This week’s meal plan is for lovers of Japanese food! I’ve included popular home cooked dishes such as omurice and spaghetti napolitan, an easy and delicious spicy miso ramen, a crispy tofu katsu cutlet, and a vegan version of hambagu, which is the Japanese version of salisbury steak. All of the dishes are kid friendly (you can easily tone down the spice level of the miso soup) and take on average 25 to 30 minutes to make – except for the tofu katsu, which takes a little longer.
Benefits of Meal Planning
Meal planning offers a multitude of benefits that can make cooking more enjoyable, especially when you have a busy week coming up. Incorporating meal planning into your cooking routine not only simplifies the process but also contributes to healthier eating habits, financial savings, and a more enjoyable overall cooking experience. Let’s take a look at some of the benefits:
Time-Saving: Meal planning saves time during the week. When you already know what you’re cooking, you can streamline your grocery shopping and meal preparation.
Reduces Food Waste: By planning your meals, you buy only what you need and use ingredients efficiently, reducing food waste and saving money.
Healthier Choices: Meal planning encourages thoughtful menu choices. It allows you to incorporate a variety of nutritious ingredients and take out some that are not so healthy.
Budget-Friendly and Reduced Last Minute Decisions: It helps you stick to your budget by avoiding impulse purchases and dining out. With a meal plan in place, you won’t resort to unhealthy takeout or fast food when you’re too tired to decide what to cook.
Less Stress: Knowing what you’re going to cook each day reduces stress in the kitchen. You can also plan easy, quick meals for busy days, or make a few dishes ahead of time that you can freeze and enjoy later.
Diverse Menu: Meal planning allows you to experiment with different cuisines, expanding your culinary horizons and keeping mealtime fun and interesting.
Portion Control: You can portion meals appropriately, reducing the chances of overeating.
Customization: Tailor your meals to dietary preferences or restrictions, ensuring that everyone in your household is taken care of.
Eco-Friendly: Reducing food waste and choosing local, seasonal ingredients as part of your meal plan can have a positive impact on the environment.
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Japanese Meal Plan
Every week I will be providing a meal plan in pdf format that you can print or save on an electronic device. Each meal plan will include 5 main dishes with their individual total cooking time and flavor profile, a grocery shopping list, and a link to those recipes. The plan also includes lunch, side, and snack ideas for the week.
This Week’s Menu
Tofu Katsu – Firm tofu breaded and pan fried until golden brown and crispy and serve with a tangy and fruity tonkatsu sauce, which is the Japanese version of barbecue sauce. This is a great alternative to traditional pork or chicken katsu if you are looking to eat less meat!
Spicy Miso Ramen – There is so much of depth of flavor in the broth that you won’t believe it’s homemade! Smoky, spicy, salty, and full of umami, this ramen also comes topped with a drizzle of garlic and scallion flavored oil. It’s a stunning dish you are sure to love!
Vegan Hambagu – Another plant based option that tastes just like the real thing, hambagu is the Japanese version of the classic salisbury steak. If you prefer to make the traditional hambagu, which is made using ground beef, click here for the recipe.
Spaghetti Napolitan – Also called spaghetti Naporitan, this popular pasta is something often included in the kids lunch menu in Japan (called okosama lunch) because of its simple yet addictive taste. The spaghetti is sweetened with ketchup and comes topped with wiener sausages and a variety of stir fried vegetables.
Omurice – One of Japan’s most loved dishes, omurice is ketchup flavored fried rice served with a fluffy omelet on top. Dress it with some more ketchup or a rich gravy for maximum flavor. Delicious!
Prepping Ingredients Ahead of Time
Doing a little prep before the work week begins is always a great way to save time in the kitchen after a long day. I do mine on Sundays while listening to my favorites tunes or putting on one of my favorite reality tv shows (a guilty pleasure). This way cooking doesn’t feel like work but more like a relaxing meditation.
Here is how I do my own prep at home:
- I make a list of all the vegetables that need chopping and do as much chopping ahead of time. Especially garlic and onions since many of my recipes use them and they are my least favorite ingredients to chop. I save them separately in storage containers and arrange them neatly in my fridge.
- My husband and I prep all of our morning green juice ingredients and save them in storage containers. This way we can grab a container, dump it in the blender and add water and juice. Quick, easy, and healthy!
- I always have a container of cooked brown rice in the fridge since we eat it so frequently.
- I make salad dressings and stir fry sauces ahead of time, even if they are very simple and quick to make. I never buy store bought since they contain too much sugar and are generally unhealthy.
- Once every other week I make a pot of soup and tell myself there cannot be any leftovers. This forces me to eat healthier and it also saves me time and money (making soup is cheap!).
- I have a weekly menu I refer to so I don’t forget about ingredients that need to be thawed or purchased at the grocery store.
- Speaking of groceries, I like to do mine on a Tuesday or a Wednesday so I can get the freshest ingredients.
Tips For Successful Meal Planning
- Prep your least favorite part of the meal ahead of time. If it’s chopping onion like it is for me, do it ahead so it doesn’t deter you from cooking dinner. If it’s boiling eggs, boil them ahead for the same reason.
- Pay attention to what makes you not want to cook or what makes you say “let’s just order takeout”. Is it a specific part of cooking – chopping onions, having to cook rice, etc… – or is it simply because you are too exhausted? Say you already have cooked rice and prepped veggies in your fridge and all you had to do was cook a protein and saute some veggies, would you still avoid cooking or would the process look more appealing?
- Keep an inventory of what’s about to go bad in your fridge and freezer. This will save you a ton of money! Make two inventory lists: one for the fridge and one for the freezer. The ingredients that are about to expire should be placed at the front of your fridge and freezer – just like grocery stores do! – so they can be used as soon as possible.
- Try to do to keep your visits to the grocery store to a minimum. Once you have your meal plan for the week ready, make a grocery list of all the ingredients you need. This way you greatly minimize trips to the grocery store (I only need to go once or twice per week).
- Keep your kitchen clean. This is so important! My husband hated cooking until I showed him that keeping his work area and kitchen sink clean made the world a difference. It creates less chaos around you which in turn creates less chaos in your head. It’s also very easy to keep your counters clean – as soon as you are done using a pot, plate, or bowl, wash it! This way your kitchen sink will remain empty and you won’t feel overwhelmed by the amount of cleaning left to do once you are done cooking. I learned that trick by working in professional kitchens. This is the only way restaurant kitchens can function successfully – by being as tidy as possible.