The concept of weekly meal planning is out there. But for me, making a plan of recipes and sticking to it has never worked well. Stuff happens, a meal is missed, the groceries bought for that meal go bad, the rest of the week’s meals are off schedule, and the ingredients don’t get used.
I did find that I was often pretty good at putting together a meal with the groceries at hand, especially now that I was Whole Food Plant Based (WFPB), because vegetables are very friendly with each other: you can combine most of them with good results. So what I decided to do was to make a shopping list based on the categories of food I want us to have eaten at the end of the week (based on nutrition), to buy food which we like in each category, and then put it together one meal at a time, depending on how hungry we are, what we feel like having, and how much time there is to fix it. After shopping day, the foods available gradually decrease through the next several days, and at some point we need to go shopping again!
The Shopping List below is an actual list I used. Of course, you will make a list of your and your family’s favorites. The categories are general for the WFPB lifestyle. For us, there are basically four kinds of meals. Yours may differ, and that’s fine.
- Rice and beans, with a vegetable and/or greens;
- Potato or sweet potato (baked or mashed) and either salad or greens;
- Pasta with tomato sauce, and salad or vegetable;
- Soup and salad (actually stew and salad—an amazingly good vegetable stew can be made from leftover vegetables adding a small can of crushed or diced tomatoes and a can of beans).
Here are a sample shopping list and some notes below.
- Chickpeas (6; for hummus, I use 3 cans at a time)
- Cannellini or white kidney beans (4)
- Red kidney beans (4; we eat almost 1 can per meal)
- Black beans spicy (2)
- Black beans not spicy (2; for breakfast beans)
- Pinto beans (4)
- Green peas (2)
- 100% whole wheat flour
- Brown rice
- Oatmeal (not instant or quick-cooking, they’ve lost fiber)
- Lacinato kale 1 bunch
- bok choy 1
- collard greens 1 bunch (we will usually almost finish a bunch at a meal)
- 2 or 3 boxes of baby greens (lasts the two of us 3 or 4 days):
- Baking Potatoes*
- Red Potatoes*
- Sweet Potatoes*
- White or Yellow Onions*
- Fresh ginger
- Red, green, and yellow bell peppers*
- Yellow squash
- Frozen Fordhook Lima beans*
- Corn on the cob
- English cucumber*
- Red onion*
*These are veggies that I want to have on hand, as they are either things we should eat every week (greens, broccoli, potatoes, sweet potato), things I use for cooking (onions, garlic), or things we like so much we eat every week (mushroom gravy, pasta sauce, salad vegetables). The other vegetables are things we have once in a while, and there are other vegetables that we eat once in a while not on the list, like cauliflower, green beans, and lima beans.
- Honey crisp apples
- Mandarin oranges/Clementines
- Frozen blueberries
- Frozen strawberries
- Navel oranges, grapefruit
Here are the other things I buy regularly:
- Kalamata olives
- Ground flaxseed
- Herbal tea
- Almond milk – unsweetened and as few ingredients as you can find (almonds and water, not much else)
- Balsamic vinegar – there is a big difference in the taste of good quality aged balsamic vinegar. You maybe could try a bottle of the most expensive and then back down to a less expensive and see if you notice a significant difference.
A Note about Herbs and Spices
I know very little about them. What I do, is use Herbes de Provence if I think what I’m making is more French, and Italian Seasoning if it’s more like Italian spaghetti sauce. I try to sneak Turmeric into any stew, because it’s so good for you. I buy cumin for making oil-free hummus, and chili powder for when I turn pasta sauce into chili with beans.
Because vegetables, beans, and grains are such a large part of our nutrition, I make a vegetable stew, not a soup. This happens when the leftovers are stacking up in the refrigerator, and the other food is running out. Gotta get rid of those jars of leftovers to make room for the new produce, as another shopping trip is coming. If you are unsure about how a spice or herb will taste in what you’re making, just take a tiny bowl and make a test sample. If it doesn’t taste awful, but kinda good, it will probably taste better after it simmers and sets for a while. It can always be served over rice if there is not enough to stand alone.
During the morning we are going to the store, I do an inventory of what we have left and what we need. On my shopping list, which is in Notes in my phone, I put three asterisks by each item I need to buy, and, if relevant, the number of items (like cans of beans) needed. I text Ed the part of the list which is from the middle of the store, like cans of beans, and I take most of the fruits and vegetables. At the store, I delete the asterisks after I put that item in the basket. We may buy some produce that looks good even though it’s not on the list. We allow for some last minute impulsive decisions. And we treat ourselves at the vegan restaurant (Gnome) on the way home. Make it fun whenever you can! That includes using those lovely veggies and whole foods as home decor (at age 75, keeping it simple goes deep):