I am a lazy cheapskate, and that makes it really difficult for me to get nutritious meals on the table. Allow me to complain for a brief moment before I give you my list:
My Pain Points
- Wasting Food | I hate having a fridge full of stuff that goes bad after forgetting it’s in there. Nothing drives me crazier than throwing what was perfectly good food in the garbage. Or sometimes I’ll buy an item for a fancy recipe (e.g. I have a jar of pesto that’s been in my fridge for like a year now… what the hell should I use it on now?) So I try to pick out recipes that will use up items that are already in stock, which can be tricky if I’m trying to use a whole jar of pesto…
- Picky Eaters | I hate trying to please picky eaters. I’ll go through recipe after recipe, trying to find one that everyone will like. “Nope, that one has tortellini.” Or “Nope, that one has fish.” Or “Nope, that one has gravy…” GRRR… I give up! Once I DO manage to find a few recipes that everyone will like, naturally I have to go get all the ingredients for them! Which means…
- Grocery Shopping | I hate going to the store. It’s a hassle; you gotta park in a pedestrian-car-clogged lot, wander through the store, hunt for stuff, and make decisions, navigate people-clogged aisles, stand in line, bag groceries… It’s a colossal pain in the ass. I’d rather be using my time doing something else.
- Cooking | And finally, I hate complicated recipes. I consider myself a fairly good cook, and I don’t really mind cooking, but I hate complicated recipes that take forever to prepare… again, I’d rather be using my time doing something else.
I know there’s value in preparing your own meals, but jeez it’s kind of a hassle.
Introducing a One-Year Meal Plan
There’s no breakfast, snacks, or desserts included in the meal plan. You do your own thing there. Buy cereal or bread, get whatever your favorite snacks are, etc. Most people already have quick breakfast preferences.
With this list of recipes, I aim to eliminate the hassle of planning meals for the entire year—actually, by extension, the rest of your life. That’s a big win right there. Open up the two recipes that were chosen for that week, jot down ingredients needed, and off to the store! If there’s a few days where you’ve run out of leftovers, you can supplement with some microwavable meals or frozen pizza
What follows is a meal plan which features recipes with:
- A short lists of ingredients.
- Ingredients that don’t depart from normal everyday foods (which should minimize food waste, give less-expensive options at the store, and please picky eaters). Here’s a list of the things my picky eaters hate, so these recipes will not have much of these: Gravy, seafood, cold salads, fruit (e.g. peach glaze or coconut sauce), tomatoes, green beans, eggplant, pickles, mustard, fennel, tortellini, Indian flavors.
- Easy & fast prep. I try to find recipes that don’t require any more prep than “open and dump”.
- Healthy and nutritious variety.
- I try to find recipes that are basically an entrée and side dish all in one (grain, meat & vegetable).
- I try not to make a whole week of only chicken or only beef.
- I never repeat the same recipe twice in a year.
- Finally, I try to mix up the cuisines and styles of food (soups, stews, casserole, etc).
- Focus on “cheap” meats—chicken every week. Minimal steak, shrimp, salmon, etc.
- Large yield. We like to make large meals twice a week, and then package up the leftovers in 9 oz. to-go containers. FYI, we’re a small family of three, so this is usually enough to feed all of us (dinner and lunch) for 7 days.
- Seasonality. We don’t like to use the oven or eat hot soup in the summer. Transversely; we don’t like to use the grill in the winter.
Solving the Store Problem
What’s the ideal solution to improving the store experience?
Easy. Make someone else do it for you.
I have tried services like Instacart and Coborns Delivery. They are both really great for getting what you need from the comfort of your couch at a click of the mouse. Yes, those services are more expensive, and if you need to save every penny, then you can’t use these conveniences. But look, if you’re spending tons of money on fast food every month because you are too busy to go to the store (or hate it, like me) OR if you are an impulsive shopper, then it the cost of grocery delivery would probably end up being a wash—with the benefit of getting a home-cooked meal instead of eating out. Extra bonus, you don’t stand in the dairy section going “do I need eggs? I can’t remember if I have them already…”. When you’re doing your shopping from your kitchen, you can simply check for quick before adding it to the order.
If grocery delivery is out of the question, the next best thing is to use this “Our Groceries” app for making and sharing a family grocery list. It keeps everything you need organized by category, and you can move the categories up and down based on the layout of your particular store. It makes it much easier to pick out the items in the store since everything is grouped together by department—less likely that you’ll forget something and have to traipse half-way across the store again. Plus you can sync multiple members of the family together on the same account, so communication on personal health & beauty products is easy.
For extra savings, I do recommend Aldi if there’s one near you. Even though Aldi’s product selection tends to be limited, everything in these recipes should be available there. Downside—Aldi stores tend to be more congested because it’s a small selection of products all concentrated on a small footprint. Significant savings make the inconveniences worth it, though.
Get the List
Finally, this is a work in progress. It will take a whole year to vet each recipe for lazy cheapskates like me. I have a PDF of all 104 recipes picked out, and I’ve been refining it every week for about a month now. If you would like me to email you this PDF as-is, just reach through my contact form and I’ll send it to you. In about a year (est. June 2018) I will upload the more-or-less finished product here for you to download.
Image Source: YashilG