(Meal) Planning After Wedding Planning
I secretly feared that after the wedding, my opportunities for planning would fall off a cliff into a deep abyss of nothingness. While we were always intentional about planning for a marriage, I genuinely enjoyed the months of planning for the wedding day. Planning, researching, conceptualising, sourcing the materials, making and ticking off the to-do list, watching ideas transform and take shape, building relationships with suppliers, bringing a vision to life - all these tangible aspects of planning feed my soul, bring me joy, and give me hope that the finished product will be a gift for others to enjoy too.
I am extremely happy to tell you that post-wedding, a whole new world of planning awaits you. You will need a new notebook with a matching pen, for all the planning, coordination and conceptualising you will be doing. Marriage has awakened new interests and provided new opportunities for me to use my gift of planning daily. I have excitedly replaced purchasing wedding planning magazines with food and home magazines!
One of my favourite things to plan since we got married is meals. I come from a long line of great cooks. Each cook in my family has a unique and natural flair. I am so grateful to have their blood run through my veins and I have enjoyed flexing my culinary muscles in my own kitchen over the past few months. We eat late in our household (9pm!). I prefer to wait for Drew to arrive back from work to eat together, and I enjoy having the time and space to bring recipes to life with a touch of some Country/Pop tracks as I await his arrival. While our home is small, I make the most of the long kitchen counter tops, for I am known to use every single pot and spoon we own. This me-time after work is very therapeutic - it’s one of the physical ways I help myself separate from Counsellor Simone, to just Simone, to be present at home, to fill my own tank and gift myself with self-care, cooking away any stresses of the day, preparing to serve and share the cooked creation with Drew, at our little table in our little house.
I like to try different recipes every week, (and pretend I am entering MasterChef). From these, we choose our family favourites to add to a list of fool-proof recipes for when I lack the time or inspiration for anything fit for MasterChef. Since being married, the budget for food has doubled. To try and keep this more in check, I do the following to plan quick, healthy, affordable, simple meals:
1. Plan ahead.
I wake up earlier on Sunday mornings, and plan our meals for the week ahead before church so that after the service we can do our grocery shopping together. Planning meals takes time but see it as a way to serve your household. I love grocery shopping, but it's always more fun when we get to do it together! To prevent repeated visits to the shops, or forgetting ingredients, I allocate two grocery shopping stops a week, usually on a Sunday for the start of the week and on a Thursday for anything that needs to be purchased fresh for the weekend ahead.
In my planning I identify how many meals I will need for the week and how much time I will have each night to prepare the meals so that I can choose appropriately.
2. Alleviate the stress of cooking and enjoy it more!
The general ‘what's for dinner?’ takes up mental energy that can better be used. As with anything, having a written plan takes the uncertainty and stress out of the situation. Knowing in advance what the meal is for the evening, reduces my stress and ensures I take out everything I need to defrost or prepare before I leave home for the day.
3. Start with what you have
As an amateur cook I repeatedly made the mistake of not using my produce before it expires - such a waste! So now I make a list of what I have left over in the fridge or cupboard that needs to be used and find recipes with these ingredients.
4. Do not reinvent the wheel
If you read my 6 Style Conscious Tips you will know that I don’t believe in reinventing the wheel, if someone else has already perfected it. There are fantastic books and online platforms filled with delicious recipes perfected by someone else.
Depending on the ingredients that I have in my fridge or cupboard or in response to a craving I may have for a particular cuisine, I use Pinterest or Tasty apps to search for recipes. I save them into folders/ boards to refer to later. Pastas are a firm favourite in our home - they are quick, go a long way, and can include many of the ingredients you have left over that need to be used.
I use the ingredients I have or want to use as the keyword and finish it off with recipes.
Example: sour cream recipes (this is how I found the Three Cheeses Noodle Bake above), mushroom pasta recipes.
5. Add variety
Meal planning may appear to be rigid and boring, but statistically families are likely to eat the same meals over and over if they don’t meal plan. Meal planning allows us to ensure variety and prevent falling into the trap of eating the same meals over and over again. It helps expose us to a wider range of nutrients too. Travel the world in your kitchen! Its fun to add a piece of a different cuisine experience in your kitchen.
6. Cooking for 2, not 22.
I have a Portuguese and Jewish heritage, and as a result, there is no such thing as too much food! I am prone to over catering, preferring left overs that last for days to not enough food. But cooking for 2 is a real skill that I am very much still learning. Grocery stores cater more for families of 4-6 than families of 2, so choosing recipes for the week that can incorporate that massive bunch of spring onion or doubling the meal up so you have left overs for lunch the next day will help prevent waste and overspending. When making your list of ingredients noting the quantity for the number of people will also assist you in your buying.
7. Look out for specials
We are guilty of shopping out of convenience. We choose one supermarket and purchase everything there, but some supermarkets are better for fresh produce and meat, others have cheaper non-perishables and others have incredible specials on household cleaning products. Get in the habit early on of dividing your shopping list between the different stores, making use of the specials on offer and it will save you money.
8. Create a template
I use the following template of the general foods I cook in a week, and this guides my recipe research. Drew is allergic to fish and seafood, otherwise I would substitute one of the following for a fish dish.
1x stir fry
1x pasta/ pasta bake
1x meal from a different cuisine from around the world
1x quick meal (20 minutes or less) for nights we have cell group/ prayer meeting/ evening event.
1x one pot/ one sheet pan meal
9. An Example of Our Week Meal Plan (with recipe links)
For this week, mince and chicken are my proteins. I chose meals that I could divide 6 pieces of chicken, reuse the guacamole and sour cream, use the left over double cream/ sour cream/ pouring cream in other dishes, and use the shredded mozzarella cheese in two of the dishes. Naan bread and Taco shells can be frozen for next time if you don't use them all.
Monday: 3 Cheeses, Mince & Noodle Bake
Tuesday (quick meal): Oven Chicken Schnitzels & Roasting Mediterranean Veg
Wednesday: Sheet Pan Chicken Fatijas (with Naan, Guac and Sour Cream)
Thursday: Creamy Mushroom Pasta
Friday: Chicken Tacos (use the leftovers of the Guac and Sour Cream)
I love how cooking tells a story. Some of our favourite memories are shared over a meal and breaking bread together. Many childhood stories that we recount include an experience of cooking or baking - the kitchen is so much at the heart of a home. I think the way we cook reveals so much about who we are as a family. offering insight into our family culture and ethos. The types of meals we prepare and the way we choose to enjoy them speaks into the values we hold as a family. Cooking truly is LOVE MADE VISIBLE. Home cooked meals bring you right back to where you belong.
Happy Meal Planning!
______________________________________ X __________________________________________