Meal Planning Pink Chai Style

Meal planning can be a really passionate subject to debate. Some people are all about the efficiency of a meal plan and would never stray from it, and others feel “real cooks” never cook from a plan, they are inspired by the ingredients. Me, I’m right in the middle; I like to have some idea of what I’m cooking in the coming week, with room to make adjustments for seasonal vegetables, sudden inspirations, or daily cravings. 

poha recipe{I make both savoury and sweet poha quite often as an afternoon snack for the kids}

As I’ve been experimenting with the PC Plus app and shopping at No Frills for the last few weeks, I’ve started to notice certain patterns in my meal planning system that I never really saw before. In fact, I’ve been feeling really bad about falling off the meal planning wagon this summer, so I was surprised to see that I was planning all along, just in a different way.

The first time I went shopping at No Frills, the first thing I checked for was my pantry basics – thankfully they stock all of them. These are the dry items I must have in my kitchen at all times (keep in mind I try to cook gluten free whenever possible, and we have 2-3 Indian meals each week):

  • basmati rice
  • quinoa
  • poha (rice flakes)
  • corn flour (for maki di roti)
  • tortilla wraps (for the kids)
  • masoor & moong lentils
  • paneer
  • chickpea flour (for pakoras, fritters, and pancakes)
  • Catelli gluten free pasta (it must be this brand!)
  • Dry or canned chickpeas

These 10 items are my life line in the kitchen and get re-invented into new meals weekly. Basically, I already have a stock of spices, condiments, premade masala, and some frozen stock that I use regularly and replenish as needed, and then I add on fresh veggies and meat each week to create our dinners. 

besan-nan-khatai{A few weeks ago I whipped up some breakfast cookies with chickpea flour!}

Generally my add on items are:

  • fresh herbs; cilantro & methi (fenugreek) are a must
  • onions, garlic, ginger, green chilis as needed for masalas
  • tomatoes
  • lemons & limes
  • potatoes
  • 2-3 seasonal veggies – or whatever looks good for side dishes or sabji that week
  • chicken or turkey (we usually only cook meat at home once or twice a week)

carrot-turmeric-soup{In the fall, soup is a regular on the menu in the Pink Chai kitchen. I often make a soup near the end of the week and use up whatever veggies are left in the fridge. Otherwise left over veggies get chopped up and frozen so they can be used in smoothies or stocks later}

bell pepper soup

By having my staple items that I can always turn to, plus a variety of fresh vegetables the possibilities are endless. We always know that dal (lentils) is going to be on the menu this week but we never know what form it’s going to take; it could be dal tadka, khichdi, dal with squash, or anything else I’m inspired to cook. If it’s pasta night, it could be end up served with some frozen pesto from the freezer, or a roasted butternut squash sauce if that’s what is in season. I love having my fridge and pantry full of quality ingredients that I know how to work with, but also having some wiggle room to play in the kitchen. 

That’s my meal planning tips, now my money saving tip of the day – try the PC Plus app. It takes a couple shopping trips for the offers to really become customized, but it’s totally worth it. I’m up to 13,300 points, mostly from redeeming offers on produce, plus a bonus offer this weekend which gave me 5000 points for spending $50. I honestly have bought nothing just to get points except for some extra toothpaste and shampoo (and that’s only because they are brands I use and would need to buy in a few weeks anyway). Once I hit 20,000 points, I’ll get $20 off my grocery bill – simple. If you are shopping at a Loblaws, Superstore, or No Frills anyway, why not right?

PS: If you want more dinner hours ideas, follow me on Instagram, I share a lot of meals there!

PPS:*This post was brought to you by PC Plus & No Frills. As always, I only share brands and products I like and actually use with my readers. All the opinions in the above post are all mine – pinky swear. 

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