Friday, April 29, 2016

A peek at prep...

Hey everyone....and collectively EXHALE.  You've made it to FRIDAY!  Weeeeeeeeeee!  Any good plans this weekend??  

So I've had this post floating around my head all week, and I wanted to talk today about menu planning for the week.  Sure, there have been more than my fair share of weeks where I just throw caution to the wind and see what winds up on our table.  But more times than not, I ALWAYS try to go into the week with a plan and (for the most part) stick with it.  I've always made meal planning a priority, and feel it's been a big factor in our weight loss and trying our best to stay on a healthy path.   Not to mention it's honestly, about 94% of the time, my favorite "chore."  I just love putting together a list of dinners I'm excited to make and/or I just love making lists in generalJ  I try to balance out the specifically healthier meals (aka- salads & lettuce wraps) along with the fun-ner meals so we don't get bored or too boring for that matterJ 
First things first, I take an inventory of everything we have in the fridge & freezer.  Here's a peek at the madness...
Lately I've been OBSESSED (capital O!) with keeping a running list of all of the items that need to be used up within the week or 2, as to waste as little as possible.  So anything that needs to be used, I figure out recipes or ways to incorporate them into the week's meals.  Nothing grates my nerves more than having to throw out 1/2 empty jars or wasted produce that didn't get used up.  So I try my best to not let that happen....(or face the wrathJ)

ALSO!  THE FREEZER!  Me & my freezer are BFF's and I WILL freeze anything that I can that I won't use right away and don't want to go to waste.  My freezer is currently stocked with a leftover lunch-sized portion of chicken stir-fry, a few cupcakes (I'd rather spread em out for desserts than throw them out or feel like I need to eat so many within a week, ya know), 1/2 a vegetable lasagna, a container of chili, leftover homemade cornbread and slices of sourdough bread among the frozen meat, fruit & vegetables.  My freezer rule goes like this:  if it's something you're going to cook with (aka- that sourdough bread for grilled cheese or basil to bake on top of a pizza), I think it's fine to pull them out of the freezer.  But if you're going to have those things fresh (aka- a side of Italian bread with butter or fresh herbs sprinkled on a salad or to finish to a dish) do the damn thing and buy it fresh!  There's not much better than freezing a meal you've have had enough of at the moment, and then pulling the leftovers out of the freezer a month later as a quick meal that all you need to do is reheat.  We ALL have those nights that are too busy or we JUST don't FEEL like being in front of the stove, and freezer meals can always save the day.

ANYHOW, once I have a list of all the ingredients that need to be used (jarred artichokes, kalamata olives & wonton wrappers were on last week's list), I get busy looking for inspiration.  I will fully admit I admire anyone who can take the contents of any fridge and whip up an amazing meal on the spot.  I'm so not that person!  I can do it if needed, (and/or default right to a fab dish of spaghetti with garlic & oilJ) but I'm much more of a person who likes a little inspiration.  Hence, THIS:

And in our modern times, consult my Pinterest board....which I psychotically keep mostly in seasonal categories because I need help love cooking around the what's in season...(asparagus & lemons....I'm looking at you right now...)
See also:  I'm crazy but LOVE IT!

Then it's onto picking all of the meals and setting the menu for the week (here's a sneak peek of this week's).  I also always try to balance EASY and super-quick meals with maybe 1 or 2 that I know might take an extra minute.  DO NOT go into the week thinking you're going to have any desire to stand over the stove for an hour.  KEEP IT SIMPLE.  Nearly all of these meals were made with less than 20 minutes of 'hands on' time.  Don't make healthy harder than it needs to be!  (It's hard enough as it is, ya know??J)
The bottom is also a rolling list of all of the breakfast & lunches I want to make with some of the ingredients we have laying around along with a few recipes I want to have/try in the very foreseeable future.  Because lists.

And finally, as I'm going through the recipes I want to make for the week, I make a running list of all the items I'll need from the grocery store.  And I'm TOTALLY this person...
Know thyselfJ

In proper Trader Joe's order.  Anyone want to guess what we're having next week... J 
ps-I also LOVE to keep this list AS SMALL as possible and I already kinda hate myself that this one is MUCH longer than I like.  But I had a few Cinco de Mayo recipes burnin a hole in my pocket, la one too many ingredientsJ

And one more note:  I ALWAYS try to have vegetables at each meal (unless vegetables are the main component of the meal, like lettuce wraps).  And to be honest:  I usually always try to keep it simple.  Salads & steamed or roasted broccoli are staples.  As much as I love a 'fancy side' (and I ironically DO have one planned in the coming week) most of the time, that just seems like ANOTHER plan and more pots & pans to clean.  Keeping a huge bin of lettuce in my fridge for quick side salads is just as good...and even better, when we finish the WHOLE THING by week's end!  It's the simple things that make me VERYHAPPYJ  But I will swear by the fact that having those side salads (especially with more decadent dishes like pizza & pasta) will keep your portions of the 'main stars' small while still helping you feel full and satisfied.  Oh yeah...and it's also worth mentioning I usually always eat them last.  It kinda helps my brain shift from eating slice after slice (after slice) of pizza to helping me put the brakes on and move on.  Whatever works, amIright??

ps-I keep this dry Italian season mix in a jar in my cabinet and mix 2 tablespoons of seasoning with the standard olive oil, water & vinegar.  I made it a few months ago with seasons I already had laying around in my cabinet and still have PLENTY to go round....

So I hope that helped give you a peek into how I plan my week and try to keep things exciting around here on the food frontJ  Having no plan usually makes me feel bored, uninspired and too easily reaching for that phone to order pizza from down the block (a real problem here in NJ, where we have not one, but THREE amazing pizza places within 30 seconds of our houseJ), but having a healthy & new/'exciting' menu makes me feel reenergized and inspired for the week ahead to stay on the healthy path. (and that may or may not also include homemade dulce de leche donuts because ya gotta live!J)

Hope you have a great weekend and see you on the flip side!

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