Meal planning is a funny thing.
The idea is to create a list, perhaps on a Sunday, and plan out your meals for the rest of the week. It could be based on ingredients you already have or whatever’s on sale at your local market. Monday might be roasted chicken, Tuesday pasta night, Wednesday vegetable stir-fry and so on…
Sounds reasonable, right?
It’s a plan. You head out to the store on a mission.
And then it backfires.
I mentioned in a previous post that food is mood-based for me.
And moods are unpredictable.
Just ask a toddler.
Dinnertime in our house is absolutely chaotic. The boys run around like maniacs, tormenting the cat and each other. A spot at the dinner table requires navigating a sea of toys. And it’s really loud.
I present them with dinner thinking peace has been restored…
“I don’t want chicken I want pastaaaaa! Wait- I’ll have pancakes! Yes! I WANT PANCAKES!!”
Sigh… of course they do. They’re kids. They want what they’re in the mood for. And now, all of my hard work- the planning, prepping, cooking– goes to waste because they won’t eat what I’ve made. Cue: dessert bribe.
I understand that toddlers are defiant. And half the fun is saying (and doing) the exact opposite.
But aren’t adults guilty of the same behavior?
That’s why I don’t meal plan in the traditional sense.
For me, it starts out with an ingredient (usually something I have on hand) coupled with my mood. The meal evolves from there. I still believe in planning, I just use a different strategy to get there. It’s more flexible.
Here’s what I do instead:
I make a list of staples items we go through every week. This includes chicken, milk, butter, eggs, salad, feta etc. My list is usually sale driven with room in the budget for a couple of ‘fun’ things. I’ll have an idea of what to make, but nothing’s set in stone.
And that’s how this recipe was born.
These adorable mini sweet peppers were on sale.
As I held the 2 lb. bag in my hand, I was inspired to make sausage and peppers. My Grandpa used to make something similar… I was probably channeling him.
I like this dish for weeknight cooking because it’s simple to make with only one pan to clean. Start out by browning the sausage directly in the roasting pan. Add potatoes and peppers, and bake until cooked through. Line the pan with parchment paper for easy clean up. To serve, I drizzle balsamic glaze over the top with a giant salad on the side.
Here’s another tidbit:
Because I didn’t need the entire bag of peppers, I roasted the rest of them to use in the future. I also bought a family pack of sausage and froze what I didn’t need. Put the two together and I have dinner any night of the week.
I like the flexible approach, because there’s more room to groove with less waste.
How do you meal plan?
- 1½ lb sweet Italian sausage*
- 1 red onion, sliced ½-inch thick
- 2 lbs yukon gold potatoes, cut into 1-inch pieces
- 3 bell peppers, mixed colors, cut into 1-inch pieces
- 2 sprigs of rosemary
- olive oil, as needed
- salt + pepper
- balsamic glaze (optional, but good)
- green salad
- Preheat your oven to 400 F.
- Grab a large roasting pan and place it directly onto the stove. Set the burners underneath to high heat.
- Meanwhile, gently prick the sausages all over with a fork. This will help the steam to escape as they cook.
- Once the roasting pan is hot place the sausage into the pan (add a drizzle of oil if your surface is not non-stick). Brown on all sides, about 10 minutes. Drain any residual oil and wipe out the pan. Line with parchment paper and add back the sausage.
- Add the onions, potatoes, peppers, and rosemary sprigs. Drizzle with olive oil. Mix well and season lightly with salt and pepper. You don't wan't to overdo it with the salt- the sausage is salty enough!
- Bake in the center of the oven, stirring once, until the sausage is cooked through and the potatoes are golden. This will take about 30 minutes.
- To serve, pile everything onto a nice platter. Drizzle with balsamic glaze (if using) and salad on the side.