The Meal Plan is a critical element to how I approach cooking.
For one, if I don’t have a meal plan I inevitably come home tired and cranky on a Wednesday night, dramatically pull open the refrigerator door, declare emphatically that there is “nothing” to eat and go out to dinner with Matt for a crappy inexpensive dinner that ends up costing us $50 and leaving us unsatisfied.
Now, don’t get me wrong. I love to eat out. I absolutely adore it. If I could afford it I would eat out often. That said, I prefer to spend my ‘eating out’ dollars on those really great meals that leave you desperate for more and eager to go back.
As such, the meal plan is a necessity.
Meal Plan 101
On Sundays I curl up in my favorite chair with the latest cooking magazines, old favorite cook books, a box of recipes and a big cup of tea. I figure out what nights of the week we need to make dinner, and start filling in the gaps. Then I head to the grocery store and give myself the freedom to buy the yummy delicious foods we often pass over. Think a Brie cheese or beautiful cut of meat is too extravagant? You’ll see that once you’re eating out less, and meal planning more, you have food budget to spare.
Meal Plan Tricks
- To keep the grocery bill down and not waste food I try to have every meal incorporate something that I’ve already got in my cupboards or fridge.
- Think about your schedule and what nights you’ll be interesting in making a big fancy dinner. Coming home late after work on Tuesday? That might be a good night for Grilled fontina and prosciutto sandwiches. Expecting a quiet Monday evening by yourself? A perfect evening to whip up Chicken Marsala, saving left overs for the rest of the week.
- Give yourself the flexibility to swap things around. If on Tuesday, Thursday’s dinner just sounds perfect, go for it.
- Look at your meal plan on a whole and try and make sure you’re getting a good range. I try for at least one chicken, one fish, one red meat, and one vegetarian each week.
- Push yourself. If your meal plan is looking like a carbon copy of itself each week, make yourself put at least one new dish on it for the following week.
Meal Plan Success
This is where my true nerdiness shows. At the end of the week, I take the meal plan off the fridge, make little notes on it about what worked and didn’t, and file it away. That way, you always have it as a handy reference for meal plans down the road.