I know it seems counter-intuitive. Why work harder by meal planning and food prepping? Why not just wing it in the grocery store?
Yes, it is more work to plan. But trust me, it’s less stress and time-consuming to cook and shop.
My grocery list only contained 6 items from 99 Ranch and 7 items from Trader Joe’s this weekend. Not only do I get in and out really quick, but I save mental energy by knowing for sure I am not missing any ingredients.
But there are still the pitfalls of Internet meal planners to watch out for. So, how do we create a sane meal plan sustainably week after week?
Tips for Meal Planning
Name of the game is: save time cooking and stress less.
Know Thy Self
Like the recipe formulae, meal planning is the fun part! You get to choose which favorite foods to slot in.
More importantly, you know whether Wednesdays are your hell days when you’re tired and grumpy. If that’s the case, take it easy and plan something super easy for Wednesday. Like a soup or a salad that requires minimal cooking.
If you must have variety, add in a new recipe every second Friday to try something new.
Food Prep on Weekends
If you work Monday to Friday like me, then weekends are the only time to do laundry and relax. I don’t want to batch cook a week’s worth of meals on top of other chores.
Can you do meal planning on the weekends? Can you cook things that take more time on weekends? Like roasting a chicken? Food prep?
Make 5-Minute Pasta
On meal planning and grocery shopping days, we eat noodles for dinner. It is easy, delicious, and quick. I don’t bother following up the meal planning and shopping by making a 3-course meal.
I cook angel hair pasta and top it with Trader Joe’s pasta sauce. Or I make Korean ramen and add a soft boiled egg.
- Mondays: Easy food to save energy for the rest of the week, for example, stir fries and salads.
- Tuesday & Wednesdays: Ambitious cooking with a lot of leftovers, for example, fried rice, tofu bowl, and hot pot.
- Thursday: No cooking because of class. Leftovers.
- Friday: Leftovers from the week or use up odds and ends, for example, stir fries, dumplings, and frozen pizza.
- Saturday: Leftovers or easy food, for example, scrambled eggs and noodles.
- Sunday: Cooking projects and meal prep, for example, butternut squash soup and roast chicken.
An example meal plan
|Saturday||noodle soup||defrost chicken|
|Sunday||pork stirfry with tofu noodles with beet greens||stir fry tofu + cabbage + carrot, broccoli salad||butternut squash soup, spinach, roast chicken||apple, pistachio, salami, dried mango, jerky||prep celery, carrots, onions, potatoes||Butternut Squash Soup from Serious Eats|
|Monday||breakfast casserole: egg, potatoes, bacon, cheese, mushrooms, onion, spinach||butternut squash soup, roast chicken, lettuce salad||chicken pot pie with tofu, stir fry chard||apple, pistachio, salami, dried mango, jerky||Chicken Pot Pie from Serious Eats|
|Tuesday||breakfast casserole: egg, potatoes, bacon, cheese, mushrooms, onion, spinach||leftovers chicken pot pie, chard||stir fry kale + carrots, tofu salad + peanut butter, coconut curry soup + romaine||apple, pistachio, salami, dried mango, jerky|
|Wednesday||breakfast casserole: egg, potatoes, bacon, cheese, mushrooms, onion, spinach||leftover kale + carrots, leftover coconut curry soup, tofu salad||pan-fried dumpling with lettuce, stir fry tofu||apple, almonds, salami, dried mango, jerky|
|Thursday||yogurt + mango + walnuts||leftover dumplings, stir fry tofu||leftover dumplings, frozen pizza||apple, almonds, salami, dried mango, jerky||defrost pork|
|Friday||yogurt + mango + walnuts||frozen Indian food||stir fry vegetables + tofu||apple, almonds, salami, dried mango, jerky|
|Saturday||yogurt + mango + walnuts||scrambled eggs|
Always plan for leftovers
That’s the whole point, isn’t it? Leftovers for lunch and even dinner allow you to cook half as often. Your wallet will thank you. More importantly, your waistline will too.