Posts Tagged ‘meal planning’

Hello, hello!

It’s been a while since I have posted but that doesn’t mean that I haven’t been meal planning – or eating! But my meal plans have been pretty lame and more off the cuff than usual. We returned from vacation last night to an empty frig and thus today I was inspired to get together a better meal plan.

This week’s Gluten Free Menu Swap is hosted by Cheryl at Gluten Free Goodness and her chosen theme is sugar-free delights in honor of the upcoming  sugar-laden holiday(s)! Be sure to stop over at Cheryl’s later this week when everyone has posted their meal plans for a lot of inspiration.

As I was writing up my plan this afternoon, I thought that perhaps some of you would like to know more about how I menu plan for the week.

Generally my husband and I eat the same mix of breakfasts and lunches throughout the week, so I don’t really ‘plan’ those, per se. But as I start writing up my grocery list, I check the frig and freezer for the ingredients and foods we eat. Here is what is typical for us both on the average work-day.

Renee’s Breakfast:

Fage Greek Yogurt with berries, honey and Udi’s Gluten Free Vanilla Granola – Greek yogurt is high in protein and we both need that here at our house, and since I can’t do scrambled eggs…

Chai as my mid-morning snack on work-days, made with non-fat milk and Oregon Chai Slightly Sweet Chai Tea Latte concentrate

Renee’s Lunch:

Cheese and a couple of gluten free crackers (Crunchmaster, Nut Thins, etc)

Instant Miso Soup on the days when I need a little something else or just need warming up at the too-cold office

Carrots, sugar snap peas, cherry tomatoes

Fruit of some sort (whatever is on sale)

Apple with peanut butter as a late afternoon snack

Hubby’s Breakfast:

(He is not gluten free!) English muffin with egg and cheese, or vegetarian sausage patty (none of it is gluten free) OR a smoothie with yogurt, milk, fruit and protein powder

Hubby’s Lunch:

(He is not gluten free!) Peanut butter and jelly sandwich, Cheez-It’s, carrots, apple and a granola bar for a morning or afternoon snack

We are a reduce, reuse, recycle family, so we save a lot of scrap paper. In particular, I save those extra envelopes that come in bills or what have you and put them in the kitchen junk drawer. I use these envelopes mainly for my grocery lists. When we used to eat a lot more items that were processed, I would also place the coupons for the week inside the envelope so I had them at my fingertips. But as we have evolved away from fewer and fewer processed foods, we have found that there are not too many coupons for fruits and vegetables and other whole foods! This use of the envelopes is one of the habits I have learned from my own mom over the years, although my own system has evolved too.

One key to keeping a well-stocked frig and pantry is to keep a running grocery list. So I keep one of these envelopes clipped to the frig and when I run out of something, I just write it down. That way I don’t go to the cabinet expecting something to be there in the middle of cooking and find I have run out. This is the start then of next week’s list.

So, I do a quick scan of the cabinets and frig for the breakfast and lunch items above. Then I take a general look in the frig and pantry to see what in there needs to be eaten up. Half a head of broccoli or some green onions or some such ingredient. I write these items on the bottom right of my envelope to keep in mind. I hate to waste food, and even with our own laying hens, I don’t like to “waste” certain scraps on them!

Then I grab my latest issues of Cooking Light and Sunset magazines, and some favored cookbooks, and come up with a couple of ideas. As I come up with ideas, I use the back of the envelope to write the ideas down ( see below). I typically don’t attach days with meals, although sometimes I will depending on what the week holds for us. Or I may just write the days down and then meals next to them while not necessarily planning for them to match up, as I’m just looking at quantity of meals. I do plan for leftovers since there are only two of us in the household. And I write down the cookbook and page number if it is in a magazine or cookbook. If it is in my recipe binder or box, then I will flag it with a post-it or pull the card out and hang it on the frig.

(Click to make it larger.) Meals listed on the back of the envelope. Yes, a horrible job of whiting out our address...sorry about that!

