Last week I went to a Red Sox game with my friend Hannah and rather than paying a single speck of attention to baseball (the obvious choice) we spent a lot of time talking about food. Okay, the majority of the time. Specifically, Hannah was curious what tips I had on cooking while juggling work, spending time with Ben, and general being a human being. I spit her the wisdom that I had, then got thinking. I put a call out on Facebook asking if anyone would be interested in a series of tips and recipes devoted to quick I-just-got-home-I’m-so-hangry-FEED-ME meals. A lot of you responded that you’d be interested, so consider this the first #hangrymeal guide! This week I’m talking about writing a shopping list; next week I’ll get into some of my recipes for making dinner fast for those of us who are prone to becoming hangrypants.
I don’t think it’s a groundbreaking discovery to say that one of the keys to quick weeknight meals is preparation. I am skeptical when I see long Pinterest posts about “quick DIY meals for the week!” which involve about six hours of preparation on Sundays. I may have more time on Sundays than I do mid-week, but I (someone who loves to cook!) still don’t want to write off half of my glorious, lazy Sundays to making 25-step enchiladas.
So my advice is to shop wisely (THANK YOU CAPTAIN OBVIOUSPANTS). Make a list, check it twice, find out who’s naughty or nice, then go to the grocery store. I am going to start with dinners, but if you feel strongly that I include more on breakfasts and lunches, let me know! Below are some of ma main tips on meal planning and shopping to avoid spending a lot of doll hairs:
- Include a star ingredient. When planning a meal, I always try to incorporate a “key” ingredient that adds some substance to a dish. Yeah, we could eat stewed kale every day… but would we want to? Star ingredients in my book are: tempeh, tofu, seitan, lentils, beans, hearty vegetables (sweet potatoes, potatoes, mushrooms, eggplant, cauliflower, etc)
- Vary color & texture. Build this into how you plan a meal. This will not only make it look sexy as hellllll, but it’ll make you want to eat it more AND probably include a wider variety of food groups (and nutrients). I like sprinkling chopped nuts or seeds on top of stir-fries and curries, and try to include some kind of green, yellow, or orange vegetable in most dishes that are lacking color
- FLAVA FLAVE. A lot of vegan/vegetarian ingredients are naturally sponge-like in their ability to absorb flavors. Think: tofu, potatoes, rice, quinoa… Go for strong, potent ingredients and don’t be shy! I start almost every dish with onions and TONS of garlic. Fresh ginger, spice blends (such as curry powder), and fresh herbs go a long way too. Most dishes benefit from acidity in the form of citrus zest or juice. Condiments like hot sauce, Dijon mustard, and soy sauce add pop where it’s necessary. These are pantry staples and if you don’t have them, go get them!
- A few more pantry staples that I love: coconut milk, vegetable bouillon, tomato paste
Okay, now that you have a sense of what you want to include in your meals, you can start making a list of what to get for the week. This week, I made a trip to the farmers’ market and a trip to Stop & Shop. Ben and I switch up our grocery runs between there and Market Basket, Trader Joe’s, and the occasional trip to Whole Foods. This week at Union Square Farmers’ Market I got: potatoes, corn, swiss chard, peaches, tomatoes, an onion, sweet potato, peppers, and squash.
On our Stop & Shop run we got this stuff (I threw in a couple things I’d grabbed at Trader Joe’s and Whole Foods to give you an idea of what freezer items we buy):
Our go-tos are: rice, beans, pasta, frozen fruits and veggies (I LOOOVE frozen stuff, I’ll talk more about this later), tempeh, hummus, cereal, dairy-free milk, nuts, frozen burritos (Amy’s are the best). Not pictured are other favorites: peanut/almond butter, jam, lentils, oats, crackers for the hummus.
This about covers our week in groceries that we shop for. I’m planning to make a trip to our favorite bakery (Iggy’s!) some time today or tomorrow to grab a loaf of bread and half a dozen bagels.
My plan for the week is to make:
-coconut summer squash curry (loosely this recipe)
-cannellini bean and chard stew
-BBQ tempeh stir fry with peppers and onions
One night this week we’re going out to dinner with some friends, so that’s built into this. For those interested in budgeting, this haul from the farmers’ market and grocery store cost about $80 for two people. We usually spend somewhere between 50 and 80 per week, depending on how much we need to replenish things and whether we go out or not. How much do you spend per week on groceries?