Good afternoon! I hope you're all recovering from the bout of Daylight Saving Time that we've had recently. It's always an adjustment, isn't it?
Good news! Today is Pi Day, so I hope you're whipping up something delectable! I really want to make a pie (key lime, because it's my favorite), but I don't know if that'll happen (no key limes. Boo). What's your favorite kind of pie?
Also, good news! I have a new sister! My in-laws adopted a cute little gal from China this week! I can't wait to meet her.
And here's even more good news! I have a great guest post lined up for today! My amazing friend Jill is gracing us with her presence today. She is a dietician, a darling, and one of the best home cooks I know! Recently she started a food blog called "From Her Kitchen" that you really need to look at. Like now. As soon as I read it I knew I needed her to write a post for me before she got too famous and busy and started charging big bucks for her words of wisdom. Thanks Jill! I'm calling it right now, you're gonna be on Food Network.
Now, over to Jill for an awesome post on meal planning & a delicious Sticky Chickpea recipe!
Thanks so much for asking me to write a post for you, Melissa! I loved your post on meal planning with a budget in mind (let’s be honest, who doesn’t have at least some type of budget, right?!), and I’m happy to add my two cents on the subject.
How Meal Planning Works for Me
First of all, I have to mention that I truly enjoy meal planning. I love sitting down on a Saturday night with a bunch of cookbooks all around me, watching a movie, and planning what I’m going to feed my family for the upcoming week. Picturesque, right? I realize I’m definitely in the minority on this. Most people I talk to at best don’t love meal planning, and it may even be something they honestly dread each week. But, we all have to eat something, and most budgets and cardiovascular systems can’t afford to eat out every night, so here are a few tips that have really helped me hone my meal planning skills. For me, a good meal plan means that I will be cooking for my family instead of being tempted to eat out because my plan didn’t really help me. Bad plan = wasted food and money.
A few notes first – I plan for a week at a time. I’ve found that this is just the right amount of time that all the fresh produce I buy will stay fairly fresh but not too long that our schedule changes significantly. I like meal planning, but coming up with 14 dinner ideas in one sitting is a lot. Also, I just plan dinner, one weekend breakfast idea, and one dessert idea. Breakfast during the week is typically quick and easy things that I always keep around (fruit + yogurt, cereal, eggs + toast, etc.) and lunch is leftovers or a quick salad or sandwich.
- What’s your schedule?
I base everything on our schedule for the week. I think it’s super important to be really realistic about this part. How much time are you willing or able to devote to making dinner? Do you usually have about 30 minutes, all day, or something in between? Do you have more or less time on specific days of the week? If you plan to cook things that are too challenging or time consuming on days that you’re busy or simply don’t feel like cooking, the chances are you won’t end up making them at all.
One example for me is that whatever I plan for dinner for Fridays must be easy to throw together and require a minimal amount of dishwashing at the end. By the time Friday night rolls around I’m DONE and need a weekend and am super tempted to just go grab some sushi. While tasty, this doesn’t really work toward my goal of feeding my family delicious nutritious homemade meals.
- What do you already have?
I always do a quick inventory of my cupboards, fridge, and freezer before I start my menu for the upcoming week. This way I can incorporate items I already have into my upcoming meals. I don’t love leftovers, so I try to scale recipes down by quite a bit to avoid them. If you do have leftovers and you don’t really feel like eating them as is, repurpose them into something new. Leftover roasted vegetables are excellent in omelets or grain salads. When in doubt, pretty much anything will work in a taco or on top of pizza.
- Plan out proteins
Once I know my schedule and what I already have, I try to plan out my proteins for the week, which are usually the building blocks for my menu and really help me focus my efforts. I like a few vegetarian days mixed in with pork, beef, chicken, and fish. If you (or your husband!) are pretty traditional meat and potato people, this many vegetarian days may not work for you, but I do encourage you to try at least one day as meatless. There are so many different ways to do vegetarian that are legitimately delicious (see recipe below!) and don’t have anything to do with tofu :)
- Don’t be afraid to try something new… sometimes
I’m all about trying new recipes. I think it’s really important to always be trying new foods to stretch our palates and our kitchen skills. Don’t get too crazy, though. If you throw in too many new recipes you’ll end up overwhelmed and straight up not want to cook anything, which defeats the purpose. I always try for at least one new recipe a week and feel like it’s a good place to start.
There are lots of other tips for meal planning, but these four are where I always start. A few notes on where I get my ideas… I love cookbooks and cook from them often. They are great to pick up at a second hand book store, or you can check them out from the library to test them out before you commit to buying one. I also have several food blogs that I would try almost anything from and everything always seems to turn out really well. I also use Pinterest sometimes, but it can be tricky to find good, reliable recipes, and I often catch myself wasting far too much time monotonously scrolling through the endless recipe overload.
As I mentioned previously, I cook quite a few vegetarian dinners. One of my favorite vegetarian proteins is chickpeas. They are affordable and incredibly versatile. These Sticky Chickpeas have an Asian flare, but you could use a more traditional BBQ sauce here instead. Use these in Asian bowls as I did here, as a salad topping, or just pop them straight into your mouth. No judgement here!
1 15 oz can chickpeas, drained and rinsed
1 tablespoon olive oil
1-2 tablespoons hoisin
Preheat oven to 425°F. While oven is preheating, put chickpeas on a baking sheet and place in the oven. This will help them dry off really well so they can get crispy. Once oven is preheated, take chickpeas out and toss with olive oil. You can do this right on the baking sheet – no need to get a bowl dirty. Roast the chickpeas for about 40-45 minutes, or until they are a nice deep golden brown. You’ll want to shake them every 10 minutes or so to get even crispiness.
Next, toss the chickpeas with the hoisin. Again, you can do this right on your baking sheet. You want the chickpeas evenly coated with sauce but don’t want a lot of extra, so add a little hoisin at a time and stir as you go. Turn your oven to broil and broil chickpeas for 5 minutes until they are sizzling, sticky, and smell amazing. Eat immediately and enjoy!
Such a great perspective on meal planning! I made the chickpeas for dinner and they were seriously tasty. I am going to go to the store and buy 10 more cans of chickpeas. What are your favorite meal planning tips and tricks? If you're interested in writing a guest post please contact me! I'd love to have you.
Thanks for reading, see ya on the flip-flop!