Nothing strikes fear into the average person like the question “what’s for dinner?”
And isn’t it true that we have all found ourselves frantically scouring the grocery store for a quick answer to that question around 5:30pm on a weeknight?
Here’s a better way to handle that query: look on the meal plan!
A meal plan is your list of what you are going to cook for the week ahead, and on what day. This simple concept does so much more, however! It will keep you sane and organized while also helping you:
- save money on your grocery bill
- save time and frustration
- reduce waste and make better use of leftovers
- avoid trips to fast food restaurants
- enjoy cooking more
- eat more nutritiously
Meal planning isn’t a daunting task. You only need about 20 minutes each week to make a meal plan. A meal plan can include breakfasts and lunches but most people really only need to plan for their dinners. And since many of us are likely to eat out at least once during the week, that means we need only plan 5 or 6 evening meals.
Sit down in a quiet spot and bring out your favourite cookbooks or scroll through some recipe websites. See what looks tasty to you. Check out our weekly flyers to see if any ingredients are on sale. If you have a family ask your partner or children for input. With your template in front of you (see example, below) write or type in a protein component on each day of the week you are planning for. There are many options including chicken, fish, red meat, lentils or other beans, eggs, cheese, tofu or various vegetable-based creations such as veggie burgers. Next, attach a “flavour” you would enjoy. Mexican? Thai? Chinese? Western? Once you know the protein and the flavour, you can pencil in the sides, that is, the starch and the vegetables. Starches will be rice, pasta, potatoes (white or sweet, baked, mashed, steamed), buns, wraps, quinoa and more. Veggies may be raw or cooked. Think about cooking once but eating twice- for example, cooked chicken can be great in a quesadilla on Tuesday and perfect for topping a Caesar salad the next day. You can also plan to cook extra if you want leftovers for lunch or to freeze for future meals.
Once you have your schedule, write up your grocery list. In doing so, consider what you already have on hand. Look in your pantry or freezer for staples such as rice, canned beans, frozen vegetables, condiments and so on. You may not want to buy all your vegetables at the start of the week as they may wilt. Finally, have your meal plan posted so whoever gets home first can start preparing dinner!
Sample Meal Plan
|Thai chicken with rice and vegetables||Bean and cheese quesadillas||Salmon, steamed nugget potatoes, green beans||Tofu stir fry with rice and vegetables||Veggie burgers and raw vegetables||Take out pizza, homemade salad||Eating at friends|
|buy: chicken, red peppers, onions, peanuts, and peanut sauce||Wraps, refried beans, cheddar cheese, sour cream, salsa||Salmon, potatoes, green beans, fresh dill||Tofu, snow peas, red peppers, cauliflower||Veggie burgers, buns, carrots, celery, mini tomatoes||Salad ingredients (lettuce, tomatoes, cucumber)|
Try meal planning and see if you can reap the benefits. Try this meal planning website and also drop by London Drugs to check out their cookbooks and cooking magazines.
Barbara Allan RD