Meal Planning 101

If your household runs anything like mine, there is a most frequently asked question.  That is: Mom, what’s for dinner? You knew that was the question, didn’t you?  Personally, I grew so thoroughly tired of that very question that I began posting a weekly menu so that there was no longer an excuse for asking.  It clings to the side of our refrigerator and is changed out each Friday afternoon.

Recently, Mrs. Stephanie Sheaffer of Metropolitan Mama fame tweeted me her own spin on that question.  Considering she’s not privy to the menu posted on my fridge, I didn’t mind a bit ;)

So here I am, sharing my method for meal planning.  Hopefully it will inspire one or two of you to venture out of your own dinner doldrums.  Oh and pee ess, a little sharing of your own ideas either in the comments or via your own post would be greatly appreciated by yours truly.  We all need a little inspiration from time to time, right?

Here is how our weekly meal plan typically pans out:

  • Only about 50% of our meals include meat (either organic chicken breast or ground turkey)
  • We eat Mexican cuisine at least once–but usually twice–each week
  • Soup (made from homemade chicken stock) is a weekly menu item
  • I read a lot of food blogs and try to introduce a new meal from those at least once each week.
  • I also try to find ways to modify family favorites (trying Greek pizza as opposed to pepperoni, for example)
  • When all else fails, I consult the master dinner list I keep and plug in a meal from either the spring/summer or fall/winter sections, depending upon the season

So, to answer Stephanie’s question, my five go-to dinner recipes change by season.  My fall/winter list would look something like this:

  1. A baked pasta dish (Baked ziti, baked spaghetti, sour cream noodle bake)
  2. A cold-weather Mexican dish (enchiladas, or Mexican casserole)
  3. Hearty soup, chili or stew (minestrone, chicken noodle, broccoli cheddar)
  4. Comfort food (spicy pot pie, butternut squash lasagna, shepherd’s pie)
  5. Something unexpected (can’o’beer chicken, barbecue skillet, chicken stacky uppy)

The spring/summer list would be lighter.  Like this:

  1. Something grilled (turkey burgers, tequila lime chicken, ginger-soy shrimp)
  2. Warm-weather Mexican (tacos, black bean tostadas with jicama, pineapple fajitas)
  3. A salad (grilled corn with chicken and avocado, Greek couscous salad)
  4. Light soup (chicken tortilla, creamy tomato)
  5. Something unexpected (crust-less quiche served with Gruyere popovers, stir fry, corn cakes)

We have yet to switch over to spring/summer foods (we put it off because our warm season is SO much longer than our cold one) but making that list leaves my mouth watering for Jeff’s grilled specialties, served up with an ice-cold margarita.

Soon, little taste buds.  Soon.

If you decide to do your own go-to meal ideas post, please link in the comments; I’d love to be inspired!


6 Replies to “Meal Planning 101”

  1. I make your sour cream chicken tacos a lot – don’t remember the name of them but you blogged the recipe once – you put the olives, pineapple salsa, etc. in the ind. dishes and put them together. Yummy!

  2. I just plan week-to-week, usually. What we eat is heavily influenced by our sports schedule. I’m trying to do less meat, but I am terrible at finding recipes that I think we will actually all like. I’m not a fan of seafood at all, unfortunately. Pinterest is where I have been finding my best ideas lately.

  3. Thanks so much! I’ve been making Baked Spaghetti pretty often lately too…found a great recipe on AllRecipes (and – bonus – there are always leftovers!).

    Do you not eat any red meat at all? We try to limit our consumption of it, but we do enjoy a steak every now and then. Also, tacos with organic ground beef.

    We have also been enjoying salmon & tilapia from Costco. Do you shop at Costco? I don’t remember.

    Would you please share your recipe for Mexican Casserole?

    1. I haven’t eaten red meat since I was 13, actually. I can’t imagine going back to it now. It just kind of skeeves me out.

      I wish I liked salmon; it’s so good for you. We’ve been trying to incorporate more fish in our diets (though you may want to think twice about Tilapia: see ). We’ve opted for wild-caught Alaskan cod instead. I can do white fish, but the pink is a bit too fishy for me.

      I don’t have a recipe, per se, for Mexican casserole. I typically just combine corn tortillas, a protein, pepper jack cheese, a salsa/sour cream sauce, and Mexican staples like corn, rice, black beans, etc and bake it. I kind of just go with whatever we have on hand. Easy peasy.

  4. I have a master list that I rotate from, but since we introduced Paleo, I have to rework that list. Right now I am flying by the seat of my pants!

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