I realized, after posting my menu plan on Monday and receiving the following comment from my friend Nzinga, that I've been just assuming meal planning comes easy and is something everyone knows how to do automatically.
"Seeing this post in my inbox today reminded me that I've been meaning to create weekly meal plans for...oh, I dunno, a few years now. It seems way more necessary now that we've got the kidlet and want to spend less on impromptu "missing ingredient trips". Getting started seems a little overwhelming, though."Clearly I was wrong -- and I should be the first to know this, because when I first started meal planning six years ago, I had no idea where to begin! It was agonizing. I turned to my friends and got ideas from them, and eventually was able to do it all on my own.
So, a step-by-step meal planning tutorial for today!
(so as to avoid the overwhelm)
To begin meal planning without getting totally overwhelmed, we'll stick with the KISS method: Keep It Simple, Stupid. We'll start small with planning for three meals to cook and you can work your way up from there.
1.) Set aside 10 minutes on Sunday or Monday to sit down with a piece of paper and pen.
2.) Think about your week to come -- how many nights do you need to cook? Do you have plans any nights this week that mean you'll be eating out or getting take-out?
3.) Since we're starting small and simply, we'll only meal plan for three nights. Your first meal will be the one that is easiest for you to cook, the one that comes to mind first.
For some people, this is pasta of some sort, either with a simple tomato sauce or dressed with garlic and olive oil. What is it for you? What is the first easy dish that comes to mind? Whatever that is, it is your First Meal. Write that down.
4.) For your Second and Third Meals, do you have any other dishes that spring to mind? If not, you could try:
--- Picking up a bag of frozen potstickers like I mentioned on Monday and adding in one or two veggies for a very simple and inexpensive but filling stirfry.
--- My easy and tasty Sesame-Soy Chicken with a green vegetable on the side (I often serve with chard or kale sauteed with garlic).
--- Healthy and hearty Black Beans & Rice -- this is a one-pot meal that satisfies. And it's really very simple and fast to make. This Cabbage Salad makes a great side if you feel like you need one.
--- Too hot for beans and rice where you are? This Curried Chicken Salad will not disappoint. Steam some artichoke or roast some asparagus (or both, like I often do), and you've got a complete, delicious meal.
5.) Now that you've got three meals written down, you've got your menu!
6.) All you need to do now is figure what ingredients you do not have on hand. I usually look at each meal's recipe individually and figure out what I'll need for each, writing it on my grocery list.
And you're done! Off to the store with you. You are now set for three nights of delicious home-cooked meals. With only ONE trip to the grocery store. How about that!
If you have other ideas or ways about planning out your week's menu, I'd love to hear about them! Please do share!