Hi everyone! Andrea here. I love meal planning so much that Beth asked me to share with you all today.
If you’re American like me you probably celebrated Thanksgiving last week and you probably ate way too much. You also probably ended up with mounds of leftovers.
I, on the other hand, ended up with ZERO leftovers. None. Zilch. Nothing. It’s a crime, really. But we traveled to three towns in two states within five days. Toting leftovers around that much just didn’t sound like a good idea.
Still, I’m a little upset. I didn’t plan on cooking much this week and I quickly had to come up with Plan B. We also purposefully used up most of our groceries before we left town so a mad dash trip to the grocery store was in order.
Once I sorted through luggage and sat down for longer than I had all weekend, I took to planning out this week’s meals. Even in my rush and exhaustion, I knew skipping over the planning phase would only add to my stress.
I’m a veteran meal planner. I don’t say that to brag. I don’t do it because I’m some sort of domestic goddess. I do it because for me, it’s a necessity. We just basically fall apart around here if I don’t. And through the years I’ve discovered four specific ways it has changed my life.
Yeah, it takes me a while to sit down and plan out everything we’re going to eat for the week. But it’s nothing compared to the time I used to spend staring into my pantry or fridge trying to figure out how I can make something out of a jumbled assortment of ingredients.
It might take you longer at first, but the longer you meal plan the more efficient you become at it. Thirty minutes, tops, and you’ll have a complete shopping list and menu. Plan to Eat makes it even easier.
Wasting food irritates me to no end. Just take your cold, hard cash and throw it into the garbage disposal. With meal planning, I only buy what I need for that week. My perishable groceries don’t have time to go bad.
I also plan around what I already have left from the previous week. If I made a pot of beans the week before, I’ll throw what we didn’t eat into a batch of chili.
Lastly, in my early days of marriage I’d go to the store and simply throw in anything I thought we’d eat anytime in our life. I’m only exaggerating a little bit. And you can guess what happened once I got home… lots of ingredients but not really the right ones to make an actual meal.
Now I shop with a very specific list and I try not to stray from it, which makes budgeting a piece of cake. *thinks cake sounds good and makes a mental note to add cake to next week’s meal plan*
This is a big one. Fail to plan, plan to eat everything you know you shouldn’t. Or at least that’s how that quote goes at my house. The ugly truth is that most of the time, junk is quicker and more accessible than real food. That’s why I plan snacks. A quick glance at the menu and I know exactly what I should eat, which gives my brain less time to think of the OTHER options.
Also, let’s face it. Eating out, even dine-in, will rarely (if ever) provide you with quality, whole foods.
You and I, we have enough going on. We’re moms. We’re wives. We’re employees. We’re friends. Our time is limited and constantly pulled in way too many directions.
I listened to a podcast by Havilah Cunnington entitled Growing Your Capacity last week and ironically, I kept thinking of meal planning. Basically, we only have so much brain capacity. Anything we can turn into a habit frees up space for us to focus on other things. We eat too many meals for it to be something we stress about every. single. time.
Our Plan It Like You Mean It challenge is a great way for you to talk with like-minded folks and have some accountability. It’s not too late to join!
Check out: Quick Healthy Meals Ultimate Guide (101 Tips, Recipes, and Strategies) for tons of tips to help you rethink your meal planning!
Without further ado, here is my meal plan for the week.
Breakfast: Whole-wheat pancakes with freshly ground peanut butter and real maple syrup
Lunch: Quesadillas, pineapple
Snack: Carrots and a boiled egg
Dinner: Taco Night with homemade taco seasoning and tortillas
Breakfast: Scramble (that’s what we call scrambled eggs with sausage and cheese mixed in)
Lunch: Leftover Chicken Tortilla Soup
Snack: Almonds and blackberries
Dinner: Crock-pot Spaghetti Bolognese Sauce with spinach salad
Breakfast: Cranberry-Orange Smoothies
Lunch: Spinach salad with grilled chicken
Snack: Dried strawberries with organic popcorn
Dinner: Ham and Potato Soup (I’d recommend using bone broth instead of bouillon)
Breakfast: Yogurt sweetened with pure maple syrup and granola
Lunch: Whole-wheat toast, boiled egg, baked sweet potato fries
Snack: Grass-fed cheddar cheese and apple slices
Dinner: Salmon Patties with roasted green beans and couscous
Breakfast: Pumpkin Spice Coconut Flour Muffins
Lunch: Leftover Ham and Potato Soup
Snack: Strawberry Coconut Chia Popsicles
Dinner: Bourbon Chicken (honey in lieu of brown sugar and pure apple juice) with rice and steamed broccoli
Andrea Vandiver is a work-at-home mom and freelance writer in Oklahoma. She spends her days imitating animals and blowing bubbles. Her favorite things are those that taste, smell, feel, sound and look wonderful. The stuff that romance is made of.
Do you meal plan? How long have you been meal planning? Share your struggles or tips!
THIS WAS POST #7 IN OUR PLAN IT LIKE YOU MEAN IT CHALLENGE. HERE’S THE SERIES SO FAR:
- Plan It Like You Mean It (Join Me for an Eight-Week Meal Planning Challenge!)
- Meal Planning & Procrastination (Plan It Like You Mean It, Week 1)
- 4 Meal Planning Tips for When You Want a Break from Cooking (Plan It Like You Mean It, Week 2)
- Meal Planning for the Spontaneous-at-Heart Types (Plan It Like You Mean It, Week 3)
- 20 Low-Maintenance Weeknight Dinners (Plan It Like You Mean It, Week 4)
- 12 Freezer-to-Crockpot Meals (Plan It Like You Mean It, Week 5)
- <you are here> 4 Reasons Meal Planning Changed My Life (Plan It Like You Mean It, Week 6)
The Plan It Like You Mean It challenge is sponsored by Plan to Eat, because eating at home should be easier!
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I don’t get the sheer variety! I have 3 fussy kids with food intolerances, so there are up to four different meals that I make daily, just for tea (dinner, sorry, I’m Australian).
If I had completely different breakfasts, lunches, snacks and DINNER every single day, that would be up to… let me see… 4 x 4 is 16 x 7 = 112 different meals in a week. I could do that easy… if I had a live-in cook!
My sanity comes from everyone having the same breakfast they usually have each day, pretty much the same lunch and a strictly small rotation of snacks. The kids are so fussy they only eat 2 or 3 meals for DINNER, so they have the 2 meals twice weekly, with hot chips on Sundays. I can bulk prep those meals for up to 4 weeks and just cook up the mixture (chicken and veg and egg burgers) or the home made frozen raw chicken schnitzel or defrost and reheat the frozen precooked egg and banana and buckwheat waffles.
Our meals are bulk prepped, so I do the deciding the night before either what will go in the slow cooker the next day or which meal I will start defrosting from the freezer to the fridge for reheating.
So I’m probably not a great meal planner, but I do what works for us!
Sounds like you’ve found a routine that works for you and that’s what’s important!