Last week’s meal plan took an interesting turn. When I pulled out the thawing “what I thought was” broth to make Tuesday’s chicken soup, something seemed funny. I soon realized that it was actually split pea soup that looked like chicken broth because I had used yellow peas.
I had a lot to accomplish that day so I was happy that I had a prepared soup ready to go for dinner – zero effort required!
But I also had a lot of rice on my hands that was intended for the chicken-wild rice soup I had planned. So I cancelled Wednesday’s and Thursday’s menus and made a huge pan of veggie-fried rice that I served up with a lemon wedge both nights. Kids were happy.
This turned out to be a godsend. I had a lot to accomplish last week and my dinners turned out to be no effort. And I didn’t even have to go to the grocery store!
This got me thinking that in order for meal planning to be sustainable for a person like me, it has to be dynamic and flexible. And I realized that there are many different ways to meal plan.
Here are four ways to meal plan from the top of my head:
1) Plan 5 simple meals that require minimal prep – a meat and two sides, or a hearty salad for instance. Last week’s meal plan was supposed to be like that. There is no upfront work, but a little thought and effort is required each day.
2) Make 2-3 large meals (say on Monday and Wednesday), such as stews, soups, taco bowls, or casseroles to be served through the week. Pair them with a salad that is washed and prepped in the fridge. A couple of hours will be required at some point to put these meals together, but most days, dinner is an afterthought.
3) Find some time to prepare make-ahead meals for the freezer. If you’re planning to make a casserole, meatballs, or a chicken broth, make extra to stock your freezer. I’ve been using glass pyrex casseroles for this. For meatballs, I separate them into meal portions with wax paper in between as pictured above. Some people take this very far and cook only once a month.
4) Some weeks, you can plan for “no meal plan.” If you have a few items ready to go in the freezer and some “go-tos” in the pantry such as quality canned salmon or a good tomato sauce, you can just wing it.
If I’m going to sustain meal planning, I have to flow between these paradigms, depending on my mood and schedule.
This week is a “2 large meals” kind of week.
Monday: Vegetable-pesto soup, salad
Tuesday: Leftover soup & salad
Wednesday: Beef stew, baked sweet potatoes, raw bell pepper strips
Thursday: Leftover stew, salad
Friday: Quinoa, beans (soaked & degassed), topped with salsa, lettuce and a bit of cheese
What about you? Do you meal plan? If so, any tips? I’d love to hear them!