On Fridays We Meal Plan

Meal Planning Pt. II has been a difficult post to complete! I want to make meal planning look easy and effortless but in truth, especially when you’re just starting up, it’s not. It takes a little time to get into the meal planning state of mind and start thinking ahead about your ingredients, recipe choices, and time.

I know it can be tough to take the time and organize your meals for a week but I believe that whether you live alone and shop on a tight grocery budget or are a busy family of 6 with lots of weeknight activates there is a way to make meal planning work for you! And if you need any help along the way please leave a comment or reach out via email, I would LOVE to help set up a couple of weeks of meal plans to get you started. Oh, and check out Meal Planning Part I if you haven’t already,  it’s full of tips and tricks to get you started as well!

In this post I’ve outlined my meal planning method (which might not work for everyone) as well as my actual meal plan for next week with shopping list. The meal plan I’ve made is for 2 people eating 4 dinners and 4 lunches, with no plan or ingredients for breakfasts (I’ve been on a real cereal kick lately!).

OK, here we go!

My Meal Planning Method:

I usually do my meal planning on a Friday so I have my grocery list ready for whenever I end up making it to the store. I’ll quickly make note of any items that I need to use up from the week before and check the calendar to see if there are any nights I won’t be home for dinner. Then I go to the flyer of my local grocery store (most have on-line versions) and make a note of ingredients that are on special that I may want to use.

Now things get a little more complicated, you have to pick out what you want to eat for the week. Think about what kind of variety you want (if any) as well as what you already have on hand that needs to be used up. These days I primarily use my Pinterest account for my meal planning needs but from time to time I use cookbooks and other bookmarks so feel free to incorporate whatever works for you.

Since I do my planning primarily on-line I open a tab in my internet browser for each recipe – a typical week for me will have 4 dinners and from that I hope to get 4 lunches. I often try to prep a breakfast option as well – it’ll look something like this:

Meal Planning Step1

Once you have all the recipes laid out you can start compiling your grocery list. I try to group like ingredients together (all produce, all meats, etc. ) and if you shop in the same store all the time you may even get used to the layout of the store and incorporate that into the way you lay out your shopping list. I go through one recipe at a time in my browser and add each ingredient to its compartment on my list. That will look something like this:

Meal Planning Step2

Don’t forget to shop in your own kitchen first; you’ll likely have some of these ingredients hanging around!

I usual send myself an email with all the links to the recipes I want to make so I don’t have to keep going back and finding them on Pinterest. The link below is what a typical meal plan layout could look like. I wanted to try to keep this simple but still explain where ingredients are doing double duty and how you can substitute for ingredients in recipes to make them work for you.

I’ve included links to PDF versions of both the Meal Plan and the Shopping List:

Meal Plan Layout & Chicken Steamy Buns *click on the links in this document for the detailed recipe for each meal*

Shopping List – March 31 – April 4

I hope you’ll cook along with me next week or at least find a new recipe in the meal plan that you can looking forward to trying out when you have time.

Whew, now I need a cocktail!

Cheers!

Summery Strawberry Balsamic Pizza

Okay, okay I know it’s snowing out today and doesn’t feel like spring (let alone summer) will EVER arrive but I feel that days like today are the best ones to make a bright summery dinner and try to forget what’s going on outside!

Strawberry Pizza

This pizza will make you believe, even just for a minute, that you are chowing down on a patio with the sun shining on your face and a cold beer in hand.  To have this pizza for dinner tonight you will need:

  •          Pizza Dough (I use Pillsbury Pizza Dough SUE ME!)
  •          2 c cooked Chicken, shredded or sliced
  •          ½ Yellow Onion, thinly sliced
  •          ½ c Strawberries, diced
  •          ¼ c Cilantro, finely chopped
  •          ¼ c Mozzarella, shredded
  •          ¼ – ½ a round of Brie, chilled in the freezer and grated (or just sliced thinly)

For the Strawberry Balsamic Pizza Sauce:

  •          ½ small jar of Strawberry Jam
  •          ¼ c of Balsamic Vinegar
  •          1tsp-1tbsp Sriracha

Or you could use a tangy BBQ sauce if don’t want to make your own Strawberry Balsamic Pizza Sauce.

Preheat the oven to 400 and while that heats up get the balsamic vinegar into a sauce pot. Bring the vinegar to a light boil and then reduce it to a simmer and let it bubble until it has reduced by about half (5 minutes). You my friend have just made yourself a “balsamic reduction” so don’t be too impressed when you see that term on a menu! To the balsamic reduction add the jam and Sriracha and stir to combine, remove from heat (also add salt and pepper to taste).

Get the pizza dough into your preheated oven (don’t forget to poke it with a fork so you don’t get any massive bubbles in the crust). While you’re waiting for the dough to bake slice or shred your cooked chicken, grate the cheese, slice the onion, and chop the strawberries and cilantro.

Once the dough is ready top it with your Strawberry Balsamic Pizza Sauce then layer on the chicken, onion, half of the strawberries, and the cheese. Bake this for another 8-10 minutes until the cheese is melted. Lastly, top with the remainder of the strawberries and cilantro. Enjoy!

If you need something cool to wash down a delicious slice of this pizza I would recommend a Fruli! Strawberry beer with strawberry pizza – match made in heaven!

Fruli

Here is the recipe that inspired this dish (originally it included bacon, nice touch!) http://thecafesucrefarine.com/2011/07/strawberry-balsamic-pizza-with-chicken/

Cheers!

PS – I am aware that I have promised a Meal Planning Pt. II blog post and I intend to deliver, but quite honestly it’s harder than I thought it would be! Hopefully it’ll be worth the wait when it finally gets finished!

