Monday, January 10, 2011

What's To Come...

As we enter the New Year, so many people I have spoken to have stressed Menu Planning as a resolution. I vividly remember as a college student (yes, a college student... who does this???) heading to Panera on Sundays to flip through my favorite cookbooks (pre-WiFi and laptops) and jot down in my planner what I would need to buy at the store for the week to make my weekly meals. I was 19!!! Hilarious to think of now. I didn't do it because I wanted to be organized and on top of things. I didn't do it because I wanted to save money (ok, a little bit because of that). I did it solely because I wanted to eat yummy meals all week long that didn't come from the Dining Hall. From a young age hunger was my driving force :)

So now that life is just a *touch* more chaotic than when I was 19 and in college, I've realized how crucial having a meal plan is to putting food on the table. I can't tell you how often I hear, "Oh, I just don't have time to cook." Well, who does?? No one has time or energy at the end of a long day to try and create something in the kitchen from what may or may not be in the pantry. The only way I get food on the table during the week is by making a plan and sticking to it.

If meal-planning is your New Years Resolution, here are a few helpful tips to get started

  • Don't plan 7 nights of meals. You will never make 7 nights of meals. I don't!! I usually plan 4 to 5, knowing that one week night I'm just not going to have the energy, and on the weekends we'll be eating out, mooching off my in-laws, having leftovers, or throwing together hodge-podge. Start with just 2 nights.

  • Be realistic about the nights you will make dinner. I know personally I am much more likely to make dinner on Monday then I am on Friday. On Friday my motivation and energy is totally shot and I'm picking up the phone for delivery. Plan meals on nights you know you will be more likely to get it done.

  • Try and pick meals that include ingredients you already own. BBQ sauce? Huge Bag of Carrots? Often I enter all those random ingredients in Google and see what recipes she gives me.

  • Write down all the ingredients you need to make those specific meals (it helps me if I put them in groups like Veggies, Meat, Dairy). Then add all the other non-dinner items you need...think school lunches, quick snacks, breakfast items, and maybe a frozen pizza as back-up just in case. I get angry if I have to drag three kids to the store more than once a week so it helps to sit down for 5 minutes and visualize the week's needs. However, I will always make a midnight emergency trip for ice cream if need be.

  • Plan simple meals with less than 5 ingredients. Homemade pizza (buy premade dough, then top with your own fresh ingredients), Teriyaki Salmon, Mexican Hash, Summer Pasta, and Frittata, are some of my favorite go-to simple meals. Try more involved meals on the weekend when you have more time. You might find that it wasn't as difficult as you thought and can add it in the weekly rotation!

  • Write down your meals in a planner. This way when you are meal-planning you can flip back through the prior weeks to recall what has worked and what hasn't in the past. That is the entire reason this blog came to be. I would try awesome recipes all the time but just kind of forget about them. The blog was a way for me to log them for myself while sharing with others. Now when I'm planning my meals I flip through my recipe index to see what I've made before, if I liked it, and how easy it was to put together.

  • Start prepping as soon as you get home from the store. I try and wash off the veggies as I'm putting them away, moving the meat for the week from the freezer to the fridge, and group items that are going to be part of one meal together in the fridge. Then its easy for me to grab them and throw it all together when dinner time comes.

  • Try making big meals on Sunday night that can carry you into the beginning of the week. Lasagna, Slow Cooker Carnitas, meals like that.

What tips do you have for getting dinner on your table??

Here are my meals for the week... and if it's not hyperlinked, then it will be blogged in the near future!


Chicken Alfredo Soup


Quick Kale and Cod


Fish Chowder (w/ cod)


Slow Cooker Pulled Pork Carnitas (making with Chicken Thighs instead of Pork)


left over versions of the Carnitas


Heather said...

Great tips!

I finally got a recipe book for Christmas that I'm looking forward to using...right now I have a bunch of printed out recipes in my cupboard. I also got a new cookbook that has freezer meal recipes. I did a post about this last week:

The Chicken Alfredo soup sounds yummy!

Rebecca Samson said...

I love that at 19 you were meal planning though it doesn't really shock me. Thanks for your tips. It's something I need more work on and will strive to do better in the new year. Thanks for the push :)

Mile Posts by Dorothy Beal said...

Great advice! P.S. Per our conversations you have inspired me - I am MAKING time this year to cook - can you believe it?! I've successfully made atleast 2 home cooked meals per week since the New Year. Hugs :)