Meal Planning for February 2016

Sunday, January 31st, 2016

This one’s a long post. If you want to skip to the good stuff (my finished February meal plan), I won’t complain. I’ve even made a nice little link button for you!

So, I’m doing up my meal plan today but my “normal” routine (is there ever such a thing, really?) has been broken this month. In an effort to lose weight, I’ll need to stick to a very specific meal plan. Plus I’m trying to keep my growing toddler exposed to foods that are outside of my plan. Plus I’m balancing the needs of my husband’s ongoing “battle of the bulge”.

Oh, and did I mention? We’re trying to seriously reduce the cost of our grocery bill this month.

Let’s get started!

#1: Identify your goals

So this is step one for any meal plan (whether monthly, weekly, or even just the night before): figuring out what it is I’m trying to accomplish. Remembering back to Meal Planning 101, this helps to keep me focused on just what I’m looking for.

Maybe you would want to simplify dinners (in that case, go with casseroles, roasts, soups or easy-assemble stir fry), maybe you would want to be healthier (in that case lower-fat meals high in veggies and whole grains are your target). Or maybe you simply want to minimize the hit to your pocket book (planning with your weekly flyer handy is the way to go).

This month I have a lot to balance, my goals don’t exactly mesh well. So, with these conflicting goals, my challenge for February is to make a meal plan that (in order of importance):

  1. Is healthy for a growing toddler.

  2. Lets me follow a restricted food plan high in protein and low in carbs.

  3. Lets my husband feel satiated while still watching his calories.

  4. Costs about $100 per week total for a family of three in Newfoundland.

  5. Includes two slow-cooker meals per week to accommodate our out-of-house activities.

  6. Takes less than 30 minutes to prepare once I start cooking.

#2: List out recipes that help you achieve your goals

Those are my goals for February. I’ve figured out what I’m trying to accomplish (again, thinking back to Meal Planning 101), so now what can I do to achieve these goals?

Well, my next step is the hard part – finding meals that fit as many of my needs as possible. My first goal is a must; my daughter’s health. No fancy diet-supplement-laced liquid something-or-other. Goals 2 and 3 are flexible enough that if I find something “close”, I can tweak it later. Goal 4 means no caviar tastes. So let’s see:

  • Spaghetti – My daughter and Gord are covered, and with a small tweak (green beans instead of pasta), I am as well. Cost is low on this one, plus it’s a breeze to make. Probably why it popped into my head so quickly.

  • Burgers and Steamed Veg with Tahini Mayo. My daughter loves the tahini mayo so much that she’ll even eat her veggies, so that’s blown out of the park. My husband loves burgers, so that’s covered. For me… I’ll make a small substitute here – Chicken breast instead of burgers.

  • Chinese-egg stir fry with rice – This covers all the bases (minus the rice for me).

  • Veggie chickpea curry with rice – Also covers everything, so long as I cook with skim milk and low-fat greek yougurt.

  • Salad – There are a number of adaptations on this one: Tuna salad (no mayo here, just a green salad with Tuna); Taco salad (no taco chips, but all the bold tex-mex flavour); Garden salad.

  • Hummus – not technically a “meal” but definitely something healthy for the family to snack on.

  • Mock-tuna casserole – This big-batch meal meets all the goals, plus adds a bunch of homemade freezable lunches.

  • Lasagna casserole – Another big-batch meal that makes for easy grab-and-go lunches during the work week. On my half, I’ll replace the pasta with shredded carrot, and use cottage cheese instead of the real stuff. Everyone else will have all that deliciousness.

Okay, those were the easy ones. It’s not enough to cover all 4 weeks, but it’s a great start. Now to look into my recipe book (I use Paprika Recipe Manager) or on the web.

  • Spinach tomato chicken with rice

  • Broccoli stir fry with cashew-cheese and quinoa – this adaptation of one of my favourite Oh She Glows recipes needs the Quinoa on the side, but otherwise is good to go.

  • Potato Broccoli Soup

  • Chicken veggie soup – there are a bunch of variations I can try to re-use this one a few times: Broccoli mushroom and spinach chicken soup; Mushroom and pepper chicken soup; Jiggs dinner (a Newfoundland favourite) chicken soup – break out the Mt. Scio savoury;

  • Peanut butter soup – technically “African peanut soup”, this is another family fav from Oh She Glows cookbook (I swear, I don’t have stock in that cookbook!)

  • Veggie Burgers and sweet potato fries – Adding in some steamed carrot sticks will bulk this meal up with great colourful veggies. I seem to be on an Oh She Glows kick – this one’s from her website too.

