Meal planning.”

That term means different things to different people. To me, it means being more deliberate and thoughtful about what you eat, rather than just winging it or eating “whatever’s in the house” most nights.

Meal planning is all about eating food that’s delicious, but also healthful. It’s about taking a look at how you interact with food, your feelings about cooking, and figuring out the best ways to avoid eating junk.

It’s about finding the process that works best for you. So, rather than try to describe all the different ways you could approach meal planning, I thought I’d just describe what a typical week looks like in my home.

Choosing Recipes:

Let’s make one thing clear at the outset. Having a meal plan doesn’t necessarily mean coming up with different breakfast, lunch and dinner ideas for each day of the week, then managing all the shopping, prep work and cooking for 21 different recipes.

If you have the time to do that, great! I don’t (and even if I did, I probably wouldn’t want to spend all that time in the kitchen), so my weekly meal plan isn’t quite so impressive. But that doesn’t mean I compromise on eating delicious food that I love. I have a few dozen recipes that I make fairly regularly. Since I’m familiar with those recipes, it’s easy to be super-efficient when making them.

I also know that I’m not going to be whipping up a new dish for every meal (sometimes I’ll have leftovers or something I cooked ahead of time). So, I really just need a few good recipes to help me build a shopping list for my next visit to the grocery store.

Grocery Shopping:

I try to go to the grocery store twice a week. This might seem like a lot. In fact, I remember a few decades ago, when I was a kid, we’d go to the grocery store twice a month. That might save a little time, but the problem with the less frequent visits are that you can’t include as much fresh meat or as many vegetables as when you’re going to the store every three or four days.

If your schedule doesn’t allow shopping every few days, then consider a delivery service like Instacart or Shipt, or even the delivery or pick-up service that your local supermarket might offer. Using a service once (or even twice) a week can really be a huge time-saver.

Pantry and Staples:

I take care to keep my pantry stocked with frequently used staple items. Doing so means fewer trips to the store, and greater flexibility to come up with a fast and tasty meal off the top of my head if something comes up to derail my meal plan.

So my pantry usually has plenty of canned tomatoes (of varying styles), tomato paste, canned coconut milk, coconut oil, chicken and beef stock, raw cashews and almonds, yellow onions, sweet potatoes, as well as my commonly used spices (including garlic powder, onion powder, paprika, cumin, chili powder, curry powder, oregano and ground ginger).

Sunday Shopping:

Because of my work schedule, Sunday is generally the day where a good portion of the week’s meal planning work is done. I sometimes do the shopping fairly early in the morning to avoid the crowds, or I’ll do the shopping later if I’m out doing other errands.

In a typical week, my Sunday shopping list might include:

  • 1 Whole Organic Chicken
  • 1 Rotisserie Cooked Chicken
  • 1-2 pounds of grass-fed ground beef
  • 2-3 dozen eggs
  • A pack or two of uncured bacon
  • A lot of vegetables for roasting (my favorites include broccoli, sweet onions, brussels sprouts, cauliflower, red cabbage and green beans)
  • Bagged salads for lunches
  • The ingredients I’ll need for next few recipes I plan on making.

Sunday Bulk Cooking:

After shopping I’ll spend an hour or so doing some “bulk cooking” and initial prep work for some of the things I plan on making over the next few days. The words “bulk cooking” might sound intimidating, but it’s really all about multitasking, so I’m able to get a lot done in a relatively short amount of time. During this hour I will:

  • Cut up the rotisserie chicken and put the pieces into the fridge for whenever I want add some protein to a salad, or just to nibble on (a chicken drumstick is a great snack for me!). (~5 minutes)
  • Cut up my whole uncooked chicken.(~5-10 minutes)
    • I’ll use the boneless breast meat for something like Buffalo Chicken Spaghetti Squash Casserole or Indian Butter Chicken.
    • I’ll bake the leg quarters or use them for a [[Stew]] or Pressure Cooker Chicken Enchiladas.
    • I’ll cut the wings into sections and collect them in the freezer until I have enough to make a dinner of Paleo Buffalo Wings.
    • I’ll collect the back, the rib bones from the chicken breast, the wing tips in a freezer bag (along with any bones from baked or rotisserie chicken) until I have enough to make a big batch of chicken stock. I’ll do that with an Instapot or an old-school Crock Pot.
    • I’ll save any uncooked skin until I have enough to make schmaltz and gribenes. Schmaltz makes great roasted potatoes, and gribenes are a great snack or salad topping.
    • Any cuts I don’t plan on eating within the following couple days get put into a freezer bag, properly labelled, and used later.
  • Wash, cut and roast a couple sheet pans worth of veggies. I chop my vegetables into bite-sized pieces, toss them in (or spray them with) avocado oil, lightly salt and pepper and roast at 400 degrees until they’re done to my liking. This gives me almost a week’s worth of vegetables that I can add to virtually any meal whenever I want. I might also shred a head or two of cauliflower through the food processor for easy cauliflower rice. (~20 minutes of active time)
  • “Hard boil” 8-9 eggs in my Instapot. I might use these eggs to make Curry Egg Salad for dinner one night, or just use them for snacks or on my salads. (~ 5 minutes of active time)
  • Make some homemade mayonnaise for use in recipes throughout the week. (~10 minutes of active time)
  • Cook the grass-fed ground beef with homemade taco seasoning. I’ll put the cooked taco meat in the fridge and eat it over the course of the next week in taco potatoes or taco salads. If I don’t eat it all, I measure out half-cup portions, freeze them in individual baggies, and have an easy-to-thaw supply of cooked taco meat for future lunches and dinners. (~5-10 minutes of active time)
  • Or I’ll shape the beef into hamburger patties, freeze them in a single layer on a cookie sheet, and store them in a bag for ready-to-go hamburgers whenever I want a quick meal but don’t really feel like cooking. (~5-10 minutes of active time)
  • Cook a pack or two of bacon on my counter top electric griddle. Keep that cooked bacon in the fridge for coming breakfasts. Save the bacon fat for frying eggs and sauteeing greens for breakfast. (~ 5 minutes of active time)

