Monday is on the horizon and the Sunday Scaries have officially started to kick in. We had another eventful and restful weekend filled with lots of rain! On Saturday we traveled to the bay area to take our nephew to Bass Pro Shops. We were supposed to go to the zoo, but the weather had different plans for us. Live animals and taxidermy animals are pretty similar right? This was our first outing with a toddler and I am proud to report that we didn’t lose him. Actually, everything went really smoothly and we had a ton of fun! For those of you that are wondering, no this does not mean we are planning to have kids anytime soon. Today started with a long walk, meal prepping, cookie making and relaxing. Now we are hunkered down, ready to welcome the next storm with french onion soup, salad and wine.
I believe, hands down, the hardest part about meal planning is deciding what to make. There are countless options and Pinterest is turning me into the most indecisive person in the world. “Oh that looks yummy! But wait, look at that recipe!” Given that I immensely enjoy cooking, it’s no surprise that I also like reading about cooking techniques, recipes, the newest trends, basically the whole shebang. This means, however, that my inbox is constantly full of emails with the subject line “MAKE THIS.” For a while, I tried to make multiple new recipes a week, but that turned out to be exhausting and expensive.
The exhaustion part didn’t irritate me as much as the price of constantly trying new recipes with different ingredients. You see, I’m quite the frugal grocery shopper. I shop the ads and try to buy only what is on sale. This doesn’t mean I don’t care about the quality of what I’m purchasing. It’s actually quite the opposite. I use the ads to inform me about what high quality food I can afford that week, then plan my meals with those ingredients, instead of letting a recipe dictate what I’m purchasing. We all know how that 10+ ingredient recipes can really add up on the grocery bill. Therefore, I make a list of what’s on sale then use that to guide my recipe search, so I know I only have to buy what’s on sale.
I should also note that most of the time I don’t use recipes. When I first started cooking I relied heavily on recipes, but have since learned to just do what feels and tastes good. I will look for inspiration, but usually end up making something that fits our needs and tastes. If it’s my first try making a certain recipe, like the mojo cuban pork we are trying out this week, then I look at some recipes. However, I find that I enjoy the experience most when I don’t use recipes and just let my creativity take the lead.
On the other hand, not using recipes also makes it really easy to get in a rut. As much as we love roasted vegetables and meat, I don’t want to make it night after night. Therefore, I find that trying 1-2 new recipes a week is a good balance for me. I usually try to schedule these meals on nights that I know we don’t have much going on in case it takes longer than expected.
A final idea to make your meal planning easier is a method we frequently try- theme nights! Last December and January, when the winter weather began, we began doing a Tuesday Night Soup of the week. I would keep my eye out for soup recipes throughout the week, or we would simply make a soup we were craving. If you’re new to meal planning or in a recipe rut, I highly recommend setting a theme for each night to cut down the time it will take to decide what to make. Once you know what type of dish you’re making, you can look for recipes that use whatever ingredients are on sale that week. For example:
- Sunday: Pasta
- Monday: Meatless
- Tuesday: Tacos
- Wednesday: Salad
- Thursday: Stir fry
Now, for what I know you’re really interested in- this week’s grub:
- Sunday: Slow cooker french onion soup & salad
- Monday: Cuban mojo marinated pork with roasted beets and carrots
- Tuesday: Salad with leftover pork, mango, cucumber, goat cheese and onions
- Wednesday: Pesto baked salmon and asparagus
- Thursday: Leftovers (we have a late night flight to San Diego for a wedding for two amazing people and lots of fish tacos)
Do you have any strategies that help you find recipes? Do you have a specific search engine that you use? I’d love to hear what works for you!