One of the most important rules of meal planning is this: be flexible.
There are times when you just don't want to follow your meal plan for the day, for one reason or another. That's okay, and it should be okay. Plans change. Occasional swaps and changes are natural but diverting too often away from your meal plan is also not a good sign of a good meal plan. This can upset your budget as well as stress you out thinking of what to make when you don't have the ingredients you need to make what you wanted to make.
That's why a well-stocked kitchen is essential for any home cook! You should always have your list of favorite kitchen staples stocked as well as some hardworking ingredients that can help you create a dish quickly at a glance.
To help you stay interested in your meal plan, here are tips to making a quick meal plan that not only allows you to change things around but also helps to keep everyone stay excited about the upcoming meals:
1 Keep meals similar but not too similar.
Say you have ingredients for a ginataang recipe but are not too sure what kind you want to make. Keep your options open and plan to make at least two dishes that have similar ingredients but aren't necessarily the same.
Try a ginataang kalabasa recipe, Bicol express recipe, and a gising gising recipe. These three dishes have similar ingredients: gata, string beans, bagoong, and pork. With a tweak or two here, you can change your recipe to suit the dish you want to make.
2 Reuse ingredients.
One of the great reasons to make a meal plan is to be able to use your ingredients well. There may be leftovers but having a meal plan ensures that you should be using up most of your fresh ingredients so that you do not let an ingredient turn bad before you can use it.
However, for ingredients that contain more than you need for one recipe, you should be able to use to for at least one other recipe or more.
Try yang chow fried rice, pork giniling recipe, and tuna pasta recipe. These three recipes all use frozen mixed vegetables in different ways but the key here is using up that bag of vegetables so you have room for other ingredients for the next grocery run.
3 Tweak the recipe.
Sometimes, changing a recipe means adding an ingredient to a recipe or removing one.
Try the classic adobo, the adobong puti, or the adobo sa gata. All three dishes are all adobo. However, the adobong puti recipe removes the soy sauce from its ingredient list while the adobo sa gata adds coconut milk. All three, however, maintain its adobo status. You can even add spices to make a Chinese style adobo, make it spicy, or swap out the main protein with another such as tofu and mushrooms, or use beef or squid instead.
You can do similar simple tweaks with kaldereta, menudo, and even your favorite fried chicken recipe.
4 Make one sauce for 3 dishes.
Many dishes have similar ingredients but some dishes also have similar sauces, too. A few tweaks to the sauce recipe here and there might be needed but essentially, you are making the same sauce for more than one dish.
Try menudo, kaldereta, and mechado recipes. All three Filipino recipes are tomato-based recipes and this is where you can cut your effort and time in the kitchen. That giant bag of tomato sauce you grabbed from the supermarket can be used for all three dishes and all it takes is a few tweaks to make it taste different. Menudo uses pork and soy sauce, kaldereta uses beef and bell peppers, and the mechado uses beef and soy sauce.
5 Embrace leftovers.
Leftovers should make you creative and push you to transform it into a dish that's still delicious.
Try the tortang corned beef, adobo fried rice, and easy chicken chop suey. All three dishes use up any leftover you may have. The torta recipe is corned beef that gets mixed with eggs to create an omelet. This is perfect for days when you actually become tired of having a corned beef breakfast. The adobo fried rice makes you glad you saved the leftover adobo sauce when all the meat is gone and finally, the unappetizing chop suey recipe that everyone laments needs meat? Chuck in some leftover chicken, shredded from yesterday's meal, be it a roast chicken or fried chicken, and you've got a hearty vegetable stir fry in an instant.
You can do many things with a meal plan that can be made flexible. All you need is a little planning ahead for those days when you want something different, and you can divert from that meal plan and still have a plan that will hold up to a few changes.