Meal Planning 101

Last night, as Josh and I sat down to eat dinner at 8:30 (for a meal I promised would be ready by 7 p.m.), I realized I still don’t have this meal planning down pat. It was kind of a bummer, considering how successful I thought we had been over the weekend.

soup

So, I guess needless to say, I learned some things about meal planning that I probably should have already known. Sometimes I don’t use my brain (clearly).

  1. Read instructions thoroughly before deciding to make something.
  2. Make sure you have all the ingredients (this means grabbing them at the grocery store during your regular shopping trip if you don’t have it at home).
  3. No, seriously, read all the damn instructions.

No-brainers, right? I thought so too.

Until Tuesday night, when I was about to start prepping the pot roast I had planned for Wednesday’s dinner. I found a recipe that calls for eye of round roast (something I don’t eat, since I stick to seafood and poultry for my meats), and thought I’ll just sub in chicken! Wrong.

As I read over the recipe, I realized most of the six-plus hours the meal would spend in the slow cooker had nothing to do with any of the beans or veggies and everything to do with the meat. I worried that leaving only chicken (tenderloins, at that!) in the slow cooker for six hours, I’d end up with ash in the slow cooker–or maybe even a house fire.

I looked over the recipe again to see if I could alter it some more (maybe dump in everything at once?), but I realized many of the ingredients just wouldn’t taste as good with chicken as they would with beef.

chopTo Google I went. I decided to ditch the Cowboy Pot Roast and search for a chicken pot roast. I found this, and decided that’s what we’d have instead. I skimmed the ingredients and… nope. We didn’t have everything. (Seriously, potatoes were the big missing ingredient–well besides gravy–and we usually have potatoes.) It was starting to look like dinner would be a bust.

In the end, I decided to move around some of the meals we had planned for next week. So, instead of pot roast, we had Chicken Tortilla Soup. (I was only missing cornmeal, which Josh was kind enough to pick up on his way home from work.)

I guess it’s worth mentioning here that this was supposed to be a blog post for last night, and the story was supposed to end there. Obviously, that didn’t happen. Probably because dinner took 2 1/2 hours (that time includes the tantrum I threw like a child, along with lots of pouting). Oh, and maybe a little because I didn’t read the friggin’ directions.

instructionsWhen I decided on Tuesday night that the soup would be Wednesday’s dinner, I thought I had thoroughly read the directions. Again, I was so wrong. I had it stuck in my head that–other than chopping veggies, measuring spices and cooking the chicken–dinner would only take 45 minutes to cook. I guess I missed the part where I add a teensy bit of cornmeal and let it simmer for another 30. (I was  glad I had prepped everything the night before when I realized how long dinner would actually take!)

It actually wasn’t too bad, though. The extra 30 minutes gave me enough time to make a pan of cornbread to go with the soup!

Anyway, the point is to know what you have in your fridge/pantry and fully read the recipe before you decide to start prepping a meal at 9 p.m. (and before you start cooking it). It’s probably also worth keeping potatoes on hand, since you never know when you’ll need them.

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