Family Meal Plan week 1

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It’s a low key week with my sister coming at the end of the week for a visit from Kelowna, (maybe she’ll bring wine?). My husband is taking time off to spend it with us so I don’t need to plan leftovers or lunches and I’ve reused a few ingredients to cut down my grocery list. Plus I get one night off for sure.

This is the first meal plan I’m posting so if you have feedback on the format, or ideas on any part of this post I want to hear from you.

Monday Night

Salad and ChickenRotisserie chicken on a tonne of veggies and greens. I love Organic mesculin greens and topped with tomatoes, peppers, carrot, cabbage and chicken it’s a yummy, easy dinner. I am a bread lover so I would serve this with warm foccacia too.

Tuesday Night

Fish TacosThis is my grocery shopping day so I like a fast dinner. My hubby’s pick this week is fish tacos. I use fish sticks (don’t look at me like that). You can get fabulous, multi-grain, sustainably fished options as well as the good old fish stick. Chopped cabbage, cilantro, and lime cream (equal parts sour cream and plain yogurt with a squeezed lime and a bit of salt) top it off. Serve on flour tortillas and dinner is done by the time the fish is cooked.

Wednesday night

Pulled chicken sandwichesUse left over. or rotisserie chicken and coat with your favourite bbq sauce in a saucepan over med-low heat, (I have an amazing bbq sauce recipe I’ll share over the summer!). Make a quick coleslaw with shredded cabbage, grated carrot and a dressing of roughly 2 spoons mayo, 1 spoon vinegar, a sprinkle of sugar and salt. Place the bbq’d chicken on a bun top with coleslaw and voilà, pulled chicken sandwiches.

Thursday Night

Breakfast nightThis week we’ll have fried egg sandwiches with lettuce, tomato, bacon and maybe avocado if they’re nice looking. Served with fruit salad too.

Friday Night

Italian Sausage PizzaI’ve started buying Naan and using it as individual pizza crusts. I have full intention of making crusts but haven’t had time to experiment with them yet. My favourite toppings right now are pesto, Italian sausage (I like the chicken version), and sautéed peppers and onions, topped with a little stringy mozzarella. It’s like sausage and peppers but better and on pizza, so amazing!

Saturday Night

Masala sloppy Joes –  Indian takeaway meets the sloppy joe. Delicious and lots of veggies mixed in.

Sunday Night

My sister will be in town so I know I’ll be invited to dinner at my parents.

That’s it. One weeks worth of easy, healthy dinners you can happily feed to your family. If you haven’t read it yet my post on meal planning explains some of the basics on how I plan our dinners.

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How to Meal Plan for Your Busy Life

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My best friend got me into meal planning. She started because she doesn’t care about food and hated having to think about what to make each night. This was a completely bizarre concept to me. First, I don’t think there is anything other then my hubby and my kids that I love more then food. Second, it seemed like a lot of work that would ruin my creative mojo when it came to cooking. But grocery shopping each night, eating out when I got lazy or busy and throwing tonnes of food away really started to add up and I decided to give it a try.

I now feel like I have a pretty good handle on it and I am hoping I can share enough that you can use my experience to make your life a little easier. Please feel free to riff off of these ideas and I’d love to hear how it all works for you and your family. If however, after you have read this you realize this is never going to happen, don’t despair. I will be posting my weekly menu with linked recipes (as I write them) so you can just use mine.

Here are my tips for making meal planning a part of your weekly adventures:

1) What does your week look like?
First, I try and think about my week ahead. If there are days that are going to be rushed or busy I want to make sure I have quick and easy meals. I look for days I might not have to cook or have to cook more. We usually have dinner with my parents once a week so I need to either plan for a crowd or I get a night off. The day I do our grocery shopping can be a long one (or feel like it) if I have both kids with me so I always try to make sure I have an easy dinner that night.

2)Lunches and leftovers
My husband does not like sandwiches. He’ll eat them out of necessity but he would rather have leftovers any day. I try to take this into consideration and plan on a dinner that gives us guaranteed leftovers every second night. This way he can rotate between what he loves and sandwiches if he runs out, but we never get a leftover backlog. I can also use leftovers in other dinners or freeze them for another night. I love opening my freezer to leftovers I can pull out for an easy dinner. It feels like I just won an hour of free time!

3)What do you already have?
When I first started meal planning I was so gung-ho I would look to cookbooks and the internet before my pantry and fridge. This meant stuff didn’t get used and I was spending more on new, fun ingredients rather then using ones I already had. Trying new things is awesome but having a fridge full of condiments, expensive cheeses and random vegetables is only good if you are planning on cooking with them more then one night. Instead, now I try to use anything from the fridge that didn’t somehow get used up and check the pantry for that forgotten treasure hiding in the back.

