Today I wanted to write about meal planning. Do you meal plan? For me it has been so incredibly helpful. I started meal planning after my daughter arrived. We needed to budget how much we were spending on groceries and it was just easier for me with a new baby to take care of.
I won’t lie, it’s not always easy. Some weeks I just feel uninspired and at a complete loss. This is where Pinterest really shows its usefulness…. I have quite a few boards for food alone. Vegetarian, Savory, Bread, Desserts, and of course, Successful Recipes. I’ve tried every recipe on the success board and added my own comments of what I did, or would do, differently. Feel free to check them out!
Anyway, back to meal planning. I only plan for dinner. I teach in the mornings M/W/F and am home for lunch, but for those of you who need to take lunch to work, planning those meals would be helpful too.
Benefits of Meal Planning
- Cheaper – one or two trips to the store instead of everyday
- Time Saver – less time in the car and store
- Healthier – eating out does not lend itself to healthy eating, neither does buying fried chicken at the store because you are so incredibly hungry when you are there with the noble intentions of buying fresh veggies!
- Less Stress – no wondering what you are going to make for dinner in an hour
And I’m sure there are more, depending on where you are in the world, your budget, and how many people you have to prepare food for.
When you first start meal planning, not everything will go as planned, so remember, this isn’t a big deal and it’s ok to stray from the plan a bit. The other thing I wish I had planned for earlier was what to make on busy/long days. For months and months I would always have something new or fun on the schedule for Friday and I would never make it! Why? Because this is my daughter’s long day at daycare and usually I look at it as my “day off”. The last thing I want to do on my day off is get home late (almost 5pm) and spend another hour plus trying a new dish. I finally realized after months of tossing out my Friday dinner plan that I just needed to make this leftover night. Sometimes I take a meal out of the freezer and sometimes there is enough stuff left over in the fridge that we just eat that.
Have you ever heard the saying, “Cook once, eat twice”? I’ve even heard, “Cook once, eat thrice”. Both of those are great ideas, especially if you are a single parent or work outside the home the majority of the day.
The idea is that you make a big meal and then refrigerate/freeze it in a serving size large enough to suffice for you/your family for another dinner. Of course this doesn’t work well for everything, i.e. pasta, and potatoes. While I wouldn’t suggest freezing pasta by itself, you can definitely make extra sauce and freeze it. When it comes down to leftover night, all you have to do is cook some pasta and heat up the premade sauce.
My favorite items to freeze that reheat well: casseroles, soups, stews, sprouted beans, and bread. I have made double batches of homemade bread and frozen the loaves cut into halves. This works very well, especially if you plan ahead during the summer. We don’t have A/C and the idea of running our oven for up to an hour is just unpleasant!
Weekend or Day Off Prepping
For those of you who work outside the home most of the week I would recommend taking some time on your day off to prep veggies and/or cook multiple meals to eat throughout the week. For some people, they have enough time to cook the meals every night, but don’t have time (or patience) to prep the veggies/portion out large packages of meat. If you fall into the category of wanting to cook something every night, but don’t have the time to prep the veggies, do it on your day off. This would look like….
- Meal Plan
- Get Groceries
- Wash, Cut, & Store
The crockpot would be super helpful in this instance. Put all ingredients together in tupperware and dump everything into the crockpot in the morning, leaving it all day to cook. Or pre-assemble a casserole, cover it, and place it in the fridge until the day of. Uncover and bake. Again, super easy. In both instances it would be easy to add a big salad, especially if you have pre-prepped any veggies or fruit you like in your salads.
If you are reading this and thinking, “ugh! This sounds like too much work!”, you aren’t alone. BUT, if you are committed to saving money, eating healthier, or both, these things require a bit of planning. This is by no means impossible. And as mentioned at the start, use our greatest tool – the internet! Google and Pinterest are chock FULL of recipes and ideas for dinners, lunches, snacks, desserts, breakfasts, and everything in between. Not only that, once you get comfortable in the kitchen, you can sub out certain veggies or spices that are more to your liking.
Lastly, don’t be afraid to fail and don’t give up. I have made countless meals that did not turn out as I had hoped. You will definitely come across meals on Pinterest that you think there is absolutely no way that that person made that dish using those ingredients. I’ve been there and I totally get it. Also, when you make mistakes, that’s when you learn! Just as in yoga when learning more advanced poses, you must try and be willing to fail.
On Friday I’ll be sharing meal plan examples, representative of what my family actually eats. I’ll also share about our food intolerances and ideas for vegetarian dinners. Hope you’ll join me back here on Friday. Happy Eating!