Confession: this isn’t a post about how much I dread meal planning and how I can’t think of anything and how I also hate grocery shopping and anything to do with food.
You guys, I love meal planning. I nerd out hardcore. It’s an event. It’s an occasion to break out some tea/wine/coffee, bring out my favourite cookbooks (the tried and true as well as any new ones), and open the recipes from any food blogs that have caught my eye. I look at the weather for the upcoming week, and try to envision what I would want to eat on those nights. Is it going to be warm? Is Matt going to be home early from work? Sweet. then we are grilling something and having a picnic in the yard. Is it going to be cold and rainy? Then most likely soup & bread. Is it going to be a busy day? Throw something in the crockpot at the start of the day so I don’t have to think about it until later. I weirdly love to schedule it all out! Sometimes I don’t even follow the plan, but it’s nice to know that I have one.
Ok, so I already told you I bust out the recipes. But I also bring our family calendar over (to view our schedules), the week’s flyer sales (I’m a sucker for a deal, and hello food budget!), and I open the email from my CSA distributor to see what veggies we will be getting this week. I also have a notebook that I have basically turned into a diary of what happens each week. On the tope of the page there is room for a list, and on the bottom fourth of the page there is the meal plan for each day of the week and then some (note: we get our CSA boxes on Wednesday, and our flyers on Thursday, so I’m usually planning on a Thursday, which means the plan starts on Friday).
First things first, I read through the CSA email to see what we will be getting. I don’t want to double up on any veg, or buy too much veg and let some go to waste! I love having a CSA box each week, because it challenges me to make things I normally wouldn’t, and everything from the farm is organic and so darn fresh! I love it.
Next, I go through the week’s flyers from the few grocery stores. I mainly check for deals on meat, fruit, and any veg that I think we may need (which is usually none because our CSA is pretty complete, but I keep my eyes open). I also always check for deals on canned goods (beans, chickpeas, coconut milk, etc). There are usually a few items I get regardless of our meal plan (fruit, nuts, & snackies mainly), so I check if any of these are on sale and write it on the list. I also take time to do a bit of inventory of my freezer, bulk, etc. I try to stock up on sales, then when i am meal planning I always take into account how to use what I already have.
I look over our schedule, make note of any nights Matt will be working late, we have small group, plans, etc. With the sales in mind, I start thumbing through the cookbooks and food blogs I have open, looking for inspiration and ideas. Sometimes I can see something that is on sale and build a meal around it without need of a cookbook (simple meals like grilled chicken, rice/quinoa/potatoes, and veg) and some I need a bit more guidance. I have my main go-tos for cookbooks that are relatively easy and always delish (I’ll list some of my faves at the bottom of the post).
As I’m going through recipes, when something catches my eye, I go through the recipe, see what we have and make note of what we need. I have found that writing the list and the meal plan on the same page helps me, because I can second guess myself while I’m shopping, and sometimes I think “I don’t really need that, do I?” I’ll opt not to get it, and I realize when I get home it was crucial to the recipe. ::face palm::
Narrowing it down to a week’s worth is so hard, so I usually end up planning for a week and a half (our CSA veg can usually last that long, depending on what’s on the menu). If there is anything that needs to be taken out of the freezer the night before or soaked overnight, I always make a note with stars on the day before. I then write out the meal plan on a sheet that I hang on the fridge. Having it posted somewhere helps me get my mind wrapped around what I need to prep for that day.
I printed these sheets from the Magnolia Blog, and coloured them in fun colours. I don’t use the market list on the right because I have all that info in my handy, wonderful notebook. But I use that column for things I need to make or recipes I want to experiment with (example, I am all out of lactation cookies that I usually keep in the freezer, and I really want to experiment and try to make kimchi sometime in the next couple weeks!). The one above clearly needs to be filled in some more!
All that being said, there are some weeks that don’t work out and I have GRACE with myself, and let toast be a perfectly acceptable dinner. I hope you enjoyed this peek into my brain, and I hope it makes meal planning a bit more fun for you. 🙂 If anyone has any tips or tricks, please feel free to share!
A FEW FAVOURITES . . .
“It’s All Good” by Gwyneth Paltrow
“It’s All Easy” by Gwyneth Paltrow
“Everyday Detox” by Megan Gilmore
“Oh She Glows” by Angela Liddon
“Brown Eggs and Jam Jars” by Aimee Wimbush-Bourque
“Bread and Wine” by Shauna Niequist