In our house, dinner is often discussed over breakfast. The dreaded question, “What do you want for dinner?” usually elicits a heavy sigh. Despite being farmers and enthusiastic cooks with access to seasonal vegetables and a wide variety of meat on hand, meal planning isn’t any easier for us than it might be for you.
Don’t wait for the perfect tool! We use a weekly calendar to identify daily activities on the farm, including tasks for the week and supplies we need to purchase. This tool takes that one step further, with space to note what you’ll be cooking and the ingredients you need – meat, vegetables, etc. Simply print one each Friday and bring along to your favorite farmers market on Saturday.
Begin defrosting meat on Sunday to avoid meal prep panic. Pull all the meat you’ll be using in recipes throughout the week and corral it in a shallow glass pan or bowl on the lowest shelf in your fridge.
Choose recipes that use what you may already have on hand or in your freezer. Rather than selecting yummy recipes at random consider what the recipes have in common. For instance, you could cook a whole chicken that is served first with roast potatoes, then as a chicken pot pie and later in the week as an egg drop soup. Ideas by type of meat can be found here.
Prep as you plan. As you look at your week’s menu identify items that you can prep on Sunday afternoon. These might include chopped or sauteed onions or garlic, grated cheese or the whole roast chicken that will be the mainstay of your week’s menu.
Make Mondays easy! In order for meal planning to work, make it achievable. Having Monday’s meal be one that is simple to put together or has been prepped on Sunday will increase your likelihood of success.
Consider using themes to inspire your recipe selection. Sometimes called “meal themes” this is one way to give your meal plan some structure and familiarity without becoming as mind-numbingly predictable as the school cafeteria.
Mini Turkey Meatloaves – not quite a meatball per se, but pretty darn close!
Jumbo BBQ Beef Meatballs
Shakshuka – as easy as breakfast for dinner, but with a bit more adventure.
Baked Eggs with Spinach & Mushrooms – can be 100% local year-round in Maine.
Building from any one of these ideas consider pairing prep for two meals. Plan-overs can also ensure you have a meal ready for the next night. See Christine Burns Rudalevige’s delightful cookbook, Green Plate Special for more ideas!