I am anything but AVERAGE, a little kookie, a little quirky, a little nutty and a lot of “far out there” but AVERAGE I am not.
When I first started my research into a “real food” transition I was finding tons of meal plans that basically boiled down to “Tuesday is Meatloaf, Wednesday is Chicken, Friday is Fish” rinse and repeat next week …. Booring … While I understand the theory behind the average meal planning, I need diversity in my foodie life and get really bored with the same meals every week. I rarely cook the same thing twice in a month’s time and sometimes go even longer, that is unless there is special request for a family favorite.
That said, I also am not wealthy and have to stick to a grocery budget. Some weeks it’s a veeeery small grocery budget, which is the reason I previously wrote a post entitled Healthy Eating and SNAP Benefits (Food Stamps). While I’m not on SNAP Benefits I do have to work hard at feeding my family healthy, clean real foods on very little money and a few weeks I have less than the average SNAP Benefit recipient, so I totally feel your pain.
So how is it that I approach meal planning your ask? Well, first and foremost, I start with a well stocked pantry (list of pantry items below). Second, I make it a point every Wednesday to match up all the sales papers to see who is having the best sales where. Third, I make a list of pantry items I need to replace, meat/fish sales and produce sales all while taking the Farmer’s Market prices/quality into consideration (unfortunately, I am not able to participate in a Food Coop, there aren’t any available here, or a CSA, the $200 to $400 fee is a bit much for us right now, I’m shooting for next year).
With my list in hand, off to the market I go. Once at the market, I look for the “unadvertised” specials, which usually lengthens my stay by about an hour (time to recalculate LOL) … if my budget allows for it I stock up on the really good specials for freezing or canning.
Using this approach, I am armed and ready for any food whim that comes about that week. I have room to experiment with new recipes and always try to pick up a “new to us” food option, i.e. Mung Beans.
Throughout the week, I also make a double batch of recipes that freeze well. These are good for those “I don’t feel like cooking nights” or “are you kidding I just had the day from — night.“ This philosophy is a great way to never feel tempted to stop through that drive thru or pick up a sludge blood pizza.
Here is a list of my stocked pantry items (your list my be a little different, that’s okay)
- Baking essentials – whole grain flours, aluminum free baking powder, baking soda, unsweetened cocoa powder, natural yeast and homemade vanilla extract.
- Dried beans/legumes
- Brown rice/wild rice
- Organic whole grain pastas
- Organic teas and coffee
- Organic vinegars
- Cooking Oils – olive oil, coconut oil, sunflower oil
- Canned Organic crushed tomatoes, diced tomatoes and tomato paste (for an emergency marinara sauce)
- Supply of freshly canned veggies from summer’s bounty
- Canned wild caught, sustainable tuna
- Nut butters
- Dried fruit
- Organic natural sweeteners, Sucanat, raw honey, molasses
- A good variety of spices and herbs
In the Refrigerator:
- Grass fed dairy – whole milk, cream, yogurt, sour cream, butter, a small variety of raw cheeses
- Grass fed free range eggs
- Spring Water
- Fresh Organic Fruits
- Fresh Organic Veggies (including essentials like organic celery, onions, potatoes, garlic)
- Fresh Wild Caught Fish and Shellfish (if budget/sales permit)
- Weekly supply of Homemade Mayonnaise, Dressings, Hummus, Salsa and Dips
- Weekly supply of Bread Dough from our 5 Minutes a Day For Fresh Bread recipe
- Weekly supply of Homemade Soft Cheeses, i.e Homemade Whole Milk Ricotta
In the Freezer:
- Grass Fed beef, pork and poultry
- 1 or 2 packs of Organic Frozen Veggies (for quick nights)
- 1 or 2 packs of Organic Fruits, i.e. blueberries, raspberries
- Homemade Chicken, Beef and Fish Stock
- Supply of fresh frozen fruits and veggies from summer’s bounty
- Freezer meals such as soups, sauces, rice and entrees
- Frozen Homemade Pancakes and Muffins
- Homemade Ice Cream/Sorbet (especially in the summer)
- Organic Nuts and Seeds
Side Note: An economical tip for labeling jars in the pantry, refrigerator and freezer: Use painter’s tape it sticks well to anything and easily peels off leaving no yucky residue on your jars. Plus it comes in a variety of colors, too!
If you’re just starting out, this list can be intimidating. Don’t let this list intimidate. Just take baby steps, remember slow and steady wins the race and before you know it you’ll have a well stocked pantry to be proud of. You will be well equipped to provide a variety of clean, healthy real food meals your family will enjoy and thrive off of!
Do you have a “not so average” approach to meal planning?
See you in the Comments!