  • Sesame Fish – Add some steamed veg and rice to make this a complete meal.

  • Pizza – While not technically “healthy”, a little treat at the end of the week will keep my family happy. This is one I’ll have to sit out, but I can do something fun with a fried egg, pizza veggies, cottage cheese and pizza sauce, so I won’t be sitting in the corner

#3: List each day and assign a recipe to each day

Now that I’ve got my recipes all picked, it’s time to place them throughout the month (this is the “when” I was talking about).

You may notice that I’m only planning five meals a week. Weekends in my house are a bit “off the cuff” but you could easily take this approach to weekends as well. For lunches, my goal is to use leftovers for me and Gord. Our daughter is fed at her daycare, so we don’t need to pack anything for her.

Let’s see what we’re working with…

February 2016
Sunday Monday Tuesday Wednesday Thursday Friday Saturday

My meal plan is for the month, which also includes shopping only once, so let’s put the salads in the first week so the lettuce isn’t all icky. While we’re at it, let’s write in the slow cooker meals on Tuesdays and Thursdays.

February 2016
Sunday Monday Tuesday Wednesday Thursday Friday Saturday
4One Pot Pasta (with steamed green beans)
18One Pot Pasta (with steamed green beans)

Finally, let’s write in all the rest of the recipes. My strategy here is to try to avoid the same thing twice in one week, or in back-to-back weeks.

February 2016
Sunday Monday Tuesday Wednesday Thursday Friday Saturday
4One Pot Pasta (with steamed green beans)
10Veggie curry with rice – mashed chickpeas on the side
18One Pot Pasta (with steamed green beans)
26Veggie burgers and sweet potato fries with steamed carrots

#4: Plan to plan

Now that I know what I’m cooking, I need to figure out what can be done ahead of time to make the meal plan run smoothly. Anything from soaking and cooking beans ahead of time, to chopping onions and storing them in the fridge until they’re needed. When the planning is done, I’ll keep my notes handy; they’ll help with the shopping list.

I want to get all my prep out of the way on Sunday, so my plan is to identify everything that can be done ahead of time.

For each week, I’ll take a look at the recipes and figuring out what types of items are needed, then jot them down in a list so there’s space to tally amounts.

For example, for the first week, I’ll need to chop some salad veggies for three salads, prep soup veggies for Chicken veggie soup, and dice the veggies needed for One-Pot Pasta.

For the first week, all totalled that’s:

  • Two onions diced for the slow cooker meals, plus half an onion finely sliced for the salads.
  • Two peppers diced for use in the salads and slow cooker meals.
  • One cucumber, sliced, for use in the salads (these would be quick enough to do day-of).
  • One carrot chopped for Tuesday’s soup.
  • One two-cup portion of black beans, soaked and cooked for Wednesday’s salad.
  • Four eggs hard-boiled for Friday’s salad.

#5: Prepare a shopping list

Finally, I need to prepare a shopping list. Using the lists I prepared above, I’ll add anything that wasn’t included in my prep list (chicken breasts, whole veggies, etc).

Again, scanning from the top of the list, I tally them up.

Before I go shopping, I need to take a look in the pantry and figure out what’s already there. This helps avoid wastage so the pantry’s not overloaded on ingredients that won’t be used. I’ll subtract what I have from the tally.

Now that the plan is done, and I’ve noted which items are on sale, I’ve written my list. Now I’m ready to go shopping!

A short time later…

I stuck with my carefully curated list, and the verdict? $405 for four weeks. Almost spot on to my goal of $100 per week!

So, let’s re-cap…

Meal Plan – February 2016

  1. Identify your goals. For me, my goals for February are to plan meals that:

    • …are healthy for a growing toddler.

    • …let me follow a restricted food plan high in protein and low in carbs.

    • …let my husband watch his calories but feel full.

    • …stay within a budget of $100 per week total for a family of three in Newfoundland.

    • …includes two slow-cooker meals per week.

    • takes less than 30 minutes to prepare.

  2. Find recipes that work with your goals (shown in the calendar below).

  3. Assign recipes to a day (shown in the calendar below).

  4. Plan to plan, and figure out what preparation tasks you can do ahead of time.

  5. Prepare a shopping list and go shopping.

February 2016
Sunday Monday Tuesday Wednesday Thursday Friday Saturday
4One Pot Pasta (with steamed green beans)
10Veggie curry with rice – mashed chickpeas on the side
18One Pot Pasta (with steamed green beans)
26Veggie burgers and sweet potato fries with steamed carrots
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