As I add the meals to the back of the envelope, I am adding grocery items to the other side of the envelope. I typically hit up three grocery stores in my weekly trip – Costco, Trader Joe’s and Smith’s (traditional grocery store). So I do separate out my list slightly. As you can see below, I have the main list for Trader Joe’s and Smith’s on the left side while the Costco stuff is at the top right. Then about mid-way down on the right is the Whole Foods list – I do not go there very often, maybe twice a month. This week it says shaving soap and R pizza crust (meaning a GF crust for me). Typically I would place the list of items languishing in my frig at the bottom right also but since we have been on vacation there wasn’t much of anything in my frig to make note of today.

Typical Grocery List

You can also see on the right side, about the middle, my ‘check’ list. These are the items I need to check my pantry or frig for, but don’t want to check for while I am coming up with the plan. Once I am done planning, I get up and rummage through the freezer and cabinets once more to see if I have these items and can cross them off or if I need to add them to the main shopping list.

Then I am set to go! I typically try to do my shopping once a week, on Tuesdays. I do NOT like going to the grocery store on the weekends nor do I like going to the store multiple times during the week. I take this list with me and I mark off the items as I put them in my cart. If I don’t mark them off, I always forget something! Some people (my mom!) are even so organized that they know where things are in the grocery store and so write their list out so that the items are in (approximate) order in which she travels through the store. I’ve tried, but just can’t do that.

Then the list comes back home and gets hung up on the side of the frig with the meals showing, so that I can see what the options are for the week.

One more tip – if you use reusable grocery bags, be sure to put them right back in your car after you empty your groceries. That way they are there when you need them. It may take a while to program your head to remember to bring them into the store, but in time you will remember. I hate plastic grocery sacks!

So that’s how I do it. What are your tips for meal planning and grocery shopping?

After typing all that I was ready to hit publish. Ha! But I still need to add my meal plan! And a couple of other meal planning thoughts for you…I try to keep our tofu consumption to once a week, although there is none below in this week’s plan.

As well, I typically only plan to make 4-5 meals a week, counting on leftovers as well as potential changes in our plans.  And I still try to make sure there is at least one meal that is a  ‘pantry/freezer’ meal, meaning that if we don’t get around to making it this week, a bunch of produce isn’t going to go bad. This allows for flexibility if something comes up or we end up with more leftovers than we expected, etc. This week we have more meals planned than is typical as I will be having a medical procedure later this week that will keep us at home. So here’s the plan:

Bean Tacos and Spanish Rice

New Mexico Pinto Bean Soup with Salad and/or leftover Rice – this soup recipe is great, it’s from Lorna Sass’s Great Vegetarian Cooking Under Pressure. I will use some of my Anasazi beans instead of pinto for this as they cook very similarly.

Quinoa Salad with Artichokes and Parsley – a new-to-us recipe from this month’s Cooking Light magazine. I will add a can of chickpeas or eat with veggie burgers for protein.

Spicy Ginger Noodles

Pizza and Salad – non-GF, vegetarian for my husband, gluten free and meaty for me

Yellow Chickpea Curry with Rice

Spaghetti and Salad


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I made it to the Santa Fe Farmer’s Market on Saturday – hooray! I picked up a great haul; poblano peppers, shishito peppers, okra, kale, napa cabbage, Golden Supreme apples, Green Zebra tomatoes, Penasco Blue garlic and Cranberry Red potatoes. And I have figured out what I am doing with everything except the kale.

I want to try a raw kale salad but I haven’t had the courage to jump right in there yet. I know that Ricki over at Diet, Dessert and Dogs is just about the queen of raw kale salads but so many of them have special ingredients that I don’t keep in my house, like stevia and such. Does anyone have any suggestions for a yummy, simple, first-timer, raw, kale salad?

Since I made it to the market, it threw off our meal plan from last week a little bit. We did not get to the Lasagna or Tortilla Soup. Instead, last night we ate Quinoa Stuffed Poblanos (recipe to come!) and tonight we had some frozen homemade tamales with sautéed shishito peppers! Both the lasagna and soup are easily made from pantry staples and few fresh ingredients, so I typically save those dishes until the end of my meal planning week anyway, just in case I don’t get to them, as it happened this week. I had also planned a lot more meals than usual last week, six meals instead of my usual four. So this week, I am getting back on track and only planning five meals!

