Food for Friday — Meal Planning
Happy New Year! I had a little help last week with my Food for Friday post while I was on vacation, but I’m back this week I’m all ready to tackle the new year and a new food topic. Ready, get set, go!
Around this time of year, many people are thinking about resolutions and making some positive changes it’s no different here at Little Miss Kate. In fact, you’ll be hearing a lot in the near future about some goal setting that has been going on and some tough choices we’ll be making, but those details will have to wait a few more days. What I think most of us know by know (and if we don’t know by now, we should) is that the best way to reach a goal, or to make a change, or to stick to a resolution, is to have a plan. And since so many of us have goals or resolutions around food, the best way to achieve those goals is to have a plan: a meal plan.
My family has been creating and mostly following a meal plan for around 3 or so years now – just about exactly the minute I went back to work after my first baby. When we first talked about starting it, I was almost certain I was going to hate it. Really. I enjoy food and I enjoy cooking food and the idea of having to eat a certain thing on a certain day really bugged me. I thought that we’d get stuck in a rut and it would be boring. On the contrary! I think we eat more variety now than we used to and the plan can change so much depending on how busy your week is (or isn’t). It turns out that I especially love that we can make all this variety of delicious dinners mostly because we didn’t forget some key ingredient at the grocery store (with a meal plan comes a better grocery shopping list!)
Since we’ve been meal planning, our grocery bill is a hundred or so dollars a month lower than it used to be (shopping more carefully for just what we need), we spend less money on take-out, we create less food waste from perishables purchased but not used, we eat a greater variety of foods, we save loads of time by avoiding last minute stops at the grocery store on the way home from work, and in the end, we actually spend less time thinking about what to cook.
Are you convinced yet? Ready to try it for a week or two? I’ll probably be talking about meal planning throughout the month of January (with some new recipes thrown in), so if you wanted to give it a try, now’s as good a time as any. Or, if you’re already meal planning, I’m hoping we can share some tips and tricks with one another. Let’s give it a try, shall we? It doesn’t matter what your meals are, as long as you have a plan.
Here’s a sample of “My Family Meal Plan” for next week:
(Full disclosure, my husband created this one and we’ve been making some changes to our diet)
Sunday – Leftovers Night
Monday – Grilled ham and cheese sandwiches, steamed carrots, cucumber and tomatoes
Tuesday – Italian pork sausages, stewed black beans, asparagus
Wednesday – Spaghetti squash with Bolognese sauce
Thursday – Baked salmon with dill, stewed black beans, rice, broccoli
Friday – Take-out night
Saturday – Mac and cheese, raw veggies with hummus
And here are a few “Do’s and Don’ts” to help you get started:
1. Don’t plan 3 meals a day. In fact, if you can help it, just plan dinners. Make enough food at dinner for everyone to eat leftovers for lunch the next day. Pick one, two, or three basic things to eat for breakfast each week and just stock those items. One of my friends actually eats the same thing for breakfast 5 days a week (Monday to Friday) but changes it up A LOT from week to week. This might not be for you, but the less you have to think about it, the happier your life will be and the speedier you’ll get out the door in the morning
2. Don’t plan 7 dinners a week. There’s going to be at least one night when you know it’s going to be tough to get dinner on the table. Or one night when you just don’t feel like cooking. That’s ok. Allow yourself a take-out night. In fact, we plan ‘easy’ meals on nights we know we’ll be busy and take-out night for when we really need a break. At our house, we get one take-out night a week. At your house it could be more or less. We also plan one night for left-overs. Almost invariably we have some. Even the best planners will, I think. At least, that’s what I tell myself.
3. Do incorporate some flexibility. Did you have to stay late at work unexpectedly and now you don’t have time to make the roasted chicken like you thought? Did your lunch meeting have free pizza and now you don’t really feel like eating pizza again for dinner? Did you rush out in the morning forgetting to turn on the slow cooker? It’s ok – you have a plan but you don’t have to be militant. You can move things around to suit your needs (including take-out night) as the week unfolds.
So, do you meal plan already and if not what’s been holding you back? Are you interested in giving it a try? Let us know in the comments!