Back to Basics – Meal Planning

I may not be the most organized person you know, but when it comes to my family eating healthy homemade meals, I make no compromises. I’m always prepared. I plan my meals and grocery shop accordingly. I don’t have to follow it religiously but I know I always have a solid plan to rely on. When it comes to cooking up delicious good-for-you meals, creativity favors the prepared kitchen!

Why I meal plan and why should you?

  1. To avoid the stress that comes with last-minute walks around the kitchen while everyone is hungry and asking “what’s for dinner?” or as we say in Lebanon ” shou tabkha lyom?
  2. To make sure we are having healthy well-balanced meals. No more last-minute delivery calls.
  3. To save time and money while grocery shopping. With a menu on hand and a list of ingredients, shopping becomes easy and efficient.
  4. To avoid food from going to waste. Food will be used before it rots and gets thrown way.

My simple technique:

  1. Raid the pantry/fridge/freezer and check what meals can be readily made from the food items I already have.
  2. Start meal planning for the week around them especially the perishables or the ones with near expiry dates.
  3. In the menu plan, I include vegetarian recipes as well as one day with fish/shellfish, and about two with chicken and meat ( not necessarily as the main ingredient).
  4. I start with trusted and true recipes that my husband and I feel like having. Usually these are Lebanese dishes we grew up with or recipes we have tried and liked.
  5. Then I include one or two recipes I have come across via cookbooks, magazines, bloggers or Pinterest. Sometimes they work, rarely they don’t but it’s all part of the cooking adventure!
  6. I write down my shopping list. I add to it dark chocolate, tea, raw nuts and seeds, condiments,… and I’m ready to shop.
  7. I go shopping and of course not on an empty stomach. My choice of fruits and vegetables may vary depending on availability and price but swapping can be easily made.

Once home, I clean the produce, hard boil a few eggs, and marinade some of the meats before freezing. I peel carrots, cook beets (if having), portion fruits, portion snacks for the week (trail mix, ..), cook and freeze beans*… And whenever I am cooking a freezer friendly meal (like chicken pie, kibbeh, …) I do a double batch for those days when I only have time to pop something in the oven.

So now that you know how I spend part of my weekend, let me say that I’m starting another regular feature on the blog. Every Monday, I’ll be posting my weekly menu plan. This way, I hope you’ll get a feel of my daily eats and get a little inspiration to start planning if you don’t already.

* black beans, chickpeas, red kidney beans,…not a weekly thing but it depends on what I have in the freezer. I like to have at least a couple of portions of beans at any given moment. Beans can be stored in the freezer up to 6 months.

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