A reader of mine had a great suggestion for a post. She sent me this message on Twitter: “hey Lisa, I was wondering if by any chance you could sometime do a post on you and Michael’s weekly grocery shopping? It always seems like you have awesome food on hand all the time, and I’m really struggling with meals/planning/eating.” Great topic! And thank you for idea, SMM.
Michael and I weren’t meal planners for a long time but at the beginning of 2011 we decided to give it a try. We were both sick and tired of making multiple trips to the grocery store each week to get stuff for dinner. I hated stopping at the store for one or two items after work, or even worse–on the way home from the gym when I was starving and cranky. We needed to have a better plan and have things on hand.
Things We Always Have On Hand
Chicken. We buy the chicken thighs at Costco. They are much cheaper than the boneless breasts and we both really prefer them. We put the chicken in the freezer and a few days before we plan on having it, I’ll take one package out of the freezer (there are usually 4 thighs in a pack).
Salmon. Of course we’d prefer to have fresh salmon but that’s really expensive. We buy the salmon at Costco and always have a bag in the freezer. It’s perfect for last minute dinners.
Other Seafood. We also have bags of scallops and shrimp in the freezer. Shrimp is a easy, fast and low calorie protein to have for dinner!
Turkey. Every few months Michael will buy lean ground turkey at Costco and make up turkey burger patties and then freeze them. The patties defrost well and make delicious turkey burgers. We’ll also keep one or two packets of ground turkey in the freezer to make tacos. Fast and easy.
Black Beans. Also a Costco item. We eat a lot of beans so we make sure we never run out of beans. Beans are a good staple for salads, soups, tacos, taco salads, egg dishes, the list is never ending.
Lettuce. Another Costco item. We buy the tub of baby spinach or mixed greens about twice a month. We eat a lot of salads and there’s often nights when we don’t feel like cooking and will just make a big taco salad.
Chicken/Veggie Broth. Stock up at Costco! I can’t express how crucial broth is to have on hand. So many recipes call for chicken broth and it sucks when you realize mid-cooking that you’re out of broth.
Those are just a few things we always have on hand and then build our meals around those staples. Once a week we make a list of things to get for the following week’s meals. There are the basics that we get every week: salsa, sour cream, plain Greek yogurt, milk, veggies and other meats. We get pork chops or a cut of steak maybe two or three times a month. I also buy fresh veggies (and lots of them) once a week.
Now The Recipes!
I have collected a massive quantity of recipes that I want to try. Some recipes are from blogs I read, some are from healthy eating websites I love, some from StumbleUpon, some are from friends and cookbooks that I’ve collected. I send all the recipes I want to try to my gmail account and then archive them into folders according to recipe type–main dish, appetizer/side dish and dessert.
Whenever I want to try a new recipe, I pull it up and check to see that I have all the ingredients the week before we make it. I tend to collect recipes for foods that we usually have on hand. If I don’t have something I just add it to the list.
Now The Meals!
Our meals are really simple these days: a protein with veggies. Having a simple meal like that makes it REALLY easy to make nutritious dinners without a lot of effort. Meat and veggies go perfectly together.
Our dinners aren’t always recipes. Sometimes it’s just salmon cooked in a skillet with steamed veggies and a salad. If I do recipes during the week they are fast recipes, classified as “easy” and with very few ingredients. I love recipes that have less than 8 ingredients!
QUESTION: What’s your trick for planning awesome meals?