tips for planning weekly meals
Whether you're working from home, a stay-at-home parent, or back at the office, I think we can all agree on one thing: meal prep and planning can be HARD. Finding the energy to cook, thinking of meals, making sure all you have all the ingredients, all of it can be so time-consuming! I'll admit that some days, it's easier to just forget the whole process and Postmates dinner instead. I'm trying to be better about intentionally planning our weeks with healthy, homemade meals in mind, so here are some ways I'm making the process more simple and appealing.
have it stocked
One way to ensure you have at least something to make is to keep your pantry and fridge stocked with your favorite go-to's. On days where cooking an involved meal or dutifully following a recipe just isn't ideal, I know that at least I have staple ingredients on hand to whip up something that is quick and still delicious. Some of my necessities include oat milk, gluten-free tortillas, guacamole, and hearty vegetables (like mushrooms). Because I try to include vegetarian and vegan meals into our diet as often as possible, I always have a non-meat based protein as well, like chickpeas, lentils, or beans. Other non-perishables such as rice and brown rice pasta are absolute staples because you can concoct so many meals using these items! I also make sure to have ingredients that can jazz up any dish and really pull it together, such as cilantro, hot sauce (Cholula is my fave) and Parmesan cheese. (Lactose pills are also helpful to have around for those of us with that pesky dairy intolerance!)
give yourself time
For people who are constantly on the go, finding time is often the most difficult aspect of cooking. Allotting a set time for making meals has helped tremendously, because cooking then becomes ingrained into my schedule, rather than trying to fit it around my schedule. When I wake up knowing I have 30-45 minutes set aside in the evening from 6-6:45 to make dinner, I plan my day accordingly. Making this a daily practice will help reinforce this idea so it becomes more of a habit and less of a chore. Of course, life happens and on some days, and work runs late, an unexpected situation arises, or you're just plain tired... in which case this next tip will help address that!
less is best
It's so fun to get excited about cooking, and whenever I scroll through Pinterest, I get ambitious and I want to make it all! However, choosing many meals or recipes to use throughout the week often results in buying too many ingredients that can go to waste, or leftovers that don't get eaten, because some days cooking just isn't feasible. I've found it be much more helpful to sit down at the beginning of the week, such as Sunday night, and figure out 2-3 meals that I want to make or types of cuisines I would like to find a recipe for. Depending on my schedule for the week, I'll tentatively choose a day to intentionally cook a specific meal. Because I only have 2-3 dedicated meals, there is a greater chance that I don't waste any unused ingredients, and it also leaves space for leftovers, getting take-out, or having a dinner date.
books + blogs are your best friend
I don't follow recipes all the time, but whenever I'm feeling uninspired or need a base to work from, books and food blogs come to the rescue. I looove having beautiful, go-to cookbooks lying around (plus they get to double as home decor), and having recipes for a certain type of cuisine I'm craving all in one place makes choosing a meal that much easier. One of my favorite recipe books of all time is "Love is Served:" this book provides incredibly delicious recipes for plant-based foods and dishes that are Southern California inspired, and it always get my creative cooking juices flowing. I've been following Half Baked Harvest's blog for a bit now, and I am such a huge fan and absolutely obsessed with how insanely beautiful and appetizing her meals are, which are developed based on simplicity and the best aspects of comfort food. She has two cookbooks, and I cannot WAIT to get my hands on "Super Simple." I love these resources because they invite me to try something new while also giving me the option to make old favorites, and they allow me to find recipes that fit whatever time constraints I may have!
make space for leftovers
Cooking more often than not leads to leftovers, and I have to be mindful of that when I go to plan our weekly meals. Because of leftovers, we don't need to buy excess ingredients or meal-plan every day of the week! I love re-imagining leftovers so it feels like we aren't eating the same exact meal multiple times, and making a breakfast scramble/hash is a quick, simple way to use leftovers or older items in your fridge. Rice and gluten-free pasta are fantastic bases for any leftovers you may have; add a sauce, mix it all together, and you have an entirely new dish!
Although it can seem harrowing at times, cooking does truly bring me joy, especially when I dedicate the time and resources to making it as enjoyable as possible. What are some of your go-to meals? Let's take advantage of our time at home in this season, and have fun experimenting with homemade meals and making them a dedicated part of our lives!