One week in and it feels like slipping into an old pair of jeans. Meal planning gives me the structure I’m after in a comfortable and familiar way. I’ve been getting the meal planning boot camp emails the past four days (anyone else?!) and even though I’m very familiar with the method of meal planning (see my favorite how to meal plan tips here), I’m enjoying the refresher course. A few of the best getting started with meal planning tips include:
- Find a method that works for you. Paper? Electronic? Calendar? Whiteboard in the kitchen?
- Write a list of your family’s 14 favorite meals to keep as a go-to.
- Take inventory of your fridge, freezer, and pantry.
- Write all the ingredients for every meal you plan on your grocery list, then go back and cross-out anything you already have. For example, still write rice vinegar on your grocery sheet if a recipe calls for it, but then cross through it if you see you have a nearly full bottle in your pantry.
Now, our meals and grocery list for the week!
I love my meal planning notebook because it allows me to write the week’s meals and my grocery list in one accessible spot. Nearly every time I meal plan I end up flipping back through old meal plans wither through the notebook or in my weekly meal plans archive.
For breakfast this week I made a batch of banana nut toaster pop-ups using store-bought oat flour instead of pulsing the oats in a processor. A few people asked how this would work and I’m pleased to announce it works just fine! The pop-ups turn out a lot fluffier and softer though, more pancake like than the hearty pop-up texture. Either way, they are easy and tasty for a wholesome morning breakfast.
I wrote down refried bean tortilla wraps for kid lunches, but we’ve still been eating up leftovers for the most part so we will probably save those for this upcoming week. I’ve been enjoying sweet potato and black bean chili all week as the temperatures here have dipped low (it was 10 degrees when I woke up yesterday).
Dinners this week were as follows:
Yellow Rice with Black Beans and Broccoli
This is a recipe from the How Not to Die Cookbook (affiliate link). I’m new to the cookbook, but after trying two of the recipes, I have a good feeling about it. The food is so wholesome and nutritionally dense. Plus, the whole family has enjoyed the meals I’ve made from it. The girls both ate this rice dish up. David and I found it slightly bland, though a splash of hot sauce made all the difference. I roasted extra broccoli and mushrooms on the side and was pleased I didn’t even need to dip into my filler food (blue tortilla chips and guacamole).
Lemon Oregano Chicken Thighs
This is a simple one-skillet chicken dish that I’ll be sharing with you soon. I think it looks so fancy, but it is actually an easy recipe! Plus I appreciate dishes that make a sauce because it works to just throw it over a grain (in this case farro) and serve it with simple green beans.
On New Year’s Eve we were supposed to be going to a friend’s house but I wasn’t feeling 100% so we cancelled. I hadn’t picked up anything to make, so I ended up throwing together a cheese/leftover board and calling it dinner.
On New Year’s Day, we had our traditional meal: black eyed peas for luck, collard greens for money, and tomatoes for love in the coming year. I also make pork chops using this brine (minus the ancho chili) for David and the girls.
Vegetable Chili with Homemade Sourdough
Last night I made another meal from the How Not to Die Cookbook. My expectations for it were actually low, but I ended up really loving it! The fresh turmeric gave the dish depth and it was much heartier and more flavorful than I had anticipated. It was a little spicy for the girls (the chile pepper is optional and I opted yes), so I mixed some sour cream into their bowls and it worked beautifully.
I’ll definitely make that one again, despite all the vegetable chopping is requires.
We will have a red lentil and chickpea curry tonight and tomorrow I’ll end the week with a simple ravioli meal before we start over with a new meal planning week. If you have any vegetarian dishes you are loving- please send them my way! I’d love to make them and report our feedback.
I think falling back into my routine of meal planning Thursday, shopping on Friday, and doing food prep Saturday and Sunday is going to continue to work well for us for the time being. With our schedule picking up again in the next week (Discovery Place science classes, music class, Girl Scouts, Hailey playing basketball, etc), I’m going to need to incorporate more quick meals or meals I can prep ahead of time. Is it weird that I’m excited for that challenge?
Oh! I’ve been asked if I’m now eating vegetarian/vegan. No, I’m not, but I am aiming for more plant-based meals. I am shooting for 4-5 vegetarian meals a week, but I’m not opposed to a good steak or chicken dish here and there either. I am feeling good eating this way and the grocery bill has been a pleasant surprise.
Even buying mostly organic produce and splurging for the BPA-free cans, my total for a week’s worth of meals was $160 at Publix. True to my love for efficiency, that means we will be out of food almost completely come Friday so I might add in some extra food to have on hand next week, but wow, I was excited by that!
Share with me- are you into the meal planning groove this year?
What is the biggest challenge you face when trying to meal plan?
My biggest challenge is keeping artificial sweeteners out of every single thing I buy and prepare. It’s been a life changing experience but very hard to do when you see the list of artificial sweeteners are so long and elaborate.
After seeking much medical professional help to find this stomach ailment causing issue, removing this from our diet is the one way we plan to live longer and healthier.
