Let me just start by saying that I love meal planning like Kel loves orange soda.
Staring at recipes, picking a few of them, buying food, and then cooking the food? COACH PUT ME IN THE GAME! I DON’T EVEN NEED TEAMMATES! *sighs*
Meal planning is the GOAT (greatest of all time) and it’s extremely important. Why, you ask?
When you plan your meals:
You make a grocery list.
You don’t buy things you don’t need.
You don’t waste food.
You don’t eat unhealthy food because fast food is what’s 10 feet away from you.
Note: This is all assuming that you stick to your grocery list and eat what you bought in a certain time span.
Those are all the normal, boring reasons you should get into meal planning. These are more personal to me!
I get to do something I love. Can I list “basking in the glory of food” as a favorite pastime?
I get to try new recipes (and foods). New recipes equals more variety!
I get to be productive while avoiding other things I should be doing! Between Pinterest, cookbooks and a binder full of recipes. I might have other things to do but my meals are always ready!
Look at all the good meal planning can do! So maybe you already know the benefits of meal planning but you’re not quite sure where to start. Well, I can help with that! Below, I’ve listed and explained how I plan my meals!
1. By Ingredient.
Start by looking in your pantry, fridge, and freezer. What sticks out to you? Let’s pretend I did this and found some brown rice and frozen broccoli. One less item to buy! WHOOP! But what are we going to do with it? *strokes chin*
Tofu Stir Fry with Brown Rice (see recipe)
Shrimp Fried Rice (see recipe)
Tempeh & Onions with Brown Rice and Steamed Broccoli*
Note: I make it similar to liver and onions!
2. By Craving.
Believe it or not, all cravings aren’t bad. Most of them are your body’s way of telling you what it needs. Sometimes my body is all, “BEEEEEEEEEFFFFFFFFFFFF!” What it’s really trying to tell me is that my iron is low. Guess what’s rich in iron.
Medium Ribeye and Broccoli with Red Wine Reduction
Note: 4-ounce steaks are cooked to medium (about 4 minutes on each side) in grassfed cow’s butter. While the steak rests, I add red wine (usually Merlot) to the pan and let it reduce. Then I add the broccoli (thawed) and cook through.
3. By Season.
There are actually three parts to this one, they’re related but slightly different. You’ll see why.
I live in Michigan and winter is unGodly here. During the winter months, I cook a lot of soup and baked dishes. Ain’t nobody trying to have salad in February. IT’S TOO COLD FOR THAT! MY ESOPHAGUS COULD FREEZE! You don’t know! On the other hand, I don’t have central air. In the summer, my apartment is always at least 10 degrees above the outdoor temperature. No way I’m turning on that oven. NO. WAY. So instead, I have a lot of stove top, griddle, and raw meals. Eating soup in my apartment in June is stressful, bruh!
Altons Brown’s Lentil Soup (see recipe)
Hummus with ½ Pita and fresh Vegetables (See recipe)
I can buy bananas at any store, anytime for the same price. But that’s not the case with literally every other fresh fruit or vegetable. Buying the produce that’s in season is cheaper and you’ll get better quality items. Think farmer’s markets or Trader Joe’s here. Of course, you can always buy frozen and eliminate this problem……unless it doesn’t freeze well.
Watermelon, Feta, Arugula Salad with Balsamic Vinegar (see recipe)
No this is not the same as availability! I promise it’s not! Buying local, in-season produce is also cheap…if not cheaper. Why? Because it didn’t travel as far. Sure oranges are in season during the summer but they don’t grow them in Michigan. You know what they do grow here? Apples! Every fall, I feel like it’s Christmas. Apples everywhere! EVERY. WHERE! *birdman hand rub*
Steel Cut Oats with Apples and Cinnamon (see recipe)
Greek Yogurt with Apples and Cinnamon
Note: These are basically the same recipe, the difference is that you’re adding greek yogurt and making one serving at a time. You can also make it with old-fashion (rolled) oats one serving at a time. I suggest mixing everything except the yogurt and letting it sit overnight before heating.
4. By Dietary Style.
This is, by far, my favorite method. Since my digestive system works better with less meat, I’m more careful about what combination of meals I have each week. At one point, my weekly meal breakdown included two vegetarian/vegan dishes and one pescetarian dish. At the end of May, I began making two meals at a time and grocery shopping every 4-5 days so the mix is a little more complex. It looks something like this (in this order):
One vegetarian + One vegan dish
One vegetarian + One low carb pescetarian dish
One vegetarian + One low-carb meat dish
This gives me more variety and more flexibility to react to things that aren’t working.
Pescetarian: Miso Soup with Shrimp and Collard Greens (see recipe)
Vegetarian: Butternut Squash Quesadillas (see recipe)
Meat: Turkey Burger Lettuce Wraps with Fresh Salad (see recipe)
Note: I use a friend’s Miso Soup recipe but this one isn’t much different.
5. By Region/Culture.
*body rolls* Ethnic cooking is my second favorite method…a very close second….it might be a tie. In addition to loving food, I also love learning about other cultures. I’m not the type of person who goes to another country and finds the McDonald’s. NO! Point me to the food I can’t get anywhere else on this planet! TAKE ME TO YA GRANDMAMA HOUSE! Also, if you speak Yoruba let me know so we can translate my stepmom’s recipes.
One of the most interesting things I’ve learned about ethnic cooking is that most of it is inherently healthy. All of your nutritional needs are in one pot! And the recipes are pre-food industry so no (or very few) processed ingredients!!! LOOK AT THE LORD’S WORK!
Note: I actually make this dish vegetarian. Oxtails are expensive and I usually go to my favorite Jamacian spot when I want them. I use this Oxtails recipe to make the “gravy” and then pour it over the rice and peas. Also, I only use 1 cup of rice (brown). Fiber + Protein + Whole Grains (Complex Carbs) + DELICIOUS DENNAMUG = YASSSSSSSSSSSSSSSS!
6. By Cooking Method.
Yes, this is really different from meal planning by season. Maybe it’s too hot to turn on the stove. Or maybe you just need to make something really fast without a lot of prep. Or maybe you just got a new thing you want to use. Orrrr maybe you want to healthy-emotional eat*. These suggestions address all of these possibilities.
Tuna Salad with Pita and Fresh Vegetables – Just boil the eggs and cut up the veggies.
Spaghetti with Ground Turkey (Or Crumbled Tempeh) – Just add things to a pot.
Salmon Cakes with Steamed Asparagus – I like to use my griddle. (see recipe)
Vegan Shepard’s Pie – Something about baking things makes you feel better 🙂 (see recipe)
Note: Don’t use Earth Balance. It sounds healthy but it isn’t. For recipes that call for butter, I use butter made from grassfed cow’s milk (like Kerry Gold).
And there you have it, seven methods to make meal planning a little easier! Do you meal plan? Feel free to share your own tips. And if you try any of my methods, let me know in the comments. Also, if you enjoyed this post please subscribe and share!