Despite the fact that I no longer post my weekly meal plans, I do still meal plan the same way and thought that it might be useful to discuss my meal planning methods.
1. Take stock of what’s in the pantry, fridge and freezer. Taking a cue from my grandfather, I have always been prone to having a ton of food in the pantry and freezer just in case. Most of it is dried goods, some canned, and a ton of spices, condiments, sauces, vinegars, and oils. I note particular things that I’d like to cook with (this week it’s black rice, chickpeas, and couscous, miso, sandwich thins that need to be eaten soon, and zucchini).
2. Sit down with the circulars. I alternate between shopping at Publix and Bi-Lo because Publix has some special items that Bi-Lo doesn’t, like Silk creamer, sometimes quarts of plain Chobani, and particular produce items)where Bi-Lo has an overall less expensive produce section and store brand things that Publix doesn’t (such as knock off rosemary and olive oil Triscuits that they call Southern Home Woven Wheats). I note what is on sale that looks like I might want, and or want to stock up on like canned tomatoes. If you’re a couponer this is also the time to sort which ones need to be used and what ones correspond with items you need.
3. Start planning. I go through my brain thinking of recipes that use the pantry ingredients and sale items, and when I get stuck or need inspiration, I turn to my Google Reader, recipe websites, cookbooks, and my recipes that I have stacked in the kitchen. A favorite thing to do is to Google “recipes with _____” and type in the ingredient name, which is how I found the most delicious Indian okra recipe of my life. I write down the recipe name and the ingredients I’ll need to complete the recipe, and the book name and page number if it’s in a cookbook. This week I was also inspired by a simple vegetable based meal I had at Antai Asian Dining on Saturday and am going with more Asian-style dishes this week.
Above I mentioned that this week that I wanted to use black rice, chickpeas, and couscous, miso, sandwich thins, and zucchini, and a few other items (in parentheses below) which turned into these recipes:
- Fried rice and vegetable gyoza (half a bag of gyoza leftover in the freezer from Trader Joe’s)
- Sauteed vegetables over herbed couscous (use up the probably 3/4 a cup of couscous in the pantry)
- Hummus (chickpeas)
- Wild rice salad with miso dressing (black rice, miso, and half a bag of shelled edamame)
- Steamed vegetables and tofu with brown sauce and a side of rice (rice, zucchini)
- Veggie burger (sandwich thins and one lone veggie burger in the freezer)
4. Make a list. I like to write down my meals/snacks to make on the left side of a piece of notebook paper, and have the grocery list on the right, and take it to the store to cross off items as I get them. Once home, I secure the list to the fridge and start cooking and if something doesn’t get cooked it can bounce over to next week’s list!
Bonus: This next tip is just a personal preference but if I have a particular vegetable that need to be used sooner in the week, a big star goes next to the entry on the meal list so that it doesn’t turn into Thursday and the vegetable has turned into slimy mush.
Generally I plan for a week (Sunday through Sunday) and grocery shop every Sunday afternoon but can sometimes get away with not shopping for two weeks, especially when it’s CSA time and I have tons of time sensitive produce that dictate the menu way more than what’s on sale. Speaking of which, only one more month until it’s CSA time again!
On a completely unrelated note, you may have noticed changes going on with the site and layout- after much research I went ahead and purchased the popular Thesis theme. Expect a lot of changes and hopefully awesomeness to come, and if anyone has any tips on using Thesis please feel free to share in the comments!