meal planning + more

April 17, 2011

whirlwind [literally]
yes, this really happened:

devastated lowes in a raleigh suburb – full photo gallery here
amazingly, from what i read it looks like somehow everyone at that store survived, but there were multiple deaths in other nearby areas. something like 70+ tornados (!!!) occurred within this storm system, and there were warnings all afternoon [including one for chapel hill]. i felt incredibly lucky to have been on call, because i ended up spending the afternoon in the hospital seeing consults — probably the safest place possible. raleigh saw the worst of the storm [check out shelby‘s humorous take] but the damage was pretty widespread.

just another reminder of how nothing in this world can be taken for granted — from your favorite home improvement store, to — you know, waking up to see another day. today, i am thankful for pretty much everything.

meal planning 101
there is definitely a difference between the clichéd ‘living like every day is your last’ and living with purpose and intention, aiming for no regrets. in the former scenario, there would be no point in spending precious moments planning ahead for wednesday night’s dinner; in the latter, organizing for weeknight meals becomes a fun + pleasurable process.

all right, that rather terrible segue is as philosophical as i can possibly get on this sunday AM! lee asked if i would share my menu planning routine. since this is typically a sunday morning activity for me, i figured i would just get on with my usual ritual — and take some photos along the way!

step 1: survey the week

an essential step that is often overlooked! while it may seem silly to plan your weekly menu around your yoga classes, there are often some nights that will be better for cooking than others. making sure that potentially late nights correspond to easy dinners [or even better: leftovers] is crucial for making your plan a doable reality.

step 2: get out your materials

sometimes i will use one of my cookbooks, but most of the time my recipes come from magazines [i keep the current issues in a holder by my desk]. my favorite sources: clean eating, cooking light and real simple. sometimes non-cooking magazines like experience life or yoga journal can have great ideas, too.

step 3: [the fun part!] start flipping through

while collecting recipe ideas for your week, keep the following questions in mind:

will the ingredients stay fresh? in direct opposition to the ‘meatless monday’ phenomena, i tend to schedule meat or fish-containing dishes for the very beginning of the week, since salmon is not going to last 5 days in the refrigerator. later meals are more likely to be vegetarian, with eggs, beans, or tofu as protein sources. frozen shrimp is also a great end-of-the-week ingredient.

will i feel like cooking this after [yoga, long work meeting, whatever]? ie, this is where it is important to remember the week’s layout that you went over in step 1!

would this make a great dish for leftovers [lunch or dinner]? in our case, it’s best to do big, save-able dishes earlier in the week for easy packed lunches.

as you find suitable recipes that fit your week, add them to your plan and create your grocery list at the same time. for me, this often involves a few trips to the fridge and pantry to see what we already have. [although i need to be better about this, too — we have a million random things in our pantry right now!]

the end result?

a realistic, doable plan and a shopping list to make a week’s worth of healthy dinners that fit your life. i always leave some wiggle room on friday and saturday nights for dinners out . . . or in last night’s case, in:

perfect call-night/post-tornado meal, if you ask me

have a wonderful, relaxing, and safe sunday! and if you have your own meal-planning tips to add, i’d love to hear them in the comments ♥

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