Meal Planning – April 2016

Thursday, March 31st, 2016

March is complete, with another five whole weeks of meal planning under my belt. Two working parents somehow made twenty-five home-cooked work-night meals. No fish-fingers. No KD. All homemade.

I’m also happy to report that – finally – I’ve succeeded in staying under my weekly budget – by $2 for a whole month – but still, I was under budget. This was thanks in no small part by Gord’s gracious sacrifice of eggs. That’s right, we ran out, and I was too close to my goal to let him have a yummy breakfast.

I’m mean like that.

But it worked.

In terms of time, I have to say, top-loading the meal plan has really lifted some stress from the weekend chores. It does take me an hour or two to complete at the beginning of the month, but once that one-time chore is finished, I only have to follow through. Shopping list, prep tasks, what to cook… they’re all ready, just waiting the month to progress.

With that insight, I think I’m ready for another month. This one’s only 4 weeks long, so *phewf* there’s that much less to prepare.

Learning from last month’s experience, I’m also going to split my shopping into two deliberate trips this month. The “must-have” staples for the beginning of the month, and a booster in the middle.

I have a feeling that by breaking it up this way, I may realize I didn’t really need that bottle of vanilla or that bag of chocolate chips after all. Rather than having to guess if a quarter-bottle of vanilla will do me for a month, I can simply wait until the mid-month shopping top-up to decide.

Plus if we run out of eggs again, Gord’s going to go on strike. I don’t think I could handle getting up early enough to make breakfast…

So yeah… onto this month’s meal planning.

First, I’m using my meal planning worksheet, which should help a lot! On we go!

#1: Identify your goals

I’m shifting focus this month. After two successful months of low-carb and meaty meals, I’m going back to weekday vegetarian, meaning my meal plan is all veggie, all the time! Otherwise, I’ve got similar goals to the last couple of months.

Let’s break it down. In April, I want to plan meals that…

  1. are healthy, except for a treat on “Fun” Friday. Gotta have the fun!

  2. are vegetarian during the week.

  3. include slow cooker meals Tuesday/Thursday to support out-of-the-house activities.

  4. are quick to prepare Mondays, because Mondays are already hard enough.

  5. stay on budget of $130 per week for a family of 3 in Newfoundland. This one’s tough, but I’ve done it two months in a row. Now for the trifecta!

  6. yield leftovers to make work lunches easier.

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

Vegetarian-focused meals are going to take a bit of creativity to keep from getting repetitive, so I see a lot of potential for more OhSheGlows . Let’s see what I can come up with:

  • Peanut butter soup – This one tops the list because of how much my toddler loves it. It can be found in the OhSheGlows cookbook.

  • Tacos / Taco Salad / Taco Soup – Spread ’em out and they’ll be tasty taco oasises oasees oases throughout the month.

  • Santa Fe Rice and Beans – This is one of my favourite meals, which disappeared during my “low carb” meal plans. It’s back for a visit. Yum!

  • Curry / Veggie Butter Chicken – Curry still hasn’t lost its appeal. I’m going for the family fave Butter “Chicken” as well as a potato-based Pakistani curry.

  • Pizza – This has “Fun Friday” written all over it!

  • Cauliflower “Wings with Mac & Cheese – More “Fun Friday” potential.

  • Veggie Shepherd’s Pie – OhSheGlows strikes again. A hearty vegetarian meal that’s as satisfying as the real thing.

  • Broccoli Quinoa Cashew-cheese burrito bowls – While the recipe calls for “wraps”, I enjoy them as a casserole. This recipe is the best combination of nutty, cheesy, chewy-yet-crunchy and hearty. This has OhSheGlows written all over it…

  • Veggie Burgers with Tahini Mayo – Yes, another OhSheGlows recipe, both the burgers and the mayo. What can I say, I’m a glutton for, well, good food…

  • Celebration Squash Soup – Depending on the price of squash, this may show up in the rotation.

  • Spaghetti Squash and tomato sauce – Another “depends on the price” meal. Spaghetti squash is delicious, healthy and easy to make, but if it’s not in stores for a reasonable price, I’m going to skip it.

  • Spaghetti – This classic is always in style.

  • Potato Corn Chowder – A different flavour from some of the other recipes, this should help add variety.

