To Plan or Not to Plan?


Hello  there!

Today’s topic, ladies and gentlemen, is all about meal-planning.  Do you meal-plan? Yeah neither do I.  Well, if you actually do, I not only applaud you but I BEG you to send me your tips, because quite frankly I suck at it.  Well that’s a bit harsh, let’s re-phrase that: I suck at following through on it!

Part of my job in marketing is organizing (and executing) events, be they promotional, corporate, media, what have you; you need it, I plan it- and I’m actually pretty darn good at it too.  So, with that in mind, all that planning, you’d think I’d be a fantastic meal-planner.  Yeah, I did too.

Unfortunately, I think this stems from my years old-habit of cooking on the fly.  I’ve mentioned it before and I’ll mention it again, I get weird cravings, cravings that rival a pregnant woman- carrying twins!  I barely figure out what I’m making for dinner on any given night before lunchtime!

Before moving in with the boy, a typical evening (sans boy) would include:

–          Finish work

–          Metro home

–          Stop at:

  • Fruit and veggie stand
  • Bakery
  • Grocery store (Oh the joys of living downtown!)

–          Come home cook awesome dinner

–          Eat

–          Pack leftovers for lunch

–          Repeat

It was a pretty awesome system and a routine I sincerely enjoyed, but when the boy and I decided to cohabitate last year, well my system didn’t work out very well.  This system turned into:

–          Finish work

–          Drive to grocery store (I’m a big girl now with a car living in the ‘burbs)

–          Come home cook awesome dinner (at least that hasn’t changed)

–          Forgot about ingredients picked up earlier in the week that never got used because I’m now cooking for 2 which really equals 4 at times since the boy is still a carnivore

–          Said ingredients go bad

–          Boy rips out hair in frustration and yells at veggie for gastronomically high month-end grocery bill (Ok, so he didn’t yell, but I may have gotten a ‘slap on the wrist’ lol)

Needless to say, a change was demanded in order.  So, I decided to once again give meal planning a shot and I’ve now dubbed this week: Meal Planning week! I sat my butt down in the heat last night and planned out all of this week’s meals including: breakfast, snack, lunch, dinner for myself and the boy.  Well, as the boy eats cereal or toast every day for breakfast and a turkey sandwich with fruit and yogurt everyday for lunch- his part was easy 😉

I even did a mass grocery shopping trip this afternoon on my way home from work!

Would you believe I got all this glorious food for under $65??? Amazing!! Now to be fair, no, it’s not organic, and a lot of it isn’t local- I did my best in that department but when shopping with budget as the primary factor, some things have gotta give people!

However I did find this gem- local beautiful Red Frisee Lettuce!

Ain’t she gorgeous? Expect plenty of yummy salads to be posted this week my friends.  That was probably my fav purchase. Yes I am a freak, my blog is titled MTL Veggie– whaddya expect- hot dogs and poutine?

Anywho, after drooling over my produce and pulling a muscle from patting my back, I went to cooking our first planned meal, the boy’s all-time fav:

MTL Veggie Jambalaya (figured I’d suck up a little, I’m not above it)

I believe I’ve talked about this recipe on the blog before, but let me reiterate some key points:

-Yes, I realize the rice is processed/packaged Uncle Ben’s with more sugar than really should be allowed but it MAKES this recipe I tell ya!

– The tofu could be substituted for meat if you’re not veg- my mom uses chicken, sausage, and ham in hers

This go-around I used: green bell pepper and this delectable yellow zucchini for my veggies

But, as this is the most easy-going recipe you’ll ever get from  me, you should use whatever veggies you’ve got handy- I’ve been known to put in: broccoli, snow peas, green beans, carrots, mushrooms, even sweet potatoes into this mix on occasion.

Here’s the recipe for this version:

MTL Veggie Summer Jambalaya

½ Package, Uncle Ben’s Spanish Style Rice

1 block extra firm tofu (pressed if you had a chance to do so

½ c. chopped white onion (Spanish or Vidalia work also)

1 ½ tsp minced garlic, divided (I use bottled, sue me)

½ c. diced bell pepper

1 c. diced zucchini

1 tbsp dried basil

1 tsp paprika

Sea salt to taste

Black pepper to taste


Cook Rice according to directions, keep covered and set aside

Meanwhile heat 1 tbsp Olive oil in large skillet or wok over medium heat.

Add onion sauté 1 min

Add garlic sauté until fragrant, 30 seconds

Add in tofu, stir until well mixed and starts to brown slightly ~ 3 minutes

Add in basil and paprika

Cook, stirring frequently for another 3-5 minutes, then add veggies

Cook until heated through and veggies are cooked to desired doneness (I like crisper veggies so I don’t cook for longer than another 5 minutes)

Add in rice and stir to combine, season with S + P and serve

I served mine up with a delicious salad with my awesome lettuce- this was sooooo good! Simple dressing of olive oil, balsamic and a dash of sea salt to bring out the fresh summer flavors of the cucumber and tomato.

After dinner I demanded begged pleaded requested ice cream as a reward for my shopping efforts and kick-ass jambalaya (we were fighting over the leftovers for our lunches).  The boy bought me a lovely single scoop of pistachio almond- I’m probably the only person under 65 who likes pistachio ice cream but I loved every last lick 😉

Ok, well safe to say meal-planning day one was a big success- let’s hope I keep it up for tomorrow!

Do you meal plan for the week? What are your fav tips to share on this topic?


About Jess @ MTL Veggie

Jess, the face behind The MTL Veggie is a vegetarian, athlete, marketer and Torontonian turned Montrealer. In her spare time she enjoys cooking, photography, running, yoga, skiing, and of course blogging. The MTL Veggie recaps her recipes, restaurant reviews, and what it's like to be a Leafs fan living in Montreal (hint: scary at times).
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4 Responses to To Plan or Not to Plan?

  1. Simply Life says:

    I do plan meals and it helps SOOOO much! Here’s a post I wrote about it!…

  2. Chelsey says:

    I am totally not a meal planner – I know I will have to start though once I get married. I can be fine eating the same things over and over – I’m pretty easy, give me some veggies and I’ll be happy. But I am marrying a meat and potatoes kind of guy (eeeek!)… so give me 3 weeks and then i’ll be planning like crazy!

    • mtlveggie says:

      Yeah, I live with that scenario, I keep meat in freezer and bring out to thaw during the day. He cooks it and I serve it to him with my veggies. Thats the easiest way for me to keep the boy happy!

  3. Tess says:

    Here’s what I do:
    When I hit the grocery store, I’ll get all the staples, then whatever other goodies catch my eye. I generally plan only about 2 or 3 dinners ahead of time, so I’ll get all the ingredients for these. For the actual meal planning, I do it daily instead of weekly. That way, if my plans change at the last minute then I’ve got that flexibility. I’ll also keep a running list of foods I need to remember to eat before they go bad, and will refer to the list every day when I make my plan. It is a bit more time-consuming, but if you incorporate it into your routine (like, do it every lunch hour or every night before bed) then you’ll barely notice.

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