I have written before that my fiance is a flexitarian and that basically, that means that you eat a mostly vegetarian diet but have the flexibility to eat meat on occasion. He is a flexitarian not just for the health benefits but also because he is an animal lover.

On the other hand, I believe that animals were put on this Earth for me to eat and wear and one of my biggest life regrets is not purchasing this coat.

I could eat a burger with a side of chicken every day, but I know that a plant-based diet is much better for me (and, OK, the environment). And so I have been cooking more vegetarian meals, and I have to admit, I’m surprised. Most of them are pretty good. Only one has been inedible (so far). I thought I would crave meat, but I don’t. I order meat when we eat out.

I do miss meat, though, because it’s a lot easier to cook. You can throw just about any cut of meat in the slow cooker with some spices and a few veggies and dinner is magically ready when in six or seven hours. I learned of Menu Plan Monday from Ashley’s new blog, Wife on a Budget,  and it’s been pretty good for getting ideas, but I’m kind of jealous that so many of them can toss a pot roast in the oven and be done with dinner.

MPM is great for getting ideas. Menu planning, I have found, is key to weight loss and, now, flexitarianism. If you don’t plan ahead, it’s difficult to put together tasty, healthy meals on a whim, and you’re much more likely to order a pizza. From browsing this week’s MPM blog posts, it sounds like everyone’s on the same page as me: Sitting down with the grocery flyer, coupons, cookbooks and computer to plan the week’s meals. It takes time, for sure, but it’s so much easier in the end.

I start by Googling “easy vegetarian meals” and also by visiting one of the best food blogs ever written, Cheap Healthy Good and clicking on the vegetarian tag.

Our weekly menu is shaping up to look like this:

Monday

  • Lunch – Soup (fiance is recovering from a cold; I’m fighting one off)
  • Dinner – Leftover pizza (because we didn’t plan ahead and totally got a pizza last night) 

Tuesday

  • Lunch – Salads (buy a big container of baby spinach; top with tuna, chickpeas, goat cheese and whatever veggies are on sale)
  • Dinner – Grilled portobello mushrooms (I like these even though every other kind of mushroom makes me gag and I pretend I’m allergic in restaurants like Carrie Bradshaw pretended to be allergic to parsley) and sweet potato fries

Wednesday

  • Lunch – Salads
  • Dinner – Lasagna with meat-substitute crumbles (we scored these for 99 cents at Super Target because they were on sale for 1.99 and then we had a $1 off coupon for any Morningstar Farms item) and frozen spinach (AND I have a coupon from Foodbuzz to try a new sauce)

Thursday

  • Lunch – Lasagna leftovers
  • Dinner – Veggie chili (Crock pot recipe! Score!)

Friday

  • Lunch – chili leftovers
  • Dinner – OUT!

One area of our meal planning I would like to really improve is the weekends. I’m bad at leaving those to chance and we often end up eating out. This week, I know we’ll have at least Saturday breakfast taken care of and chili for lunch.

I don’t plan my snacks per se, but I do make sure that we buy healthy snacks to have on hand. I know that I am almost always going to snack at 3 or 4 p.m., but I don’t always know what I’m going to have. Having bananas, Greek yogurt and whatever fruit is on sale this week on hand is how we handle the snack attack (unless I bake something in response to the snack attack, but hey, I won’t be working from home for forever and I need to take advantage of it now, right?).

Share with me your favorite money-saving and menu planning Web sites, tips and tricks, please!

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