How to create a weekly meal plan

I’ve been cooking (ha!) this idea for more than a few weeks, since I’ve started looking in the fridge and realizing

(a) there is no cookable food in there and

(b) I don’t have the energy to think up or look up what could be possibly assembled from the bits and pieces there.

I am lucky to say I make my food for the day in the morning. Most days, I throw something in a sandwich, prepare a quick salad, and toss in the bag some sweets to eat during the day. And fruit, which not always get eaten. And in the evening I pay my respects to my favorite vietnamese soup (which, I know, is one of the unhealthiest meals in the Universe. I don’t even bother to read the chemicals on the pack. It tastes too good.)

But, there are also days in which I long for some “real food” to cook and eat at the dinner table. Or at least to cook and enjoy and not feel like eating rabbit food.

And there are the days when I go grocery shopping and buy like crazy on the principle “Who knows? maybe I’ll feel like cooking something which has this as a main ingredient. I can’t afford NOT to have it!”, and there goes my cash.

So, yesterday morning I sat down with some cook books and notepads and a cup of tea, and browsed through some sites – like these: (yep, there’s even a MS application for it! though I prefer good old fashioned notebooks) (this is in my opinion the best article. It teaches you right from the start how to plan your meals)

And with my favorite cooking companions, Mark Bittman and Jamie (ofc), namely these books:

I can’t speak enough about these two. If you are a beginner cook, like me, and don’t have much time (again, ditto), these two will prove invaluable. Jamie has an interesting approach and twist, and goes well with the question “what can I cook in 30 minutes with what I have in the fridge?” while Mark assembled a HUGE collection of everything you should possibly know about cooking, making them look so simple. And that’s how I made muffins and quiche.

So here’s the drill to creating a weekly meal plan. I made mine even for two weeks :)

1. Get two -three good cooking books, or at least some resources to get inspired from.

Otherwise your meal plan will look like this:

Monday – Sandwich (ummm, with what?), salad, soup.
Tuesday – Sandwich, salad, soup…
…and so on.

2. Make an inventory of what you have in the fridge.

And VERY important – make an assumption of how long each will last. For example, I made the wrong assumption I will still have tomatoes today. Darn.

3. Start browsing through the books and look at recipes that seem easy and combine what you already have.

Make notes on the pages. Pick the ones you like.

4. Compile your weekly meal plan,

taking into consideration what you already have in the fridge and the expiry terms, how much time you estimate to have in the evening (if you plan on cooking a meal for the next day, for God’s sake, don’t put it on the night when you know you’re going to have to work late!)

Try to be as detailed as possible. You’re going to want to snack between breakfast and lunch. What will you eat?

5. When you’ve finished planning one week, look at your forecast of consumption  and see what you should replenish.

Then, make a tentative shopping list and start over for the following week.

I noticed that for me, the second week to plan (what will I eat in 1 week and a few days) was much more difficult to plan. I had no clue on whether I would still have fruit, or which kind…and whether I should make bean salad or tuna salad. I suppose after I will go through the first week and see how much of what I actually planned gets done, I will know my consumption habits better, and I’ll be able to plan more ahead.
And the first a-ha came already after the first day, when I had planned to split my beef hash into two parts, and use the remaining today for some pasta bolognese. But, unfortunately, it was not so much as I planned, so I had to use it all yesterday. So, the learning is “plan for extra portions. Forecast a bit more than you’re likely to need.”

It’s definitely an interesting experiment, and I feel much less drawn towards the fast food court than before. Plus, knowing in advance what I’ll want to cook helps me plan so that everything is ready (defrozen, washed, prepared) by the time I’m in the kitchen ready to roll. So the next step is to plan out one month in advance…coming up soon!

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  • Jocuri
    June 8, 2011

    Hello Maria, I’ve just finished reading your article, you write very nice and well structured, and now I feel very motivated, I will definitely create my on week meal plan.

    P.S. +1 reader :)

    Thank you,

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    November 5, 2011

    I couldn’t think you are more right.

  • شیراز
    November 20, 2011

    Thank god some bloggers can write. Thank you for this post..

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