We’ve talked already about keeping it simple at first. But one of the advantages of using a meal plan is that you can to mix it up and add in some variety. You aren’t just stuck with the “what’s for dinner” panic, making the same 6 or so meals every week because its the only thing you can think of. When you meal plan, you plan in your variety, your challenges, your fun!
My biggest recommendation to you though, about adding variety, is to save any new recipes or new items you want to add to your repertoire for the weekend or whichever day you have the least going on. If you’re in a rush, or you’ve got a hungry family to feed, your chances for success are somewhat diminished. It’s hard to concentrate on reading a cookbook and you might start to feel like you can’t do it. Best to save the new stuff for when you’ve got the time to focus on it. Make it a few times until you think you’ve got the hang of it enough to tackle it on a busy weeknight with only a few quick glances at your recipe.
Ok, so here are a few ways that I’ve started adding some some variety to my meal plan:
- For health, plan for two vegetables of different colour on my plate every dinner
- Choose a new recipe from a cookbook (sometimes I’ll work my way through a particular cookbook over a month or two) every week
- Plan one meal a week from a different culture and do it as authentically as I can
- Plan one meal a week that is nutritious but on the table in under 20 minutes (this sometimes involves pre-cutting or partial cooking the night before)
- Plan two or three vegetarian meals a week
- Work with a new, maybe seasonal ingredient, once a week
- Follow my favorite food blogger and recreate one of his or her recipes from the week
- Pick-up a tasty looking cooking magazine and ‘cook the issue’ over the course of a month
- Pick your favorite take-out/eating-out meal and start incorporating it into your meal plan by replicating it at home. Practice makes perfect so keep trying to emulate it until you’ve got it just right
Monday — Mac and cheese (special request from our Pre-schooler)
Tuesday — Braised chicken and white beans with salad greens (the one new recipe)
Wednesday — Omelettes or frittata with veggies to use up any odds and ends, and roasted potatoes
Thursday — Pizza (probably take-out), cucumber and carrot sticks
Friday — Chinese dumpling and noodle soup with veggies
Saturday — Pork schnitzel, coleslaw, potatoes and carrots
As always, stay flexible. If the challenge feels too daunting, there’s nothing wrong with eggs and bacon or grilled cheese sandwiches for dinner. You still get to revel in the fact that you managed to feed your family without ordering in or losing your mind.
What about you, then? I know that we’re already talking about adding ‘culture’ meals to our repertoire to add variety, but what other ways do you have to spice up your meal planning and stay creative and interested in cooking? Do you challenge yourself when you cook?
Have a great weekend and we’ll see you next month!