Those who know me well know that I have a passion for meal planning. I love scouring my cookbook collection and favorite recipe blogs to find new recipes to try, and choosing the recipes (which some people think is a chore??) is actually my favorite part. Although there are several “house favorite” recipes that make their way into our meal plan time and time again, each week I am often trying anywhere from one to four new recipes, inspired by what is in season, what I have in the fridge and pantry that needs to get used up, and what I think would travel/reheat well for work lunches (no leftover fish, nothing with too many components).
For breakfast, I tend to eat the same thing almost every single week day (this in the summer, this in the winter) so I just make sure that I am well stocked on those breakfast staples. Dave favors something quick and easy for breakfast. Sometimes it is whole grain English muffins with peanut butter, sometimes it is instant oatmeal packets, and sometimes (like this week!) I will make a frittata for us on Sunday for brunch, and then he reheats the leftovers throughout the week. In terms of snacks, we also typically bring a yogurt cup (loving these lately!) or have a handful each of dried apricots and pistachios.
I’ve been getting a lot of questions lately about my meal planning strategy and my favorite recipes, so today I’m sharing two examples of my weekly meal plan for a two-adult household, along with the corresponding grocery lists. I typically select 4 entree recipes that make 4-6 servings each, which ends up covering most weekday meals for both of us, using a mix of seafood, chicken, and vegan (usually bean or lentil) protein options. [Note: Snack and breakfast items are not included on grocery lists below, nor are other “non-recipe” staples like milk and eggs.]
Red Lentil Zucchini Curry over Quinoa // This feels almost cruel to include because there has been such a painful shortage of red lentils at Whole Foods lately, but it is hands-down my favorite vegan entree, and reheats beautifully in the microwave for work lunches. No need to use broth to cook the lentils — I always use water and it tastes great. I also tend to use olive oil instead of coconut (though either will work) and I usually skip the cilantro and lime when bringing it to work (but not the dollop of plain Greek yogurt for garnish, which I love!). While the curry is simmering, I cook 1 cup (uncooked volume) of quinoa and portion it into 5 tupperwares (instead of the white rice called for in this recipe). Then, when the curry is done and cooled a little, I divide the curry into 5 equal servings by spooning it into the tupperwares.
Salmon Stuffed Acorn Squash // To make this recipe gluten-free, feel free to take a heaping quarter cup of nuts (like walnuts or almonds) in a ziploc bag and crush them with a rolling pin until they reach a breadcrumb-like consistency (in place of the whole wheat bread crumbs). I stuff the acorn squashes the day before and put them covered in the fridge, and then bake them just before serving. They take awhile to bake, but at least it is mostly a hands-off recipe.
Oven Roasted Chicken + Roasted Brussels Sprouts + Quinoa // I use olive oil instead of butter in this recipe. About 30 minutes before the chicken is supposed to be done, throw in a sheet pan of Brussels sprouts (1 – 1 ½ pounds) on a different oven rack that have been drizzled with olive oil, salt, and pepper. Cook some quinoa (any grain or legume will do, but I figure it’s one less thing to buy if you already have it for the Red Lentil Zucchini Curry), then serve the quinoa with chicken thighs, legs, and/or wings (reserving about 3 cups of the breast meat for later in the week).
Mediterranean Chicken Salad Sandwiches// Use the leftover breast meat from your roast chicken in this easy chicken salad recipe. To make it gluten-free, feel free to use gluten-free sandwich bread (preferably one made with whole grains) or skip the bread altogether. Sometimes I get overzealous with this recipe and can stretch it into 5 meals instead of 4, which is what I recommend to make the meal plan below work.
- Lunch Monday: Red Lentil Zucchini Curry
- Dinner Monday: Salmon Stuffed Acorn Squash
- Lunch Tuesday: Red Lentil Zucchini Curry
- Dinner Tuesday: Salmon Stuffed Acorn Squash
- Lunch Wednesday: Red Lentil Zucchini Curry (one person) / Mediterranean Chicken Salad Sandwich (other person)
- Dinner Wednesday: Roast Chicken with Veggies
- Lunch Thursday: Mediterranean Chicken Salad Sandwich
- Dinner Thursday: Roast Chicken with Veggies
- Lunch Friday: Mediterranean Chicken Salad Sandwich
- Dinner Friday: Date night! (Or if you have leftover bread from the sandwiches and any cheese on hand, you can make a grilled cheese. You should also have some spinach leftover from the sandwiches, so feel free to make a little side salad.)
The Week 1 Grocery List
(Yes, I actually type out my weekly grocery list in a Google doc and organize it by section haha.)
