Tips for Easy Meal Planning

Whether it's work or kids or school pulling our lives in too many directions, we've all probably had a time in our lives in which we've been too busy to cook real, whole food. In college I ate frozen burritos and Kraft Mac and Cheese (although that was probably also a budget thing), and when I first started teaching I ate a lot of pasta and tomato sauce.

But when I was having trouble getting pregnant and sought the help of Eastern Medicine, I didn't just take Chinese herbs and acupuncture treatments, I had to think about how food was affecting my fertility. I also had so many restrictions that a weekly meal plan was a MUST if I wanted to avoid "cheating."

I may not be trying to get pregnant again any time soon, but meal plans in general are still great. They help us...
 stay within our budget
avoid eating out too often
avoid eating unhealthy foods
and prepare more well-balanced meals.

I have two main tips for you: Develop a repertoire of meals everyone in your family loves and keep your fridge stocked. It has taken a couple of years to get to this point, but with the right ingredients I have an easy meal I can whip up every single night during the work week without having to use a recipe.

Here's how I do it:

  • I started out by using recipes and preparing the meal so many times I wondered why I ever needed a recipe in the first place.
  • As much as possible, I stick to one pot meals for easier clean up.
  • Choose meals with a solid foundation that you can switch up by swapping out different ingredients. (See sample meals below. Loose recipe for cauliflower dish here.)

Curried Chicken Salad
Zucchini Noodles
Curried Cauliflower Bake
Bean and Cheese Tostadas
Raisins, grilled organic chicken, high-quality curry powder, mayo, served over greens
Corn kernels cut fresh from cob, peppers, onions, and goat cheese
Julienned zucchini, eggs, onions, mushrooms, almond flour crumbles
Chopped cauliflower, chickpeas, onions, curry powder, olive oil, tomato paste
Tostadas, canned refried pinto beans, lettuce, tomatoes, yogurt, cotija cheese
I change it up by serving it on different greens each week: spinach, baby romaine, spring mix, kale, etc.
This open-faced omelet is so versatile. Mix it up with different cheeses and different veggies.
I’ve used summer squash and spaghetti squash with equally yummy results.
To make this a hardy main instead of a side, I add carrots, potatoes, or sweet potatoes.
Mix up the greens, beans, and add-ons (meat, avocado, corn kernels, grilled onions, etc.)

  • If the main dish isn't filling enough, I make sure I have easy sides stocked: pre-washed spinach or spring mix salad or grains/seeds like farro, quinoa, buckwheat groats, and barley. These grains are great because you can cook them in broth, they are done in 15 minutes or so, and are super tasty!
  • Learn different things to do with the same vegetable. For example, raw cucumbers are great in salad, but cucumbers sauteed in butter are delicious!
  • Make a universal shopping list. I basically buy the same things each week, and if I need something special I write it down. (My list looks like this: greens like pre-washed salad mixes and a couple of bunches of kale or chard, eggs, carrots, cauliflower, potatoes, sweet potatoes, broccoli, some kind of squash, goat cheese, any hard cheese, tomatoes, celery, onions, canned beans, bacon, and chicken.)
  • Take time on Sunday to jot down what you will have each night of the week. It can be on your phone, scratch paper, or a spreadsheet. But if I don't write it down, I forget.

After all this, I do realize that things come up. And I am not going to freak out if all we have for dinner is pasta and tomato sauce. If I've done a good job shopping that week, then I will throw in some greens like chard and it makes me feel like the meal is healthier ;)

Do you create a weekly meal plan?

1 comment

  1. i try! i could definitely be better though...we just have to go to the store so much here!


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