10 tips to smoothly manage your weekly menus. What to keep in mind while buying, how to prep and how to plan for those dreaded “I couldn’t cook days”
So you guys have been following the weekly menu’s posted here for sometime now and so many of you have written to me saying how helpful they, at the same time so many say they are still grappling with streamlining it, with how to plan and what to do when the planning doesn’t work. So instead of my weekly menu today sharing a few tips on how I make things smooth in crazy work week. Because sometimes working from home does not translate into smooth running of everything, infact people who work from home will tell you how chaotic it gets on time and everyone knows that people who work out of home have it tough anyways and well even if you are a stay at home parent even then a little more structure is always welcome isn’t it
1. Get the whole family involved in weekly meal planning : I know this can get tedious, take a little more time than doing it all by yourself but I cannot insist enough it’s important. Think of the reasons on why your weekly meal planning could fail and one of the main reasons could be members of the family saying “but I don’t want to eat this”. Involving them in the weekly meal planning is like getting their commitment on following in it. We sorted it together and hence we eat together. Besides, I am a strong believer of the fact that kids and the adults not responsible for putting food on table should be aware of what really goes on to get that food there and this is a way of making everyone aware of it. Respect the food on the table a bit more than they would have and not take things for granted that we as a generation are getting used to of now.
2. Think about the nutrition balance : Are you eating all carbs and less protein or vice versa, are there vegetables and fruits of all kinds in your week? I find it easier to do this when I have the whole week’s menu in front of me together. We as humans have a tendency to eat stuff we like and with our focus & concentration getting more fickle as we go ahead it is easy to focus on a few favorite vegetables and meats. Also it helps me plan the treats better, if the child wants a pizza night why not if he has had 5 days of eating his veggies and fruits. If he wants a chocolate on Friday to school snack, it’s ok because I know the rest of the time I am sending healthy snacks. So in a nutshell use the meal planning to see the bigger picture and balance.
3. Grocery Shopping : Fix a time, whether you like to do it online or go to the store or go to the vegetable & fish market. Draw up a list of things you need for the week and systematically shop. There will be impulse buy’s but if they are not perishables that go bad in a week use them as a guidance for your next week’s menu. Personally I have turned into an online shopper (stay tuned a guide for online grocery shopping in Bangalore coming soon) but I keep one week a month aside for the visit to a physical market since it gives the sense of feel and what’s happening. Figure out what works for you the best and follow it.
4. Prep Ahead, Part Cook Meals : This probably is one of the key things that can make or break your weekly meal planning in IMHO. Think of it, you have a mid week chutney sandwich or arrabiata pasta and you start making your sauce on a working morning, a clear recipe for disaster. So spend time on a Sunday evening and prep. If you are hard pressed on time in weekdays, I would even suggest part cook some of the meals, like boil dal and keep, or chop your veggies and put it in a ziploc. But prep, prep, prep to make your week better.
5. Check for seasonal produce & weather : In the past few years, my focus has been on eating local and eating seasonal and I always make sure I check what’s in the season while planning my meals. A simple research will tell you it’s best to avoid fish in monsoons and if avarkai is in season why not make the most of it to cook the local delicacies. Besides, seasonal produce is always cheaper and healthier. Also think about the weather, in the current heat no one wants to drink soup plus red meats are tougher to digest in the hot weather so do considering the seasonal stuff in mind
6. Pick a style that works for you : Are you the person who likes to cook a lot when they get in the kitchen and then not bother about it for next 2-3 days or you like to cook one meal at a time or somewhere in between. Recognising this will help you plan and play to your strengths and the use the vegetables and the groceries the right away. For eg, if you are going to be cooking for 4 days on Sunday it won’t matter if you put your palak paneer on the menu on Thursday whereas if you cook a meal a day, you might want to use the palak in the first two days of shopping. So recognise that and play with it.
7. Sort your recipes : It can be very irritating when you start cooking and can’t find the recipe so pick a way to sort them, bookmarks, emails, print outs of Pinterest, which personally works the best for me. So chose what works for you and stay with it. Follow me on Pinterest if you aren’t already, I pin a lot of fun food stuff : https://in.pinterest.com/monikamanchanda/
8. Plan for leftovers : If you have seen my past menus, I atleast have two meals of leftovers or flex in my menu because how much ever you plan leftovers will happen and why waste them when you can reheat them eat or turn them into something delicious quickly
9. Plan for the I couldn’t cook days : Ok, this is confession time, inspite of all the above, there have been and will be times when 15 mins from meal time I realise “freak I couldn’t cook today”. Some months ago the only thing I would do at that time is press home delivery button and order in but over time I realised even the hastily put together junk meal at home is far better than ordering in on a regular basis. I do order now and then but the frequency has come down so much. So how does one plan for this, I suggest a set of standard meal options for these days. Here are a few options that we use at home.
- Toast, Eggs, Sausages. It takes exactly 15 mins to put this meal together, chop some veggies and throw into the eggs or serve along to make it even more healthier
- Dosa, chutney. It takes 5-6 minutes to put together a coconut chutney (grate and freeze coconut) and if you have dosa batter ready 5 mins to make dosas. If you don’t have dosa batter ready. ID has a readymade batter which is pretty good which even your neighbourhood shop has so buying is not tough at all.
- Pasta, I usually make a batch of sauce, tomato and pesto and freeze. So a quick thaw of sauce (5 mins), boil pasta (8 mins), stir together (2 mins) and there is perfectly healthy meal in under 15 mins. You can even buy ready sauces and store if you don’t like to cook and freeze.
- Sandwiches : Whatever veggies in the fridge, some dips like pesto, mayo, hung curd and you have a perfectly healthy meal going and it does not take more than 10 minutes to put together a sandwich
- Dal parantha or Thepla. Knead the dough and keep ahead, in an airtight containers it lasts a week. On the days you need cook paranthas and serve with c
hutney/pickle and curd. Perfectly healthy meal and if you are lucky and don’t have a “I couldn’t cook day” in the week, roll them out on your roti-sabji days for an even healthier meal
- Ready paranthas with eggs or chutney and pickle. My most lazy meal but there are days when one can do with it. Again ID has a series of paranthas and rotis which are preservative free and 100% whole wheat. Scramble together some eggs, or take out those boiled potatoes from the fridge and sauté, you can even make this quick microwave aloo mutter for a perfect meal. Yes another must I have in the fridge for me is boiled potatoes.
- Maggi. You didn’t think this list would end without it, did you :). Remember what I said about the bigger picture earlier in the post so once in a while indulge in that bowl of maggi.
10. Be consistent : Stick to it, be consistent as everything else in life. You won’t see the results in week one but stick to it enough and you will see your life changing for good.
All past menu’s for a little motivation and ideas here
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