I’ve mentioned it a small handful of times on Instagram, but I haven’t really talked about the ins and outs of one of my favorite Sunday pastimes: meal planning. The former teacher in me loves a sturdy plan to help set the tone for our week. Taking a little chunk out of the day to pour over recipes and inspiring words about food helps me in more ways than one to keep things organized around here. Given that structure, rhythm, and eating are all dear to my heart, meal planning for the week comes second nature to me. It is something I thoroughly enjoy doing, as I find to it be very soothing in addition to good prep for the week ahead as a stay at home mom. It gives me a proper chance to look at our days and sort them, figuring out what our week is going to look like before it starts. And when my brain is in mom fog and in need of ideas, there’s my plan already mapped out on paper, making the process of cooking supper that much easier when looking after little ones. I quite like that.
My process for meal planning is roughly the same each week. I’ll grab three or four cookbooks off the shelves, each week changing things up, and lay them out on the table in our kitchen. I always gravitate towards our eat in nook because I love sitting near the big window that overlooks our backyard. It’s such a cozy corner and I think my favorite in our home. There, usually with a second cup of coffee in hand, I’ll open up my cookbooks, look at the pictures, thumb through for inspiration, scribble notes on my notepad, and the like. Sometimes, I’ll bring over my computer and browse Pinterest for some ideas. But almost always before starting, I’ll do an inventory of what needs to be used up that is already in our fridge or freezer. I’ll write that down and try to find recipes that accommodate. Not only does this helps us not waste food, but also gives me a starting place with an ingredient. Oh, there’s frozen pork shoulder in the freezer? How about crock pot verde tacos? Bacon that needs using this week? Let’s make carbonara. Something like that.
Carving out time to plan our meals not only helps me organize my week, it also makes things much easier when at the grocery store. In accordance with my meal plan, I’ll write out the week’s worth of groceries I need, making it easier to budget and not overspend at the store. I feel like almost every time I go to the store without my list I end up getting frivolous items like gooey cheese or random sweets. Okay, maybe not so frivolous, alas. I am one of those people that benefit greatly from writing things down.
Here is the typical layout I stick to when meal planning. In a seven day week, I’ll plan to cook three to four wholesome suppers. I will usually do this every other day but not always, by choose the days in our calendar that work best for slow meals. Usually those are evenings Andrew will be home early and in time to enjoy them with us before we start bedtime routines with the kids. Aside from the three to four meals I’ll be preparing, I’ll add one crock pot meal and cook it on a day when we are most busy. This usually falls on days I clean or have errands to run. That makes four to five meals for a seven day week. The other days I am not cooking are open for leftovers or for going out. We typically do not eat out during the week and prefer to save that as our weekend treat. Here’s an example of what a typical meal plan for one week might look like:
– grilled chicken and asparagus with miso soy glaze (It’s All Good Cookbook pg. —)
– arugula salad on the side with strawberry dressing (use up those berries tonight)
– crock pot pulled bbq pork shoulder with pineapple bbq sauce (Pinterest recipe, use frozen pineapple)
– sweet potato fries seasoned with old bay
– garden salad on the side with oil and vinegar (use up garden tomatoes today)
– mini chicken pot pies with sourdough crumb topping (my recipe, use frozen stock and rest of carrots)
– left over night
– eat out for supper
– ice cream sundaes for dessert (use bananas)
– mild ancho beef chili with essential oil rosemary cornbread (yellow farmhouse recipe pg. —)
– Trader Joe’s artichoke ravioli with brown butter
– frozen pizzas
When it comes to meal planning I am not rigid nor do I make things hard on myself. The whole point of the plan is to make things less stressful, so getting super detailed is only a means of helping me out when I need it, not to impress or make things fancy. When preparing our meal, I’ll usually enlist the help of Stella (sometimes Theo) who is now at the age where she can peel and stir and sometimes chop with her Montessori tools with my observation. It’s fun to spend this time together and I know it makes her feel special. Sometimes in the planing stages I’ll ask her to choose between two or there recipes to add on our weekly menu. She loves helping in this way and I feel it also helps her eat better come suppertime since she had a hand in the prep.