How to Plan for a Week’s Meals (and then Not Eat Them)

Learned an expensive lesson this week, people. Resolving to turn over a new leaf and actually cook, I went to the grocery store and shopped like a fiend for a week’s worth of meals. 

Here’s my lesson up front: don’t plan meals for every night of the week, because as you know, hardly anything in a middleaged mom/wife/woman’s life goes exactly as planned (probably hardly anything in anyone’s life goes exactly as planned), and the food that doesn’t get cooked will sit around your kitchen being passive agressive. Let me explain.

How My Meals Met Their Miserable Fates

Monday night: Plan: turkey sausages and pasta shells with feta, plus salad. Actuality: Liz and hubby have a stomach bug and don’t eat. Mikey watched a documentary on how sausage is made and informed me he won’t be eating it anymore. He and I eat the pasta. I broil the sausages for leftovers. I don’t make the salad, because Michael won’t eat it and I’m not in the mood. But we do eat some fruit, okay? Don’t judge.

Tuesday night: Plan: ground beef tacos with a vegetarian version for Lizzie. Actuality: Liz and hubby still feel crappy; now I do, too. Mike informs me he no longer likes ground beef. He does eat dinner, though: cereal. I steam a couple of artichokes that I had planned for some other meal because I was afraid they’d go bad, and stick ’em in the fridge.

Did you know that when you steam artichokes, the water you steam with turns this color? It’s so pretty!

Wednesday night: Plan: spaghetti and meatballs and a salad for the kids, spaghetti squash and meatballs for hubby and me. But Lizzie and I had the leftover shells and feta for lunch and don’t feel like more pasta. Plus I end up running errands and it gets late and… Actuality: Q-Doba takeout for the kids. I make a mustard vinaigrette for the cold artichokes for hubby and me. Learn that he doesn’t like artichokes. He scrounges for something (cereal?). I eat an artichoke by myself.

Thursday night: Plan: Paleo pizza for hubby and me, leftover spaghetti and meatballs (which never got made, remember?) for the kids. Actuality: hubby has to take father to emergency room for an infection (he’s fine, thanks for asking). I make the tacos from Tuesday night’s plan, substituting a last-minute defrosted steak for the ground beef, due to Mikey’s pickiness, I mean, his discerning palette. The steak is fatty and we have a ton of it left. It’s possible hubby will eat it when he gets home, but he doesn’t like fatty meat, either, and, as Liz is a vegetarian, I hear the sound of big fat steak dollars swirling down the drain.

Food Guilt Caused by the Unexpected

Also, a few weeks ago I bought a flat of peaches from the Palisade Peach people because they kept putting up threatening signs warning that it was “the last week for peaches!” I had several left that were about to go bad, so I made a giant batch of peach-mango salsa. It was delicious – even Mike ate it. But salsa made with, like, eight peaches is a lot of salsa.


We never got to the meatballs which is fine because they’re frozen, but my spaghetti squash is hunched on the counter, being large and yellow and just there, you know?, reminding me that it was supposed to be cooked and eaten already and threatening to go bad at any moment. 

As for Friday, the plan was bacon-wrapped sweet potatoes and a salad. Also in the plans was cauliflower “French fries” for snacking. But hubby and Michael have a ton of weekend plans and Liz won’t eat the bacon or the cauliflower…

SO… Now I have one cooked artichoke, half a cup of vinaigrette, half a pound of steak, and a shitload of peach-mango salsa that will go bad if nobody eats them. And “Oh, wait,” shout the chicken sausages, “Don’t forget about us! We’ll go bad if you don’t eat us soon, too! Ha ha ha!” 

Also in the fridge are two heads of cauliflower (TWO!), bunches of fresh herbs, sweet potatoes (but thank God those suckers last forever), the ground beef that was originally for tacos but that I miraculously remembered to put in the freezer, iceberg and romaine and spring mix lettuce, and who-knows-what-else.

Oh my God, you know what? I just had a realization. (Actually, it’s possible I’ve had this realization before but forgot it. Would that make it a re-realization? And if so, could I use it as a Boggle word? Because that would be fantastic. My Boggle-playing friends would have to let me count it as a real word because it’s used right here on the Internet which gives it validity. It would be worth a ton of points, too, especially if I used it as a superword – and yes, that’s a real word, too.)

My realization is: Wouldn’t it make more sense to plan for the unexpected instead of being surprised/frustrated every time the unexpected happens? But how do you plan for something that, by its very nature, is unplanned? Food for thought. (Ha, a lousy pun. I butter not make any more of those. Don’t get tart with me, I won’t milk this any more. Well, actually, don’t steak your life on it. My fruitcake family members are to blame. They just love to pun themselves in the lime-light…)

Anyway, if you want to emulate my super successful week of meal planning, make sure you adapt it by planning for half of what you think you’ll actually need.

