It’s not an actual meal plan Monday, but I am back with a post on a Monday about meal planning. Which makes me feel that, at six weeks, I’ve turned a corner in motherhood. I can be a mom and also have a few minutes here and there to continue to pursue my interests. It’s a good feeling.
Nope, that title doesn’t have an extra word in it. Over the last few weeks I’ve tried to put together a plan for a week of meals, tried to shop, and tried to cook. I’ve had some success but realized I needed to be a little more streamlined given the reduced amount of time I have to spend and the constant companion who makes shopping and prepping just a wee bit more complicated. Enter my new plan for the menu plan.
First I have to apologize to my mom because I used to make fun of her and her menu plan. And now I am totally borrowing the idea for my own plan. My mom has declared a main protein that they eat each night of the week, though she mixes up the recipe she uses. For example, Friday is always salmon. This is a great way to make menu planning easier. When you know it’s Short Rib Monday, all you have to do is decide on the recipe you’re going to make that week.
This idea doesn’t quite work for me since I buy our meat in bulk and don’t have 52 short ribs to have on Monday nights throughout the year. Also, I enjoy cooking (and eating) more than my mom does and would probably get bored with making the same thing weekly. As I’ve always said, the only rule to successful menu planning and prep is that you have to make it work for you.
To make it work for us, I thought about how often I wanted to cook. I’m starting out with planning five dinners a week. During weeknights I’m planning to make dinner four times and have one night of leftovers (or take out night if there are no leftovers). Over the weekend I’m going to assume we go out once and eat in once.
At this point I’m not planning much for breakfast and lunch. I’ve learned in the last few weeks that making one meal a day is my max. Most days it takes me most of the day to prep and cook dinner. I’m trying to select meals that make several servings so that I can have lunches that just require a quick heating. I’m also making sure to have easy foods like turkey lunch meat and canned tuna/salmon available. I will probably also try to prep a big batch of veggies on the weekend to have with lunches throughout the week. My plan for breakfast is to cook one dish on the weekend that we can both eat all week.
After deciding on five dinners per week, I assigned a protein to each of the five nights. Rather than get down to the specific type/cut of protein like my mom has done, my approach was to plan a level higher to account for buying most of our meat in bulk.
Monday : Ground Meat
When you buy meat by the fraction of an animal, you end up with a decent amount of ground meat. I know it sounds weird, but I think ground meat is my favorite cut because of how versatile it is. We have ground beef, pork, and lamb in the freezer, and using my kitchen aid grinder attachment I can easily grind other proteins if I need them. Ground meat recipes are typically very easy to double, which is why I assigned it to Monday. If I have a week where I know I need more leftovers, I can always double whatever I’m making.
Tuesday : Chicken
I don’t buy chicken in bulk (though I will this summer through our CSA!) and we don’t typically eat much of it at home. I decided to change that with my new menu plan. There are so many easy chicken crockpot recipes out there and right now the crockpot is my good friend.
Wednesday : Leftovers
Depending on what a particular week looks like, leftover night will be either Wednesday or Thursday.
Thursday : Roasts
Like ground meat, we have many beef, pork and lamb roasts. These are great for the crockpot or pressure cooker, both good ways to try new recipes without a ton of work.
Friday : Seafood
Once a good Catholic girl, always a good Catholic girl. I couldn’t help but assign fish to Friday. Over the past two years we have really only eaten salmon as I buy it in bulk to get a really good price. It will be nice to expand out a bit and enjoy some other seafood.
Weekend : Steaks/Chops
A lot of people buy in bulk to get a good price on the better cuts of meat. These are actually my least favorite. Last year I saved all the steaks and chops for summer, thinking we’d use the grill for them. Then I had a huge aversion to what I called “hunks of meat” during my first trimester. Once I could handle the hunks again, it was all we had left of our 2014 meat. It sounds like a total first world problem, but eating steak multiple times a week in the early fall got really old. I’m hoping that one side benefit of this new plan is that we go through cuts of meat more evenly throughout the year.
We do eat more than meat. I’m making a conscious effort to use what we have when it comes to vegetables. I look at what’s in the fridge and make a rough plan for the week with what we have and only buy veggies if we don’t have enough to last the week, rather than because I’d rather eat something else.
Last, I took my collection of recipe ideas (all on Pinterest) and organized them to match my new categories. I may not have a ton of time for shopping and prepping right now, but I have plenty of time for middle of the night iPad work. The idea is that I can easily pick a recipe from each category when I’m planning for the week rather than having to scroll through a mess of all recipes.
Next week: An actual menu plan and a report on how well (or not well) my new plan went.