Balsamic Vinaigrette & a Caprese Salad Three Way…s

Have you ever tried to make your own salad dressing? I often do and I always find it surprising how people seem to be so impressed by a homemade dressing when in reality it is so insanely easy to make. Seriously, you’re going to kick yourself for every bottle of Kraft Calorie Wise Raspberry Vinaigrette dressing you’ve ever purchased!

Making a quick and healthy salad dressing can be as easy as a drizzle of extra virgin olive oil and a squeeze of fresh lemon (don’t forget a little salt ‘n’ pepper) over your greens so really there are zero excuses to pay all that money for “calcium disodium edta” (WTF is that?).

 Salad Dressing

This is a super-fast recipe for my go to Balsamic Vinaigrette, you’ll need:

  • 1/3 cup of aged balsamic vinegar (try some of the amazing flavoured varieties from EVOOLUTION)
  • 2/3 cup of extra virgin olive oil (again if you find a fun flavoured one, have at ‘er)
  • 1-2 cloves of crushed garlic
  • ½ a shallot (if you have one, if you don’t I wouldn’t go out of your way to find one just exclude it)
  • 1 Tbsp Dijon mustard
  • 1 Tbsp honey *Secret Ingredient Alert*
  • Salt and Pepper

Put all the ingredients in a trendy mason jar, sealed tightly and give them a shake. If you have time to let it sit in the fridge for a few minutes do so, otherwise serve immediately. This should keep in your in your fridge for a couple of weeks.

You might be saying to yourself, “Great, thanks Lindsay, I’ll just drink some balsamic vinaigrette for dinner tonight…yum”. Well calm your titties! I have a delicious Caprese Salad recipe to enjoy with a hefty drizzle of your homemade dressing. For the Caprese Salad gather up:

  • 3+ vine ripened tomatoes, sliced, chopped – whatever feels right
  • 1 container of fresh mozzarella in its liquid, you’ll find this in the deli area of your grocery store. There are all different sizes of mozzarella balls, I usually like the big ones (insert big balls joke here).
  • 1 handful of basil, chiffonade (roll it up like a cigar and slice into ribbons)
  • Some mixed greens or just plain ol’ spinach

Layer your greens and tomatoes into a salad bowl. Top with slices or chunks of mozzarella, sprinkle in the basil and then drizzle the works with your balsamic dressing. POOF! Dinner is done!

MasonJarSalad

I packed up my salad to take for lunch today and it was delicious. You could easily add some grilled chicken to make this a hearty meal or serve little bite sized Caprese salads on a toothpick for an adorable appie.

 Caprese Bites

Cheers!

Meal Planning Part I: Tips and Tricks

A couple years ago I started making weekly meal plans in an attempt to cut back on waste. I felt like I was throwing away more food than I was eating, not to mention how much money I was spending with each visit to the grocery store.

Since starting meal planning I’ve developed a style of prepping and planning that is all my own and works well for me. Everyone has different needs when it comes to food; anything from time constraints to allergies and there are always some challenges to overcome BUT if you’re willing to put a little time into it I can promise you that you will spend less time and money in the grocery store, you will waste less food and decrease your frustration on a daily basis when the dreaded “what’s for dinner” question pops up!

This will be a two part post. In Part I there will be some meal planning tips that can help anyone and everyone get into meal planning and in Part II I can get into detail about my method and hopefully provide a week’s meal plan, shopping list, and recipes that you can actually use in your own life.

weekly-meal-planning

Here are the basic things you need to think about when you’re sitting down to create a meal plan:

Check the calendar

Any days you know you’ll be out for dinner? How about days where you’ll be working late or rushing off to an evening event?

The first rule of meal planning is don’t talk about meal planning! Just kidding, it’s don’t over plan. You will NOT eat at home 7 days a week so don’t plan for that or you’ll be throwing away food.

The second rule is that meal plans should make life easier not harder. If you’re always tight for time on Wednesday nights account for that, maybe try to use the slow cooker that day so when you get home dinner is ready to go.

Take Inventory

Look in the fridge and see what you have that you need to use up and plan to use those ingredients early in the week. Things like veggies on the brink are great to use for soup or chili and you can think about using up leftover meat in a stir fry. Don’t forget to check the freezer as well, all sorts of goodies can get pushed to the back corner and forgotten about.

Where the Deals At?

Check flyers or the web for deals at your local grocery store. This can also help you narrow down what you might want to make for the week. Big sale on ground beef at the store? Look for recipes that require ground beef – spaghetti bolognese one night then hamburgers on another – ingredients that do double duty and are on special are the BEST!

Big Batch

Consider making big batches of things like soups, wraps, or stir fry– you can freeze them for grab and go lunches or make a big ol’ salad on Sunday night and feast on that throughout the week.

Read All of the Recipes

Be sure to READ the recipe before you select it! Watch out for:

  • A ton of ingredients – This will blow up your grocery budget for the week.  I usually stick to ones that have 10-15 ingredients
  • Exotic ingredients that your local store likely won’t carry (you may have to plan to hit up a specialty market)
  • Marinating times and long cook times (unless you enjoy eating dinner at 10PM)
  • Recipes that have a million steps. I don’t know about you but recipes that require the oven, then the broiler and then 2 burners seem like a lot of work for a weeknight supper to me – keep it simple!

Friendly Tip

I’m really bad for this one but don’t forget to take inventory of the things you use every week – milk, bread, toilet paper, seasoning, cooking oils.

Now that you know how I go about making a meal plan, watch for Part II of this post where I’ll show you exactly what and how I plan and buy for my weekly meal plans. Maybe I’ll even have to roll out a Part III for my wine and spirits shopping list…just kidding I buy $15 wine and Palm Bay.

Cheers!