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Monday, December 5, 2011

Menu Plan Monday: Cooking for Health, Simplicity, and on a Budget

After pigging out over Thanksgiving and leaving my sister's house feeling bloated, gassy, and pretty awful, I decided something had to give. I have done some menu planning in the past, but I often get overwhelmed and can't even decide on what to make on a given day, much less all week. I don't stick to my plan, or I get so caught up in finding new recipes that the actual prep and cooking becomes a kind of olympics of its own.

My body has also been hinting lately that gluten and I just don't agree, which makes menu planning for my picky family a little difficult. Little M and I love veggies. Big T and Baby T don't. But if I don't have healthy foods on hand, I'll just snack on bread, pretzels, and crackers--stuff that doesn't make my body feel good.

But my friends and I have been talking lately about how we can somehow join forces to share recipes, cook in bulk together, or otherwise help each other eat clean or stick to a meal plan, and this inspired me. So last Sunday, I decided to not only plan my meals for the week, but to cook them too. That's because--as you know--I can't just make things simple.

This was my plan (I eat at my in-laws' on Fridays and Sundays):
Monday: Cranberry chicken, Brown rice, Summer veggie gratin
Tuesday: Thai chicken patties, Gluten free hamburger buns, Twice baked potatoes
Wednesday: Chicken enchiladas
Thursday: Leftover roasted chicken, Roasted cauliflower with kalamata olive vinaigrette
Saturday: Flank steak, Shredded and roasted brussels sprouts, Homemade potato chips

This was my method:
I ended up spending about $200 at Costco and $40 at the regular grocery store on Sunday morning. Then I went home and started cooking. This is what I did:
  1. Cut up a raw, whole chicken. Separated the breasts to use in the cranberry chicken and put the dark meat into the food processor for the thai chicken patties.
  2. Put the chicken carcass into the slow cooker.
  3. Assembled the cranberry chicken and put it in the fridge, ready to transfer to the oven on Monday.
  4. Cooked a big pot of brown rice and put it in the fridge.
  5. Cut up a ton of onions and put them in the freezer, individually packaged in cup-sized portions.
  6. Added onions and other ingredients to food processor. Chopped everything up, formed into patties, and pan fried until browned and almost cooked through. (I didn't really measure, and this made 6 patties. I put 3 in the fridge for this week and 3 in the freezer.)
  7. Started the enchilada sauce in a pot on the stove. Doubled the recipe.
  8. Brined and roasted the chicken.
  9. Prepared 2 portions of veggie gratin (without actually baking it). Put one in the fridge and one in the freezer.
That was about all I could handle after 3 hours in the kitchen on Sunday. I ended up making the twice baked potatoes on Tuesday, assembling the enchiladas (and putting one in the freezer) on Wednesday, and roasting the cauliflower and brussels sprouts on Thursday. (I ate all the cauliflower for lunch the rest of the week and put a bag of shredded brussels sprouts in the freezer without roasting them. I'm not sure how those will come out). I marinated the flank steak and sliced and cooked the potato chips on Saturday.

By the end of the day on Sunday, my back ached and I felt like I hadn't seen Big T all day. I was sure this bulk cooking wasn't going to last. But even though I had to cook some each day during the week, I had so much healthy food on hand that I ate really well.

And the best part is that I have tons of food in the freezer for future meals (I have a pot of veggie gratin, enchiladas, tons of twice-baked potatoes, a flank steak, some shredded brussels sprouts, and tons of chopped onion to cook with this coming month). I will probably spend less than $50 at the grocery store this coming week.

I'm going to try to keep you posted with recipe ideas and menu planning tips, just because if it works for me, I'd love to share. If meal planning has worked for you, please feel free to give me some tips too or link up to a meal planning post in the comments!

For more meal planning obsessiveness inspiration, check out!


Charise @ I Thought I Knew Mama said... Best Blogger Tips

Very inspiring! Good for you!

Sarah E. said... Best Blogger Tips

That cranberry chicken sounds amazing!

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