Sunday, May 20, 2018

Modular Meal Planning

The topic of healthy eating often comes up when I'm chatting with friends. They are very impressed that my husband and I both work from home and cook lunch and dinner every day. We got quite the modular meal planning system in place and so I thought I'd share it here.

Our taste

I'm Chinese and my husband is French, so we have our own notion of comfort food. Vegetables are very prominent, and we like them mushy. No salad in our house haha.

The algorithm

  1. Make a grid for all the lunches and dinners for the week
  2. Fill in the fixed dishes:
    Sunday lunch: Pork Roast
    Monday lunch: California Bowl
    Tuesday lunch: Tacos
  3. Decide what mega dishes we want to make Saturday and Sunday evenings. These provide leftovers throughout the week
  4. Spread leftovers throughout the week
  5. Fill the remaining slots with one-meal dishes and single-ingredient sides + roast

Here is an example:

Sat L Leftovers
D Mega dish
Sun L Pork Roast
D Mega dish
Mon L California bowl
D Leftovers
Tue L Tacos
D Single-ingredient side + Roast
Wed L Single-ingredient side + Roast
D Leftovers
Thur L One-meal dish
D Leftovers
Fri L Single-ingredient side + Roast
D Leftovers


Why we like this meal planning algorithm:

  • Enough constants that we don't need to think too hard
  • Enough variety that we don't get bored
  • Enough easy dishes (leftovers and single-ingredient dishes) for lunches when we don't have a lot of time

The modules

Fixed dishes

We make these every week, on the same days.

  • Pork Roast: Sunday lunch. Buy a chuck of pork loin, cut slots to embed garlic wedges, bake until 55°C. Take out of oven and rest until 60°C. This provides meat for the rest of the week. We cook just side dishes to go with it.
  • California bowl: Sushi without rolling. Set rice cooker on timer after breakfast. Scoop out at lunch, top with canned tuna, surimi, cucumber and avocado. Mix and eat.
  • Tacos: Cook tilapia or swai in pan. Remove when done. Cook onion with green bell pepper. Serve with tortillas and sliced avocado.

Mega dishes

We cook these weekend evenings, with the intent of eating the leftovers throughout the week. Many of the dishes are made in a pressure cooker 💨.

We rotate them so we don't eat the same dishes every week.

Single-ingredient sides

These are easy sides that we make, with the pork roast as the meat. There are 3 kinds:

  • Leafy vegetables Chinese-style. We cook napa cabbage, spinach and bok choy this way. Cut vegetable into small pieces. Add oil and garlic to pan. Add vegetables. Drizzle with sesame oil. Add salt. Cover and cook until vegetable is soft.
  • Vegetables French-style. We cook carrot, cauliflower and green beans this way. Cut vegetable into small pieces. Boil until soft. Drain. Add butter and garlic to pan. Put back vegetables to coat. Brown if desired (we do that for cauliflower).
  • Bake in oven. We cook sweet potatoes, squash, asparagus and broccoli this way.

The leafy veggies take the least time to cook so we usually do that for lunch.

One-meal dishes

We sprinkle these one-meal dishes in the meal plan to add variety. One-meal means there won't be leftovers. If the dish has no meat, we eat it with pork roast.


What are you favorite dishes to make? I'd love to add more options to each category!