Welcome to the first installment of How I Eat: Meal Planning for Normal People. (If you missed it, click over to read more about this new series on The Pajama Chef.) This series is meant to inspire readers (and myself!) with tips and tricks for meal planning and getting dinner on the table. Whether you’re cooking for one or a crowd, I firmly believe that good food shouldn’t be sacrificed just because life is busy.
Up today on How I Eat is Camilla of Culinary Adventures with Camilla. I’ve been a follower of Camilla’s blog for many years now and love her Instagram bio (from which I derived this post’s title): Writer. Photographer. Blogger. Jewelry maker. Book devourer. Passionate cook. Wife. Mom trying to raise conscientious kids with fearless palates.
Tell us about yourself. Who are you cooking for? What else influences how you get meals on the table?
I cook daily for my husband plus our two ravenous teenage boys. Once a month, or so, I have a dinner party with our best friends (2 other couples with 2 kids each) that is usually a themed, multi-course menu with wine pairings. I work full-time and the kids have activities, so sometimes dinner is late…like after 7pm. Lunch is usually just whatever is leftover from dinner the night before.
What meals do you plan?
- Snacks, Dessert, etc.
In a typical week, approximately how many meals per week do you plan to eat at home or prepare to take with you (e.g., to work or school)? No shame… curious minds want to know! For this, I would include any food purchased at the grocery store (e.g., rotisserie chicken, bagged salad mix, etc.) but not takeout.
- 21: I make all my own food and very rarely eat out.
What is your basic meal planning method?
I belong to a CSA (community supported agriculture) and a CSF (community supported fishery), so many of our meals are planned from whatever it is I’m getting that week. This year I did purchase two nano shares of a pig and a quarter of a lamb. Also, a friend slaughtered one of his cows so I had about 25 pounds of ground beef in my freezer. Between those and the farmers’ markets – we’re lucky to have them all year round here on California’s central coast – I get most of my meals planned.
What are your favorite weeknight meals?
Chicken Thighs (bone-in, skin-on) are my easiest hands off meals. You can either make them in the oven or on the stovetop.
- Oven: Roasted Lemon Garlic Chicken
- Stovetop: Pan-Crisped Chicken Thighs with Guajillo-Pear Mole The mole sauce makes this one time-consuming, but you can just do the chicken part in an hour flat.
Skillet pizza is another favorite! When I’m in a rush I use pre-made dough, sauce, and pre-grated cheese. Can’t be easier!
What are your “no-brainer” meals? Or what meals do you make when there’s “nothing” to eat?
Pasta. I always have pasta in my cupboard and I usually have some jarred tomato sauce that I put up during tomato season. My favorite is Roasted Tomato Sauce because I don’t even peel the tomatoes! So cooked pasta + sauce + grated cheese = easiest dinner ever!
Do you use any tools to help you create your meal plan and/or execute it?
My calendar/planner that’s not just dedicated to meals but is my life. I’m lost without that.
What is your best advice for someone who is just starting to meal plan?
I used to plan distinct meals for each day that didn’t have any carry over of ingredients. That can get pricey. For instance, if I know that I’m getting a glut of beans, I might plan steamed beans one night and ground meat with beans in a stir-fry two nights later. Or if I am roasting a whole chicken on the weekend, then I use the carcass to make stock and plan a soup the following week.
Anything else you want to add?
It’s easy to double recipes, so make enough for dinner AND lunch the following day. And, when I’m putting leftovers away, I already portion them out in containers for easy lunch-packing the next day.
Thank you, Camilla, for sharing your meal planning expertise with us! You are such a creative cook and I love your last two pieces of advice: about carrying over ingredients and doubling recipes. Such a time saver! It’s also fun to see how you involve your kids in the kitchen. My son can’t do too much yet, but he loves to push a chair over to the counter and stir things for me or sprinkle cheese (while eating huge handfuls, of course!).