Meal planning

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The husband and I do a lot of cooking. It’s a habit we started when we first moved to D.C. and realized we had to become adults.

Back in college I only ever cooked stir-fry, boxed cookies/cakes and spaghetti. I’m unsure of what that means I actually ate for four years. Post-college living was clear I would have to really learn how to cook. One can’t survive off spaghetti alone even if I wish that were true.

We started small — hot dogs and other prepared-type meals. It was clear though that the husband liked cooking. I soon realized I’d have to plan out meals in advance because running to the grocery store every day wasn’t much of an option. Plus, who really wants to do that?

So every Sunday we sit down and painstakingly make a list of meals for the week.

Sure there’s always a day that changes — either we decide we don’t really feel like eating what’s on the menu, there’s not enough time to cook it or we’re just too lazy to cook entirely.

But for the most part this meal planning has been very successful. The process of making the list is quite difficult, mostly just thinking of the ideas. See ever since that four years ago, this whole meal planning process has been mostly about trying new things.

Not every thing works out (take the most recent enchilada failure), but sometimes we find a recipe worth keeping. And coming back to.

This is one reason I love Pinterest. Now I just scroll through my pins and pick out what sounds interesting. Then, of course, we have to agree on it. That’s really the difficult part. I could eat pasta several times a week. The husband will only do it once — at the most, if at all.

So how exactly do I plan meals? I like to try new things so new recipes are generally on the list. I also divide the week up into vegetarian meals and a few meat options. I always include some vegetable side dish and a protein. Honestly, we try to limit the carbs.

I like to do one Mexican-style dish, because it’s easy and always scrumptious, and one pasta night, but this doesn’t always have to be spaghetti and rarely is. Take this week, for example, we made gnocchi mac and cheese and chicken avocado enchiladas (the failure. I’m only linking so you don’t make the same mistake).

I have a few stand-bys in case we can’t decide on anything — grilled cheese with canned soups, hot dogs, black bean burgers or BLT pitas, for example. And then the rest we argue over until we’ve come up with enough meals to get us through the week.

It can be frustrating and tiresome, but its the only way we know we’re trying something new.

That first year of cooking wasn’t very exciting, but we’ve grown and become more adventurous. Now, I think, we both enjoy our time in the kitchen together. That’s what it is. Most nights we both cook (and clean). It’s a bit relaxing, enjoyable and, of course, delicious.

Just for inspiration, here are some of our past meals & recipes:

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Grilled chicken with sauteed spinach and baked parmesan tomatoes

Steak with roasted potatoes and salad

Sausage and peppers with salad

Apple and sage pork chops with collard greens

Turkey stuffed bell peppers with salad

Japchae with edamame

And this week’s menu:

Cholay with basmati rice (one of our tried and tested favorites)

gnocchi mac and cheese with salad

Bean taco salad

Lamb naan “pizzas” with Greek salad

Chicken thighs (this new recipe) with roasted sweet potatoes and broccoli

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