How to Set Up a Weekly Meal Plan Easily

Aug 15, 2012
Sidney Yang

healthy meal plan - weekly meal planningAs a cooking beginner or a confirmed cook, you maybe have faced some difficulties from time to time concerning your cooking routines during the week, don’t you?

Today I would like to address two main concerns because many of us get these kind of blocks regularly when cooking, especially when there is a whole family to feed.

Have you ever faced:

  • The difficulty to plan and shop for the right ingredients at the right moment along with not missing the stuff you absolutely need right now.
  • The difficulty to provide a varying alimentation to your family: it is easy to fall into the trap of proposing the same recipes every days and not being able to guaranty a good intake of proteins, vitamins, fibers and minerals for your kids. Because of work, stress, lack of time, we simply cannot deploy such an amount of imagination on a constant basis…
Here comes the notion of meal planning… but it’s not so simple as it looks. So let’s examine this in detail.

How to Set Up a Weekly Meal Plan Easily

If you want that your family eat good homemade food every day, with a minimum of constrains and keeping varying, it is important to set up an intelligent meal plan for the week to come.

To establish a weekly schedule of foods/ingredients rotation instead of a menu rotation has been proven to be very helpful.

So, here’s how we can break this down:

  • 1. Food rotation plan for the week
  • 2. Starch rotation plan for the week

It’s true that when we think simplifying our life in the kitchen, we tend to be encouraged to set up a weekly menu/meal planning.

But after some weeks you feel less enthusiasm about it, or you can feel it’s not for you because too rigid. Simply because you like to cook muffins, cookies or salads only when you want to, and not when your menu planner tells you… Even if you’re the author of the menu!

To feel more comfortable with preparing your own food during the week, it is therefore interesting to change habits by begining by a weekly schedule for food rotation. Then you will progressively set up a planning concerning only starch foods and accompaniments, because with time you’ll learn to maintain your pantry and refrigerator with essential foods, meat, fish, vegetables and condiments that are necessary for you to prepare most of your dishes.

Of course, this progression is a suggestion to bring inspiration. It’s up to everyone to test it and draw up its own planning method.

1. The food rotation weekly schedule

So when you feel ready, take a pen and  ask help from your husband/wife: you’ll be able to write down a weekly ingredient/food planning. This planning is a bit different form what we’re used to:

  • No specific dish for next monday (eg: a vegetable pasta gratin) but only mentioning the main ingredients (eg: pasta, vegetables, vegetable milk)
  • No need to mention vegetables: you will acknowledge to fill up your pantry with vegetables when it’s empty, so it’s useless to mention it again.
  • Meal planning 12 or 24 hours ahead (eg: “soaking chick peas” on wednesday when chick peas are planned for thursday evening)
  • A weekly list of  invariable fresh animal products (meat, fish, eggs) to buy at the market, or at your favorite retailers

This type of organization will last about 6-7 weeks, then you’ll feel a bit constrained and bored about it. That’s perfectly normal and that’s why:

  • As your mind will evolve you will find it a bit repetitive and constraining. Once you master ingredients planning, you’ll find that this extra complexity is not useful anymore.
  • It can be confusing to plan both what you eat for the evening and what to prepare in advance for tomorrow.
  • The guilty feeling when you cannot stick to the schedule.

So all these signs of boredom are good indicators that you are ready to take the next step:

2. The starch food rotation schedule

This time you are suggested to proceed by elimination: you can strip off all that doesn’t need to be planed for you anymore.

As you are used to buy meat, chicken, fish, veggies, fruit on a regular basis without relying on the menus, your new planning basically look like this:

  • Exit fruit and vegetables as you won’t have any problem to think to buy then eat them regularly.
  • Exit every mention of animal proteins: it will be an automated process. For example: each week you will buy 3 poultry portions on friday, 12 eggs and 2 portions of fish, you’ll keep an eye on your frozen meat stocks and canned mackerels.
  • Exit every sweet products: it will depend on your envy or your childrens to eat fruits, cakes and so on. So buy them same way as the other stuff.

For keeping structure and plan ahead, you will see that you only need to schedule accompaniment stuff like starch foods: rice, pasta, potatoes, grains… They represent the basis of your meals and menus, so the idea is that you’ll cook according to your inspiration with all the ingredient you have regularly at hand (vegetables, meat, fish…), around these basics.

So your planning will be stripped down to the minimum, keeping the rotation of starch and dry foods that are staple and not necessary easy to rotate naturally. You will see that despite the apparences, there’s a lot of possibilities to explore:

LunchDiner
MondaySarrazinCorn flour
TuesdayPastaCoral lentils
WednesdayBreadGreen lentils
ThursdayQuinoaSweet potato
FridayRiceTart or Pizza
SaturdayPastaChick peas
SundayPotatoesDry beans

 

Each starch can be prepared in different forms: sarrazin would be cooked as a flour to make pancakes or just ground, there is dozen of rice and beans species, coral lentils can be eaten in soups, steamed, stir-fried and spread onto toasted bread… and you’ll find dozens of pasta recipes on this blog… Solutions are endless!

Then preparing any meal will become very simple: prepare the starch food of the day without even thinking of if, add any vegetable and protein source you want depending on your taste at the moment. This way you’ll ensure a varied alimentation to your family each week. Going to grocery store will become a simple formality.

No need to brainstorm to prepare dinner anymore. And even if you are dumbed up by a difficult day at work, just cooking the simplest stuff will save you from headaches.

This progression is a suggestion of course. You can use it as an inspiration to draw up your own planning models. So, what would be your best ways to schedule meals for the week? Please share your thoughts about this in the comments below!


Read also: 6 Simple Healthy Snacking Recipes

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