Was this really boring? I just told you everything my family ate and didn’t eat this week. Fascinating. I’m going to go back and do some editing. Hold on… Okay, I just edited it and it’s still really lame. Let me try again… I’m back. I hope you don’t think this one was boring, but if you do, imagine what you would have thought if I hadn’t edited out those fourteen paragraphs. You’re welcome.

Have fun until next time,

Jen

XO

PS: Do any of you actually make regular weeknight meals a habit? HOW DO YOU DO IT? That’s not rhetorical. I’d love to know.

PPS: Hubby actually did eat some steak and peach-mango salsa, which means that for one meal this week, we all actually ate the same thing! Progress. Next week I’ll aim for two meals.

PPPS: I just did some more editing. People always tell me they love my writing because “it’s so effortless, like your train of thought just flows.” Ha! My writer friends know how much effort it takes to make writing seem effortless. 

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6 thoughts on “How to Plan for a Week’s Meals (and then Not Eat Them)

  1. Nicole Knauer

    HAHAHAHAHAHAHA!!!!! You kill me!!! Sounds just like my meal “planning ” although my weeks usually include sushi and Cafe Mex!!

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  2. Alison

    Hi Jen – glad to see you and Paul are doing well πŸ™‚
    Yes, I do cook from scratch almost every night, although I suspect I have a bit more time, so I don’t know whether you can apply any of my tactics.

    I rarely plan more than a day in advance. Most of the time I decide what’s for dinner that morning. I keep my freezer and pantry stocked with a lot of basics like chicken (boneless breast, thighs, drumsticks, quarters – whatever) and vegetables, taco shells, dried beans, bread crumbs, etc.

    I don’t rely on seasoning mixes or other meal “helpers.” If I want tacos, I don’t need to worry about whether I have taco seasoning. This also means I use my herbs and spices up faster, so they stay fresh.

    I have a repertoire of recipes and “frameworks” that I use on a regular basis. The frameworks are things along the lines of “make a basic veloute, add whatever leftover meat and veggies I have, season it according to what the meat and veggies are, pour it over English muffins.” I do a lot of cooking without recipes, which really helps with flexibility and last-minute decisions.

    I recycle leftovers into new meals, so we don’t feel like we’re eating the same thing every day, rather than planning ahead to use them on a given day. Most of my meals take an hour or less, and many of them only a half an hour.

    For inspiration, check out these two cookbooks:
    https://www.amazon.com/Desperation-Dinners-Beverly-Mills/dp/076110481X/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1474138400&sr=8-1&keywords=desperation+dinners
    https://www.amazon.com/Cheap-Fast-Good-Beverly-Mills/dp/0761131760/ref=sr_1_2?ie=UTF8&qid=1474138400&sr=8-2&keywords=desperation+dinners

    Good luck!

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    1. jennifernastu Post author

      Thank you, and good to hear from you! I love the idea of recycling leftovers into something new. It’s also a great idea to decide the morning-of rather than planning so far ahead — that’s a great answer to my question about how to plan for the unexpected. I’ll check out the books you recommended. By the titles, I can already tell they’re perfect for me. Thanks so much and I hope you’re doing well. BTW, your fiber arts are beautiful. πŸ™‚

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      1. Alison

        Glad you found it helpful πŸ™‚ I thought of another useful thing – you might want to look into getting an Instant Pot. It’s a combination slow cooker/pressure cooker. I used to use my pressure cooker a lot before the seal went. It could turn an hour-and-a-half meal into a 45 minute meal. You might find the slow cooker more useful than I did. I work from home, so staring something at noon is easy. Here are some links, including the two cookbooks I’d recommend. https://www.amazon.com/dp/B006E7I7MG/ref=wl_it_dp_o_pd_nS_ttl?_encoding=UTF8&colid=MZ7YML98HXL0&coliid=IPQDL2FUZM0HA&psc=1
        https://www.amazon.com/Pressure-Cooker-Gourmet-Great-Tasting-Long-Simmered/dp/1558322019/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1474304526&sr=1-1&keywords=pressure+cooker+gourmet
        https://www.amazon.com/Mothers-Cooker-Cookbook-Revised-Expanded/dp/1558328610/ref=sr_1_4?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1474304516&sr=1-4&keywords=not+your+mothers+slow+cooker+cookbook

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      2. jennifernastu Post author

        We have a slow cooker that we got for our anniversary 21 years ago and I think it was a regift at the time. It has only one setting, and I love it. Just don’t use it often. I’ll look at the new suggestions!

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