Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Fall meal planning update

I'm still mostly using my meal planning system, although the actual cooking definitely fell by the wayside for most of the summer due to the heat. Instead I tried to plan as many fast, preferably oven-less, meals as possible.

meal planning tweaks

Now that it's starting to cool down I tweaked our meal planning a bit. Soup is sounding more appealing, so I'm subbing out our usual large salad meal for a hearty soup meal. I've also reduced the total servings I aim for each week from 16 to 12. This is because I've been cooking my lunches separately so I don't need to factor them into our planning. When my cooking was sporadic during the summer I couldn't rely on leftovers (quesadillas aren't great the next day) and I kept purchasing lunch, which I hate to do. So much money, so little enjoyment. If I could actually go out to eat I might see it differently but I don't like paying $7 for a lackluster sandwich to eat at my desk.

So, new lunch plan: brown rice + frozen stir fry veg + protein (usually tofu a few times a week and fish or meat a couple times) + stir fry sauce. It's a fake stir fry. And yes, the microwaved frozen vegetables are not nearly as good as fresh would be but this is the fastest, most consistent lunch I've been able to come up with. It takes virtually no effort and hits all the key nutritional groups I need to feel good. All I really have to do is remember to cook a batch of brown rice on Sunday evening and purchase some tofu. I don't even bother pre-cooking the tofu most of the time. This is where it really comes in handy that I can eat the same lunch every day and not get bored.

And my new meal planning structure looks like this:
Soup - 1x per week, 4 - 6 servings
Meat/lentils/pasta - 1x per week, 4 - 6 servings
Easy meal - 1x per week, 2 - 4 servings

I just need to round up some hearty soup recipes, preferably including a few that can be done in the crockpot. I've been searching around and hopefully I can share some as I try them. I love the crockpot, but the most common recipes you find are usually meat based and we try not to eat meat all the time. I'm hunting for vegetarian recipes as well and there are some that look pretty awesome.

More meal planning posts here.

17 comments:

  1. Just FYI, these dudes are like, soup kings in the UK http://www.newcoventgardensoup.com/recipes/

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    1. Ooooh, thanks! Marking that for browsing!

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  2. I can totally relate to the lunch struggle...with all those takeaway lunches and coffees I could have taken myself out for a really nice meal at an actual restaurant, or bought all my groceries at Whole Foods! Do you have any other recommendations for lunches? I am feeling limited because I don’t have an oven in my flat and once I leave home I don’t have a fridge to keep it in, and can only occasionally access a microwave. And I have to carry it in my backpack while I bike across town. Any ideas? I’ve been doing burrito bowl type meals with rice, beans, and sweet potato, a.k.a. cheap veggies and whatever I can get in a can…. I’ll try this “stir fry” as well! I’ve mostly become vegetarian because meat is so expensive and, in my experience, doesn’t travel well. Any ideas are welcome :)

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    1. Oh man, that is tough! I'm super lucky because I do have a microwave and a fridge at work, which really makes it easier.

      The "stir fry" would be fine sitting at room temp till lunch, especially if you're just using tofu. Since I use frozen veg, I really do need to microwave it. But if you precooked it at home on the stovetop and then portioned it out, it would be good at room temperature. I know, though, one more step!

      Your burrito bowl meals sound good. I'd also recommend lentils, which you'd have to cook in a big batch and then portion out. I make red lentil daal and add cooked cauliflower to make it heartier. It's good room temp and transports well.

      You could also do hearty salads. I was doing this for a while, but it takes up more room in transport, which is an issue for me as well, since I take the bus. But it isn't terrible. I just used a large container to pack lots of salad greens, added plenty of diced or julienned vegetables (beets, carrots, corn, + beans or anything that sounded good) and then I'd pack the salad dressing in a little container and put it inside the big container (in case it spilled a little). I did okay with this, but I found I just prefer a denser lunch and I do better if it has some carbs.

      How bored do you get with food? If you can tolerate eating basically the same thing every day, I'd just find something you like and stick with it, like your burrito bowls. I'm fine eating the same thing for breakfast and lunch basically every day, since I know I'll get some variety at dinner.

      Let me know if you come up with anything good!

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    2. That's a good idea! I have only had lentils a handful of times and have never cooked them so I'll have to give that a try.

      I don't tend to get bored with meals (I eat bran cereal or porridge and jam with the same tea nearly every morning) but for some reason I have an aversion to making salads at home. I can't explain it, because I do love salads, but when I make them myself they just totally lose the appeal. And I nearly always want and need carbs at lunch, especially if I am going to the gym later in the day. I'll let you know if I come up with anything else, I'm going to try out the stir fry and lentils!

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  3. Try this soup its so easy and soo good! I put crispy pancetta on top as well.
    http://www.myrecipes.com/recipe/carrot-apple-soup

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  4. Slow cooker Thai coconut soup.

    http://www.lolaskitchenlab.com/slow-cooker-tom-kha-gai-thai-coconut-soup/

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  5. I'll be following this post! My soap goals for this winter are 1) making a homemade veggie stock that isn't JUST carrots 2) making a vegetarian onion soup that doesn't involve mushroom broth (I am highly allergic to mushrooms, which makes being a vegetarian complicated sometimes!)

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    1. No mushrooms?! So sad. And yes, tough for a vegetarian. I was going to recommend my favorite vegetable stock, but it is chock full of mushrooms. But maybe you could just leave them out? This recipe is the bestvegetable stock I've ever had, and it makes the most amazing vegetarian gravy. Obvs I've never tried it without the mushrooms but I'm guessing the roasting + herbs would be pretty delicious even without them.

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  6. My favorite crock pot soup (its vegetarian depending on which stock you use) http://www.lifeaccordingtocelia.com/2011/12/soup-club-four-corners-lentil-soup.html
    I loved Celia's soup club! Must revisit the rest of the posts.

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  7. The Pioneer Woman's Cauliflower Soup is tastier than the name implies and you might enjoy it!

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  8. Hearty soup!: http://smittenkitchen.com/blog/2013/01/lentil-soup-with-sausage-chard-and-garlic/
    I cut it down from four to two sausages -- Whole Foods Mild Italian Chicken sausage is really good.

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  9. I love this idea for lunch! Do you cookie the veggies before hand? Or do you literally throw frozen veggies and uncooked tofu in the microwave with the cooked rice? How long do you microwave? (I'm a total beginner!)

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    1. I literally throw frozen veg and uncooked tofu in there with the cooked rice and the stir fry sauce! I usually cook it for 2 - 3 minutes, depending on the microwave. I like my food really, really hot, full disclosure.

      This would be much more delicious if I stir fried the veg, tofu and sauce together on the stove first, and I know it wouldn't take much longer, but this is easier and I'm happy with it.

      I like the texture of tofu, which might make a difference. If you're not a fan of the soft texture, baking the tofu will firm it up and make it more toothsome.

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    2. Perfect. Thanks for the advice! Can't wait to try it.

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  10. How do you handle breakfast?

    My eating habits are so random and unplanned. I am going to attempt to adopt your system, starting by creating my recipe binder and printing your meal planning sheets. Here goes nothing!

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    1. I'm equally boring for breakfast! I eat at work because I go in really early which means I'm limited to cereal. I either do oatmeal or cold cereal, depending on what I'm feeling that week.

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