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Since last week’s meal plan was such a hit, I thought people might appreciate some dinner ideas again this week! One thing I’ll be doing next week is using cooked meat on multiple days, in different meals. More batch cooking, since it’s my favorite way to plan meals that can be made quickly on weekdays. So without further ado, here are my picks:

Chicken Lettuce Wraps, made with leftover whole roast chicken (the recipe for which I will most definitely share)
Pulled Pork Salad
Stuffed Eggplant
Frittata with the already made Pulled Pork (with bell peppers/jalapenos/onion/garlic/mushrooms)
Cornish Hens with Roasted Broccoli
Cobb Salad with the leftover chicken from the Cornish Hens (always a hit!)

The cornish hens I buy from Findlay Market are no measley cornish hens, they weigh in at about a pound and a half each, which is considerably bigger than the ones I see at the grocery store. Consequently, I am generally full after eating only the leg/thigh half of my hen, and am able to save the entire breast for salad meat. If you have a bigger family, roasting a full size chicken will probably give you the amount of meat you will need to have roast chicken for dinner and cobb salad (or lettuce wraps) later in the week. Part of the fun of cornish hens is that everyone gets their own little chicken though, and who doesn’t like miniature food anyway?

I hope seeing my meal list is helpful to someone out there, I know I need some fresh ideas from time to time myself!

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When Adam and I moved to Ohio we went from two decent paychecks to one very measly one (for a while). As any one else who has gone through a financial famine will relate to, spending money on frivolities like eating out became impossible. Prior to moving, we would go to the grocery store together, pick out whatever new things looked interesting, get the “staples” like Pasta Roni, shredded cheese, and a giant tub of peanut butter, and possibly think up a few meals for the week while we were there. We always had frozen chicken breast, ground turkey, cheese, and enough tortillas to wallpaper a Taco Bell, so if nothing else we could always have quesadillas. But beside the random grocery shopping, we also ate out a lot. Probably 7-10 times per week if you count meals for each of us.

Fast forward to October 2007 and nary a fast food container could be found in our refrigerator or trash can. Why? Because spending $10 on a fast food meal for two people, which does not leave any leftovers, seemed like a preposterous waste of our precious few dollars. It was around this time that I began making a weekly meal plan, and with it a comprehensive shopping list. If it wasn’t on the list, it didn’t go in the cart! Yes, I was a cart-nazi for a while, but someone had to be. Making a meal plan and list helped to lower our food bills substantially, as did making sure that any leftovers we had got eaten and not wasted.

Fast forward one more time to May 2010, and although our income is infinitely better than it was in 2007, my meal plan is still my security blanket. I always think about my meals for the next week on Thursday, make a shopping list based on the things that I’ll need that aren’t currently in my refrigerator, freezer, or pantry, and do all of my shopping on Friday evening and Saturday morning. Friday evening I hit the stores that are closer to work (which include Costco and Whole Foods), and on Saturday I hit Findlay Market (which is an amazing farmer’s market and local market that I’ll post about later) and Kroger. I do spend more money on food now than I used to at the grocery store and farmer’s market, but overall our food bills are incredibly reasonable because we eat out far less than before. It might average two meals out per week over the course of a month (that’s Adam and I combined, not each). I cannot stress enough how much easier shopping and cooking at home are when you have a game plan, especially when it comes to hectic weeknights where you only have 45 minutes to get something healthy on the table. If you already know what ingredients you have on hand and what you’re making with them, you will be much more likely to eat at home than spend extra money eating out.

With that in mind, I’ll post my meal plan for next week, which is usually structured from Sunday to Saturday:

1. Coconut Pancakes with Bacon and Eggs (who doesn’t love breakfast for dinner?)
2. BBQ Chicken Legs with grilled asparagus
3. Hamburgers (without the bun of course) with sauteed mushrooms and onions, and all of the usual hamburger vegetables (tomato/red onion/lettuce…probably some avocado as well)
4. Cobb Salad
5. Coconut Crusted Chicken Tenders with Honey Mustard sauce and Roast Broccoli
6. Wings (Adam’s special request) with carrots and celery and a special Strawberry Crumble (which I will share with you later!)

There are only six meals here, but as I mentioned in my batch cooking post I like to cook enough food for a few meals every time I’m in the kitchen. So one night (at least) will be leftovers, and the rest of the leftovers will be eaten as lunch or breakfast.

I obviously keep fruit and extra vegetables around as well, but I don’t feel like posting my entire shopping list! If you’ve never made a meal plan before, or if you are a “buy what looks interesting” kind of person like I used to be (and a subsequent food waster, because many times I would forget to use some of my “interesting” things), try making a list and sticking to it this week. Hopefully it will encourage you to eat at home more than you eat out!