Meal planning is a phrase I started hearing most commonly in the past few years. It may just be me, but it seems as though it has skyrocketed or maybe it’s just because people I’m surrounded with have such busy lives with kids and work that they all started doing it. I have never actually formally ‘meal planned,’ I’ve always been one to have it in my head and know what I’ll be making and when and I used to plan it out for the week in my head. During this pandemic, I started changing it and writing it down to make it easier and I feel like I’ve mastered my method. There are so many ways to do it so feel free to share yours! My hubby and I eat the same thing everyday for breakfast (Sonia: cappuccino, oatmeal or yogurt parfaits, Leia: oatmeal or pancakes, Jibin: coffee only) and lunch on our own (Sonia: protein bars or drink, carrots/hummus, almonds, Jibin: Indian chicken and bread) and Leia usually eats kid friendly items Ive made for her and placed in the freezer that I rotate with and take out every day for her for lunch. So that leaves only dinner to meal prep for the 3 of us.
- Step one: Find a method
I chose to use Microsoft-to-do list (it used to be Wunderlist that I used). I like it because I can update it on my phone or computer and I can share it with Jibin so that both of us can see and edit the lists. I made a category called Groceries and a separate list for all of the common places I shop (i.e., Costco, Kroger, Aldi, Target, Publix, Whole Foods, Trader Joes, etc). I like being able to get everything from one place, but I also like going to different places for certain things. I also created a Dinners category and added a list for ‘Recipes’ and one for ‘Weekly Dinners.’
- Step two: Finding recipes
I usually search on Instagram or go to my favorite bloggers to look for recipes that are tasty, quick and easy- I don’t like spending more than an hour on cooking (including prep and cleaning up). I started just putting links to recipes I like on my ‘Recipes’ list so I always have it there to pull up when I make my grocery list or make the item(s).
- Step three: Grocery list
I started looking at recipes I want to make for the next 2-3 weeks and that’s how I start making my list (I used to do it alpha order or by section, but now it’s just random).
- Step four: Grocery Random Items
Sometimes at the grocery store, I may see certain things on sale or new items so if I get that, then I’ll make my own dinner out of it and it just adds more days of ideas for dinners.
- Step five: Dinners by Week
I use the recipes to create what we will be eating for the next 2-3 weeks each night. I always make enough to eat 2 days in a row and we always have 1 day a week set aside for a cheeseboard night or out. So that leaves 3 meals a week to make.
- Step six: Prepping
On the weekends or during the week when I have more time, I’ll make sure all veggies I’ve gotten are chopped and ready to go- don’t wash them, cut and place a towel around it in a glass tight container and place in fridge (lasts 2 weeks). Only wash when you take it out to cook for it to last longer. I’ll also figure out what grains or beans I will need for the week and make them in the instant pot and place them in an airtight container in the fridge after cooling (lasts 1 week).
- Step seven: Staple items
If I don’t have time to look at or think of recipes/dinners, I always make sure I get the following: eggplant, diced tomato cans, green onion, sweet potatoes, zucchini, spinach, carrots, frozen broccoli, cauliflower rice, peas and carrots, bags of kidney beans, chickpeas, black beans, quinoa/farro, lentils and corn and lentil/chickpea/black bean pastas with Rao’s homemade tomato sauce and Flatout/Carb balance tortillas and Egg Beaters or eggs. It’s amazing the things you can do if you always have veggies, grains and tortillas stocked!
I’ve found this works well for us and backup options I always have include frozen cauliflower crust pizzas and spaghetti (black bean with homemade sauce or Rao’s sauce and shredded cheese/spinach). What are your daily breakfast, lunch and dinner meals? Do you ‘meal prep,’ and if so, how?