So far I’ve written a lot about theory to give you a paradigm so that you could understand my process. But theory without application is useless and I think you’re probably ready to receive the application.
Keeping all the theory from previous posts in mind (specifically how nutrition shapes all of my meal decisions) my meal plan each week is shaped directly by a few factors. They are: Personal Preference, Variety, and Weekly Activity. I’ll go over them briefly.
Personal preference: Simply, I’m the one cooking the meals, so I get to choose what we eat. This helps keep cooking exciting for me. I get to cook what inspires me. I like to keep tabs on current cooking literature or social media outlets about cooking to help me stay inspired.
Variety and balance: This is a subset of nutrition in my mind. It’s a given that I have access to healthy product, but it’s important for me to keep that product interesting and to mix it up so we’re all getting a good variety of food to keep us healthy and not bored with the meals.
Weekly Activity: When I sit down with Joel every Sunday to plan out the schedule of the week there might be an event happening that occupies an evening. If this is the case, I’ll plan to have a type of meal that accommodates that event. For example, I might plan a meal that can be prepared in advance so that I can be available for that event.
Back to the process...
The basic starting guideline is to center each meal around a protein. I’m not necessarily saying that the protein is the star of the meal (come on, we’re vegetable farmers!), but I do think it’s easier to flesh out the rest of the meal when you start with the protein, because different proteins want different counterparts. It’s a sort of a limit to get your creativity flowing, and it’s worked well for me. It would look like this:
Saturday-Beef (because we like beef and we have a lot of it I give it a repeat)
I flesh out the meals after I’ve assigned a protein to each day. Here’s a rough draft of a week of meal plans that follow the guideline I’ve given above:
Monday-Pasta with tomato sauce, ground beef, and salad
Tuesday-Lentil curry with coconut milk and spinach over rice
Wednesday-Chicken soup with vegetables, bread and rice
Friday-Oven roast of brats, apples, onions, sweet potatoes, and thyme, with salad
Saturday-Brisket tacos with vegetable fixings
Now I’ll talk more about the why.
Monday: I always choose something brainless, easy, and well-liked on Monday, because, it’s Monday. It’s usually some variation of pasta. Joel’s family grew up eating spaghetti and meatballs every Monday night, so I suppose it’s a nostalgic nod to that. As a family, we don’t do well eating a lot of processed gluten, and this is the only time we consume it. Pasta is versatile and can accommodate all sorts of different combinations of meat, vegetables, herbs, or cheeses. I have a favorite that uses loads of fresh herbs, garlic, green olives, parmesan, and butter. It’s electrifying.
Tuesday: This is typically our vegetarian day. Some form of lentils and rice is staple, but I often do variations on an egg quiche with a grated potato crust too.
Wednesday: This is our soup and sourdough bread day. I like to make one soup a week using bone broth to ensure everyone is consuming its goodness. Having soup on Wednesday also allows me to have Monday and Tuesday to form the bread and prepare the broth.
Thursday: This is my wildcard day. I keep it open for inspiration if I have it, or for leftovers if I don’t have it.
Friday and Saturday: Friday and Saturday are celebratory meals. I choose fancier dinners that we all look forward to and that indicate a change of rhythm. We love tacos, again can accommodate any meat, and any combination of vegetable condiments. If we have dessert, these meals are when I plan to make those too
Sunday: Joel cooks for the family on Sunday
There’s my basic process for how I approach meal planning. I'll go into more detail next time.