I love meal planning. It saves me money, time, forces me to eat healthier, and feeds my desire to be obsessively organized.
My friend's mom, a busy, wonderful, sweet angel and mid-wife, asked me to assist her with a week's worth of meal planning. As a bonus, my friend and I could prepare all of our own meals at the same time.
I'm going to go over the basic steps to successful meal planning and show you what we accomplished!
- What are your goals?
- What is your budget?
- How many meals and snacks do you want to prepare?
In her case, she wanted to work with a reasonable budget, eat mostly vegetarian and organic and cut out gluten and dairy. We discussed her weekly schedule and decided on five lunches, three dinners, a variety of snacks and breakfast items.
That brings us to step #2:
See what you already have. I snooped around the fridge and pantry to see what was already there and what I could work with. I tried to figure out how to keep things affordable while sticking to our goals. She had a great box of gluten-free baking supplies, plenty of frozen fruit and some good quality canned goods I knew I could work.
Make your grocery list. Have your list of meals on one side and write down everything you need on the other. Remove any items that you already have on hand. Also make sure you have enough containers (and mason jars/Ziploc bags ect.) to get you through the week!
Hit up the store. Change your game plan if needed depending on what looks good and what's on sale. Try to buy the bulk of your purchases in the produce aisle, and buy bigger when it's something you'll use the following weeks. If you have a Costco card, take advantage!
Get to work. Plan your use of the oven and stovetop wisely. Prep as much as you can before you actually start cooking, then get your root vegetables going and stews simmering first. If you have a slow cooker, use it for a hearty stew or slow cooked meat (I love making a batch of shredded chicken, simply poached in water.)
Pack like a boss. If you're packing salads, make sure your moist items are at the bottom, add a layer of crunchy carrots to keep your lettuce from getting soggy. Pack your dressings separately.
Fun tip: Mason jars are perfect for layered salads and overnight oats. You can even layer your oats with frozen berries, and they'll be perfectly defrosted and delicious by morning.
This was our final result for week one:
- Quinoa and apple cinnamon porridge
- Overnight oats with chia, coconut, and half berry/half mango
- Banana coconut muffins
- Individual egg frittatas
- Kale Caesar with sweet potato croutons and chickpeas - Tahini miso "Caesar" dressing
- Tuna, beet, corn and spinach salad - Miso dressing
- Mexican kale and bean salad - Red wine vinaigrette
- Hard boiled eggs
- Homemade hummus
- Vegetarian quinoa chili
- Cauliflower shepherd's pie with lean ground turkey (we agreed on using some animal protein)
- Curried lentil coconut stew
We're all taking notes and are going to re-group on Sunday with a new menu for next week! Huzzah! It's only day one and I feel so spoiled with my delicious bounty of meals.