1. If I do not meal plan, we wind up with a lot of "it's 6pm, I have no idea what to make!" days that end either in ordering take out or convincing each other we weren't really hungry anyway (and then snacking on something inadequate at 10pm).
2. Paper meal plans don't work for me. As much as I love all the really cute displayed meal plans I see on Pinterest, they would look just like my baby books of old - filled in for a week and then never touched again. I am a computer girl - electronic text gets it done.
3. Planning breakfasts doesn't actually lead to making breakfasts, because meal plans don't come with a cook that is ready to face working in the kitchen at 7am. If we want breakfast, we need to have things pre-made that involves minimal effort at breakfast time.
4. We should be eating breakfast more regularly, so we need to plan for those prepared breakfast ideas.
5. Lunches are a saboteur if you don't plan for them. Minus a lunch plan, I tend to skip (leading to more non-nutritious snacking), and Michael winds up eating out (expensive and not the healthiest option) or snacking out his office's free 'healthy snacks' selection (they aren't particularly healthy - but free is tempting when you have no lunch).
6. I love the idea of trying new recipes so much that one pitfall of meal planning is a tendency to load up on new things to try and forgetting to shuffle in our favorites. Since family memories are made in part of favorite family meals, this is something to be mindful of.
7. As much as possible, I need to have one or two meal ideas that are easy, fast, and creatable from things I'm positive I'll have on hand, because some days what I have planned sounded fantastic at the time but feels like my soul is being sucked out of my eyeballs at the mere idea of having to do that work *today*.
8. All of this is a million times easier when it involves two adults that are equally interested in good foods and good health than it was when there were picky children (and a picky ex) in the mix. Back then, any meal that didn't lead to at least one exclamation of "You're trying to poison me!!" was a total victory. I tried, but I outlasted that battle - I didn't win it. For those of you still struggling with that, be nice to yourself! Do what you can, don't stress what you can't, and take heart - someday you'll be able to eat like an adult again.
As we enter June, both Michael and I are realizing that some bad habits have crept back up on us over the winter. Instead of avoiding wheat, we're eating it a couple times a week while making mild comments about how we really should stop this, because we feel better without. We're giving in on packaged 'convenience' foods that aren't particularly convenient, because it seems easier even though we know it isn't. We're re-experiencing weight gain, GERD, inflammation - and we know good and well why, but... holidays! And travel! And ...because.
Summer is a good time to reboot, I think - we're at the half way point of the year (and just before my birthday), which I think is a good time to renew our resolve and goals. It's fresh produce season, so there are plenty of delicious, colorful and nutritious alternatives to processed boredom. Even eating out, it's much easier to find fresh alternatives in restaurants that it might be in winter. And no holidays that can't be handled easily by still eating in a way that promotes well-being rather than fights against it.
So all that said, here's how I currently mealplan:
1. I worry about dinners only (see above for why this needs to change).
2. I keep a page for each month in the program The Journal. I've used this for years to handle all manner of information, and I love it a lot. Sadly, at this time they don't have a version that syncs to a Kindle or iPad, so after I've laid everything out, I copy it over to Evernote, so I have it when I'm out shopping.
The page is quite simple - June, for example starts out like this - simple blanks, along with notations on events that will impact dinner options:
(my birthday - not cooking!)
(Relay grocery delivery)
(dinner out with Alex)
(Baltimore - dinner at L's)
3. I take into account what fresh produce we're receiving, what meat and other protein sources we have on hand and what we need, and then start filling out the week (and generally, a couple weeks, although I refer to my plans each week to make necessary shifts as things come up).
4. I try to fill out a couple favorites, a couple new recipes, and a couple days where I don't have to cook (either planned leftovers or meals out). I will plan for 7 meals, but it isn't unusual for one to wind up not happening - we either have more leftovers than intended or something comes up that keeps me from being able to cook as planned. Planned meals that don't take place are reshuffled into the next week, especially if perishables are involved. For that reason, when possible, the 7th item is ideally something that involves pantry/freezer items that can wait as needed.
5. Dates are malleable. It isn't uncommon to decide that Wednesday's meal will be much better if it happens on Monday, etc. The days of the week are a reference, not a mandate.
6. I add any pre-prep that needs to happen on the day before of day of. Marinating, taking down frozen items, etc.
7. I add items I need to my grocery list, and schedule in shopping/delivery time prior to needing those items. My list also includes regular items (milk, eggs, etc) and pantry stock as it runs out. My grocery list is pretty much completely up to date at all times, which allows us to 'run to the store' without a lot of last minute decision making.
My finished result for this week - and this turns out to be a ridiculous week full of eating out - looks like this:
Hardy Meal Plan, June 1-7
Spicy Tomato Chicken Soup (from this month's Tiffin Trove Box)
Grain-Free 'Corn'bread topped with Cheese
(my birthday - not cooking!)
I have no idea, and have not been told a thing! Not even sure if it's eat out, order in or he's cooking. Mystery Date!
