Meal planning is my lifeline. Knowing what comes next in the kitchen keeps me grounded and helps my entire day tick through its marks. Some weeks the meal plan is aspirational with mounds of new recipes to try and lots of new ingredients to work with. Sometimes it’s a simple rotation of rice and beans, tacos, and pasta. The best weeks though? Those are the ones with the perfect blend of what my husband lovingly calls “stovetop classics” and a teeny bit of new to keep everyone on their toes. Achieving this week to week without burning out has taken a lot of trial and error, where errors equal take out pizzas. Not the worst, but if we are eating out I’d rather it be an outing and opportunity to spend time together.
I have found that the key to sustaining a meal planning habit over the years (for me) has been to simplify and pare down the number of ingredients that I work with. Everything in my cookbook collection and everything at the grocery store is really just far too large a place to start. Paring down that everything to focus on what is in season, eliminates one of the most paralyzing parts of meal planning – where to begin.
You can apply this same philosophy to other parts of the kitchen, too. Instead of starting from “everything is game”, I now plan around a couple of base ingredients like barley and pinto beans and only keep a couple of kinds of fruit around.
Over the next few weeks, I’ll be walking through a bit of how meal planning works in my kitchen. What kinds of things do I need to keep around to make weekday meals come off more easily? How do you get through a pound of <fill in grain or legume> without boring of it by mid-week? Most importantly, how to start on a small scale so you don’t get overwhelmed and quit after a couple of weeks. Meal prep, pantry building, and shopping tips for you along the way, too.
Using a pound of chickpeas as a base ingredient to get us started so stay tuned!