So Fresh N So Green Fridge Essentials + Weekly Meal Planning Tips & Tricks
When I first started cooking (plant-based recipes) I was so inefficient. I’d spend forever at the grocery store looking for ingredients (some of which I had never heard of- wtf WAS arrowroot starch?!) only to come home and realize I forgot 5 other essential ingredients and then visit the store 4 more times during the week just in order to get dinner on the table (I had a hungry MLB to feed after all!)
EFF THAT ISH.
Now I’ve got it down to a science. I go to the grocery store exactly once a week (usually Saturdays or Sundays) and use up all the ingredients while having tasty meals every single week night that don’t require much effort (this is due to spending a couple hours preppin on Sunday). Life is SO much easier this way, and it makes it super simple to enjoy healthy, home-cooked meals. But (as you saw before) it wasn’t always that way. For me it took some time and a LOT of trial and error, but I’m hoping by sharing my no fail tips and tricks I’ve picked up in the last 4 years with you you’ll be able to catch on much quicker and not get frustrated and end up dialing your local thai-takeout establishment every night (trust I’ve been there).
1. Make a grocery list.
Seriously. As much as you think you’ll remember the lemons (baby wanted 12!) you won’t. Or you might get distracted by all the gorgeous baked goods (chocolate eclairs!) and forget vegetable broth and the ever-essential olive oil (DOH!). In fact a recent survey found that 60% of our grocery store purchases we throw out are unplanned. I write my list in my notes app on my iphone and I leave it there. I make small changes based on what recipes I plan to make the following week but there are staples I make sure to have on hand every single week. Which brings me to my next tip….
2. Always keep core staples on hand.
For me these include, spinach and leafy greens, bananas, berries, coconut water, avocados, sweet potatoes, lemons, dark chocolate, quinoa, lentils, onion, vegetable broth, garlic, a variety of spices, vinegar (usually apple cider) and oils for cooking (coconut and extra virgin olive). For more ideas check out this list.
You can copy some from me or pick and choose your own based on what you find you like to make (and eat). I always check and make sure I have these on hand and take inventory before I go to the store incase I’m running low on something. These are core staples because I will almost always use them during the week and can grab in a quick fix. For example:
Spinach and leafy greens get used daily in smoothies, as a base for salads and steamed or sauteed as a side with dinner. Bananas and berries are also for smoothies or great for snacking or adding into oatmeal. Coconut water is a smoothie staple as well, and avocados can jazz up just about anything (smoothies, salads, soups, desserts, toast, etc). Sweet potatoes make a tasty and cheap meal on their own baked in the oven or stuffed with quinoa, greens, lentils and avocado. Lemons add flavor to anything, especially salad dressings and produce. Whip up the lemon, vinegar, olive oil, sea salt and garlic for a simple dressing. Dark chocolate satisfies my sweets cravings and quinoa and lentils are great in salads and add fiber and protein to any meal. Cook them with vegetable broth, garlic and onion for additional flavor or make a soup with all those ingredients plus greens and additional spices. See how easy it was for me to find a use for every single one of my core ingredients? That’s how yours should be too, it’ll help you eliminate waste, save money, and have go-to’s on hand if you’re in a pinch.
3. Don’t skimp on spices.
Especially if you are trying to not use as much animal fat/protein (or lose weight). They add SO much flavor and are incredibly healthy (many can help to boost your metabolism and have healing properties minus the added fat/calories that a stick of butter would contain). I keep my pantry stocked with them and use them on the daily. Most commonly used would be sea salt, black pepper, cinnamon, cumin, curry powder, chili powder, coriander, turmeric, garlic powder, onion powder, and dried herbs. Having these basics allow you to add asian, indian, moroccan, mexican or italian flare to all of your meals.
4. Plan your meals for the week.
DO NOT SKIP THIS STEP. This one is at first the most tedious and hardest to get used to but in the end will SAVE.YOUR.LIFE. Do NOT, I repeat, DO NOT, buy ingredients at the store if you have no idea what you would use them for. Most of the time this just wastes your money and the food. A really good rule of thumb is to plan meals that can be eaten at least twice (or some components of it). For example, roasted sweet potatoes as a dinner side that can top your salad the next day. Or a soup that will taste amazing as a leftover, or a pesto sauce that will be great on those zucchini noodles and also used to top your grilled salmon and asparagus…see where I’m going with this?
