One of my favorite posts to read on other blogs is about meal planning. I'm always interested to hear how other people plan out their menus for the week ahead. (I told you I was a planner).
Lately, the boyfriend and I have been taking a few moments on Friday or Saturday to come up with a rough meal plan for the upcoming week. It usually starts by laying out the days of the week, picking one night to go out or order in and then filling in the others backwards. I usually cook to have leftovers for lunches, so we tend to cook something new every night or every other night.
We keep a little whiteboard on the fridge so we both know what our options are. The meals aren't set in stone--we can be flexible--but it's helpful to know what ingredients we have on hand.
We also do our best to plan based on our schedules. For instance, on the nights I have a late class at the gym, we plan something quick and easy--pasta, quiche, soup and salad. Fridays usually mean a crockpot dinner or something I can stick in the oven and then collapse on the couch.
Sometimes it's as simple as 'something from the freezer' (we usually keep at least two different types of meats, plenty of microwaveable veggies, and a homemade soup in there at all times).
As is usually the case, we have a few staples that appear again and again on the menu, but I try to incorporate one new recipe a week into the mix. It keeps in interesting and helps keep me out of a food rut without becoming overwhelming (or expensive).
I'd say the three lifesavers I have when it comes to meal planning are:
1. My crockpot - I can throw any mix of veggies in there with a little tomato paste, veggie broth and some spices and voila, we have a hearty vegetable soup.
2. The grill - I bought the boyfriend a mini gas grill for our tiny balcony this summer and it has cut cook time in half! I whip up a marinade for steak, shrimp, fish, chicken, veggies, etc. and a quick fire on the grill has dinner on the table in seconds.
3. The boyfriend - having an extra set of hands in the kitchen really is a lifesaver. Though I love to cook and find food prep extremely relaxing, having that extra help makes a world of a difference!
What are your meal planning secrets? I'd love to know!