Sunday, August 5, 2012

Benefits of Meal Planning

I have been hearing for years now how helpful it is to plan your meals.  Not sure why I waited so long to give it a try.  Most days, I would call Patrick at work and ask if there was anything in particular he was in the mood for dinner.  Then I would stare into our refrigerator waiting for dinner inspiration to jump out at me.  Patrick is better at cooking on the fly then me, I prefer to work from a recipe. Most nights we would be able to pull off a tasty meal, some nights were not so delicious, and other nights we picked up a Peruvian chicken. 
Grocery shopping is something that seems to take place a few times a week.  We would go to super market or farmer’s market and buy what looked good or what was on sale. After the big shopping trip, we would run out a few times a week to pick up things we forgot, ran out of, or needed for a recipe.  I like to shop local and seasonal which is still possible with meal planning.  I think meal planning will help me to shop local more often because I will be better prepared and organized.

When my father passed away I inherited a treasure trove of recipes.  He really enjoyed cooking as did my mother and her mother. Many of their recipes were included in his gigantic recipe box.  I went through the box and picked some out that sounded good and made a mini recipe book.  This past Monday I went through that collection and picked a few to make this week.

I am proud to say that I have cooked or baked every day this week and have been excited to do so.  I was happy to eat my leftovers even though not everything turned put perfectly.  It was nice to attempt my mother’s spinach pie recipe even though the recipe left out what to do with the butter and the eggs.  It also mentioned baking powder in the ingredients and baking soda in the instructions.  I still love this recipe card because it is typed in my father’s words. He talks about being my mother’s “scullery maid, learning from the master, apprenticed under my favorite mother-in-law”.

Food has always been a big part of my family as well as my life with Patrick.  The taste and smell of food can transport you to a time and place and trigger a memory long buried.  On a few occasions, Patrick has come home and remarked that something I was cooking smelled just like something his grandmother Kate had made.  This always makes me feel good about my cooking even before we take our first bite.  I want my son to have an appreciation for food and the recipes of my parents and grandmother.  We have a lot of cookbooks in our house that my husband would read cover to cover.  There are also countless recipes on the internet but there is nothing like a recipe from your childhood or one written in your mother’s handwriting.

When Patrick and I first got together his culinary skills really impressed me.  I had been of the mind set for years that food was fuel and on a few occasions I can remember remarking that I wished I could eat my food in capsule form because it would be quick, easy, and brainless.  I could make a mean grilled cheese but cooking did not interest me.  I am glad that I am no longer that person and I now take great pleasure in cooking.  It really wasn’t until we moved to Virginia over 4 years ago that I started actively cooking.  Patrick was working, I was looking for a job, and I was tasked with getting dinner on the table.  When it comes to meals, I am my harshest critic and can be really disappointed when something does not turn out well.  But I don’t let that stop me from trying new recipes and cooking even if I think Patrick is the better cook.

I want to get in the habit of sitting down with my vast collection of recipes and plan out our meals for the upcoming week.  This will let me get in touch with my parents and my past as well as feed and nurture my family.  I think it will make me more excited to cook dinner and save me time and money.  I won’t have to wonder 5 times a week what too cook and I won’t be tempted to waste money going to the grocery store 5 times in a week.  I also won’t be as tempter to give up and go out to eat or grab a chicken.  I will also be able to plan my shopping and coordinate when the farmer’s market takes place.

Last week, I meal planned on Monday and this is what week one looked like.   

Monday - Pasta with cannellini beans, roasted eggplant, and sautéed yellow squash.
Tuesday – Provencal chicken with tomatoes, olives, and basil, before bed I made steel cut oatmeal in the crock pot.
Wednesday – Lentil and vegetable ragout (Korma) with rice and I made spinach pie.
Thursday - We were supposed to go out to dinner with friends because it is Farm to Fork week but Orion was sick so we ate leftovers and I made banana walnut brownies (my recipe here).
Friday – Tomato and avocado gazpacho and spiced beef cobbler. 

We had a busy weekend with a friend coming to visit and the Great Nurse-In on Saturday.  I have started to keep a food diary to record what we are eating and liking.  I am being very careful to note what Orion seems to enjoy so I know to make it for him in the future.  I am looking forward to sitting down on Monday to find some new recipes for the week ahead.  I hope that this will solidify me as a great and adventurous cook in my son’s mind while putting him in touch with my parents.

What are you cooking this week?  What are your favorite recipes?  What are some of your favorite meals from your childhood?


  1. i am trying to plan out my week now, so your post is very timely! Def thinking about a kale quiche!

    1. that sounds yummy! did you make them yet? I just saw this recipe and thought of you