Here’s a sample meal plan of what a typical week in my life looks like (this does not include desserts, coffee (obviously), snacking or weekend brunches :)):
Sunday dinner: Make a big batch of soup, depending on what’s in season (right now I’m loving creamy roasted carrot with coconut milk). Make a side kale salad with roasted chickpeas.
Breakfast- Green smoothie with leafy greens, coconut water, bananas, berries and avocado.
Lunch- Leftover kale & chickpea salad with added avocado.
Dinner- Baked sweet potato with steamed kale, quinoa and tahini sauce.
Breakfast- green smoothie
Lunch- leftover baked sweet potato (from last night’s dinner) with salad greens and avocado.
Dinner- Leftover soup (from Sunday dinner) and kale salad with quinoa and tahini dressing (from Monday’s dinner).
Breakfast- green smoothie
Lunch- quinoa (from Monday) with kale, avocado, and soft boiled egg
Dinner- Zucchini noodles with basil pesto, cherry tomatoes and asparagus
Breakfast- green smoothie
Lunch- green salad with tahini dressing and roasted chickpeas (from Sunday), leftover soup (from Sunday)
Dinner- Grilled salmon (or tofu) with pesto and asparagus (from Wednesday) + quinoa (from Sunday)
Breakfast- green smoothie
Lunch- leftover pesto salmon or tofu (from Thursday) over greens with avocado and soft boiled egg
Dinner- Time to #treatyoself after a weeks worth of making meals. Cheers to the freakin weekend you DID IT!
Okay, so obviously every week looks different and for some peeps that might seem kinda repetitive. However having staple recipes that are easy and taste good that you can then use for other dishes will save you a tremendous amount of time and money. Plus it is so much better for you to cook your own meals then going out all the time (which is not only expensive but you have NO CONTROL over what goes into your food (which is usually tons of butter and salt which is why it tastes so damn good!)
Any way- that was meant to give you an idea of how to reuse ingredients and plan out smart meals for the week that give you the most bang for your buck. Not always the most glamorous and if you can afford to feel free to switch it up even more!
5. Don’t Forget to Prep
This one is a game changer FO SHO. A couple hours of prep work on the weekend will save you countless additional hours over the week when you’re already super busy, short on time, and HANGRY.
- Chop your fruit for smoothies and put in individual portion sized ziplock baggies in the freezer. Toss em in your smoothie with greens in the morning and no chopping required (bonus- it’s nice and cold).
- Cook a huge batch of quinoa, lentils, chickpeas or marinate and bake chicken, tempeh or other proteins of choice (hard-boiled eggs is another option). Then use to top salads, add into soups, make hearty grain bowls, or add into scrambles throughout the week. You’ll be glad when it’s Wednesday night and you’re starving and don’t have even 30 minutes to spare for that mother-effin quinoa to cook.
- Wash and chop leafy greens like kale and other veggies like cucumbers, bell peppers, carrots, etc. and let them air dry. Then toss in a container in the fridge to toss in smoothies, salads, soups, as a side, etc.
- Make dressings and store them in the fridge. I usually always have a simple lemon dressing and tahini dressing on hand to use on salads or top on protein/grains. They’ll last for a week to 10 days and are far better and tastier for you then store bought dressings.
- Bake sweet potatoes at 400 degrees for an hour and half, turning half way through. Eat whole, topped on salads, stuffed with grains and greens or scoop out the flesh for oatmeal, pancakes, soups, curries, etc.
- Don’t forget your freezer. Soups hold up quite well in the freezer as do certain sauces like marinara or even baked goods. The freezer can be your friend when you are in a pinch.
Okay, so that was a s&*t load of information and more then I’ve ever written in one blog post (phew). But these 5 tried and true rules of the SoFreshNSoGreen holy grail have saved me countless of times from tasteless, boring meals, multiple trips to the grocery stores, a number of potential hanger situations (trust you do not want to see either me or the MLF hangry) and a LOT of money on take out/going out to eat. Plus as you start to get the hang of it you may even find that cooking is fun, especially when you make it easier on yourself and aren’t stressed or in a rush to make something because you have everything on hand and prepped, ready to go like a superstar.
So pour yourself a glass of wine (or the whole bottle), invite some friends over, talk, laugh and enjoy the rewarding process of cooking yourself and others a delicious, healthy, soul-satisfying meal. You can thank me lata, betches.