4)Mix it up
I find a combo of new recipes, family faves and mindless meals works best. We all have recipes that we can make without a second thought and I use cookbooks, blogs, Pinterest and friends to find inspiration for new meals. Life is just easier with the occasional pancake dinner or fried egg sandwich thrown in too. So far only my hubby contributes suggestions but I’d like to think the kids will want to participate when they’re older. I’ve also seen some deadly looking meal planning organizers on Pinterest and one day I’ll make one…maybe… probably not.

5)Reuse ingredients
If I can I try to find dinners throughout the week that use similar things. It cuts down costs and time too. A roast chicken early in the week can be made into soup or a chicken pizza for another night. Cabbage for tacos can be tossed into a salad. This has been something I figured out later then sooner, but I now always try to keep it in mind. Funny how easy this sounds and yet it took me years to get this one figured out.

6)Have a backup plan and be flexible
No matter how well I plan or organize my meals, life happens and it doesn’t always work. Sometimes a grocery store doesn’t have what I need or something else is on sale for a way better deal. “Talia, you can’t control the world”, has been a message that the universe and my mom keep telling me. So I accept that things happen and then roll with it. I either try to alter my recipe a bit or go with a backup plan. These are usually easy and made from ingredients that I keep on hand. Home made or frozen pizzas, sandwiches with veggies and breakfast can all be made quickly . If you know you have a quick backup plan at home it eliminates the need for an emergency fast food stop and gets you off the hook.

7)Have a Theme, Formula or Template
It’s hard coming up with new ideas all the time. Some weeks you’re tired, the weather sucks and the last thing you want to do is try to be super creative. I use a rotation of sorts to help me stay inspired and get new ideas on the table. Here’s a what the inside of my head kind of looks like:

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Pick a theme, chose your protein and then add your flavours. If you’re not someone who loves to cook or feels inspired, using the themes alone and then finding recipes that fit works just as well.

Once you get the hang of meal planning it becomes a natural part of the week. It takes me only a bit to do and it saves moolah. We rarely eat out and when we do its for a treat or special occasion, I almost never throw food away because its gone bad and I love knowing what’s for dinner without having to stress last minute.

Indian Spiced Masala Sloppy Joes

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One of my favourite ethnic eats is Indian but it’s hard to get a full authentic meal on the table in the time I have with two kids. It’s something I only seem to be able to do for special occasions. But as I’ve discovered new flavours and spices I’ve learned to play a lot  more and create fun twists on classic dinners like this. They’re quick and I can get lot’s of vegetables into them, which, in my eyes makes them awesome. So voila, sloppy joes with an Indian flare.

I’ve  used more veggies then in a traditional sloppy joe. It’s healthier, decreases the amount of meat needed and super bonus it’s a one pan meal 🙂

A friend of mine skipped the bun and served the sloppy Joe sauce on a bed of spinach and said it was perfect that way too.

I recently updated this recipe to add measurements for some ingredients and to change when the tomatoes were originally added. The recipe is still the same but I found it a little clearer to say 1 cup of tomato instead of one big one:)

Delicious and a pretty colour

Delicious and a pretty colour

Sloppy Joe

1 tbsp olive oil
1/2 medium diced onion
1-2 cloves minced or grated garlic
1 tbsp fresh grated ginger
1 tbsp  Garam marsala
1 tbsp Curry powder
1 tsp Turmeric
400-550 gram ground turkey or chicken
1 cup grated carrot (about 2)
1 cup diced red pepper (about 1)
1/3 cup Raisins
1/4 cup Ketchup
1 cup diced tomato (about 1)
salt

½ cup plain Yoghurt
¼ cup Cilantro

Naan or buns

Heat a large skillet over medium high heat with the oil. Add the onions and tomatoes, cook for a few minutes until the onions have softened. Mix in the spices, ginger and garlic, cooking until it smells awesome (a few minutes).

Spread the turkey/chicken around the pan and begin to break it up. When the meat has browned, add carrots, raisins and red peppers to the skillet. Cook for a few minutes until carrots have softened. Stir in the ketchup  and season with salt. Reduce heat to simmer and cook mixture 5 minutes longer, stirring occasionally. Remove from heat and stir in yoghurt and cilantro.

Serve on warmed Naan bread or hamburger buns.

This can be yummy topped with a little mozzarella cheese too