Thursday, September 13, 2012

Meal Planning

     Shockingly, I've actually gotten a request for a post. A long time admirer of my work has asked me to talk about meal planning. We're not talking about diet or nutrition, though those things play a part. We're simply talking about putting together a schedule of meals for the week.  This is an important undertaking in our house, as the wife and I both work regular jobs (at least until somebody at the Food Network reads this and offers me a lucrative TV show where I get paid to wander around and eat stuff).  We generally don't have the time or energy to come home from work and put a meal together from scratch.

     Setting up your meals for the week isn't as hard as you might think. My good friend Rachel Ray (total fabrication)  usually features a little booklet in her magazine that shows how to plan for the week.  Her plan generally involves a series of meals planned around a common pool of ingredients. This is a great plan, except is still calls for actually preparing meals each night. This is generally not a problem for productive people, but I am not among that population. I need something easier and faster. So what do I do?

No, but not a terrible idea.
     What I do is turn to the trusty three station slow cooker. Sunday is slow-cook day in my house. As I mentioned in my dissertation on slow cookers, I like to set up a soup, stew or appetizer in one dish, an entree (or in the case of cold weather, another soup/stew) in the second, and a dessert in the third. Set timers for each and you're good to go. Once everything is done, it's just a matter of packing it for the week. On any given day, one of the dishes will be used as a lunch, the other is dinner. Eat the dessert as needed.

     The only issue here is repetition of meals. I'm not terribly fussed about the same thing for lunch a few days in a row, but I do like some variety for dinners. I fill in the gap with super easy five ingredient or less recipes. Mondays are half price pizza days at our local restaurant.


     Obviously, eating out isn't always an option, especially if you're on a budget. If you set up the slow cooker, and keep a couple super simple recipes ready for the week (I'll post one for Monday), it is no big task to have all your meals taken care of. If you only have one large slow cooker, you can consider just slow cooking meat and basic seasoning  and using that as a base for your food. You could slow cook some pork and work that into five nights easily. Tacos, stew, BBQ pulled pork, work it into a pasta sauce, and throw it on a big salad. See? Easy. Now go enjoy.

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