Wednesday, November 03, 2010

Tips and a Sample Weekly Menu

In this day and age, falling victim to fast or processed foods is so easy to do. Who wants to slave over the stove for even an hour every night? I sure don’t, especially on the nights I’m cooking for one.
To remedy this, I have figured out a system that works pretty well for me and my family and I hope these tips will take some of the guess work out of creating frugal, healthy and fast meals.

I base my meals around legumes, grains and vegetables. I pressure cook a pound of beans at a time and a pound of grains at a time. Often, I will have two different types of legumes and two different types of grains cooked in the fridge. I make a large batches of sauces to store in my freezer. One week, I will make enough marinara to last a month. The next week, I will make enough salsa. The week after that is a nutritional yeast base.  I also make 1 large pot of soup per week to use as a filler food. A filler food is just that; something to help fill you ( or my teen son! ) up. It can be used as a snack, a quick breakfast or an addition to a meal. I always freeze at least half of the soup the day I make it in 2 cup portions. The filler soup is most often bean based and I use an entire pound of dried beans in the batch.

Usually on Sunday, I get ready for the week. For this hypothetical week, I check out my freezer and see that I have 1 quart of salsa and 1 quart of nutritional yeast base. I take those out to defrost in the fridge. Then I get to work:

  •  I make a large batch of Simple Marinara; reserve 1 quart and freeze the rest for later use.
  •  I cook up a quick Split Pea Soup in the pressure cooker using a pound of beans. Cool and freeze half the soup in 2 cup portions. 
  • While the soup is cooking, I’m making a pound rice. I will freeze half of the cooked rice in 1 cup portions and reserve the rest for meals. 
  •  Next, I will pressure cook a pound of chickpeas. I reserve the chickpea cooking liquid for future use (  as a base for salad dressing or for use in seta or even to use in baked goods ).
  •  I’ll mix together veggie burger mix out of leftovers, some of the cooked rice and chickpeas.
  •  Finally, I soak seeds for sprouting
This week, I am starting out with cooked rice, split pea soup, cooked chickpeas, chickpea cooking liquid, salsa, marinara, nutritional yeast base sauce and veggie burger mix. This is how I would use the food and prep for the next day:

Breakfast oatmeal with raisins and flax meal
Lunch: Veggie Burgers
Dinner Chana Masala over Brown Rice and Raw Collard Slaw ( sauté an onion, garlic, ginger and curry spices add cooked chickpeas and salsa )  If there is any leftover, add some oatmeal , soy sauce and place in fridge to use for veggie burger. For 1 cup of soup I usually get two decent sized burgers.

Prep for Tuesday: Cook 1 lb of lentils

Breakfast: Green smoothies
Lunch: Split Pea Soup or veggie burger
Dinner: Brown Rice Pasta, Marinara, Salad with Marinated Chickpeas ( I make a low fat vinaigrette out of the chickpea cooking liquid )

Prep for Wed:  Make bread dough and store in fridge overnight ( freeze enough for a pizza later in the week.)
Soak seeds for sprouting

Breakfast: Oatmeal with apples and chia seeds
Lunch: Raw Slaw with Curried Veggie Burger
Dinner: Lentils with Caramelized Onions,  Homemade Bread, Sautéed Greens and BBQ Sauce ( add liquid smoke, mustard, allspice and some stevia to salsa)
You will bake the bread while you cook the onions and sautéed greens.

Prep for Thursday:
Bake 6 potatoes while you are baking the bread
Make a batch of Sugar Free Banana Bread

Breakfast: Banana Bread with Peanut Butter
Lunch: Soup made from leftover lentils/collards. Add a bit of nutritional yeast base sauce, water and spices along with some brown rice ( from the freezer )  Eat half of the soup and freeze the remaining 2cups.
Dinner: Fried Potatoes and onions, Steamed Veggies and Veggie Burger Cutlet with Nutritional Yeast Gravy

Prep for Friday:
Cook a pound of millet
Soak Seeds for sprouting

Breakfast: Banana Bread with Peanut Butter
Lunch: Veggie burgers, homemade bread, Split pea
Dinner: French Lentil Soup with leftover Potatoes,  Millet Pilaf and salad ( soup recipe here)

Prep for Sat:
Mix leftover soup with oatmeal for burgers

Breakfast: Oatmeal with Raisins and Chia
Lunch: Veggie Burger, Raw Slaw
Dinner:  Pizza  ( dough from freezer ), marinara, nutritional yeast sauce, veggies, Salad with lentils

Sunday: After a brunch of  Potato/Veggie/Bean hash ( use all your leftovers ) start over for the next week!

This sounds a bit daunting, but I assure you, once you get into the groove it is quite simple. I believe the key is to change your mindset about food and don’t be afraid to experiment with what you have on hand.

If this all seems like it's too much, take baby steps. Cook up one pound of dried beans and 1 pound of whole grains and build your meals with those staples. You can do it! Remember, 1 pound of dried beans = around  6 cups of cooked. A 15 oz can of beans is around $1.00 and yields 1.5 cups of beans. Cup for cup, you are saving around $3-$5 depending on how much you pay for dried beans. I usually spend between$.99- $1.49 per pound of dried legumes.

Today is my Raw Wednesday. Tomorrow I will post my menu and nutritional breakdown.

Have a great day!


  1. Wow! These are some great, great tips!

  2. Excellent info.! Thanks for sharing!

  3. Oh my holy cow. This is just like OAMC and I used to do that a lot. I have to remember to add soup to meals, too. Sometimes there's just some little thing missing, and a little cup of soup would really do it.

    Question: What containers do you freeze things in? I get weird tastes and freezer burn all the time. Any tips to avoid all that?

  4. I'm so impressed. I am not that good of an organizer--yet.

    Doesn't the chickpea water cause gas? Worried it would for me.

  5. You are my hero. These are really great tips, and you put it in such an easy acheivable way. I don't know that I could tackle it all, but I definitely feel like I could apply many of them to my house.

  6. Thanks so much for posting such an amazing food planning outline. I also try to make large batches of grains and legumes, but you are definitely more organized.
    I also looooove big batches of soup because it's such an easy meal throughout the week. Especially with my busy student schedule!

  7. Steph, I freeze in different containers. I like to use mason jars for soup( just make sure you leave room at the top of any container for expansion purposes )

    I also use freezer bags and plastic containers ( i know I know ).. one tip about freezing, give the food a quick rinse and it will get some of that freezer crystalization off and rinse off the freezer taste that can sometimes linger.

    Bitt, I don't find the liquid gives us gas, but we've been eating this way for a long time and we're used it it.

  8. You are crazy organized! I love it, and am sooo envious :)

  9. I love this, this is really intelligent meal-planning aimed at maximising taste, minimising waste. I could take a few tips from you myself!

  10. Wow, this is amazing. I get freaked out trying to get together one meal at a time. I'm going to try to start planning ahead in ways like this. Once the work week starts, we are so overwhelmed in my house.

    I'm afraid of the pressure cooker, but I love my crock pot.