I may or may not receive way too many emails about food each week. Maybe 5 emails a day? Maybe 25. They pile up quickly, and I delete all but the ones that make me the most happy.
So why do I mention that? Well, I meal plan for us every week. It’s the only way I’ve found to avoid going to the grocery store every single day. Not to say that I never make repeat trips to the store in a week, but I can usually keep it to one or two trips instead of five or six. When you live 25 minutes from the store and you have two small kids to get around with, that’s a big motivator.
And still, why do you need to know this? Well, for a while, I’ve thought that maybe my ridiculous amount of overpreparation for the week could benefit someone else. Which brings me to now. I prettied up my everyday menu planning a tiny bit (no envelope scrap lists for now), and I’m going to try to share these regularly. “Try” being the operative word there.
Here are my criteria for weekly menus:
- It needs to be at least somewhat healthy. Sometimes I’ll make macaroni and cheese, but it will usually be paired with a salad and a protein. Or just a huge salad. Or if one day’s pick is unhealthy, the next day had better be a kale and quinoa salad. You get the idea.
- There should be variety in meat and flavors. No all-Italian food weeks (even though I love Italian food). No chicken-only weeks. Balance is the goal.
- Same goes for time spent cooking. Balance. I am a stay-at-home mom, so I understand if lots of people don’t have the time or inclination to cook as much as I do. It’s a creative outlet for me–something that involves reading about things other than trains and trucks and whatever my toddler is excited about that day. But even I don’t want to cook all the time.
- Nothing should be on the list unless I’m excited to eat it as leftovers. Growing up, I hated leftovers. (Sorry, Mom.) But Grown-up Hannah knows that if I’m going to spend time cooking something fancy (or not fancy), it had better be good enough to eat again that week.
- When possible, I like to make things that don’t require side dishes. I might like cooking, but I hate coordinating different dishes and timing of said dishes. I only have so much free brain space. Sometimes I make exceptions, but I aim for recipes that include some forms of starch, veggies, and protein all in one dish.
That’s it. Healthy-ish, variety, not too time-intensive, usually with lots of leftovers. Sometimes I know that a few recipes in the week won’t make tons of leftovers, so I’ll make a double recipe somewhere in the week.
With no further ado, I present this week’s meal plan:
- Stuffed Sweet Potatoes (old favorite, not much active cooking required)
- Pasta with Gorgonzola, Radicchio, Walnuts, Orange & Chicken (new recipe to me)
- Rosemary Potatoes, Pork Tenderloin & Salad (old favorite combo, picked random recipes that fit what we have on the fresh herb front… salad will just be greens, tomatoes, nuts, and homemade dressing)
- Chicken Enchilada Soup (slow cooker and Instant Pot friendly, but I prefer the plain old stovetop)
- Sheet Pan Chicken with Broccoli, Chickpeas & Parmesan (new recipe to me–that crispy chicken skin looks pretty darn tasty!!!)
- Snack: Banana Cocoa Quinoa Breakfast Bars (new recipe to me)
Now it’s time for me to figure out which ingredients we need to get tomorrow.
Oh, and one more thing. I do try to keep budget somewhat in mind. We splurge for things like pork tenderloin or smoked salmon sometimes, but I also try to throw in recipes that use chicken thighs (hello, budget saver!!!) or ground beef (or in reality for us, ground venison that was free and is just hanging out in our freezer) or the occasional vegetarian option. So if one recipe looks ridiculous on the time or expense front, there’s usually another recipe to balance those things out for the week. Usually. We also eat like a family of 6, when we really only have two grown eaters in the house. If you’re a family of 6, you’re in luck.
Happy planning to you!