I am no cook. My sister is a whiz in the kitchen, able to make up recipes on the fly or expertly modify existing ones to make them better. Give me a recipe and I’ll stick to it like glue and hopefully it will turn out OK. And that recipe you give me better not be complicated. I do not have the patience.
When I became vegan, I was totally lost on what to make for dinner. I really don’t like soy products – you’ll rarely find tofu in my fridge and vegan imitations of cheese taste like feet to me. I muddled along, trying to find enough recipes to keep things interesting and also find ones that my non-vegan husband would enjoy.
About a year ago I found getmealplans.com, a side business for Happy Herbivore’s Lindsay Nixon. For just a few bucks a week, you can purchase an individual or a family meal plan, complete with recipes and shopping list. The meal plans are 1200 calories (obviously you can add more to it if you like, but the serving sizes are totally generous. Sometimes I can’t finish all the food). Note: that paragraph totally sounds like an infomercial, but I’m not trying to sell you anything here; I’m just telling my story. I have no affiliation with Happy Herbivore, getmealplans.com, or Lindsay Nixon. I still sound like an infomercial. I’ll stop now.
Truth be told, I was trying the meal plan to lose the rest of my baby weight from daughter #1, but the meal plans rocked: totally normal ingredients, simple to make, and really good. I also loved that most of the recipes aren’t vegan knock-offs of standard food (like pizza, complete with that foot cheese stuff). These were brand-new, interesting meals to try. The recipes are a hit here, because hubby enjoys several of the recipes and even requests some of them!
For awhile, I tried to follow the plans exactly, but you know what? I don’t need seven different breakfasts during the week. I’ll just pick one or two. For lunch, I’d rather just have leftovers from the night before, so I need to play with serving sizes to perfect this. The family meal plan is set up for four people, when we really have 2.5 (the adults and a preschooler) to 3.5 (if hubby eats a double serving size, which is rare, but happens). Especially when trying a new recipe and not knowing how it will go over, it can be hard to know how much to make.
In an effort to stay on my new budget, I’m continuing to use these meal plans because they are just super easy for me, but this week I’m going to try to shop for all the shelf-stable goods needed for two weeks; I’m going to go backward in time for the second week’s menu. I’ll grocery shop next weekend, too, but it will only be for produce. I’m also instituting a leftover night on Fridays. We may each have to cobble together from a couple days of leftovers, but it want to stop wasting so much food. We have a full trash bag each week when I clean out the fridge!
Another thing I am doing is stocking up for five easy meals that my family enjoys. For example, spaghetti and marina are quick and easy things to make and I can keep the ingredients on hand in case I realize that I really can’t make a planned meal because somehow I forgot 5 ingredients. This will keep me from running back to the store and spending more money on impulse buys (see my post on this money saving tip here), and it will also help us resist the temptation to get fast food, which is neither healthy nor in our budget.
Because I’m going to be stocking up these extra meals, I fully expect this week’s grocery bill to be huge, but my goal is to start whittling it down to what I have in our budget. I’m even prepared to give up coffee to make this work… Y’all might want to steer clear.
What is your favorite menu planning tip?