Fun with Meal Planning

Meal planning can be difficult.  Sometimes I just do not want to sit down and think through the week ahead.  I know there are a lot of meal plans on the market, and many cooking magazines include plans a few times per year.  However, the more we explore healthy eating, and learn more about what we do and do not like, I find one thing I do not following prescribed meal plans from others. 

I blogged a few years in a row about Real Simple Magazine's October issue of meal plans.  The first two years were great, then last year, we disliked quite a few of the recipes.  But, the lure of someone else doing the thinking for me is great, especially when the weekend hits and it is time to plan out another week.  At least, it was, until I realized how simple it really can be AND how much it cut down on the grocery bill.

By meal plan, I mean an actual menu for the week.  Our early meal plans were something along the line of "oh, we'll have spaghetti, some sort of fish, um, maybe a dinner salad..."  and the grocery list would grow out of that.  Now, I have turned it into the exacting thing that matches what I have seen in magazines.  I have a wonderful collection of cookbooks, some from the 1940s, some from this year, and lots in between.  We have quite a few cooking magazines lying around.  Plus, there is this wonderful invention called the internet where just about any type of recipe might be found!  The trick is planning around family events, who is working late when, dance class night, and the shelf life of the food we choose for the week.  This past week was a big big win in the meal plan department.  I researched out some ideas, took a look at the calendar, and went to work.

The plan worked! We planned for Monday through Thursday, Friday was leftovers, Saturday a restaurant treat, Sunday would be grocery shopping and starting all over again!  Here was our plan, I have linked recipes where I could. 

Monday: Gazpacho, recipe found in Cook Fresh, 2013.

Basically, this was tomatoes, green and red bell peppers, garlic, olive oil, sherry vinegar, pinch of cumin, and torn bread, all thrown in the Vitamix and pulverized into this tasty treat.  The homemade croutons and the cilantro was a nice addition.  We think next time we'll pull back on the amount of torn bread used as a thickener, and we'll chiffonade the cilantro, rather than having those big bites of the spicy herb. 

Tuesday: Fish, Corn, and Chorizo Grill Packets, found in Real Simple Magazine, July 2013

This was, to put it in chef's terms, YUMMILICIOUS!!!!  Seriously.  I almost passed out at the grocery store when I found out how expensive wild caught Halibut is, but beyond the price of this dish, it will be a definite redo around here.  This dish was the most expensive of the week, but considering that the other ones were on the low side, it balanced out.  Real Simple has not yet posted this recipe on their site, but it is pretty simple:  put corn, chorizo, salt, and pepper in a bowl and mix.  Place a mound of that on each grill pack, place skinned Halibut filet on top, drizzle with olive oil, place a sprig of fresh oregano, close packet, and grill for 12-15 minutes.  Open, remove cooked oregano, add fresh oregano leaves, slide onto plate, eat. 

Wednesday: Mark's Rice and Beans

This a regular meal in this house.  Evie loves beans and rice, although not all mixed up and covered in the "stuff" Mama and Dada put on theirs.  We had one whoops though...Mark forgot that this was the Wednesday menu, so we had to make do with canned pinto beans rather than his super yummy crockpot beans from scratch.  That being said, he can do wonders with a can of beans.  We add romaine, avocado, salsa, lime, and cilantro to ours.  Evie just likes hers with lime.  Regardless, it is a nice, cheap, healthy meal we often have, and love, as evidenced in the earlier blog post about this dish.  

Thursday: Healthier Fettucine Alfredo, Adapted from Runner's World March 2010, plus sauteed Brussels sprouts.

Another repeat performer in our house, a recipe from 2010 that makes an indulgent dish more healthy.  In a quest to get less gluten, we haven't made it as much, but I suppose it would be as yummy with rice noodles.  The sauce is the star regardless.  A few meals back, we started to make it, realized we did not have enough Greek yogurt for the sauce, and augmented with sour cream.  A new, better, adapted recipe followed.  It is AMAZING with just a dollop of sour cream added in, and it doesn't really hurt the calorie count that much either.  The Brussels sprouts were also an addition on the fly once upon a time and Mark really likes how they "play" together.  I can't say I disagree.  To saute, we slice thin, mix with EVOO, kosher salt, fresh ground pepper, and cook.  Nummy.

Friday night we had enough of the rice and beans plus the fettuccine dish leftover to cover everyone's meals.  As for Saturday, as I sit typing this my wonderful husband has driven to our favorite Thai restaurant to pick up our order. 

Until next time, happy eating!!


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