And before I forget, this week’s theme at the Gluten Free Menu Swap is Brussels Sprouts! We love Brussels Sprouts! I did not see any at the farmer’s market yet but I know I can get some at the store so I added them to our menu this week. Our favorite way to eat them is roasted with a little olive oil and salt and then drizzled with balsamic vinegar when they come out of the oven. Or sprinkled with a little Parmesan cheese. And to think that two years ago I had never eaten a Brussels Sprout! This week’s host for the Swap is Celiacs in the House, so go on over and see what everyone is up to!

Now, for the plan:

Roasted Tofu with Roasted Vegetables (okra, potatoes, carrots, onions, and Brussels sprouts)

Napa Noodles – to use the napa cabbage and edamame as protein

Creamy Pesto Pasta with Chunky Tomato Salsa – I need to work on my basil plant, before the frost hits! More frozen basil cubes are probably in my future too!

Tex-Mex Lasagna – from last week

Tortilla Soup – also from last week

As for our sweet treat for the week, I am trying to decide which flavor of ice cream to make. This past week I made Simply Sugar and Gluten Free’s Coconut Chai Spice Ice Cream. It was tasty, although my husband and I aren’t sure we really like coconut milk ice creams. I suppose if we couldn’t have dairy, we’d probably love these ice creams. But we can and so far we’ve found them to be a bit too coconuty for us. So a dairy-filled treat for us this week it is. Either Chocolate Chip Salted Butter Caramel Ice Cream or Nutella Ice Cream. Decisions, decisions, huh?!

What’s on your menu this week?

This meal plan is also cross-posted over at OrgJunkie. Check it out for a ton of menu ideas, some gluten free, some vegetarian, and some not!

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Did you know that today, Monday, is National Celiac Awareness Day? What a great day for a Gluten Free Menu Swap! Besides it being Monday and that’s what we do… But anyway, it is, and here’s how it came to be on September 13th:

“What is the significance of September 13? That is the date of Samuel Gee’s Birthday in 1839, who is credited with finding the link between celiac disease and diet. Gee felt that “if the patient can be cured at all, it must be by means of diet.”

Did you also see that in honor of today, P.F. Chang’s restaurant, one of the first restaurants to have a gluten free menu, has released a new gluten free dessert – Triple Chocolate Mousse Mini Dessert – and they posted some of their gluten free recipes on their website? How cool is that?!

But now, back to your regularly scheduled programming…Meal Plan Monday!

This week’s Gluten Free Menu Swap theme is beans and is hosted by Heather at Celiac Family. Surprisingly I am not doing too much with beans this week. Unless soybeans as tofu counts? Probably not. But if you’re looking for bean recipes, there are plenty of them around here. Check out Italian White Beans and Polenta, Sweet Potato, Quinoa and Black Bean Burgers or Three Bean Tacos for more bean ideas.

And be sure to check out the other menus at the Gluten Free Menu Swap and over at Org Junkie.

As I mentioned in yesterday’s post, we have company coming to town and we are planning on traveling a bit, so I am not planning too much for meals this week. I will have a couple of things on hand to make when and if we want to, but nothing serious is planned. I will also make sure that we have appropriate road-trip food to take with us. What are your favorite road trip foods?

Otherwise, I’ll have ingredients for the following on-hand:

Spicy Tofu with Vegetables and rice and a Spicy Cucumber Salad– the tofu is a favorite recipe from The Complete Book of Thai Cooking by Linda Stephens

Homemade Tamales, of course, with Spanish rice, salad and guacamole.

Mattar Paneer and/or Saag Paneer with rice.

Grilling stuff – chicken, tofu, potatoes and mixed vegetables.

And as for traveling food, we typically take a cooler and bag with cheese, fruit (grapes and apples), crackers, baby carrots, granola/granola bars, KIND bars, M&M’s, trail mix and candied ginger. Sometimes we’ll also take hummus, yogurt and salsa and chips. And if we’re staying at a hotel, I’ll often throw in a bag or two of microwave popcorn and some instant gluten free ‘ramen’ noodles.

So that’s it for this week. Hopefully next week I will be back to cooking more and will post a more interesting menu!

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