Meal Planning Saves Money and Time

Meal planning is a great way to save time and money. It’s nice to know “what’s for dinner” on those busy evenings when the house is buzzing with activity. Hungry kids doing homework and me running around the kitchen from the fridge, to the stove, to the sink to help a kid with homework or whatever the current crisis is and then back to the stove… and here we go again. Before I started meal planning, I would frequently forget a component or an entire dish at least once with every meal. We’re also more likely to eat a balanced healthy meal, especially over the course of week. And there’s less waste. The kids also seem to like the menu. They eagerly wait for me to post in on the fridge and then reference it nearly every day.

I usually go to the farmers market on Saturday. I’ll buy whatever produce is in season, some free range chicken (usually a whole chicken) and pastured pork (maybe pork chops, bacon, sausage, a roast or ground pork), maybe some pastured beef (rarely), some free range eggs, goat cheese, mushrooms, and what ever else I can find that looks yummy. I build my weekly menus from this trip and whatever is left from last week. I’ll plan four or five dinners, knowing I’ll probably improvise at last one additional meal during the week and we’ll probably have leftovers one night or eat with friends or family or occasionally eat out. I try to plan on using the oldest ingredients first. I start with the protein: meat at least twice, fish once, beans at least once (we eat vegetarian meals once or twice a week). Then I’ll just spread the produce out over the week. This usually inspires the flavors and cuisine of each meal and I start filling in with things I’ll need to pick up from at a grocery or specialty store. I start making a list of these items to the right of the page. I also make notes about how I’m going to cook something and whether it’s something I’ll need to get from the garden. This just helps me be more organized when I’m actually preparing the meal. I’ll attach any recipes I have and then I’ll clip it to the fridge. Voila!

Inevitably something will spoil or I’ll need to rearrange something, but at least I have an idea and “menu” (inventory, really) of foods to choose from each day.

Making gluten and dairy free dinners are easy enough, since we are already eating a healthy, varied diet. We just had to eliminate or find substitutes for things like bread, noodles and cheese. Surprisingly, eliminating dairy is a little tougher than eliminating gluten. Why gluten and dairy free, you ask? Click here to read my previous post and find out why.

So the pork chop dinner and the beans and rice dinner went as planned.

Pork chops with braised fennel, smashed potatoes and kale

However, I had a hard time making the corn tortillas on chicken taco night and was running out of time, so instead I pan fried the breasts, and we had carrots, greens, broccoli and brown rice instead. Another night I improvised with the some gluten free brown rice spaghetti noodles I found at Healthy Home Market. I fried some chunky bacon pieces and roughly cut huge chunks of green house tomatoes from the farmers market, onions and asparagus (which is the freshest, most tasty, in season produce I’ve ever bought from Trader’s Joes). I had fava beans leftover from the farmers market which I had shelled and blanched (to remove the waxy skin) earlier in the week and some leftover chickpeas from homemade hummus (yum – one of Linsey’s favorite lunches now that she’s gluten free). Of course there was some chopped garlic and fresh basil from the garden.

After I cooked the bacon and set it aside, I very, very, very lightly sauteed the veg in the bacon fat. I really just wanted them warmed, not cooked. I did reserved about half of the bacon fat for the sauce. So after I took the veg out, I added the rest of the bacon fat back in the empty pan and sauteed some chopped garlic for just about 30 seconds and then added some white wine, reduced it down for maybe five minutes then added some chicken stock. I thickened the sauce with goat cheese from the farmers market.  (We fudged on the dairy free dinner here.) Then I added the veg back in and poured it all over the noodles (which I had boiled and drained somewhere in there). I cooked it for another five minutes so that the veg and noodles could soak up some of that yummy sauce. I sprinkled a good bit of bacon (the only meat in the dish) over every plate. Oh my, was it good! This is a great example of a seasonal meal. (Oh, and no one even noticed that they were brown rice noodles.)

We never got around to “fish night” and “taco night” was a bust, so I added fish tacos to the menu for this week. Brian offered to cook this meal. It was delicious, healthy and not cooked by me! He cooked the fish in the cast iron skillet (don’t do that by the way – the fishiness seeps into cast iron and taints the next meal or two), but the fish itself was tasty. He seasoned it with some lime juice, tequila and chili powder (you go boy)! He made some guacamole (with help from Haleigh, his sous-chef for the evening) and sauteed some peppers and onions. We had some leftover brown rice in the fridge.  I chopped up some tomatoes and lettuce, and we used the corn tortilla shells I made yesterday morning. (I had fixed the dough from the night before by adding more masa harina and cooked them the next morning. My new tortilla press is awesome, by the way! Some people suggest using plastic wrap to line the press, but I suggest wax paper. Much easier to work with.) My taco was too stuffed to be eaten by hand so I just added generous dollops of guacamole and plain Green yogurt and ate it with a fork. YUM! I’m so impressed with his cooking skills!

The rest of this week’s meal plan looks like this:

Today

  • Korean Style Pastured Pork Chops (pastured pork from farmers market)
  • 1/2 Sticky & 1/2 Brown Rice
  • Broccoli (from farmers market)
  • Korean Style Greens (using beet greens from farmers market)
  • Kimchi
  • Lettuce (wraps, from garden)
  • Seaweed (wraps)

Wednesday

  • Brown Rice Pasta with Mascarpone (garlic, olive oil, chicken broth sauce for Linsey)
  • Greens (chard and/or kale from the garden)
  • Broccoli (from the farmers market)
  • English Peas (from the farmers market)
  • Salad (lettuce from the garden, green house tomatoes and onions from farmers market, homemade dressing)

Thursday

  • Whole Roasted Chicken (free range, pastured chicken from farmers market)
  • Roasted Beet Salad w/goat cheese (from farmers market), walnuts and homemade dressing
  • Roasted Carrots and New Potatoes (farmers market)
  • Salad (lettuce from the garden, green house tomatoes and onions from farmers market, homemade dressing)

Friday we’ll eat leftover or sandwiches.

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About Michele
Wife and Mom of three girls doing her best to lead the family into a healthier lifestyle and evolve gracefully.

One Response to Meal Planning Saves Money and Time

  1. Pingback: Standard American Approach to Weight Loss Isn’t Working | HealthyMamma's Blog

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