The first time I did some bulk cooking the kitchen got pretty messy, and I was a little flustered when I was finished. Fortunately, the process quickly became much easier. And after an hour’s work you’ll have a lot of food that’s ready to eat or cook with over the next few days.

The Rest of the Week:

I like to have recipes selected a couple days in advance, but I also like to stay flexible. If there’s a night I really don’t feel like spending any time cooking, I’ll pull something out of the freezer, or make a big salad.

As I mentioned above, I’ll probably head to the grocery store again later in the week, probably on Thursday. But again, I try to stay flexible and do whatever makes the most sense on any given day given my schedule, my mood and my appetite.

An Individualized Approach:

Perhaps the most important thing I’d like you to take away from all of this is that meal planning is all about finding out what works for you, and what doesn’t. Maybe you follow an approach that looks like mine, or maybe yours is completely different. Maybe you don’t mind spending a bit of time chopping vegetables, or maybe you prefer everything being as quick as possible.

But you can’t figure out what works best for you if you don’t start trying new things. If you have any questions, please feel free to contact me. Or click here to schedule a free consultation.

Meal planning.”

That term means different things to different people. To me, it means being more deliberate and thoughtful about what you eat, rather than just winging it or eating “whatever’s in the house” most nights.

Meal planning is all about eating food that’s delicious, but also healthful. It’s about taking a look at how you interact with food, your feelings about cooking, and figuring out the best ways to avoid eating junk.

It’s about finding the process that works best for you. So, rather than try to describe all the different ways you could approach meal planning, I thought I’d just describe what a typical week looks like in my home.

Choosing Recipes:

Let’s make one thing clear at the outset. Having a meal plan doesn’t necessarily mean coming up with different breakfast, lunch and dinner ideas for each day of the week, then managing all the shopping, prep work and cooking for 21 different recipes.

If you have the time to do that, great! I don’t (and even if I did, I probably wouldn’t want to spend all that time in the kitchen), so my weekly meal plan isn’t quite so impressive. But that doesn’t mean I compromise on eating delicious food that I love. I have a few dozen recipes that I make fairly regularly. Since I’m familiar with those recipes, it’s easy to be super-efficient when making them.

I also know that I’m not going to be whipping up a new dish for every meal (sometimes I’ll have leftovers or something I cooked ahead of time). So, I really just need a few good recipes to help me build a shopping list for my next visit to the grocery store.

Grocery Shopping:

I try to go to the grocery store twice a week. This might seem like a lot. In fact, I remember a few decades ago, when I was a kid, we’d go to the grocery store twice a month. That might save a little time, but the problem with the less frequent visits are that you can’t include as much fresh meat or as many vegetables as when you’re going to the store every three or four days.

If your schedule doesn’t allow shopping every few days, then consider a delivery service like Instacart or Shipt, or even the delivery or pick-up service that your local supermarket might offer. Using a service once (or even twice) a week can really be a huge time-saver.

Pantry and Staples:

I take care to keep my pantry stocked with frequently used staple items. Doing so means fewer trips to the store, and greater flexibility to come up with a fast and tasty meal off the top of my head if something comes up to derail my meal plan.

So my pantry usually has plenty of canned tomatoes (of varying styles), tomato paste, canned coconut milk, coconut oil, chicken and beef stock, raw cashews and almonds, yellow onions, sweet potatoes, as well as my commonly used spices (including garlic powder, onion powder, paprika, cumin, chili powder, curry powder, oregano and ground ginger).

