It is Sunday and there are a few things you can count on at our house; 1) There is bacon cooking, probably a few different kinds (the butcher, Applegate Farm Organic Uncured Sunday and turkey bacon) to please everyone; 2) I am probably making a real breakfast to go along with the bacon (i.e. paleo pancakes, omelets; 3) I am planning out our recipes for the week.
You may think it is crazy to cook 3 kinds of bacon. I guess actually, I usually make 2 of the 3 and save the third for Egg day on Tuesday. However, leftover bacon can make any weekday lunch a little more special. Eating just a plain old turkey wrap on lettuce? Try adding some bacon (along with homemade mayo and an organic tomato) and it is really yummy.
So here are my tips about menu planning …
- On Sunday, look at your calendar for the week, or at least Monday through Thursday. See how much time you have to make dinner.
- Look through your recipe books, check out some on-line blogs or tear something out of a magazine or the paper. Select 4 dinners for the week based on your time availability. Here are some general ideas:
- Breakfast for dinner – eggs are always a favorite and are the perfect combination of protein and fat all in a little package
- Stir Fry – beef, chicken, seafood, tofu, add some veggies (fresh or frozen), a yummy sauce and some rice.
- Meatballs – ground turkey, beef, chicken or pork, some spices and something to bind it altogether, serve on spaghetti squash or zoodles.
- Something on the grill – chicken, steak, burgers, fish.
- Once you have meals selected and your recipes, make a shopping list AND go to the market. In order to cook your dinner, you need to have the food in the house.
- Just because it is not on your list doesn’t mean you shouldn’t buy it. If you notice for example that ground beef patties are on sale, buy them if you have room in your freezer. Save them for next week.
- Thaw and/or marinate your meat or turn on the crock pot. Take your meat out the night before and put it in the refrigerator. Cut up your chicken while the kids are eating breakfast and throw it in a marinade for the day. You can place your ingredients into a crockpot and turn it on low before you leave for the morning. If you have an extra few minutes anytime during the day, cut up your veggies or herbs.
- Think about sides – You need something to go with your main course; rice or sweet potatoes, salad or cut veggies. Make sure you have those items in the house too.
- Keep it simple – unless you have a lot of time or really like to cook, make sure your dinners are easy to prepare. Don’t just look at the recipe ingredients; look at the steps to make it before you choose it. I will try to start putting the time it takes to make my recipes on the posts.
- Make sure to have cooking staples such as spices, cooking oils and canned goods. Adding things like diced tomatoes or Italian seasoning to a plain meatball recipe can make a big difference.
- Cook more than you need for the meal. If the recipe calls for 1 lb. of meat, make 2 if your budget can handle it. You are doing all the work anyhow, so why not double the recipe. You can save the leftovers for lunches or better yet freeze some for an emergency plan meal. (see below)
- Have an emergency plan meal. Sometimes, no matter what, your meal just doesn’t happen. Consider these options:
- Leftovers – even if you wanted to save last night’s dinner, if there is enough, you can pull it out and serve it with different sides.
- Eggs – They are easy and yummy!
- Pull it out of the freezer – Remember the chili you made last month that everyone loved? You froze the leftovers, so now is the time to thaw them out.
- Prepared food section of the supermarket – Pick up a healthy option like grilled chicken breasts or hit the salad bar.
- Rotisserie chicken – enough said, super yummy!
- Healthy take out – try bolocco (in Natick or Wellesley) for burritos. They use organic chicken and grass-fed beef. Just stay away from the soda machine!