Meal Planning | Dinners

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I have written about trying out the meal planning idea on ourmindfulhome.com, by prepping my meals each week in the refrigerator. That worked ok for awhile, but it didn’t really allow for much variance. I decided to figure something else out by way of monthly meal planning.

As I have written for the last couple of weeks, I pretty much have breakfast, lunch and green smoothies down. They have a level of variance, but there are always options for those meals in my house, I simply replace ingredients as they run out. Plus, the ingredients for those meals tend to hold up well in the pantry or get used frequently in the refrigerator. That meant that I really just had to figure out dinner.

Accordingly, I decided to plan  my meals monthly, thus having a more global view of what I will need each month. For example, on April 1 I planned 15 meals, which will allow for leftovers, eating out once a week, or choosing soup for lunch. This month the list includes:

April
1. Chicken & Shrimp Stir Fry
2. Wings w/veggies
3. Stuffed Peppers
4. Stuffed sweet potato
5. Veggie Quesadilla
6. Shrimp Scampi or Scallops
7. Chicken and broccoli w/pasta
8. Spaghetti w/beef
9. Chicken Masala w/grains
10. Thai chicken w/grains
11.Mahi w/veggies and grains
12. Salmon w/veggies and grains
13. Tacos
14. Cornish Hen
15. Rosemary Chicken w/grains and veggies

Each week, on Sunday, I pick three meals for the week and begin making my grocery list from there. So far this month:

Week 1
Stuffed Peppers (MT)
Spaghetti (WR)
Thai Chicken (FSun)

Week 2
Salmon (MW)
Quesadilla, Tacos (TR)
Mahi (FSun)

This week will be:

Week 3
Mahi MW
Chicken Masala w/grains (TR)
Scallop & Shrimp Stir Fry (FSun)

I will write about my freezer later as it is stocked full, but this is working well for me. This plan allows for a lot of variety and allows me to use any leftover ingredients that may go bad that week. Plus, my weekly grocery bill has gone down quite a bit. At the end of the month, I think I will find that I have cut it in half! This means that this method is a win for me.

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The Refrigerator | 90 Day Challenge

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I have decided to take on the idea from my last post for 90 days. Every week I will religiously prep and plan (which I do for grocery shopping anyway).   I plan to use Mason Jars and Glass Lock containers like these:

 

The meal prep containers will contain exactly that, preparatory food for the week. That means that these containers will have the ingredients that I usually use in my dinners plus whatever I need for meals that week, the usual prep ingredients will include:

  • sliced red onion
  • pre-cut broccoli (sprouting lid)
  • pre-cut cauliflower (sprouting lid)
  • cubed bell pepper
  • cubed sweet potato (in filtered water)
  • red cabbage (sprouting lid)

In the eat containers, I plan to keep my regular fruits and vegetables, which include snacks and lunch sides. I LOVE fruit, so I will keep some fruit in my fruit basket on the counter as usual, but I also plan to keep a seasonal berry and another fruit that needs to be refrigerated in the fridge, these include:

  • celery sticks (in filtered water)
  • sliced bell pepper
  • berries
  • pineapple (melons, etc.)
  • boiled eggs

Lastly, the ready to go portion of my refrigerator will include:

  • Curry Sauce (homemade)
  • Vegetable broth (homemade)
  • 5 oz leafy greens
  • Pesto
  • Hummus
  • Lunch (which is often left over dinner)
  • Greek Yogurt

My crisper drawers will hold overflow for refilling, cheese, and herbs. Combined with the changes I have made to my pantry, this should work quite well to keep my eating clean. I tested this idea yesterday for snacks and dinner, I have tangerines and apples lying around, so I snacked on them and nuts (homemade granola recipe review coming soon). My tester began Sunday when I made an Indian curry sauce and put it in my fridge:

curry sauce

I took it out of my refrigerator, a can of beans and my pearl couscous from the pantry. I set the couscous to cooking and threw the beans in a pan covered it in curry sauce for warming, and 5-10 minutes later, I had a complete meal. Next time I will add bell pepper and record the process.

meal prep

It was so easy!!!!!!! My snacking was pretty brainless, and dinner included a grain and protein, next time I will add a veggie for a completely nutritious meal in no time. The great thing about curry sauce is that it can be used on beans, meat, and veggies and I use curry sauce often, so its something I feel safe keeping in my refrigerator. Plus I can make many different types of curry sauces thus keeping things interesting.

I was on the fence before last night, but now, I am pretty sure that this is a good step for me. Anyone else wanna join me and tell me your experience with this method along the way? The original blog that I found this pic on that explains the premise behind this idea is “Our Mindful Home.”

Two Recipe Reviews

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Pasta with Veggies

Lately I have been trying out new recipes for lunch each week, so this week I tried a vegetable and pasta recipe mix. I used brown rice angel hair pasta and my veggies were broccoli, red bell pepper, green onion, and tomato. I followed the recipe, even adding some freshly grated parmesan cheese on top.

Once finished, the result was just “meh.” Nothing spectacular, but also not bland or unappetizing. I made enough for 4 lunch sessions, so I will finish the left overs tomorrow, and I will not make this recipe again. Healthy and tasty pasta recipes seem to be challenging. I mean spaghetti with red sauce is always an easy option, but I am looking for variety. Any suggestions?

Vegetable Medley

Some time two weeks ago I had all of these vegetables in my fridge and I said to myself, how about a veggie only dish, something asian. So I took stock of what I had, and I almost just threw some oil in a pan, threw in the veggies an ate them. Instead, I said to myself, check out Youtube, see what creative ways people are cooking their fresh veggies. I wanted something simple, tasty, easy and versatile (meaning it wouldn’t matter which veggies I used). After many videos, I decided to try this approach:

I did take a quick trip to the store for fresh ginger, otherwise I had everything else in my house. I used peanut oil as my base oil because I have it. I was very happy to have something to use my peanut oil for as I have had it for a year and only used it twice prior to this dish. In an attempt to come as close to the veggies used in the video, I used broccoli, carrots, yellow bell pepper, red cabbage, and onion. I didn’t add celery because I do not like the taste of cooked celery.

The first time I made this, I followed the video exactly, and I was surprised at how the veggies came out. They were the perfect consistency, not too hard and not too soft, yet flavorful. Who knew oil infused in ginger could produce such wonderful results! The second time (and yes I have made this two times so far), I added a couple of squirts of soy sauce to the finished product just to experiment with flavor. Next time, I plan to use oyster sauce and see what happens.

vegetable medley

If you can’t tell by the review above, I LOVE this vegetable medley, and the only calories come from the oil (I’ll speak on why I do not care about calories in another post). Initially, I was concerned that this plate of veggies would not fill me up enough to be satisfied, and then once I finished prep I wasn’t sure that I could eat all of the veggies in front of me, but in the end, its a perfect dinner portion. Like I stated above, I plan to do this again, this weekend, and use oyster sauce, this dish takes no time to make, the prep is the most time consuming part, aside from prep it takes about 7 minutes total to make this dish.

The vegetables aren’t pulverized in this vegetable medley, so I consider this a seriously healthy and tasty dinner option.