Time and time again I have tried meal planning with no real success. I always find myself wanting something else for dinner, or wanting to be creative. I have created a simple system that will not only takes loads of stress off "planning" but will make the whole process of cooking and meal planning less stressful and more enjoyable. I am not saying never look at a recipe, but no more pining over them. My overall number one tip is KEEP IT SIMPLE.
In today's world of pintrest and organic foods we often find ourselves trying to make things to fancy. We think if we don't follow the precise method of "plans", we find online, then we aren't successful at running our household. We are held at a high standard to put the perfect elaborate meal on the table.
My memommy, yes memommy, a name I made up for my grandmother when I was first speaking, still follows the simple method of cooking that she grew up eating. Meat, vegetable, herbs and usually a grain of some kind. No fancy recipes, just real food.
My friends, you don't have to be fancy to feed your family healthy sustainable food. As an organizer I have come across a lot of plans, joined a lot of subscriptions and nothing really seems to work. I mostly ran into food my family would not eat and ingredients that were hard to find.
Precise meal planning is a good thing, I am not saying that you should not do it. I am saying that it has not worked for my personality. I found myself being more stressed out than happy when I was cooking and preparing meals for my family, rather than enjoying what I was making.
I came to the realization that I do not have to fit into a category of precise meal planning and neither do my clients. Most of my clients are not Type A people, I saw their heads spin as I encouraged meal plans. Then, one day, I just decided, it doesn't have to be so HARD! I thought about the way that I love to cook and the real methods that I use in my kitchen. How these methods make life easier and how I get dinner on the table in 15 to 30 minutes.
I don't have a lot of time to spend in the kitchen, nor do I have the energy, but I do have energy to do a little jig when dinner is on the table in 15 minutes and tastes SO GOOD that I can hardly stand it. I am just say'in...it is pretty satisfying!
I will share 5 tips for healthy dinner every night without a specific...you gotta do it, PLAN...this is how I keep dinner simple, my family happy and me dancing.
1. Meat prepped/thawing in the fridge.
My staple meats are roasted chicken and ground beef. I will also have one of the following if I have found something on sale: pork, roast or steak. There are times when I will have fish, but it is rare. I keep a 9 x 13 glass dish in the fridge for thawing meat.
The key to the meat is keeping it simple. For instance, there are some weeks when it's just chicken and beef because it's what I stock, at all times. Often there is no leftover time or energy to shop for other meats on sale. At other times I find my pork, roast or steak on sale, get extra and freeze it. At the beginning each week I take a look in my freezer and see what I have on hand. I will then take it out and put it into my thawing dish. Know your basics, what you eat the most and concentrate on them.
Know where you buy your meat and how much you get. I purchase 4 to 6 roasted chickens and 6 lbs of ground beef at Costco about every two weeks. When the budget and time allows I purchase more and back stock in my freezer. On the day I purchase my meat, I pull the chicken and divide the ground beef. I store by the pound in quart size freezer bags. Each roasted chicken is about 1 lb. I brown half of the ground beef, if time allows, before I freeze it then I can make meals even quicker. At the beginning of each week I just make sure I have enough meat in my thawing dish for 5 to 7 meals, depending on the week. This process will turn into a routine that you don't even think about...you just do it.
2. Do a little prep work when you have extra time.
Prepping makes everything so much easier! I always prep rice, it is my go to! See tip 4 for more info on rice.
More things to prep: salad, my salad consists of romaine lettuce, spinach and any other vegetables, like cucumbers, cherry tomatoes and bell peppers. Peppers are great for prepping and freezing, use them for, fajitas, on top of rice, in a salad, in eggs or as a side. I store prepped vegetables in mason jars for freshness.
Noodles are a great prep for a quick pasta salad or Italian inspired dinner, just add sauce and your cooked ground beef and you have dinner in less than 20 minutes. Throw in extra sweet potatoes when you are cooking them for dinner anyway, use the extras for any side.
3.Keep quick cooking staples on hand.
Eggs, you can eat for any meal. Boil, scramble, make a breakfast sandwich or yummy egg salad. Keep a frozen pizza or pizza crust, homemade or bought, in the freezer for those I am not cooking nights. I always stock tortilla wraps, buy in bulk at Costco and freeze half. Make quesadillas with your roasted chicken or beef and some cheese in no time.
Any type of potatoes are great to have on hand! Bake a potato or dice and fry them up crispy. Eat for breakfast, lunch or dinner!
And of course...bread, cheese and tomato soup.
Tip 4 will definitely help you out for a quick and easy meal when you forgot about dinner or forgot to thaw your meat.
4. Keep the fridge stocked with easy sides.
I always have rice in the fridge, cooked and ready to go. I can make the quickest lunches and dinners with rice, and they are filling and delicious. Someone gave me a rice cooker that I did not use for a long time, in fact, I almost donated it, but one day I decided I would give it a try. I was always starting a new batch of rice on the stove but now I start a new batch in the cooker, leave it and forget it...perfect rice every time. All I have to do is dump into my container and refrigerate. I have made it a habit that every time I run out of rice I grab my rice cooker and put some on, so fulfilling!
A vegetable that I stock and are long lasting in the fridge are carrots. In no time at all I can boil or steam them and add butter, or shred carrots in stir fry. I just take the top layer off with the peeler and then peel the rest of the carrot right over what I am cooking on the stove.
Avocados and cooked beans are great to have as well! See Tip 2 for more stocked side ideas.
5. Stock your staples.
Know the things that you eat all the time and stock them. I always have chicken and beef. Potatoes, rice and noodles. Tortillas and english muffins. Carrots, brussel sprouts and strawberries. Eggs, milk, bacon or sausage. Spaghetti, barbecue and tikka masala sauce. Canned black beans, corn and kidney beans. I try to eat fresh but canned are so great to have on hand in a pinch, just rinse first! And of course dark chocolate.
Other snack items we keep on hand is Lays sour cream and onion chips for hubby and chocolate chip brownie Laura Bars for me.
Remember, KEEP IT SIMPLE.
Know your basics, what you eat the most and concentrate on those items. You will be amazed at how many things you can create with them.
Keep at it, this system will turn into a routine that you don't even think about...you just do it. Getting the same thing at the grocery store every time makes your life so much easier, your grocery list simple and you less stressed!
Enjoy your time in the kitchen and don't forget to add some love in everything you make.
How about you? Do you have any tips that you use in the kitchen to make meals faster?