I may not be organized in every facet of my life, but when it comes to weekly meal planning, I have my shiz together, y’all. I’ve been the primary meal planner since Nick and I got married; I’d compile a list of potential recipes, run them by Nick for final selection, then we’d head out to the store to prepare for the week. The reason for this was two-fold: 1. My addiction to cookbooks and food magazines made it nearly impossible for anyone unfamiliar with my  impressive *coughscatterbrainedcough* organizational system to find any recipe, and 2. I enjoyed it. I naturally wake up early, so I could head to our living room and skim through my recipes for a while as Nick slept, giving me something to do.

Here things are a little different. I only brought about 10 cookbooks and *gasp* have no food magazines with me. Thank goodness for Pinterest, right? With Nick busy with school, I’ve taken to kind of unilaterally menu planning. I’ll still ask him if there’s anything he’s craving for the week, but I won’t put him through the task of reading and approving every recipe I’m considering. It helps that over the four+ years we’ve been together I’ve gotten to know his palette pretty well. I know not to pick a lot of recipes with mayonnaise, cucumbers or radishes. Once Nick taught me how to get to the store on my own here, I also started shopping without him. It’s such a time suck for a busy student!
To help me stay organized with my planning here, I’ve put together a Google Drive spreadsheet to lay out the week. For each day I have the menu, the link to the recipe, any notes, and the items we require from the store to make it. This makes grocery shopping easier. We also keep a list on our fridge whiteboard to jot down things we need throughout the week, which I add to my spreadsheet before I head out.
I feel like I have things pretty together here. But this week, things kind of fell apart. I went to the store on Friday to pick up some extra ingredients for the pizza we were making Saturday, and made the rookie meal planning mistake of deciding to shop for the week on the fly. The store had fresh chicken for the first time I’ve seen in weeks (I keep having to buy frozen), as well as mushrooms, and that broke my resolve. I was in full “gotta get it while I can” mode. While I know enough recipes off of the top of my head that I was able to shop with a purpose, it is not financially the best idea. I try to meal plan around items we have on hand, with a non-meat entree once a week to save a little on cost, but when I’m shooting from the hip, I’m not able to do that as well. Shockingly, I didn’t completely bust our budget, but I’m going to try to avoid that from now on.
So what are we having this week?
  • Monday – Honey & Lime Roasted Chicken with yellow rice and salad – leftover chicken will be re-purposed as a salad topper for lunches. This is in the oven now and smells delicious. I halved the recipe, swapped out the half chickens for chicken legs, the lime for lemons (as the fruit guy didn’t have them today), the jalapeños for the “seasoning” peppers you find in the store, and had to swap out the fresh thyme for dried because our thyme plants refuse to grow back.
  • Tuesday – Tilapia Soft Tacos & corn on the cob with cumin compound butter – the tacos are from one of the few cookbooks I brought with me, Weeknights with Giada, and we love them. We modify them slightly depending on what we have on hand, but they’re a fave of ours. We’ll be leaving the mago out of the slaw because Nick keeps getting mango mouth (a weird rash around his mouth caused by an allergic reaction), and I typically don’t make the wasabi sour cream because I’m a little lazy. I could eat the cumin compound butter I make with a spoon. The salted butter here is amazing to begin with, and once you add some cumin and a little cayenne, I could basically eat it sans corn.
  • Wednesday – A variation of Penne with Roasted Asparagus and Balsamic Butter – and by variation, I mean, with no asparagus and sautéed chicken thighs and mushrooms added in. We normally do the additions without removing the asparagus, but asparagus is so expensive here that I don’t always use it. Guilty pleasure admission: At home we use boneless, skinless thighs. I can’t find those here, so I de-bone the thighs and am left with delicious, delicious skin, which I season and fry in the pan with the thighs and mushrooms, topping the pasta with it. So. Freaking. Good.
  • Thursday – Something with hamburger meat. Probably hamburgers, since I haven’t made them since we’ve been here. If we do hamburgers, I’ll serve them with the onion rings hanging out in our freezer. I’m not that worried about this meal because we always have something on hand that we can make with ground beef.
  • Friday – Pizza or calzones. I have pizza sauce and dough in the freezer, and have somehow managed to stockpile enough mozzarella to keep us alive well through an apocalyptic event, so this will help whittle down our stock. Plus, it’s kind of turning into a weekend kick-off tradition. I just need to get some sort of meat to top with.

Are you a meal planner? I love to get ideas from what others are eating; what are you making this week?

much love, Cayley

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