Meal Planning : Part One, Selecting Recipes

June 3, 2015

Let's start with a confession.

I'm not a very good cook.

Cooking has never been intuitive to me and quite honestly, I never really had to cook much. Once I graduated high school, I had a meal plan my freshman year, I ate the same few things a million times during my sophomore year when I lived in an apartment, and I had a chef prepare all my meals when I lived in my sorority house my junior and senior year. Sooooo.... you get my point.

I skipped the part when you should learn to cook.

Then I went to the Peace Corps and I developed an interest in cooking, baking, and making things from scratch (although most of the time, I didn't really have a choice. If I wanted pizza, you better bet that I had to make the dough and the sauce). The only problem was that I had poor internet access to look up new recipes and even if I found things I wanted to make, it was even more of a challenge to find those ingredients out in the Kalahari Desert.

So you see my point.

I basically started from square one when I came home from the Peace Corps, which means that I've had ten months to get it together. :) My goal was to find healthy recipes that would be easy enough to make in medical school once my life got really busy.

I started collecting recipes. My approach was that I would try everything once - - and if I loved the recipe, then it would make the final cut. My other challenge is that now I'm cooking for two, thanks to living with Michael. We both have different preferences as well, so when we both give a meal two thumbs up, it's a huge success.

Obviously, everyone has different guidelines that dictate what meals they want to prepare. Here is a list of what helped me find recipes that would work for me:

1. Low prep time. This one was really important to me because I know I won't have much time to prep meals during medical school, so I wanted to find recipes that were easy to prep, cook, and clean up.

2. Relatively healthy. I don't like eating super unhealthy and I'm not going to lie to myself and say I eat super healthy every meal. I wanted to find most of my meals somewhere in the middle.

3. Light on meat. While I did begin eating meat again this year, I can't say I'm super crazy about it. Michael would love to eat a giant steak as often as possible, but I'm happier eating some chicken and seafood here and there.

4. Low cost. I won't have the money to buy expensive ingredients while I'm living on a medical student budget, so I wanted to be sure that the ingredients were affordable. I hated finding recipes with some obscure ingredient that I would buy, use once, and watch it go bad in my fridge. The ability to use up ingredients in other recipes was key to my low cost factor as well.

5. Yummy leftovers. Some food just sucks as leftovers... and that won't work for me. I like to eat whatever I prepare for dinner and bring leftovers for lunch the next day (or later in the week). If I wasn't excited about eating it a second time around, or if the leftovers just weren't as delicious as the first time I prepared it, the recipe didn't make the cut.

Using those five super simple guidelines, I've found a bunch of recipes that work for the two of us. It was frustrating to prepare meals that we both ended up scowling at, but in the end, I call it a win. Eliminating meals is just as important as finding good ones because it helps narrow down preferences even more.

Selecting recipes is just the first step in all the madness of meal planning. But I'm so obsessed with how easy it all is once you've gone through a few tedious steps.

Stay with me as I take you through the rest of my meal planning steps!

Meal Planning : Part Two, How to Use Pepperplate
Meal Planning : Part Three, Creating a Rotating Calendar
Meal Planning : Part Four, The Final Touches

Do you  have a collection of recipes that you love?

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