Simple Meal Planning

When I was recovering from chemo this summer, I had all the time in the world to prepare dinner. This was great because I don’t have good knife skills. However, now that I’m back to working full-time and usually don’t get home till around 5:30-6:00pm, I have to plan ahead so I can still offer home cooked meals for Mr. Chau.

I’ve seen some very creative and strategic meal planning posts out there. To be honest, they are way too overwhelming for me. My brain just can’t think that far ahead. So I did what makes the most sense to me, which is to cook 2 protein dishes and 1 big veggies dish. This allows me to alternate between the proteins for lunch and dinner so I’m never eating the same thing for both meals in one day.

Here’re the steps I take when it comes to meal planning:

Simple Meal Planning for Beginners

Step 1: Pick 2 Dishes on Friday
I’ve made it a habit that on Friday night (sometimes Saturday morning), I’d ask Mr. Chau what he’d like to eat in the coming week. If he can’t make up his mind, we’d usually rotate between different meats/fish. I keep all my recipes in Evernote and use tags so I can quickly look up recipes based on proteins. I find 2 meat/fish dish and 1 veggie dish is enough to last us until Wednesday dinner or Thursday lunch.

Step 2: Create Shopping List + Plan Prep Work on Saturday
Once I’ve picked my 2 recipes, I’d create a shopping list for items that I currently don’t have in the fridge/pantry. To make sure our meal includes veggies, I have a veggie section on my grocery list that I usually populate with stuff like carrots, broccoli, mushrooms, cauliflower. When I get to the store, I just pick up a few of these veggie items so I can make a quick stir-fry.

If I know I’ll be going out on Sunday, I might do some prep work on Saturday. Anything that would benefit from marinade over night or if I am short on time the next day, I’d chop up onions or other veggies ahead of time.

Step 3: Cook the First Dish on Sunday
Even if we’re eating out on Sunday, I’d always cook the first dish and stir-fry the veggies because we need lunch on Monday. My rule of thumb is to always cook the dish that requires longer prep/cook time first. Then on a weekday I’ll make something that’s easy and quick. Note that I always cook a big batch of stir-fried vegetables that’d last us until at least Wednesday.

Step 4: Cook the Second Dish on Monday/Tuesday
Usually, I’d cook the second dish on Monday but if I’m feeling tired or get home really late, then I’ll dig into my freezer stash and cook the second dish on Tuesday instead. Nowadays I usually don’t get home till 5:30-6:00 PM, so the second dish must be something quick so I can get dinner ready in 30 minutes.

Step 5: Alternate Between the 2 Dishes + 1 Veggies for Lunch & Dinner
Cooking 4-6 serving portions means we usually have enough food to last till mid-week. Here’s how I alternate our dishes:

  • Sunday Dinner – Dish 1 + Veggies
  • Monday Lunch – Dish 1 + Veggies
  • Monday Dinner – Dish 2 + Veggies
  • Tuesday Lunch – Dish 2 + Veggies
  • Tuesday Dinner – Dish 1 + Veggies
  • Wednesday Lunch – Dish 2 + Veggies
  • Wednesday Dinner – whatever is left over, pasta/noodles or freezer stash
  • Thursday Lunch – whatever is left over, pasta or something from the pantry

For Thursdays/Fridays, I usually have something in my freezer that I can whip up a meal quickly, such as froze Basa fillets, Shrimps, Eggs and veggies that didn’t make it into the stir-fry. If I needed something quick for lunch, I’d default to making sandwiches or rice balls.

And there you have it! I’ve been doing this for the past 6 weeks now and I think it’s working out pretty well. Even when I get home at 6pm, I can have dinner ready by 6:30pm. In addition, this leaves us 1 day a week where we can eat out to change things up a bit.

In my next post, I’ll share some of my favourite recipes for quick weekday meals!