Monday, January 16, 2012

meal planning! (part one)

I go through various phases with meal planning all the time.  In theory, I love it because it helps me make a grocery list that is precise (especially with a little one, getting in and out of the grocery store in short order is a priority!), helps take the guesswork out of "what's for dinner tonight?", and keeps me on track nutritionally.  But that is all in theory, because I married a man who loves spontaneity and frequently takes me along for the ride.  So about half the time our plan is abandoned, the green beans go bad before I can cook them, and we eat Chinese on the living room floor.

And that's okay.  I learned to be alright with this long ago, and to love this side of my husband because he jolts me out of my rigidity.  Sometimes I can be a little too routine-bound.  I have trouble "thinking outside the box," I might say in a job interview. 

But I'm back to planning for the new year, because our food budget got a little out of control.  I'm trying to restrict meals out (or takeout brought in) to four per week (about twenty percent of total meals per week). 

Generally I just make a Word document and drop in a table with six rows and eight columns.  Days of the week go across the top and three meals and two snacks go down the side.  Sunday after church is always a meal eaten out or brought home with us, because the thought of cooking after my crazy Sunday mornings is totally repulsive - plus we're starving at that point.

After that I fill in the dinners.  I usually try to balance the proteins we have like this:  chicken a few times, fish a few times, red meat once or twice, beans or legumes once or twice.  Then I go to our list of favorites and just pick a few:

-  beef, black bean, or chicken soft tacos with tortillas, cheese, sour cream, salsa, avocado, lettuce (one of these days I just might share my homemade taco seasoning recipe with you!)
-  wholegrain pasta with ground beef and tomato sauce, salad with homemade dressing
-  my special chicken stirfry with veggies and brown rice
roast chicken and veggies and mashed potatoes, salad with homemade dressing
steak or salmon with vegetable, starch and salad with homemade dressing
-  pork tenderloin with apples, roast potatoes and cabbage

I fill in each night on the chart first, and begin to make my grocery list from those meals.  Next Munchee Monday, stay tuned and find out how I fit in lunch, breakfast, and snacks.  If you'd like to nab my meal planning worksheet, click here.  It's nothing fancy, but it does what it's meant to do! 

And as an added bonus, find my stirfry sauce recipe below:

Honey-Glazed Chicken Stirfry
2 T honey
2 T white vinegar (or rice wine vinegar)
2 T orange juice
4 t soy sauce
1 1/2 t cornstarch

Whisk all ingredients together in a small bowl.  After browning 2 C vegetables in a very hot skillet with a little oil, remove vegetables and add 8 oz chicken (cut into strips).  Stir constantly until cooked through.  Add sauce and stir until thickened.  Add vegetables back into skillet.  Serve immediately over hot brown rice.

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