Over the past few weeks, meal planning has been a hot topic of conversation.  {Wow, don't you want to be my friend now?  What juicy tidbits might we exchange?  Meal Plans!  No, I promise I'm cooler than that.  Maybe.}  One friend has a spreadsheet with a three week rotation of meals, so she knows exactly what ingredients to purchase, and she and her husband don't get bored.  Another friend's fiance works late frequently, so they improvise and will run to Whole Foods to hit up the salad bar or trade off making late night dinners.  I think each person has their own technique for meal planning (or lack of planning), but as I post all of these meals and recipes, I thought I'd share mine!

First, I post my meal successes here.  But on the days we're not eating beautiful fajitas or pan-roasted New York strips (oh yeah, get ready), we eat hot dogs or popcorn or whatever I can make out of the scraps in the fridge.  Those are usually loosely called "Asian" because I cover it in soy sauce and sriracha (which took me five minutes to spell and will take a lifetime to pronounce).  Basically, half the nights of the week I'm stretched out on the couch after work completely unmotivated except that I already meal planned!  So I have to use the ingredients!  Whew.

That being said, I try to plan meals for at least 4 nights at one time.  Ideally I'll plan a whole week and shop all at once and not again, but things aren't always so picturesque.  But having that meal plan when I'm exhausted after a long day saves us from eating pasta every night.

I start by checking out the specials from the grocery stores I frequent.  I shop mainly at Harris Teeter, then at Trader Joe's and Fresh Market.  I much prefer the latter two, but real life means more groceries that TJ's carries and less costly than FM.  Harris Teeter sends out their weekly specials in an email, which I scour for seafood/poultry and produce that looks tasty and like a good deal.  I base most of our meals around those specials, for instance this week wild salmon and tilapia were on sale, so we had salmon spinach salads and fish tacos for two of our dinners.  We only eat red meat occasionally, and I try to buy it all at Fresh Market since it tastes SO much better.  FM also sends out specials each Tuesday and now Saturday- so I plan around those as well.  Trader Joe's also has some great frozen items that are fantastic in a pinch: I get their frozen mahi mahi in soy ginger marinade and put it over quinoa with sauteed spinach or roasted asparagus, and it's great!  Quick, too.  I can get behind some three ingredient meals.

After I check out the ingredient options, I usually go to Tasty Kitchen and search the recipes by the ingredient I like and their rating system.  I also read quite a few food blogs that inspire me (check out the blogroll!), so between the two I get an idea of what we might eat.  Mr. S&S gets to make requests, too, but they don't always make the cut...  If he got to pick, we'd eat almost entirely foods that don't have to be chewed: mashed potatoes, creamed corn, pot pie... :)  I also try to incorporate two veggies in each meal, with at least one being green: spinach, brussels sprouts, and asparagus are a couple favorites.

Here are a few ideas of basics that I change up and make pretty frequently:
  • Spinach salad with chicken or salmon, cheese, nuts, fruit, and balsamic vinaigrette (enough toppings and it fills up even the hungriest husband)
  • Tacos!  Not the tacos of my childhood with the taco kit and hard shells (one was inevitably broken and therefore threw off all the shells per person ratios. fights ensued.) and ground beef with packet seasoning, but with fish or chicken and a plethora of toppings like avocado, sliced radishes, feta or goat cheese, homemade salsa, and black beans
  • Pizza: wheat crust with veggies, fruit, different meats, and cheese- red sauce optional, because olive oil compliments pizzas with unusual toppings like fruit
  • Grain bowls: quinoa, brown rice, or another grain with veggies, a good sauce, and a meat
  • Fish, roasted green veggie, and roasted sweet potatoes or other grain

All said, I can have our week of meals planned in 30-45 minutes, which sounds like a long time, but can totally be done while watching the bachelor.  But not while watching Downton {looking at your no commercials, PBS} Hopefully I'll be sharing more easy, tasty meals with you on Sparkle & Stir, but for now I wanted to give you an idea of my meal planning thought process!

What do you think?  How do you plan meals?  Are you a compulsive, spreadsheet planner or a spontaneous, day-of inspiration cook?  I'd love to hear!

One Comment

  1. Janie!!! This is SO relevant to me right now. I just cried to my mom because it took me 2 hours to make dinner after a 12 hour work day. She and I are trying to brainstorm easier cooking plans for me so I don't kill myself slaving over food as fiancé gets antsy. Please email me any and all other suggestions, I have a nifty folder (created 30 minutes ago) for all cooking ideas so I can pull it up on my phone any time I'm at the grocery!! XO


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