This week’s meal plan hit a bit of a snag when my sinuses decided to show me who’s boss. So there may or may not have been two meals replaced by pizza and pizza leftovers. But I’m just going to pretend they weren’t because I was a big fan of this meal plan.
Sunday: Light dinner. Chuck was at a meeting at Church so we had some steamed broccoli and snack type foods.
Monday: Moroccan Couscous. This isn’t the recipe I used but it is the one I’ll try next time… We also tried out Israeli Couscous but I think we’ll go back to the old fashioned stuff next time or just use quinoa so Lucy can have it too.
Tuesday: Veggie Pancakes. We didn’t get to try them because the sinus yuck showed up Tuesday but we’ll try them in the future.
Wednesday: Curry Yogurt Acorn Squash. I had low expectations that we would maybe not like this but it turned out to be a win. We did like it more when we took the squash off the rind before serving and kind of mashed it into the quinoa.
Thursday: Roasted Sweet Potato and Farro. There’s a farro conspiracy in our house. For every three times it makes the menu it only makes it on to our plate once. Sorry farro.
Friday: Mexican Spinach Salad. I opted for the leftover pizza. This yumminess will have to wait.
Saturday: Mountain Bread. Cheesy [nutritional yeast] cauliflower, and roasted green beans is definitely getting bumped to next week. No part of me is feeling up to a big dinner prep.
As I was making this week’s meal plan it occurred to me that I finally feel like I’ve got the meal planning figured out. I’ve got it down to about 15 minutes [not including the time I spend pinning random recipes that pique my interest as they come across my Google Reader]. So here’s a run down of how I throw my meal plan together in a hurry.
Here’s a link to the template on Google Drive in case you’d like to print it.
The very first thing that happens around here is a trip to the grocery store. I scope out the produce ads first. As a family of four who consume mostly vegetarian meals, most of our cart is filled in the produce section. I’ve had to change the amount of vegetables I make because you need more vegetables if you are forgoing the meat. For example, we can eat three pounds of roasted sweet potatoes between the four of us. So as a general rule I’m looking to fill two pans with roasted vegetables for a dinner that requires it. That seems like a lot but the kids eat a lot and I want to make sure I have at least one full meal leftover so that Chuck has something for work the next day.
There are two things I have to do before I can start thinking about what to make on which days. First, I make a list of all the perishable fruits and veggies I’m working with. My goal is to provide nutritious dinners with little wasted food [to stay within our budget] so I want to make sure I’m going to use up what’s in the fridge.
There is a little area for additional items that I’ll need based on the meals I choose. I try to keep this list very short [or blank] because I am incapable of going into any store for “just one thing” so it’s a potential budget buster. Often times I’ll try to substitute in something similar or just leave it out all together.
The other thing I always do is check the weather. Maybe this isn’t necessary everywhere, but certainly in the Midwest where the temperatures vary so much from day to day I want to make sure I’m putting my soups and chili dishes on the cooler days and salads and tacos on my warmer days.
So on my meal planning template I list out what I want to use up at the bottom and I put the daily temperature high in the gray circles.
Finally the fun part: picking meals for the menu. The two tools I use most often for finding and organizing recipes to try are Google Reader and Pinterest. I have a long list of blogs I subscribe to saved in my GR so if I have an ingredient I want to make the focus of the meal all I have to do is search for that ingredient in my GR search bar.
If I’m flipping through the unread items of my Google Reader and something pops up that I want to save I’ll ‘Pin It” to Pinterest. The key to using Pinterest effectively, however, is to have it organized so that you can then go back later and find all the recipes you’ve pinned. For me this means super specific boards.
Your eyes are not deceiving you, I do indeed have a board titled, “Oh Gourd, I Love Squash!”. I crack myself up…
I think it’s sort of hard to use the Pinterest search bar to find recipes [I usually just find a lot of spam] so that’s where it’s helpful to me to ‘follow’ blogs and businesses with recipes that will interest me. Oh, and of course there are my ‘real-life’ friends with winning taste and gourmet palates.
So using those two tools it feels like my meal plan comes together rather quickly. And I certainly appreciate the fact that something that used to take upwards of an hour or so can now come together in 15 minutes.
But that doesn’t mean that I don’t change the meal plan a little during the week. I guess I still need to work on that…