It’s no secret: meal planning is a fantastic way to save time, save money, eat healthy and make your life at least a little bit easier.
So if it’s so darn wonderful, why does it never work for me?
I’m not saying that meal planning itself doesn’t work, it’s just that I’ve never been able to make it work for any length of time. I’ve had several times in my life where I’ve committed to planning our meals and it goes well for a few days and then one day it’s 5:30pm and I find myself staring mindlessly into the fridge and freezer trying to figure out what the heck to make for dinner.
Meal planning and I, we’ve just never got along all that well.
In my post about non-running goals for 2014, I decided to give meal planning another chance and declared that Fridays were going to be known as Foodie Fridays from now on:
- Grocery shopping
- Food prep
- Tidy fridge and pantry
Seems simple enough, right?
It’s only been one week so I can’t possibly declare anything a success yet but here’s what I’m doing to try to ensure my success this time around…
I’ve always just done my grocery shopping as needed. Sometimes that would be every week, every couple weeks or every few days depending on what meals struck my fancy. This year I’m trying to shop only on Fridays and only buy what I need to make the next week’s meals or what’s on sale for future meals. No more random ‘stocking up’.
Everyone marvels about how nice it is to have food all prepped and ready ahead of time so I’m giving that a go too:
- Chopping fruit and veggies for the coming week’s meals
- Browning, marinating or pre-cooking any meat that can be done ahead of time
- Freezer meals like lasagna, chili, casseroles etc.
- Prepping crockpot meals and freezing, simply grab from the freezer, throw in the slow cooker and dinner’s ready (this is genius!)
- Making sure I have everything I need for other meals: side dishes, starches etc.
For example, here’s what I did last Friday for this week:
- Made ‘sweet and tangy’ pork ribs and froze ribs and marinade in a Ziploc (will make in the slow cooker one night)
- Made a lasagna (and one extra for another week)
- Chopped ingredients for a crock pot turkey, bean and kale soup and froze everything in a Ziploc (frozen stock, turkey meat, bouillon cubes etc)
- Made sure I bought the sides and remaining ingredients needed to make meals of things I already had in the freezer and fridge (like sausages, portobello mushrooms and frozen mahi mahi)
It really wasn’t very much work but in a couple of hours I had all of my meals made or prepared for the following week. All I have to do this week is pull things out of the freezer, throw things in the crock pot and cook simple side dishes like veggies and rice. Easy peasy.
|Some of my freezer bags are green because I bought the
Christmas ones on sale after the holidays!
Tidy Fridge and Pantry
I think part of the chaos at meal times comes from not being prepared. When you don’t have a plan it’s impossible to remember everything you have on hand and what meals you can make with it. I have this theory that if I keep my fridge and pantry tidied up and regularly cleaned out, I’ll be able to keep better tabs on what I have, what needs to be eaten up and what can be frozen for future use. There’s nothing worse than throwing out food because you forgot you had it…
|My pantry is one of my favourite rooms in the house and it
makes me happy to see it tidy
Why I think it’s going to work this time…
My biggest pet peeve with meal planning from previous attempts is that it always fell apart when I didn’t feel like making what I had on the schedule. Inevitably the day would come where I wanted pizza instead of split pea soup like the schedule said.
I think I have a simple strategy that will make it all stick this time. It’s so simple I don’t know why I didn’t think of this before. Are you ready for my holy grail of meal planning?
Plan a week’s worth of meals instead of planning a meal for every day of the week!
Pretty simple huh? I always objected to having to make whatever I’d planned for each night of the week. If I simply prepare enough meals for the week, each day I can pick from what’s there depending on what I feel like eating.
It probably sounds silly since that should have been obvious but in my previous meal planning attempts I always got hung up on making a schedule of meals instead of simply planning a week’s worth of meals. Sometimes a change in perspective is all it takes to make a habit stick.
Now let’s see if this theory of mine works out! So far so good! It’s pretty nice having all your meals ready to go. It almost feels luxurious to simply pick something every morning for that night’s meal!
Do you meal plan? What are your tips and tricks to make it successful?