Thursday, April 25, 2019

mealplanning strategy

I have never actively thought about mealplanning, but from the time Andrew and I started cohabitating (2007...), he was the "adult" and I came from my parents' house, so we did a lot of things his way and grocery shopping was one of them. Whereas my mom and her sisters and my grandma keep fully stocked pantries with canned goods, buy things on sale just because, and have extra freezers for meat, we figure out what we are going to eat for the week and buy that.

Before Pinterest, I was inadvertently mealplanning. Now that I eat three meals a day at home during the week, I try extra hard to mealplan. Few things are more annoying than the "there is nothing to eat in this entire house" feeling. And I was chatting with a friend about this and she liked my approach so I will share because, why not?

We generally eat dinner at home Sunday - Thursday. There are two of us. I don't eat shellfish, we rarely eat beef at home (Andrew gets enough of it with BBQ life and it is never my favorite), I don't cook pork, and we rarely eat fish since we both prefer it fresh and have to eat it the day we buy it and that is too much commitment. I don't like canned veggies and I will spend more on meat if it is easy to cook (ie, premade raw meatballs that I can pop in the oven, already marinated chicken...)

Andrew went to culinary school; I started doing more of the cooking since working from home. I'm afraid of undercooking meat, I have awful knife skills, and faster is better. I try to avoid too many convenience foods, a ton of carbs many nights in a row, and only ask Andrew to cook one weeknight per week since his workday is about 12 hours long, including the commute.

Okay, so onto the strategy - Step 1 - Pick a meal that can last for two nights. Cooking is dumb and I like to maximize my time. If the two night meal is something Andrew will cook, we normally have it on Sunday and then Tuesday. If I cook it, it can be any night, but normally it's Monday. Some two night meals that we go to are enchiladas, black bean soup, chili, harissa chicken (one night with cous cous, the next night over salad), stuffed shells, Chinese chicken, or Mediterranean bowls. If we want to have a "bun" food, like veggie burgers, we'll usually plan a second bun food, too. So there are 2/5 nights.

Step 2 - Pick something easy - There is always a night where we don't want to cook, but our "going out" options are limited (read: we are picky and don't like the suburban chains surrounding us) so having something super simple on hand saves many dinner debates. This can be a big salad with pre-shredded rotisserie chicken from the grocery store, salad and a frozen pizza, omelets, ravioli, Trader Joe's orange chicken with rice or frozen veggies, Trader Joe's frozen Indian meals with naan, or veggie quesadillas. I also grab quick options on Costco runs. I grabbed a gyro kit a few weeks ago that we both really liked, and it was a nice change. We're now at 3/5!

Step 3 - Try something new. Typically, this is a new recipe I want to try. Bonus points if it's enough for leftovers. I try to pin things on Pinterest, but occasionally something at the store will catch my eye. Trader Joe's has raw, pre-seasoned chicken in different flavors so that falls into this category. My grocery store also sells Hello Fresh kits, so if those are on sale, I will grab one. I use Skinnytaste and Iowa Girl Eats for recipes most often.

Step 4 - An old faithful and/or something Andrew will cook. A lot of things fit into both of these categories. I don't cook pork, or chicken on the stove. I can cook ground turkey, but I like it better when he does. In a normal week, I'll plan a meal in this category like tacos, lettuce wraps, a sheet pan meal (chicken sausage + veggies), pork and veggies, spaghetti and meatballs, things like that. And that's all 5 meals for the week!

Since I work from home, I also have to plan my breakfasts, lunches, and snacks. Those are way less exciting. For breakfast, I love Siggi's Greek lemon yogurt. I keep those on hand, but some mornings I just want a Kind bar or some fruit. I also get Naked smoothies when I catch them on sale to get some extra fruit in. My lunches are most often an "adult lunchable" in which I take the kids concept of a lunchable - meat, cheese, and crackers - and then add carrots, cherry tomatoes and hummus or dip. By getting different meats, cheeses, or crackers each week and switching up the dips, I somehow don't get too bored of this. I'll also get a salad kit most weeks, so my lunches are two salads and three lunchables. I need to have SOME kind of option or I tend to get annoyed.

We do get into food ruts, and I try to write down things that I try or bookmark or pin recipes that are hits. I also follow Costco and Trader Joe's accounts on Instagram so I can see their new products and grab them if they look good. As far as a grocery budget, I don't really try to keep one since I know that if we don't eat at home, we will go out, and that is way more expensive and more calories so I figure anything from the store is a better choice.

5 comments:

  1. I try to meal plan, well I do meal plan, but it's just me so it's super boring. I pretty much the same 2 things for a week... 3 if you count breakfast but I'm really boring & pretty much eat the same breakfast all the time. I get paid monthly so I've decided that if I have the storage space at my next place I'm going to try to go shopping just once a month, or twice, rather than every single week & prepare a variety of things that I can freeze so I don't get so bored with food & tempted to eat out more. I like the idea of following TJs for new products, I never thought of that!

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  2. I tend to meal plan around sales more than around food desire which can sometimes lead to repeat meals, which I honestly don't mind.

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  3. I feel like we are so similar with a lot of this-- there are a lot of things I really don't like to cook, usually meat & we rarely eat fish at home for the same reason. We need to do a better job utilizing leftovers & I keep meaning to marinate some chicken to keep in the freezer, for something easy, but it's one of those things I saw on Pinterest and have never taken the time to do. I like your lunch ideas-- that's where I tend to get stuck and end up eating the most junk.

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  4. I'm so with you on this one. "Cooking is dumb and I like to maximize my time." Which is why I eat the same dang thing Sun-Thurs. I'm to hateful towards cooking to do anything else and I refuse to spend money (or consume additional sodium/calories)buying things out.

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  5. oh, that's a really good idea about following trader joes and coscto's instagram accounts. i am definitely someone who keeps a stocked pantry and buys things when they are on sale.. my mum is the same way. i guess i've always thought of it like, if we couldn't afford to go to the grocery for a week or two, would we survive? i know that's silly and not really a problem for me as an adult, but it was when i was growing up. i love learning how other people meal plan. i am with you and afraid of undercooking meat. i don't really eat and KC doesn't care if i overcook lol so that's fine by me.

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