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Meal Planning Made Easy

Very little in 2020 is within our control. When things feel unpredictable, I gravitate toward routines that make me feel calm and prepared for whatever this whack job of a year is going to throw at us next. 

Many of you know I love to cook, but part of what makes it less stressful for me is having a plan. Lots of friends have told me they have trouble coming up with a weekly meal plan, and plenty of weeks I do as well. So here are my favorite ways to fill in the blanks when I cannot come up with anything and we have chicken for the 47th time.

  1. If you’re going to make a plan, I find it helps to write it down on paper. Potentially even somewhere the whole family can see so they can lodge any complaints early and often. Bless. I love this adorable meal plan calendar. Seeing the week laid out in a calendar fashion allows you to make sure you’re spacing out similar meals or utilizing leftovers. 
  1. When I make the plan, I write our family’s activities on each day to avoid things like planning to make roasted chicken on the night everyone has a sports practice until 6:30 pm. I’ve tried it before and it doesn’t work.  
  1. Speaking of busy nights, I’ve gotten comfortable with specifically putting these three things into my plan when needed: leftovers, takeout, and simple favorites. One simple favorite is burger night and a burger bowl for me. Make a burger patty and then load up your bowl with lettuce, roasted potatoes, veggies, condiments, and some homemade pickles if you’re feeling fancy (check out my no-cook recipe below.)
  1. If I can’t come up with ideas for each night of my meal plan, I use one of these fun ways to help round out the week: Foodie Dice. These are the most fun. There are dice for each part of a meal, including cooking techniques. Vegetable dice are divided by season so you simply choose the die for the season you’re in, grab the others and give them a roll. You’ll get a menu for a full meal including protein, vegetable and grain. There’s even an herb die to spice it up. 

Making Meal Time Easier

Listen, this is all meant to make life easier. If you make a plan and it gets messed up, don’t freak out. You can always transfer a meal idea to the following week. But I DO recommend being diligent about checking dates on meat/fresh produce. If you miss the meal you were supposed to make for dinner and can find time to make it anyway, use it for lunches. Or freeze the meat before it spoils. Use these ideas to make life easier, not a contract you have to stick to. And now the pickle recipe I promised… 

Homemade Pickle Recipe 

*Consider that this brine will keep in your fridge for up to 3 months before you need to replace it. Choose a container that won’t take up too much space, but that can hold at least 2 sliced cucumbers worth of pickles. I typically use a large mason jar that holds 8 cups or more of liquid.  Pickles are a priority! BUT you could easily half this recipe and use a standard sized jar. 

NOTE: The flavor intensifies over time, but you can add cucumbers to this daily and/or other things you’d like to pickle such as onions. 

Ingredients 

  • ¼ cup pickling salt (I’ve used kosher salt and it does just fine)
  • 1 cup white vinegar 
  • 4 cups water 
  • 2-4 stalks of fresh dill 
  • 2 cloves sliced garlic or elephant garlic (garlic sometimes will turn blue in brine, this is fine)
  • 1 jalapeno, sliced (keep some seeds if you like extra kick)
  • 1 teaspoon of whole peppercorns 
  • 1-2 cucumbers, sliced  

Instructions 

  • Combine 4 parts water to 1 part white vinegar in a container* with an airtight lid 
  • Add fresh dill, garlic, jalapeno and peppercorns to the liquid 
  • Add in sliced cucumbers 
  • Allow to sit in fridge for minimum 24 hours 

What great meal planning tips have I missed? Share your best ones with us here.

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