Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Weekly Meal Planning

In this new year as I aim to transition my life from real messy to Real Simple, I've become pretty amused with meal planning. With a commute like mine that never has me arriving home at the same time, the only dinner I can do on the fly is call for pizza or Chinese, an option that is not-at-all a consistent way to operate for wallet or waiste. That's why I've been trying to plan ahead to avoid take-out temptations. Here are things that have been working very well, so far, for me: 

Have a Friend Sign You Up For a Weekly Meal Planning Service

Yes, this is kind of cheating...but so are Spanx + and your GPS system.  My friend Cassie suprised me a few weeks ago with a membership to The Six O'Clock Scramble.  Every Wednesday, I get an email with five dinners and the grocery list needed for cooking. Also, this website has a zillion recipes. I don't always use the full suggested menu the site sends, but I have added a couple dishes from it into my standard rotation, and I love that when I have no creativity for making my own menu, I can steal ideas from the Scramble. 

Use a Cute Grocery List - You'll Be More Inclined to Actually Keep Up With It

Clearly, the most clever meal planners wouldn't be caught in a grocery store without a solid list. The truth is, I'm famous for making lists, and then losing or leaving them in places I may not recall for 1 to 5 years. So, I printed out these pretties from The Project Girl and they are stuffed into junk drawers at both my home + office, and of course my purse - I can plan meals anywhere!

photo credits: The Project Girl

I'm also working towards a goal of only making two major grocery shopping trips each month. I'm a reckless grocery buyer.  I toss candles, magazines, and any box or bottle that says "limited edition" on it in my cart on a whim, and the money I'm spending at the Giant is getting out of hand. These grocery list/meal planning printables from The Project Girl have truly transformed the way I shop - I absolutely love them.  Also, my friend, Anne, swears by this list where one doesn't even have to fill in any items - just circle!

Cut One Episode of One Tree Hill That You've Already Seen From Your Sunday Viewing of "Breakfast in Bed with The SOAP Network"

I have recently started taking an hour or two on Sunday afternoons to prepare one or two meals for the week ahead. It has brought such peace + sanity to my weeknights, I cannot even tell you!!!! I thought I'd share with y'all the
make-ahead meal that is my current favorite: Easy Chicken Enchiladas + Mexican Rice.

I make Pioneer Woman's Good Ol' Basic Mexican Rice (using olive oil, instead of canola, and instead of cumin, this fajita seasoning I thought was so special and Food Network-ish because I bought it at an authentic Mexican grocery store....

only to learn that it is, in fact, made in the U.S.A. - which is fine, because when not shopping Mexican I'm big on buy America).  

PW's rice makes a TON, so it's perfect for feeding a big group. Or, if you live with a carbaterian like I do, and you serve lots of rice + potatoes, you'll find it's among the only rice dishes ever made that reheats to taste as good as it does when served orginially - I just add a dash of chicken broth, usually left over from the box I used for the recipe, to the skillet as I reheat it and voila - Yummy 2.0!

Now, for the main event: The enchiladas. I found the recipe in Eating Light magazine, and this dish is really good, really easy, and also still tastey when served for a second time.

Of course, on the week that I write a blog about planning meals in advance, I made this meal mid-week. I did this because I was busying bowling on Sunday, and because I'm sending it tonight to a friend who just had a baby....

I doubled the chicken recipe, and the rice makes SO much that I packed up a pan for my friends, served it for Mr. W + I to eat last night AND still put a huge amount in the fridge to accompany meals later this week.

I would love to hear your meal planning tips, and any recipes/dishes that are in the freezes beautifully section of your cook books!

Here's the recipe for the chicken enchiladas - for those of you who are Weight Watchers Points counters, 2 enchiladas - 11 points {new plan}.

Happy Planning!


Anne S said...

My favorite subject at the moment!! I will be checking back to see what your faithful readers suggest - I need major help in this arena. Although day 3 of meal planning is going well, so I think I just may be able to keep the momentum going if I can get some more tips!

Shannon said...

Love anything Mexican! With a little and a working hubby, I feel it's my duty to have a meal ready most nights. However I've yet to get a system of planning, shopping, and cooking that is most efficient! I'm still a work in progress (and probably always will be!).

Love your "From the Kitchen..." paper!

formerself said...

You know I'm a bit of an evolved suburban housewife, so I'll share.
I like double duty meals.
I will make a pot of chili on Sunday and we will have baked potatoes topped with leftover chili on Wednesday.
I do the same trick with bbq. Put a pork roast in the crackpot topped with dry rub and a can of Coke. Throw in new potatoes and you have a deeelish meal. Coupla days later, I'll make baked potatoes and top with leftover bbq.

I am pretending not to diet, but secretly avoiding carbs. Lately I have been substituting potatoes or pasta with quinoa. Tasty & filling with chili.

My latest favorite (as I dream of summer) is cold quinoa topped with feta, strawberries, blueberries, sliced almonds and blush wine vinaigrette.

Happy cooking!

Tricia said...

Perfect subject to address for those who also have horrible commutes. I live in B'more and work in Rockville. This posting is terrific and has some excellent ideas. Thank you so much for sharing!

Virginia said...

And where on earth did you get those adorable personalized recipe cards???

Kris said...

I could so relate to this post. Like you, I am a compulsive grocery shopper, but I'm working on it. I now have and love this grocery shopping checklist (very much like your friend Anne's). It's by Real Simple and I got it at Target.

One thing I have tried to do recently is double already big recipes like beef stew, chili, lasagna (make 2 while you're at it). Immediately, I split it up and freeze half, and we can still eat the other half twice during the week. Meatloaf also freezes well, even if you don't eat it as a meatloaf, it's great to crumble up in pasta sauce too.

That's all I have for now. I am definitely going to check out some more of the links in your post.


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