Welcome to How I Eat: Meal Planning for Normal People. (If you missed it, click over to read more about this 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.
Today’s feature on How I Eat is Shannon. Shannon is the genius behind Pregnancy Plate, a unique meal planning services focusing on getting mama, baby, and the whole family the nutrition necessary for each stage of pregnancy! Read through this post for more about Shannon’s journey, food background, and also a coupon code to get you set up with this great service!
Tell us about yourself. Who are you cooking for? What else influences how you get meals on the table?
I just started a new business so I am busy getting it off the ground before the baby. I cook for my husband and our 2-year old daughter. We also have a newborn (a June baby!). Our daughter eats separately from us because of work schedules. She eats leftovers from our dinners or I will make her separate food like tilapia and reheat it through the week. I cook dinner for my husband and myself after she goes to sleep. When I’m pregnant,I look for what’s easy but healthy. Luckily, my business is an online meal plan for pregnant women, so I’ve use that to guide our meals. When I’m not pregnant, I like to try new recipes every week. I usually run a search on Epicurious or browse my cookbooks focused on a protein that’s not planned yet that week or that my husband suggests (ex. let’s have shrimp this week).
What meals do you plan?
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.
- 16-18: I eat out 3-5 times per week, maybe a few days for lunch or so.
What is your basic meal planning method?
Typically, on the weekend, I outline the meals for the week (factoring in our schedules), take inventory, and shop for the ingredients. I focus on getting a healthy variety during pregnancy because it is so important for the baby and myself. I used to order what I could from Amazon Fresh and then go to the store for just a few things, but they stopped delivering in my area. As I get further in my pregnancy, I’ve been less rigid with the shopping on the weekend, because I find a large and involved trip to the stores exhausting. Some weeks I go to the store several times to get stuff just for that night.
What are your favorite weeknight meals?
I love this turkey quinoa chili from Well Plated. I made it last night and will have it for lunches and also freeze some for later. It was a go-to freezer meal for my first baby and I’ve made it for some friends who were pregnant as well. I try to eat a lot of salmon during my third trimester for DHA, and there are a lot of different ways to make it so it’s been fun experimenting. I love the lemon risotto from the “Giada’s Kitchen” cookbook (Giada De Laurentiis), topped with shrimp, scallops or chicken piccata, asparagus or broccoli on the side.
What are your “no-brainer” meals? Or what meals do you make when there’s “nothing” to eat?
Homemade pizza is always a good option because it’s easy, cheap, and tastes better than ordering out. We live in LA so it’s a fast drive to get some pizza dough, or my husband can stop on his way home from work. I also keep a stash of frozen cheese ravioli that I can quickly make for an easy meal with jarred sauce.
Do you use any tools to help you create your meal plan and/or execute it?
- Paid meal planning service like eMeals
- Paper meal planner of some type
Can you share more about Pregnancy Plate?
I’m using Pregnancy Plate, a meal planning service for pregnant women (it’s my business). It’s been so helpful during my pregnancy to have my meals planned already and to know that they are well-balanced and healthy. Every week focuses on a key nutrient, like Iron, Choline or Omega-3’s, which is based on the baby’s development and week of pregnancy. There are 5 dinner recipes that include ingredients containing that nutrient. It’s helped me eat a healthy variety during pregnancy, and I’ve eaten or increased certain foods that I don’t normally eat because they are in the plan (lentils, beans, more leafy greens, etc.). It’s also fun to learn about how certain nutrients help my baby develop. I created the content so long ago, combined with my pregnancy brain, it’s practically new to me each week when I read it!
What is your best advice for someone who is just starting to meal plan?
- Set realistic expectations and take baby steps (pun intended!) – start by planning and buying ingredients for 1-2 meals for the week and add more as you get into the habit. It’s unrealistic to go from no planning to suddenly planning 5-7 days. It’s discouraging to spend a bunch of time planning and money shopping, and have it go to waste. So start with something that you know you can do, don’t put a bunch of pressure on yourself, and feel good about the little changes you make.
- Make a list of 5-8 meals that you like, and rotate through them monthly (ex. beef tacos, fish tacos, garlic shrimp with pasta and salad). Be specific. Then, each week, you can pull 1-2 meals from that list. It takes some of the pressure off the weekly planning. It’s easier to plan 3 meals each week from scratch than it is to plan 5. By using the list, the “planning” for those meals is done and you have just a few left to figure out!
- Be patient. If you’re new to cooking in general, it takes a lot of time to learn. It might take you an hour to make a meal with all the chopping and prepping at first, but as you get better it will take you 20 minutes. Don’t let it discourage you…practice is the only way to get faster. So stick with it!
Thank you, Shannon! I’m so intrigued by your Pregnancy Plate meal planning service. Though I’m most certainly NOT pregnant now (ha!) it sounds like a great way to focus on healthy eating during that time… in a very easy way!