Sunday Shopping:

Because of my work schedule, Sunday is generally the day where a good portion of the week’s meal planning work is done. I sometimes do the shopping fairly early in the morning to avoid the crowds, or I’ll do the shopping later if I’m out doing other errands.

In a typical week, my Sunday shopping list might include:

  • 1 Whole Organic Chicken
  • 1 Rotisserie Cooked Chicken
  • 1-2 pounds of grass-fed ground beef
  • 2-3 dozen eggs
  • A pack or two of uncured bacon
  • A lot of vegetables for roasting (my favorites include broccoli, sweet onions, brussels sprouts, cauliflower, red cabbage and green beans)
  • Bagged salads for lunches
  • The ingredients I’ll need for next few recipes I plan on making.

Sunday Bulk Cooking:

After shopping I’ll spend an hour or so doing some “bulk cooking” and initial prep work for some of the things I plan on making over the next few days. The words “bulk cooking” might sound intimidating, but it’s really all about multitasking, so I’m able to get a lot done in a relatively short amount of time. During this hour I will:

  • Cut up the rotisserie chicken and put the pieces into the fridge for whenever I want add some protein to a salad, or just to nibble on (a chicken drumstick is a great snack for me!). (~5 minutes)
  • Cut up my whole uncooked chicken.(~5-10 minutes)
    • I’ll use the boneless breast meat for something like Buffalo Chicken Spaghetti Squash Casserole or Indian Butter Chicken.
    • I’ll bake the leg quarters or use them for a [[Stew]] or Pressure Cooker Chicken Enchiladas.
    • I’ll cut the wings into sections and collect them in the freezer until I have enough to make a dinner of Paleo Buffalo Wings.
    • I’ll collect the back, the rib bones from the chicken breast, the wing tips in a freezer bag (along with any bones from baked or rotisserie chicken) until I have enough to make a big batch of chicken stock. I’ll do that with an Instapot or an old-school Crock Pot.
    • I’ll save any uncooked skin until I have enough to make schmaltz and gribenes. Schmaltz makes great roasted potatoes, and gribenes are a great snack or salad topping.
    • Any cuts I don’t plan on eating within the following couple days get put into a freezer bag, properly labelled, and used later.
  • Wash, cut and roast a couple sheet pans worth of veggies. I chop my vegetables into bite-sized pieces, toss them in (or spray them with) avocado oil, lightly salt and pepper and roast at 400 degrees until they’re done to my liking. This gives me almost a week’s worth of vegetables that I can add to virtually any meal whenever I want. I might also shred a head or two of cauliflower through the food processor for easy cauliflower rice. (~20 minutes of active time)
  • “Hard boil” 8-9 eggs in my Instapot. I might use these eggs to make Curry Egg Salad for dinner one night, or just use them for snacks or on my salads. (~ 5 minutes of active time)
  • Make some homemade mayonnaise for use in recipes throughout the week. (~10 minutes of active time)
  • Cook the grass-fed ground beef with homemade taco seasoning. I’ll put the cooked taco meat in the fridge and eat it over the course of the next week in taco potatoes or taco salads. If I don’t eat it all, I measure out half-cup portions, freeze them in individual baggies, and have an easy-to-thaw supply of cooked taco meat for future lunches and dinners. (~5-10 minutes of active time)
  • Or I’ll shape the beef into hamburger patties, freeze them in a single layer on a cookie sheet, and store them in a bag for ready-to-go hamburgers whenever I want a quick meal but don’t really feel like cooking. (~5-10 minutes of active time)
  • Cook a pack or two of bacon on my counter top electric griddle. Keep that cooked bacon in the fridge for coming breakfasts. Save the bacon fat for frying eggs and sauteeing greens for breakfast. (~ 5 minutes of active time)

The first time I did some bulk cooking the kitchen got pretty messy, and I was a little flustered when I was finished. Fortunately, the process quickly became much easier. And after an hour’s work you’ll have a lot of food that’s ready to eat or cook with over the next few days.

The Rest of the Week:

I like to have recipes selected a couple days in advance, but I also like to stay flexible. If there’s a night I really don’t feel like spending any time cooking, I’ll pull something out of the freezer, or make a big salad.

As I mentioned above, I’ll probably head to the grocery store again later in the week, probably on Thursday. But again, I try to stay flexible and do whatever makes the most sense on any given day given my schedule, my mood and my appetite.

An Individualized Approach:

Perhaps the most important thing I’d like you to take away from all of this is that meal planning is all about finding out what works for you, and what doesn’t. Maybe you follow an approach that looks like mine, or maybe yours is completely different. Maybe you don’t mind spending a bit of time chopping vegetables, or maybe you prefer everything being as quick as possible.

But you can’t figure out what works best for you if you don’t start trying new things.

If you have any questions, please feel free to contact me. Or click here to schedule a free consultation.

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