Most weeks I have all my menu planning and shopping lists ready to go for an easy grocery store trip by the time Saturday rolls around. Some weeks *cough* this one *cough* I’m sitting at the Starbucks inside Safeway scrolling through Pinterest for healthy dinner ideas while my venti Americano rapidly disappears and the clock ticks down. Although I spent most of the evening before going between the fridge and the pantry looking for a nonexistent dessert, I have somehow forgotten what my kitchen even looks like.
I could just buy 5 boxes of Kraft mac & cheese and call it an experiment in reliving my childhood years, but that option is probably unwise given my general desire for health. Since we’re in the middle of our big move, I’d also like to avoid overspending on food for the week.
My solution? It’s a bit of a two-parter, and the second half takes a little more work over time. Once you have it down though, weeks like this get so much easier!
What’s the easy part?
First, I hit the sale meat section of the store and pick up pork chops and a pork roast. Why all the pork? Well, my fiancé had put in a request for a slight chicken-break and pork was on sale. One of my local grocery stores tends to really mark down their meats when they’re a day from the expiration, and I have no problem throwing those in the freezer until I need them later in the week. Since we’re omnivores at my house, most meals revolve around the protein (especially since it’s often the most expensive grocery).
Alright, what’s the slightly harder part?
Second, I’ve found over time the ingredients that have these things in common:
- They last longer in the fridge or pantry
- They work well in multiple cuisines and with one another
- They round out the protein-fat-carb balance of my meals
- They’re inexpensive
I often turn to a basic set of general meal ideas for the week and rotate through them. I love to have taco nights, “Buddha bowl” choose your own adventures, meat and veggies roasted on a single sheet or sauteed in a single pan, and easy 2 or 3 ingredient slow cooker and instant pot meals.
What ingredients do I keep on hand to make this happen?
In the fridge, I always have:
- Zucchini and bell peppers as my veggies
- Kale to be a sturdy salad base or for sautéing
- Greek yogurt or cheese to top most dishes
In the pantry, I keep on hand:
- A jar of salsa for adding to any Mexican dish (especially as a salad dressing!) or to make instant pot salsa chicken
- Onions and garlic for, well, everything
- Corn tortillas for tacos (they last longer than flour I’ve found)
- Grains like brown rice or quinoa plus canned tomatoes and beans
- Pre-made spice mixes for Mexican, Asian, and Italian foods (I love Penzeys for their quality, plus you can buy small quantities of their mixes for pretty cheap to try out)
This is all in addition to what you’d find in a pretty run-of-the-mill kitchen, like cooking oils and a vinegar or two.
So do I just make up recipes?
If I had to make up a recipe on the fly every night I’d be tearing my hair out. Once I have a general idea of what I’d like to make (Monday is Asian taco night, Tuesday is a Mexican burrito bowl, etc.) I go through my favorite healthy food blogs, like Skinnytaste and Gimme Some Oven for simple recipes that fit my general outline and the ingredients I have on hand.
This week I’m making Instant Pot BBQ Pulled Pork since I had extra BBQ sauce in the back of the fridge, Maple Glazed Balsamic Pork Chops and Slow Cooker Pork Chops with Peach Salsa among a few other recipes. I keep a Pinterest board going with just the recipes I’m aiming to make that week and update it regularly.
I often plan some substitutions to squeak by with recipes as well. That fresh peach salsa does sound good, but I also have a canned version in the cabinet.
But what do I do if I have food that’s about to go bad?
My favorite part of this lazy meal plan is that I reserve a day at the end of the week to make an everything-but-the-kitchen-sink style meal. Salads and Buddha bowls are especially good for this, and it’s usually easy to incorporate all the odds and ends from the week into a single meal.
I’ll be back on Sunday to check in with how it all went. I hope this helps you figure out a few new ways to eat healthy, wealthy and wise!