Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Meal Planning: Come On, It's Easy Peasy!

At some point every Friday, we sit down to something that looks like this:

Which eventually turns into something that looks more like this!

Saturday: Pizza crust mix & excess leftover daiya with crumbled chicken sausage.
Sunday: Coconut crab curry.
Monday: Soft tacos with refried beans from the pantry & corn tortillas from the freezer with avocado, tomato, mixed greens & a healthy dose of Cholula.

Tuesday: Mung bean vermicelli noodles, carrots, cucumber & rice paper- salad rolls with peanut sauce & deviled eggs.
Wednesday: Steak quesadillas with corn tortillas from the freezer, avocado, onions, garlic & more of the leftover daiya.
Thursday: Crispy cajun chickpea cakes a mixed greens salad topped with dried cherries & a honey citrus vinaigrette.
Friday: Cajun Salmon with yogurt dill sauce, greek salad & brown rice. 

How do we do it?

Right now we're working on using up a pile of things that have accumulated on the shelves of our kitchen, our freezer and cold room. Call it spring cleaning... Our recipes are based on utilizing these items primarily. Within each week, we always aim to include one dinner featuring poultry, fish, red meat & beans. The other 2 are flexible, and Friday is always a meal based on cleaning out the fridge and using up anything that might be leftover. A few Friday mornings ago our fridge looked like this:

Top shelf: 3 dozen eggs fresh from our "egg lady" (there's more in the stainless steel bowl as well); leftover pad thai, extra perogie filling, fresh mint, goat's feta, some extra stock, goat's milk, cheddar & mozzarella daiya, other goat cheese, coconut water, blueberry liqueur & jalapeno monterey jack cheese.

Middle shelf: almond milk, fresh salsa, sardines, greek yogurt, lemon & lime slices, homemade greek salad dressing, mixed salad greens, edamame, homemade cranberry apple sauce, leftover gravy, gerolsteiner water, meyer lemon mustard sauce.

Bottom shelf: orange pepper, carrots, celery, green pepper, ginger root, cucumber, nugget potatoes

Whew! (Anything else you might have spotted in there is a regular item in the fridge. There's a pile of condiments on the door too, but they're always there.)

Realistically we're not going use up all of those things in one day of meals. The coconut water has been there for months. I bought it for a recipe I didn't end up making, and it's still sitting there. I should probably just drink it. The perogie filling is definitely past its time and will probably get thrown out. Same with the salsa & probably the sardines. But the peppers, cucumber & celery can definitely be used- for snacks if nothing else!

Quinoa salad is kind of a catch all for a fridge clean out like this. I could throw some of the edamame in with the greek salad dressing and a squeeze or two of some of the lime slices (usually for water, or in this case pad thai), shred a few carrots & chop up the cucumber. I suspect it wouldn't be too bad!

On this particular day (by the end of it) we managed to eat all of the: orange pepper, cucumber, almond milk, goat milk & blueberry liqueur. Plus most of the gerolsteiner water, edamame, yogurt & cranberry applesauce.

I threw out the: salsa (about 1/4 cup), perogie filling, sardines (not so great recipe), pad thai, mint (okay, they bunny ate it), gravy, meyer lemon mustard sauce.
What can I say? She likes her greens!

That's a lot of wasted food (and dollars!) which isn't cool.

P.S. She did throw all that salad mix all over the floor all by herself!

I've been seeing lots of meal planning talk in other blogs lately and the reoccurring theme seems to be that people think that it's hard. So you should pay them for a meal plan tailored to your needs. And for some people that might be the right fit, but honestly? It's not difficult at all!

In addition to basing our meals for the week off of things we need to use up in the house, we also aim to have one meal based upon poultry, one red meat, one seafood/fish and one that includes beans as the protein. As you can see from the meal plan we ate last week (above) we included all of those plus one with beans, one with fish and one with eggs as the protein in addition the 4 "requirements" (to make up a 7 day week).

We choose to only plan our dinner as breakfasts are different for both of us since our days start and end at different times, and we have different nutritional goals between the two of us. But we always make time for at least one meal together every day. Sometimes his dinnertime is my lunch if I'll be working late that night. Sometimes we only have half an hour together between our two schedules, and sometimes we get to spend hours cooking a meal together. That's part of the planning too. While his schedule is regular (during the school year anyways) mine is all over the map. My "weekends" are on weekdays, I work days, nights, and some days both! But despite whatever might be going on in our lives we commit to spending that time together, that meal together, breaking our proverbial bread together.

I hate seeing families eating on the run, racing to get their child(ren) to soccer/hockey/dance practice after school. It's an unhealthy lifestyle I very much do not envy. I miss sitting down to a meal with my whole family, and will be sure to make it the status quo when we are raising our own kids one day.