Meal Planning for the Busy Folks
When I first got married, I was a little shocked at how much actual work and planning go into the three meals a day we're all so fond of. Pinterest didn't help in this scenario because I just wanted to make all of everything, and nothing really worked together which increased my food waste. Who ever enjoys throwing money away?! (Hint: not me).
This was all happening around the time "Taco Tuesday" started taking off at a local restaurant. Tacos. Every. Tuesday. It was so liberating, because I never needed to think about Tuesday's dinner. Then, the light bulb.
What if EVERY day had an assigned meal attached to it?
Obviously, it can't all be alliteration-friendly (Wasabi Wednesday? Filet-mignon Friday?), but the idea was repetition, not catch-phrase-ability.
Here's what I came up with (and what we currently do):
Sunday: Salad Night (fresh greens topped with fresh veggies- can't lose)
Monday: Pasta (usually spaghetti, because toddlers)
Tuesday: Chicken, Veggie, Rice (endless combinations and ways to prepare)
Wednesday: Soup or Salad (usually containing leftovers from Tuesday night's meal)
Thursday: Venison (roast, tacos, etc- if you don't have venison, use grass-fed beef!)
Friday: Pizza Night (we make our own, usually features leftovers from previous meals)
Saturday: Wildcard (leftovers, eat out, or something new)
This works really well for me as I'm planning because it gives me parameters. I don't have to think much about Salad Sunday because it's whatever we're growing that's fresh, all tossed together. I keep a good stock of salad dressings, and we go from there. Whenever we tire of a certain way of preparing the chicken, veggies, rice combination on Tuesdays, I try something made with different seasoning profiles or a casserole. Wednesday's soup is easy because I use stock from Tuesday's chicken as the base. Potato soup, tortilla soup, and vegetable soup can all be made with the same stock, and are incredibly different- especially with toppings! If it's salad instead of soup for Wednesday (because we all need more greens), I change it up by adding chicken on top. Venison Thursday is a cinch for us because John is a hunter. We have one freezer full of venison and one freezer full of chicken, so we're eating only meat that we've sourced ourselves. Saturday's Wildcard is great because I get to experiement with something new if I'm feeling adventurous, or it's a built-in date night (date niiiiiiight hey hey!).
We do something similar for breakfast, which I won't expand on, but I'll illustrate for the curious-
Sunday: "Big Breakfast" - venison sausage, eggs, toast - all the good stuff
Tuesday: Cereal Wednesday: Eggs and Toast
This works for us because of our schedule. But it's really helpful to not have to wake up and wonder what I'm making in the mornings. Keep oatmeal-friendly toppings and syrup in your pantry and you're set.
Lunches: I keep a loaf of bread and a package of tortillas handy at all times. Between these things and leftovers, we don't really have a "plan" for lunch meals. Keep your fruit bowl stocked with fresh fruits and you can make a wholesome mid-day meal on a time crunch if need be.
Another benefit to this kind of meal planning is that my shopping list doesn't really change a whole lot from week to week. I'm really good at the grocery store, you guys. Like, fairly ninja.
You know, this is kind of like how Steve Jobs wore the same thing every day. He said it was one less thing for him to have to think about- instead he used his mental energies on things like iPhones that changed the world. I'm not saying I'm going to change the world due to my menu planning strategy, but it definitely feels good to be done planning my menu AND writing my grocery list within a couple of minutes of sitting down to work on it.