an air fryer on a lower setting. If we’re talking using quality lard or more gentle stove-top frying with coconut oil—then Yum!
Festival Friday! Fun. Fiesta. Fill ‘em up with whatever we’ve got Friday.
And the weekend? Let the ideas rip. Souper Saturday? Simple Sunday? Siesta Sunday—more leftovers because we’re doing our planning day?
And, yes, occasionally take a break and support your local restaurants!!
I am committed to supporting meal planning in my home and in your home. Let me know what you desire! Let me know how I might support you.
Blessings. Gratitude. So many. So much.