Zucchini Noodles, tossed with Sauteed Celery, Carrots and Onion
(Relay grocery delivery)
(dinner out with Alex)
We're getting together with an old friend at our favorite Thai restaurant. I could say I don't know what I'm having, but I do, because it's irresistible: Red Coconut Curry with Chicken, Jalepenos, Basil and Bamboo Shoots. Drool....
Masala Salmon (from last month's Tiffin Trove box)
(Baltimore - dinner at L's)
Going up and either eating at a friend's house or eating out
(plans about what haven't been finalized yet)
This is likely to be the most challenging day, in terms of choosing something to eat that is within our intentions - but social gatherings and good times with friends trump ideal eating for me!
I figure if we can alter our habit over the summer, it may be well in place before the (delicious) pitfalls of Autumn rear their annual heads.
I'd love to hear your ideas for meal planning - how you do it, what you've learned? And because we can all always use some great ideas, feel free to share in comments what your plan for the week is, too!
I'm going to make this a weekly thing this summer, every Sunday, and maybe some of the other authors here will also share their meal plan ideas. We each have our own different ways of eating as well as different dietary needs, so between us there is a lot of variety!
|Sweet Sharing Monday|
~ Creative Collection Link Party, DIY Inspired, DIY Sunday Showcase, Happiness is Homemade, Nifty Thrifty Sunday, Our Sunday Best Showcase, Share Your Creativity, Sunday Funday, Sunday Showcase, Silver Pennies Sunday, Submarine Sunday, Think Pink.
~ A Round Tuit, Busy Monday, Clever Chicks Blog Hop, Creative Collection Link Party, Craftastic Monday, Frugal Crafty Home, Homemade Monday, Homestead Barn Hop, Inspiration Monday, Mad Skills Link Party, Making Your Home Sing, Marvelous Mondays, Masterpiece Monday, Melt in Your Mouth Monday, Menu Plan Monday, Mix It Up Monday, Mommy Monday, Monday Funday, Mostly Homemade Monday, Motivation Monday, Much Ado About Monday, Natural Living Monday, Real Food Recipe Round Up, Sweet Sharing Monday, Thank Goodness It's Monday, Tutorials & Tips Link Party.
~ Anti-Procrastination Tuesday, Backyard Farming Connection, Be Inspired, Brag About It Link Party, Create - Link - Inspire, Do Tell Tuesday, Fat Tuesday, From Dream To Reality, Good Tips Tuesday, Growing Homemakers, Handmade Tuesday, Healthy Tuesday, Hearth & Soul Hop, It's Tuesday Giveaway Link Up, One Project at a Time, The Scoop, Share It Link Party, Share Your Stuff Tuesday, Show & Share Party, Take-A-Look Tuesday, Tickle My Tastebuds, Time to Sparkle, Tip Me Tuesday, Too Cute Tuesday, Totally Talented Tuesday, Treasure Box Tuesday, Tuesday To-Do, Tuesdays At Our Home, Turn It Up Tuesday, Tutorial Tuesday,Two Cup Tuesday.
~ Allergy Free Wednesday, Cast Party Wednesday, Centerpiece Wednesday, Fluster's Creative Muster, Gluten-Free Wednesdays, Homemaking Party, Homemaking Wednesday, The Inspiration Board, Inspiration Exchange, Lovely Ladies Linky, Party On the Porch, Penny Pinching Party, Pretty Wednesday, Real Food Wednesday, Show + Tell, Wake Up Wednesday, We Did It Wednesday, Wednesday Round Up, Wednesday Whatsits, Wellness Wednesday, What We Accomplished Wednesday, What's Cookin' Wednesday, What's It Wednesday, Whatever Goes Wednesday, Whimsy Wednesday, Wicked Awesome Wednesday, Wildcrafting Wednesday, Wonderful Wednesday, Work It Wednesday, Works For Me Wednesday, Wow Me Wednesday, Wow Us Wednesdays, Your Turn to Link Up, Your Whims Wednesday.
~ Creative Ways Link Party, Fabulously Frugal Thursday, Full Plate Thursday, Home & Garden Thursday, HomeAcre Hop, It's a Party, Moonlight & Mason Jars, Pennywise Platter, Share Your Cup Thursday, Showcase Your Talent, Thank Your Body, Thrifty Thursday, Thursday Favorite Things.
~ Anything Goes, BFF Open House, Crafting Along, DIY Linky, Fabulously Creative Friday, Farmgirl Friday, Feathered Nest Friday, Fight Back Friday, Flaunt It Friday, Foodie Friday, Freedom Friday, Friday Favorites, Friday Link Party, From the Farm, Frugal Friday, Kitchen Fun and Crafty Friday, Let's Get Real Friday, Old-Fashioned Friday, Party Bunch, Pinworthy Projects Party, Shabbilicious Friday, Show and Tell Friday, Weekend Re-Treat.