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My New Meal Planning Strategy

How G and I got back on track after vacation.
Image from iOS

Recently on a call with my dad, I was complimenting the fact that every single day, even when he worked full-time, he'd stop at the store to buy groceries on his way home to prepare dinner for our family. Sometimes, it was a simple recipe he's made countless times. Other days, he made something he saw in the New York Times' Cooking section just hours earlier. 

For me, the idea of stopping at the market every day feels like an overwhelmingly daunting task (and maybe that's, in part, because going to the store in L.A. is a far cry from the "lovely experience with tons of parking," where my dad shops in Mill Valley). And it got me thinking: There's really no right way to meal plan. My dad buys groceries everyday and Leslie buys staples on Sunday to make creative meals during the week. But neither of those options felt quite right for my family. 

What we're trying out now is a slightly middle-ground approach: On Sundays, we go to our local farmer's market and load up on enough raw ingredients and prepared food to make a variety of different meals that will last us until Wednesday. This way, because G and I get bored easily, we avoid falling into what we call the "takeout-out trap" with enough semi-homemade options and raw ingredients that we can easily mix and match into simple lunches and dinners. Our recent strategy has helped us not only get back on track post-vacation, but figure out a food routine that works for us. Here's how we've approached meal planning lately:

First, we grab prepared spreads, like hummus and tzatziki, for snacks and sides of meals. We also make sure to pick up some freshly made pasta and pesto, which makes for an amazing meal without all of the legwork. 

While we're at the farmers market, we buy a ton of vegetables and herbs for the week, like potatoes, broccoli, cauliflower, carrots, and cucumber. 

As soon as we get back, G fires up the grill and cooks both steak and chicken in a simple marinade that's delicious enough to stand on its own but also neutral enough to dress up and pair with most other food in our fridge. Meanwhile, I dress and roast the vegetables with some lemon and herbs, and cut-up fruits and raw vegetables. Here are some of the items we've been buying: 

Vegetables: Roasted vegetable medley, tomatoes, cucumber, romaine, butter lettuce

Fruit: Mango, plums, watermelon, raspberries (perfect for sweet cravings, instead of candy)

Protein: Eggs (hard-boiled eggs are a favorite snack for us), chicken, steak

Dairy: Milk 

Pre-made: Hummus, fresh pasta, tamales, tzatziki, bean salad, dressings, pesto

Grocery store: Black beans, rice (to fortify dishes)

Not a beautiful photo, but a simple salad I made from mango, storebought dressing, and steak.

Not a beautiful photo, but a simple salad I made from mango, storebought dressing, and steak.

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