Meal Planning 101

Waste less food and save time and money by creating and following a meal plan schedule; its easier than you think!

Meal prep and meal planning are not the same things. Meal prep can be defined in two distinct ways. The most common form of meal prep is making a large quantity of one meal and dividing it into servings. You can also meal prep one or two specific ingredients that will be used multiple times throughout the week. You can incorporate meal prep into your meal plan by making a large quantity of one specific item you use in several recipes.

Meal planning is simply creating a set schedule of your meals for the week. Sit down on Sunday and compile a number of meals you'd like to eat for the week. Make a list of all the ingredients you'll need. Next, take a peek in your pantry and fridge to determine what items you already have and what you'll need to purchase. Your grocery list should contain everything you'll need for your meals plus items for breakfast, lunch, snacks, and desserts. Depending on the serving size of your meals, you may be able to use leftovers for lunch. The more familiar you become with meal planning the better you will be at guessing the additional items you need and the quantity of each. For example, we buy fruit for breakfast and enough for one piece per person for lunch. I buy a few in season, on sale fruits and veggies that serve as quick sides. Stick to your grocery list and you'll be surprised how much money you save AND how much less food goes to waste.

A few factors to keep in mind when creating a plan:
-Pay attention to the number of servings in each meal.
-Take stock of what item you already have, including staples like rice and pasta.
-Plan your meals around items that are in season.
-Note your schedule for the week and plan quick meals or have leftovers on the days you're short on time.
-Make a large quantity of staple items that can be used for different meals.
-Have a mix of recipes. Incorporate meals you have previously tried and a few new recipes, you've had your eye on.

Sample Week #1
Staple Item: Rice

Buddha Bowl
Use rice to create a base for the bowl and add sauteed carrots, zucchini, and bell pepper. Top with cooked chickpeas or other protein.

Sweet and Sour Cauliflower
Create a paste with equal parts flour and water. Dip cauliflower florets into the paste and bake in the oven until crispy, about 30 minutes at 450 degrees. Coat with your favorite homemade sweet and sour sauce. Serve over rice. This is great with any kind of sauce; my boyfriend LOVES buffalo!

Add chopped cilantro, a squeeze of fresh lime and a little bit of zest to leftover rice. Fold rice, beans, and various veggies into a tortilla. Try sauteing bell and jalapeno pepper, corn, and onions for the filling. Serve with salsa (check out my recipe here).

Make some good ol' rice pudding. Or add a bit of liquid sweetener to milk and pour over warm rice. Top with dried berries and cinnamon.

Sample Week #2
Staple Item: Sweet Potato and Black Beans

Mock Ravioli*
Cook a sweet potato until tender using your preferred cooking method. Top with pasta sauce and serve with roasted broccoli and garlic bread.
*The sweet potato is so creamy, you can barely tell it's not really cheese ravioli.

Hamburger and Fries
Make a hamburger patty using black beans. There are a ton of great recipes depending on your preferences. Use the sweet potatoes to make sweet potato fries in the oven.

Black Bean Tacos
Finely chop sweet potatoes and sautee with onions. Add black beans and chopped spinach to the pan. Add your favorite taco seasoning to mix. Serve on warm corn tortillas and garnish with cilantro.

Black bean brownies! Make sure to use regular black beans (no added spices) and you won't taste the difference between these and regular brownies.

Other great staple items include chickpeas, noodles, broccoli and cauliflower. Oats are great too! Use oats to make banana bread, overnight oats and even savory oatmeal with avocado and spinach.

Create a binder of your favorite recipes or add a folder to your phone screen with recipes you'd love to try!

What are your favorite recipes?

Lots of Love,