  • Pass the Peas Stir Fry – Easy-peasy! (I’m so horrible with the puns)

  • Pasta Alfredo with Broccoli – Easy, quick, yum!

  • Tuna Salad – I was going to list this one, but it’s Tuna. Tuna’s not a vegetable (depending on who you ask). Off the list!

That’s a good variety, so we shouldn’t get bored of the leftovers. Because there will be leftovers.

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

I’ll start with the taco meals, because I don’t want them to be on the same week. While I’m at it, I’ll fill in the slow-cooker-compatible meals.

April 2016
Sunday Monday Tuesday Wednesday Thursday Friday Saturday
4Taco Salad 7Celebration Squash Soup (slow cooker)
28One Pot Pasta (slow cooker)

Good, now for Fun Fridays…

April 2016
Sunday Monday Tuesday Wednesday Thursday Friday Saturday
4Taco Salad 7Celebration Squash Soup (slow cooker)
28One Pot Pasta (slow cooker) 29Pasta Alfredo with Broccoli

…and fill in the gaps…

April 2016
Sunday Monday Tuesday Wednesday Thursday Friday Saturday
4Taco Salad 6Curry – Veggie Butter “Chicken” 7Celebration Squash Soup (slow cooker)
18Veggie Burgers with Tahnini Mayo (with side veggies)
25Pass the Peas stir-fry 28One Pot Pasta (slow cooker) 29Pasta Alfredo with Broccoli

#4: Plan to Plan

Using my handy worksheet I can quickly work out my prep tasks for each week:

Prep tasks and tally
Week 1
Task or food itemTally for the weekComplete on…
Sweet Potato – diced2Sunday
Black beans – soaked and cooked1Saturday
Chickpeas – soaked and cooked1Saturday
Bread – bake it!1Sunday
Onion – diced4Sunday
Sweet Pepper – diced4Sunday
Butternut Squash – chunks1Sunday
Carrots – chunks3Sunday
Carrots – sticks3Sunday
Carrots – shredded2Sunday
Mushrooms – sliced portions2Wednesday
Week 2
Task or food itemTally for the weekComplete on…
Potatoes – diced7Sunday
Onion – diced5Sunday
Mushroom – sliced portions5Sunday
Sweet Pepper – diced5Sunday
Sweet Potato – diced1Sunday
Black beans – soaked and cooked2Saturday
Week 3
Task or food itemTally for the weekComplete on…
Black beans – soaked and cooked3Saturday
Onion – diced4Sunday
Sweet Pepper – diced4Sunday
Sweet Potato – diced2Sunday
Potato – diced3Sunday
Carrot sticks5Sunday
Carrot – grated3Sunday
Week 4
Task or food itemTally for the weekComplete on…
Onion – diced5Sunday
Peppers – diced4Sunday
Cauliflower – diced1Sunday
Mushrooms – sliced portions3Sunday
Sweet Potato – diced1Sunday
Cashews – soak a portion1Tuesday night

#5: Prepare a shopping list

Based on my worksheet pantry checklist, I have a full list of items, plus the fresh produce from my prep list above. Now that I have my list, I can go shopping. My rough estimate puts me well under budget and on track for a second shopping trip in a couple of weeks.

I’ll update once I get back from the store on the weekend…

So, to recap:

Meal Planning for the month of April, 2016

  • Identify your goals. In April, I need meals that:

    1. are healthy, except for a treat on “Fun” Friday.

    2. are vegetarian during the week.

    3. include slow cooker meals Tuesday/Thursday.

    4. are quick to prepare Mondays.

    5. stay on budget of $130 per week for a family of 3 in Newfoundland.

    6. produce leftovers to make work lunches easier.

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

  • Assign recipes to a day (summarized in the calendar below).

  • Plan to plan. and identify anything that can be done in advance to make work nights easier.

  • Prepare a shopping list that you’ll stick to when you go shopping

April 2016
Sunday Monday Tuesday Wednesday Thursday Friday Saturday
4Taco Salad 6Curry – Veggie Butter “Chicken” 7Celebration Squash Soup (slow cooker)
18Veggie Burgers with Tahnini Mayo (with side veggies)
25Pass the Peas stir-fry 28One Pot Pasta (slow cooker) 29Pasta Alfredo with Broccoli
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