Over the past few years I’ve dabbled a lot in cooking and preparing meals for the week. Dan and I spent a few months meal prepping on the weekend and found that by Thursday I was sick of the meals and just wanted to order Uber Eats. For about a year I owned a healthy catering service where I cooked fresh meals everyday for my students but that was exhausting and didn’t allow me time to relax after my day job.
When Dan and I moved in together I had to find a solution to making dinner every night and lunch for the next day without getting tired of cooking halfway through the week or getting bored of what we were eating. Here’s what’s helped me create an affordable meal plan for 2 that I don’t want to ditch halfway through the week
Make It Fun and Exciting
I always try to include at least one new recipe into my plan. This way I have something exciting to look forward to so even if I’m too tired from my long commute home I’ll still be motivated to cook dinner.
I either choose from a cookbook, something I saw on The Food Network or my go-to healthy cooking blogs. Whatever is going to motivate you to get in the kitchen at the end of the day.
Cut Down On Active Cooking Time
In my kitchen there are 2 magicians, their names are slow cooker and instant pot. These guys have changed my way of cooking and have allowed me to spend much more time relaxing versus being in the kitchen.
At least once a week I make a slow cooker recipe, I prep the ingredients the night before, put them in a storage bag and then in the morning dump the bag in the slow cooker and let it cook while I’m at work. When I come home the main component of our meal is done and I only have to worry about sides.
Added bonus is the slow cooker will cook large portions of meat so I can cook enough for our meals and still have enough to freeze for another day, which brings me to my next tip.
The Freezer is Your Friend
I try to always cook or prep in big batches and then freeze extra so I can incorporate it into future meal plans. My freezer currently has frozen brisket, barbacoa pork, baked chicken tenders, brown rice, black beans and even chopped & seasoned fajita veggies.
I recently purchased a vacuum sealer to help preserve the taste of my food and it’s amazing!
I find this is really important for me because I’m usually only cooking for 2 people and would have a lot of waste if I didn’t freeze the extras. This also allows me to have food on hand when plans don’t go as expected.
Do Less Groceries
After meal planning for a few years I’ve learned that you have to try to get the most out of your groceries. If I am buying celery for a recipe I need to find something else I can use it in that week so I don’t end up tossing half the bunch out a week later when it’s wilted and moldy. Find recipes that have the same ingredients so you can get the most out of your purchases.
One of the best parts of meal planning is you can make a grocery list and only buy what you need for that week. This makes my grocery bill much less expensive and you are almost always using fresh ingredients.
Repeat Without Becoming Repetitious
I don’t mind eating the same meal twice (but not 3+ times) so we usually have whatever we had for dinner for lunch the next day.
But if you’re bored or you didn’t like the dish you can reuse and reinvent your dinner from the night before, chili can turn into enchiladas, slow cooked pork can be tacos one night and BBQ sandwiches the next. Get creative so you stay interested.
Plan for Failure
I know it sounds crazy, you’re putting in all this effort to make the perfect plan and you want to do everything in your power to follow it but now I’m telling you to plan for it to fail. Life happens though and things don’t go according to plan sometimes. You have to be able to roll with the punches.
If my week is going to be extremely busy I make it a point to not plan for dinner one day to allow for eating out or eat leftovers. Sometimes emergencies happen and you can’t cook at all, in that case I just postpone my entire plan by a day.
Here’s What We Ate This Week:
Do you meal plan weekly? How do you manage to stick to it? Let me know in the comments below!