The Art of Meal Planning

My absolute favorite chore (not even sure you could call it a “chore” since I love it so much) is meal planning. Not only does meal planning tap into my deep love of food (both the preparation and consumption of it), it’s also kind of a fun puzzle to figure out each week. That might sound a little odd, but hear me out: I have to come up with at least 5 meals for the week that fit the following criteria:

1. Healthy – for us, this is a combination of lean protein, lots of veggies, minimally processed ingredients, and seasonal/local produce.

2. Affordable – eating well is a priority for us, so we do allocate a pretty good chunk of change towards our grocery bills. That said, if we splurge on fresh shrimp for one meal ($$$), we try to even things out with a vegetarian (read: bean-heavy) meal later that week.

3. New – neither of us likes eating the same things over and over, so I try to find different recipes for most of our meals each week.

4. Easy to prepare – since I’m not working, we have some extra leeway with this point, but I still don’t want to spend all my time in front of the stove. Most of the dishes we make can be prepared start-to-finish in about an hour.

5. Delicious – DUH.

So, how do I do it? My main tool for meal planning is Pinterest (follow me!). I browse it periodically during the week, checking out recipes and pinning things that look good to my dinna ideers board for later analysis. Also, I read a handful of food blogs that have some good recipes; when I see one I like, I pin it. Then, usually on Sunday morning while Chris is playing CoD, I sit down with a cup of coffee and go through my board. I look through the recipes I’ve recently pinned, which means actually reading the list of ingredients and preparation instructions so I can make sure that it fits in to the above criteria. Once I’ve thoroughly vetted a recipe, it goes on our shared Google calendar with a link to the original website so that I can easily find it later in the week. The last thing I do is write out a shopping list with the recipes up, so I don’t forget anything.

Pretty simple, right? Here’s what we’re having this week:

Monday: Honey & Soy Baked Chicken Thighs + veggies (ended up with corn on the cob and baked carrot fries) – This was awesome. Next time, I’m going to make it in our smaller baking dish with more of the sauce because it was mind-blowingly delicious.

Tuesday: Zucchini Lasagna – We had this a few weeks ago, and it’s really yummy. I love recipes like this that build in a lot of veggies so that I don’t have to worry about us getting enough. Also, this is a super low-maintenance recipe (2 cooking vessels! Win!).

Wednesday: Carnitas Burrito Bowls – Not gonna lie, this is a pretty time-intensive recipe, but I’m reserving my afternoon tomorrow to make it. I have been craving Chipotle’s carnitas LIKE WOAH, so I’m going to try to recreate their burrito bowls at home. We’ll add lettuce, tomatoes, onions, corn, and avocado to this for a full meal.

Thursday: Zucchini Crust Pizza – I’ve been dying to try the cauliflower pizza crust recipes (like this one!) I’ve seen all over the internet, but you need a food processor, and ours is STILL in transit. This zucchini one just requires a grater (which was oddly included in our apartment here), so we’ll see how it turns out. Toppings will probably include pepperoni, shrooms, olives, and anchovies. Mmmmmm.

Friday: Big Salads: Greek Edition – I need to do a whole separate post on our Big Salads. These are a major staple in our house and should not be overlooked. The gist is a giant, entree-sized salad with lots of different toppings and a homemade dressing. This one is going to be a Greek version, so there will be olives, tomatoes, cukes, and feta involved. Oh, and the best rotisserie chicken EVER.

Ummm, now I’m starving. Happy planning!

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