Meal Planning for the Uninitiated
Here’s something you may not know: most of my meals, from start to finish, take no more than an hour. Usually, a lot less. And they last me for more than just one meal, meaning that one hour of cooking can yield up to three or four meals. How is this possible? I just follow these simple steps:
- Step 1: Decide which day of the week you’ll have time to go grocery shopping.
- Step 2: Decide which days of the week you’ll have time to spend about an hour cooking. I usually pick 3 days.
- Step 3: Choose 3 (or 4 if you’re ambitious) recipes that look fairly simple and specify a preparation time of around an hour, including prep. My go-to websites for healthy and easy recipe ideas are Real Simple, Eating Well, and Cooking Light. Try to look for recipes that incorporate perishable ingredients you already have. If you’re cooking for 1-2 people, preparing the recipe as written will usually provide leftovers (most recipes serve 4-6). If you’re cooking for more people, consider doubling the recipe in order to have leftovers. Print or send yourself the links to any recipes you find online so you have them ready to go.
- Step 4: Incorporate all necessary ingredients for your chosen recipes into your grocery list (if you don’t already have them in your kitchen).
- Step 5: Make the recipes on your designated cooking days! You’ll already have all the ingredients at your disposal, so you have no excuse not to.
For example, last week, I sent my roommate/sister the following recipes with a corresponding grocery list (it was her turn to shop):
- Mini Turkey Meat Loaves served with roasted acorn squash and roasted broccoli (we already had the squash and it needed to be cooked). Here’s what that meal looked like.
- Chicken Spinach Pesto Soup served with salad.
- Tofu chili served with salad. This is my sister’s recipe, so I didn’t send a link, but here it is.
The grocery list I sent included the ingredients for all those meals, and sending the links to my sister meant that she could make the meals if I wasn’t around (which is a great thing if you live with someone you cook/eat with). We still haven’t made the Chicken Spinach Pesto Soup because the other two meals have lasted us so long!
Got more excuses for why you can’t cook?
- If you think you’re too busy to cook, try multitasking. While you prep the food, catch up on phone calls (use speakerphone!).
- If you think cooking is boring, plan to listen to a podcast (This American Life or Radiolab are my faves!) while you cook. Obviously, you can also listen to the Girls Gone Healthy podcast.
- If you need a more detailed plan, check out one of these websites: Real Simple Everyday Meal Planning, Meals Matter, Dinner Planner, Unclutterer, Organized Home, or see a sample meal plan I created.