- 2 acorn squash
- 3 medium carrots
- 2 medium zucchini
- 2 stalks celery
- Fresh ginger
- Fresh thyme and/or rosemary (for roast chicken)
- 1 jalapeno
- Baby spinach
- Fresh basil
- 2 yellow onions
Grocery / Pantry:
- Red lentils
- 1 (14-oz) can coconut milk
- 1 jar roasted red bell peppers
- Sundried tomatoes (dry or packed in oil, either is okay)
- Sliced almonds
- 1 loaf whole grain bread (GF if needed)
- Whole grain breadcrumbs (or substitute crushed nuts)
- Dried parsley
- Old bay seasoing
- Olive oil
- 1 (3-4 pound) young chicken without giblets
- Plain Greek yogurt (we usually buy the 32 oz tub)
- 1 (15-ounce) can salmon
- Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese (the smallest hunk available is fine, only need ¼ cup grated)
Niçoise Tuna Salad // This recipe is very quick to prepare. It is also highly adaptable. For example, for people who prefer a lower carb option, they can skip the potatoes and add 1 hard boiled egg per salad. However, for what it’s worth, enjoying cooked potatoes that have been chilled actually reduces the glycemic response, meaning that the cold potatoes will have a gentler impact on blood sugar than freshly baked/boiled hot potatoes.
Arugula Salad with Chicken, Dates, and Buckwheat Crumble// This recipe (sometimes sans chicken) is my go-to potluck dish. Everyone always raves about the buckwheat salad! I realize that February is probably not an ideal time to fire up the grill, but a stove-top grill pan would also work. And in case you were wondering, buckwheat is in fact gluten-free, and is not even related to wheat at all. I’m adding Manchego cheese to the grocery list since it works so well in this salad, but if you still have some Parmigiano-Reggiano leftover from last week and are looking for somewhere to save, feel free to use that instead. If you don’t have champagne vinegar, white wine vinegar will also work.
Sheetpan Chicken and Chickpea Schwarma // If you haven’t experimented with spiced, roasted chickpeas, you’re in for a treat! I think this recipe works great with a head of chopped broccoli tossed on the sheet pan as well, and served over a whole grain like quinoa, so I added both broccoli and quinoa to the grocery list.
Stir Fried Whole Grain Noodles with Mushrooms, Kale, and Crumbled Tempeh // I am embarrassed to admit that I don’t care for tofu at all, unless it is disguised in a dessert or sauce of some sort. Tempeh is essentially like a fermented tofu/soybean cake (and is also the subject of my favorite How I Built This episode) that has a “meatier” texture that I find much more agreeable. As for noodles, I used whole grain ramen noodles made from brown rice and millet, but feel free to use whatever (preferably whole grain) Asian-inspired noodles you can find.
- Lunch Monday: Tuna Salad
- Dinner Monday: Arugula Buckwheat Salad
- Lunch Tuesday: Tuna Salad
- Dinner Tuesday: Arugula Buckwheat Salad
- Lunch Wednesday: Tuna Salad (one person) / Chicken Schwarma (other person)
- Dinner Wednesday: Stir Fry
- Lunch Thursday: Chicken Schwarma
- Dinner Thursday: Stir Fry
- Lunch Friday: Chicken Schwarma
- Dinner Friday: Date night! (You might also have 1 chicken schwarma left over)
The Week 2 Grocery List:
- 8 cups arugula (or other delicate salad greens, like spring mix)
- 1 pound mini potatoes (we used the grape-sized ones)
- 1 head broccoli
- 8 ounces green beans, trimmed
- 8 ounces mushrooms
- 1 bunch kale
- 1 bunch scallions (green onions)
- 1 pint cherry tomatoes, halved
- 1 red onion
- Fresh ginger
- Buckwheat groats
- Hemp hearts (shelled hemp seeds)
- 12 dates, sliced
- 10 ounces whole grain noodles (GF if needed)
- Champagne vinegar
- Pitted, chopped olives
- 1 (15-oz) can white beans
- 2 (15-oz) cans chickpeas
- 8 ounces tempeh (find it refrigerated near the tofu)
- Hoisin sauce (check to make sure GF if needed)
- Low sodium soy sauce or tamari (check to make sure GF if needed)
- Sriracha sauce
- Olive oil
- Canola oil (I look for organic, expeller-pressed)
- Cinnamon (ground)
- Coriander (ground)
- Cumin (ground)
- Dried oregano
- Chili powder
- Turmeric (ground)
- 3 oz Manchego cheese
- ¾ – 1 pound boneless skinless chicken breast
- 2 pounds boneless, skinless chicken thighs
- 2 (5-ounce) cans tuna (preferably light tuna packed in oil)
And of course, if you need more inspiration, I am lucky enough to get to work on projects like this for a living at Oldways — check out Oldways’ various 4-Week Menu Plan books.
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