I think we all have our “go-to” meals. For me that’s something that’s either in the freezer, fridge or cupboard. The stuff I make sure is always readily available, that doesn’t matter what kind of day I’m having, it’s appropriate and I can have it for lunch or dinner, especially if there’s nothing in the house for work. The rest is subject to change, whatever I feel like making for the week, something I want for a change or just something I want to try. But I don’t plan my shopping too far in advance.
What do I mean by foundations? These are my “go-to” meals, something that’s regularly on my radar and that I can be flexible with, usually something from the cupboard or fridge and something I can store in the freezer until I need it. It takes the stress out of last minute dinner options and they’re perfect for work if my shift changes or I get called in at the last minute. For me these meals usually are;
- Soup (I like to freeze soup and some bread for afternoon shifts at work – especially for quick shifts)
- Fritatta – I like fritattas because you can use the same base and add whatever you’d like
- Rice cakes and a small can of tuna
- Quick oats (this might seem odd, but it’s a nice option when you have nothing else, especially in winter)
I guess the thing to remember is that it has to be something that will last the week. If I was doing a meal plan because I had a harsh week at work and there wouldn’t be much room for preparation I would consider making up a large warm veggie salad to last a few days, but I would use it as either lunch or dinner for 2-3 days, I couldn’t keep it to have at the beginning of the week and again at the end. However options like this can work if you chop up all your ingredients and store them like that so all you have to do is pop them into a steamer or into the oven.
As for the grocery shopping I like to get the basics, include some healthy snacking options and maybe the ingredients for something new. I try to always include vegetables and they are versatile, but it’s sometimes good to have sauces in the cupboard on hand. I guess my aim is to visit the supermarket twice a week, with the second trip being just a top up trip. I think meal planning is very important if you don’t like wasting food like I don’t, and if you have a varying routine, or even just trying to save money. Make a list of everything you plan to be making in the next 3-4 days and go shopping only for those ingredients, have lunch or breakfast before you go so you don’t buy things impulsively and my strategy regarding treats is that I can buy one treat. I find I don’t always need it, but it can help on those days when you have a craving, I find it’s actually better to give in to a craving, but don’t go overboard. If you crave chocolate pick up a freddo frog or a cherry ripe, not a block of chocolate. Make your choices count.
I’m doing a big shop tomorrow, all I have on my list is some basic ingredients; veggies, milk, rice, fruit, tomato paste, spices, cheese, margarine… And for snacks I have crackers, dips and rice cakes.
It doesn’t have to be detailed to be healthy. You don’t need 30 ingredients for one dish, just pick the main vegetables you like and stick with them. You can make a number of different things with vegetables, fritattas, quiche, vegetable salad, pasta bake, bolognese, lasagne, shepherds pie… The list goes on. You can even just have them in their boring form if you want to.
My plan for this week is to have vegetable dishes for dinner – either a large dish of risotto or fried rice, that should last me 3-4 dishes, a batch of pumpkin soup and a shepherds pie with sweet potato on top instead of potato and plenty of chilli and curry. My breakfasts vary from oats to protein pancakes (banana, egg and oat bran), with some mushrooms and avocado. I’m planning snacks of crackers and dip, or rice cakes and toppings of tomato, cottage cheese and avocado.
I try not to buy too many packaged foods if I can. This week it will only be the sauces, dips, herbs and crackers/rice cakes. But, my next challenge I’m setting for myself is to get some recipes together for dips and sauces. That’s something I would love to work on, and get some basics down on paper so I can use them as a “go-to”.