Archives for posts with tag: meal planning

I spent so much time thinking about meal planning this week and I really appreciate all the comments I got on Facebook about how real live women make meal planning work for them.

As I worked through my meal plan and thought about the responses I was able to fine-tune my thoughts and questions a little more. It turns out that the logistics of deciding what to eat each day and planning for that are not the problem here. It wasn’t that I never planned meals, I just did it irregularly and wasn’t planning for all the meals and eventualities that were necessary. What I’m really struggling with is the art of meal planning.

How do you create texture and movement and surprise and focus within your meal plan? Basically, how do you make it a work of art?

How do you make a meal plan that fits dietary, environmental, and social needs? Basically, we need a gluten-free, fair trade, seasonal, organic, pastured, and local food meal plan (listed in order of importance).

And again, how do I do all of that while staying on budget and eating well? It has to taste good and not cost $400 a week!

It would be easy for me to Meal Plan if a) I had a large food budget or b) didn’t care about eating for our dietary needs and in an environmentally and socially conscious way. However, both of those caveats are non-negotiables and they complicate meal planning. I need there to be a large creative component to the meal. I need the meals to satisfy my love of healthy delicious food. I need for meals to fit into real life.

The good news is that I’m beginning to formulate an idea about a system that may work for me. It will be more complicated than the general advice I’ve read, but in the end I think spending some time on it will help me more quickly plan meals that fit our needs: budgetary, dietary, and creative.

My plan will probably include a few parts:

  • an index of meals by main ingredients (I love indexes!!)
  • a list of vegetables and meats with 2-3 ways to prepare them (so I can shop the sales and know I can make a meal out of what’s available)
  • basic week long meal plans that I know work well (so if I’m busy I can just plug it in and go!)
  • room for new recipes
  • a recipe box – I have a notebook and it’s just not working for me

I hope this new system will allow me to include some of the food frugality principles I learned in An Everlasting Meal, while also leaving room for ample creativity. I will never be the woman who picks 14 meals and rotates them – that sounds so boring. I will never be the woman who finds a fabulous new recipe and doesn’t cook it because it wasn’t in the plan – that’s way too rigid. But I think I can become a woman who harnesses the power of planning to help me be better at my job – that sounds just about right.

I updated last week’s menu plan with what really happened. I was please to see that I mostly stuck to the plan!

Do you want to know how to make me cranky? No, but I’ll tell you anyways. Send me to a grocery store, tell me to buy food for my family for the week, give me a limited budget, and tell me it needs to be gluten-free and mostly organic and healthy. Oh and have me do all that without a meal plan or grocery list.

Do you want to know who makes me do this week after week? Me. Myself. And I.

Why do I do this? Because I’m the world’s worst meal planner. I love to cook and I think I’m a pretty good cook, and some weeks I can even manage to pull a string of meals off effortlessly because the sales, schedule and my hormones magically align in harmony. But most weeks it’s more of a disaster.

meal planning

I’ll admit to some hyperbole there, but I really am not good at planning ahead. I work very well in moment-by-moment situations, going with my gut and intuition. Children however do not thrive in those types of situations, especially not my child. There are so many times we arrive at a mealtime with no plan and I freak out because there is so much pressure and not enough time to pull a meal together and we just grab food out or I make a quick dish that doesn’t taste good and I’m grumpy and feel ashamed and lousy. It’s awful.

Over the past few weeks I’ve embarked on some serious reinvention. After a year of surviving I’m ready to start thriving. I’ve started a house cleaning regimen, did a big furniture shuffle, started a new morning routine including exercise, cleaned up my diet with the Whole30 and now I’m working on my nemesis: meal planning.

I’ve done a little reading about the way other people plan. I honestly haven’t found it that helpful because the people who write such things usually do not have my personality so their suggestions don’t fit our lifestyle. I’ve read suggestions about cooking very simply and making the same meals on rotation, but that doesn’t work for me. Cooking flows out of my creativity so I need freedom to try new things, learn new techniques and experiment with flavors. I’ve decided to do what I can and at least schedule some meals, including breakfast and lunch, and see what happens. I can tweak it if this doesn’t work well. The most important thing is to at least have a plan!

On Saturday I grabbed a couple cookbooks at the Library for inspiration (even though I have over a dozen great ones at home). Yesterday I sat down and looked at our calendar for the week, thought about what’s in the fridge and freezer and what special meals we will need and I made a plan.

Update: I hashed through the meals I changed, but basically I kept to the plan and it worked well. 

Monday:

  • Eggs for me and yogurt/cereal for the boys
  • Pizza for Nathan and babysitter and sandwich for jason
  • Apricot-Mustard chicken (from Dinner: a Love Story), Mashed Potatoes, and Salad Frozen Corn

Tuesday (Forever Family Day):

  • Eggs for me and yogurt/cereal for boys
  • Sandwiches
  • Pasta with Simple Tomato Sauce and Salad Pasta Dinner @ Maggiano’s courtesy of a gift card
  • Mascarpone-filled Cake with chocolate icing from a jar (Inspired by Epicurious Cookbook but with a GF cake mix)

Wednesday (Jason off work)

  • Eggs for me and yogurt/cereal for boys
  • Picasso’s (after museum visit – we have a coupon)
  • Fish Cakes (from Dinner: A Love Story) with Tartar Sauce (Lee Bros. Southern Cookbook) and crudités

Thursday (Jason’s Birthday)

  • Eggs for me and yogurt/cereal for boys
  • Sandwiches
  • Mustard Salmon, Hasselback Potatoes (both from Nigella’s Forever Summer), and Broccoli

Friday

  • Eggs for me and yogurt/cereal for boys
  • Sandwiches
  • Dinner out

Some of these meals are new, but only one meal is from a cookbook I’m unfamiliar with. The others are from a tried and trusted cookbook (Dinner: A Love Story) that we know we will like. I’m excited to try this plan and I’ll give an update about it at the end of the week.

So I’m curious. Do you meal plan? What type of planning works for you? Do you like to eat the same things over and over or do you like to make new recipes?