I don't like surprises. I LOVE meal planning.

Monday, October 28, 2013

"Meal planning" is one of those things that you can't really talk about with your friends, because as soon as you cop to planning out your meals for the week ahead, people stop inviting you to hang out. Admitting that you plan your meals is like wearing a sign across your chest proclaiming "I AM LAME" or "I H8 FUN".

Except: meal planning can help you maintain a sense of sanity in a world that's otherwise gone mad. My life may be in a complete shambles, but goddammit, I know what I'm having for dinner on Thursday and that's something to cling to. Plus, it helps you save money on grocery shopping as well as make the most of the ingredients you already have on hand. Fewer impulse buys + less wasted grub.

There are all kinds of different approaches to meal planning. Mine is not at all scientific. Every Sunday, I make a list of dinners to eat for the week ahead, and next-day lunches to correspond with dinners (this allows me to make the most of leftovers and to avoid eating pasta twice on Tuesday) (not that there's anything wrong with that). Then, when I go grocery shopping, I know exactly what I need to pick up and what I already have at home, so I'm not aimlessly trolling the junky aisles and throwing all sorts of snacks into my cart.

Recently I found this idea, which basically makes the idea of meal planning even simpler by designating a different theme for each day of the week. While this might sound boring and predictable, there's still enough variety here that it's never as if you're going to eat the same thing over and over ad nauseam. It just makes the planning aspect that much easier. You choose a theme for each day of the week and stick with that.

Our 'themes' are going to change from season to season. We aren't big winter barbecuers, just like we aren't going to gather around a piping-hot soup cauldron in the blazing heat of summer. Here's what I've come up with as our tentative themes for the next few months:

Mondays: meatless. On Mondays we're just getting into the swing of things for the week, and making a big hearty dinner is not likely to happen. Mondays are good for things like stirfrys, veggie burgers or sausages with sweet potatoes and carrots, a quick soup-and-grilled-cheese situation, or some kind of quinoa salad.

Tuesday: international. At first the only thing I could think of for "international" was Mexican because TACOS. But international can be a lot of fun things: pasta (Italian), sushi and edamame (Japanese), perogies (Polish), pad Thai, chicken fried rice.

Wednesday: Wine Wednesday/date night. On Wednesdays we just drink wine for dinner. Kidding (usually). Every Wednesday Pete and I take turns making or ordering food and having a glass of wine as a little "hurray, we made it through the first half of the week!" type of celebration, so Wednesdays are kind of up in the air. The good news is, I only have to worry about Wednesdays 50% of the time.

Thursday: slow cooker. By Thursday we're just over everything, so throwing some stuff in the crock pot in the morning and coming home to a nice warm meal at the end of the day sounds perfect.

Friday: pizza. We have pizza every Friday, and it is the best.

Saturday: miscellaneous. Saturday is the day we're most likely to be out running errands and grab dinner out, or else we've been snacking all day and don't really feel like cooking, so Saturday is a bit of a freebie, depending on what's going on.

Sunday: roast, casserole or soup. Sunday is generally a lazier day with more time to prepare something a little more time-consuming, whether it's a roast beef or chicken dinner, a homemade stew or chili, or a more complicated dish. Yesterday we made chicken stew, and it smelled so good simmering on the stove in the afternoon while we hung out at home.

There are all kinds of templates and apps and software that can help you plan your meals, but I just use Reminders on my iPhone and make a good old-fashioned list. 10 minutes on a Sunday, a quick boo through the flyers, and I'm ready for the week ahead.

Do you meal plan? If so, are you fancy about it? Any tips to share?

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  1. Love this! I also love meal planning, although I don't plan the week ahead I do plan a day or two in advance which seems to work, we make the best of leftovers and don't waste as much food as we once did winging it. You're dead on with how each day seems to unfold, cooking wise. Tonight for example, still feeling the Monday blues a little, we just prepared a few things we picked up at Costco and it hit the spot - and Sunday is always for comfort food.

    You really do seem super organized. Do you find yourself making runs to the store throughout the week? That's my downfall... Feeling the need for something more, or having forgotten something - I am always running back to the store or asking G to pick something up on his way home.

    1. We did sweet potato hash with eggs and avocados! Super easy and it was all stuff we had on hand.

      We usually do a big grocery shop during the week and then will go on the weekend to pick up stuff for Sunday dinner/baking stuff that I forgot about/essentials for Eli that he goes through like crazy (milk, yogurt, bananas). I would love to only set foot in the grocery store once a week! One day that'll happen! But usually we end up going twice, no matter how much planning happens!