Monday, April 18, 2011

How to Meal Plan, Made Simple

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      My seasonal job has started back up for the year and as a result I've been a bit extra busy these last several weeks, so posting has been a bit sparse. I've been trying to keep posts scheduled so that things aren't too barren around here, but that's just how it goes. 

With my new, mostly nocturnal, schedule I've been keeping the cooking down to simple one-dish meals that are easy and quiet to prepare at 2AM. Here's a sampling of what I've been cooking as of late:

The top right photo features Corn Chowder with Roasted Potatoes. This is a new dish I am making that is inspired by the method I use to make black bean soup. I have not posted about that black bean soup because the pictures of it seem to come out poorly, but I won't let that be an excuse to keep such a simple and quick recipe from you. Both the corn chowder and the black bean soup are very simple and can be made in under 30 minutes! Bottom right is the beginnings of Lentil & Brown Rice Soup, with just an onion, seasonings and a lentil blend in the pot. The final picture is of Berbere Mixed Vegetables which I featured last month, along with what is pictured in the top left photo, Kale and Zucchini Stir Fry.

I'll be posting the recipes for the Lentil & Brown Rice Soup as well as the Corn Chowder with Roasted Potatoes over the next week or so. Also coming up will be a Wokin' Stir Fry Recipe! One of my birthday gifts this year included a wok and I couldn't have been more surprised. It was used within the week and we took lots of pictures that I'll post along with the recipe. 

The thing about making these 'easy' meals is that it is make possible with a meal plan diligently created each week before we grocery shop. While meal planning isn't exactly exciting - it's quite far from it, actually, and can start arguments you wouldn't normally have about broccoli vs cauliflower - it does need to be taken care of. I've made a small system to help with that time of the week. First, I made a document on my computer that includes dishes that I make on a regular basis broken down into pasta, rice, and vegetable based dishes. When it's time to meal plan for the week I open up this list, grab a cookbook or The Flavor Bible, and maybe open up a few good websites to browse (I like Open Source Food as of late). I use some loose leaf paper to make three line sections where I'll fill in a rough breakfast/lunch/dinner schedule as follows:
As you can see, I've got kale, zucchini, and lentil soup, chili & corn bread, Mexican casserole, pesto & white bean quinoa (seen in this months' Vegetarian Times), lasagna rolls, pizza, and a black bean avocado taco superevent on the menu for this week. I don't really worry about making Thursday's meal on Thursday, we're pretty flexible on when that happens and sometimes you just don't feel like what's on the meal plan, and that's okay. The real point of having all this is so that I know that when I go to the store with the list based off this meal plan, that I will be purchasing enough food to theoretically feed myself and the boyfriend for however many days I've planned for. 

It might be a bit overkill. Do I really need to fill in oatmeal, waffles, and eggs for breakfast every day? Yes, I do, because I will forget to put them on the grocery list to buy. Sometimes we'll shop for just dinner stuff and think we have some extra money to splurge on a bottle of something and then we realize we have no lunch or snack stuff available during the week. Lame.

So pictured above is my meal plan for this week, my grocery bill at Whole Foods came out to $68.50 and we bought juice, cookies, and a couple of personal items that weren't on the list. It is possible to shop healthy on a budget - even with a special diet!
- Patricia

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