Brittany Dixon says
It’s amazing how many places they sneak it in isn’t it? I wanted a bottled tea from a gas station on a recent road trip and not single option was free from artificial sweeteners. Frustrating! But teaches me to plan better next time 😉
I always feel better when I eat mostly plant based! Cutting out or limiting dairy especially does a world of good for how I feel, but I’m not willing to give it up entirely. I love making vegetable sushi rolls as a snack or meal. I just use cucumber, carrots, and avocado inside and it’s so easy and tasty! I’m terrible at meal planning because I change my mind about what I want to eat a lot. I need to try to get better, but I can never seem to get it together!
Brittany Dixon says
I love the idea of veggie sushi rolls for lunch- how do you make those?!
Also, I love the How Not to Die philosophy in that it doesn’t require a strict adherence to an “ism” like vegetarianism or vegan-ism. Most (maybe all?) recipes are vegan but, like you, I could never give up a whole food group completely. It’s nice to have flexibility!
High carb hannah on youtube is how I learned how to make the sushi rolls and it is very very easy! She also has some nice, very simple, plant-based meals. She makes a corn chowder that I love. I never measure but it’s a bunch of frozen corn, can of coconut milk, red lentils, red bell pepper, water, veg bouillon, onion and garlic. When everything is cooked you throw in torn up corn tortillas and blend it up! So easy and so tasty.
Brittany Dixon says
I’m going to look her up- thank you!
You should try out these enchiladas! My husband loves them and doesn’t miss the meat at all. I use store bought enchilada sauce and make guacamole instead of the cashew cream for ease and they are still delicious.
The six veggie soup from the Oh She Glows everyday cookbook is a house favorite too! Her and Minimalist Baker made it much easier to get my husband on board with plant based meals. If you want a recipe that will change someone’s feelings about tofu make this:
I have made it for people who think tofu is as gross as it gets and they loved it! I add edamame to bulk it up too.
Brittany Dixon says
Thank you so much- I’m going to try both of these! They sound delicious 🙂
I always love your meal planning posts! I just got the Thug Kitchen 101 cookbook (vegan) for Christmas and have loved both dishes I’ve made so far (skillet beer chili mac and a cucumber salad with cilantro and peanuts). My mom just got the How not to Die cookbook and has said great things about it, I’ll have to check it out!
I’m always impressed by your meal plans! You have such great variety in meals and you seem to make something new most every day! Because my husband and I both work, we cook up 2 big meals on the weekend – one on Saturday and one on Sunday – then alternate between them as leftovers. I will usually make one meal mid-week to stretch things through Friday and I also cook some fresh vegetables every day. It’s what works for us, but very different from your planning. I’m definitely envious of your variety and love getting new ideas from your posts!
Brittany Dixon says
One of my good friends does exactly what you do and it works great for her! I think cooking once and eating twice is an awesome time saver. I just enjoy eating so much I often like to switch up the meals daily and eat leftovers for lunch. We’ll see how that works as things get busier though 😉
I love the idea of saving weekly meal plans. I do well with planning the next week’s meals & shopping, & I have gotten better with cooking (when we’re in town,) on Saturday/Sunday. But, I still find myself digging through recipes in 3 different locations: A recipe binder we have, cookbooks, & Pinterest. A lot of the time it’s just for inspiration to try something new, but my husband is fairly insistent on simplifying things sometimes too & sticking to our old standbys. Hanging on the old meal plans will really help me to find ideas quick & see what our go-to meals are!
Laura Senften says
Did you get into How not to Die when you your Dad was diagnosed (you do not have to answer this if you don’t feel comfortable)? I have been watching some of his videos today and love all of the information. How difficult ate the recipes? I just ordered a new plant based instant pot cookbook which I’m excited to try!
Brittany Dixon says
My mom actually came across it before he was diagnosed, and started eating more that way and now she has inspired us all to lean in that direction. The book itself is a great reference (not really a sit down and pleasure read type book), and I agree with you- it’s fascinating information!
Appreciate you trying out these recipes and giving your feedback. I look forward to trying them myself soon! Dad said that the oregano chicken thighs looked good to him 🙂
I’ve been working on meal planning more over the past year and it’s going pretty well. I love the idea of keeping a meal planning notebook! I usually just write my plan on my grocery list for the week but then I can’t look back on past weeks’ plans to see what worked and what didn’t. Hardest thing for me is coming up with recipes that will please everyone in the family lol.
Kind of unrelated but have you heard of jackfruit? I haven’t tried it yet but I work with 4 vegans and 2 vegetarians and they are all singing its praises. Apparently it’s a great way to make a meat-free pulled ‘pork’. Would love to hear about any jackfruit recipes you try.
Brittany Dixon says
I haven’t tried it yet, but agree, I’ve heard a lot about it! I’ll have to try it at some point!
Kyla Jocson says
I love it how you planned everything out. Maybe I should also try this healthy plan for my family. Anyways, looking forward to reading more of your posts! Cheers!