I’m big on meal planning, as you may have noticed. Fear of boring you with monotony is largely why I don’t tend to share my lunches more than once a week. I shop every weekend with the intention of making a lunch that I will be happy eating three of my four work days. I allow myself one meal out each week, often to my beloved Shish-Kabobs.
Since things have been crazy in my world lately, I’ve been a little too lax, which hasn’t been good for my health or my pocketbook. We open the play in less than two weeks, and I’d like to look my best in sexy Puritan black. Plus, it’s January, the time for everyone to jump (back) on the health bandwagon, so I’m beginning the clean-up process. Not to be confused with the housecleaning process. That may never happen.
I’ve been asked before how I eat more-or-less consistently well and tend to show up for work with tasty, healthy, well-balanced meals. In fact, I’ve attempted to write a post on the subject many times over, but I always have trouble making the very simple steps I take sound, well, interesting. Please bare with me.
My #1 secret to weekly meal planning is writing things down. When I’m in a particularly good flow, I use a basic Word document I created to track what I plan to eat during the upcoming week. It probably sounds crazy, but I filled out the document for next week today, yes, the Wednesday before. I do this for several reasons:
1. It gives me plenty of time to think things over and change my mind, depending on the following week’s schedule.
2. I can buy everything I need on my weekend grocery runs and do prep work on Sundays.
3. I don’t have a printer at home, so I need to make decisions during the work week.
If any of you are interested, I am providing a link to my document here.
It’s currently filled out with my plan for next week. As you can see, at the top, I list what I plan to eat for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. I do tend to eat the same thing for breakfast every Monday through Friday because it makes my life a lot easier. Lunches, as I have mentioned, are the same three days of the week. I eat out one work day and usually Fridays, too. Dinner is usually the same two or three nights a week, and then I supplement with whatever catches my eye at the store. Lately, that’s been baked sweet potatoes or winter squash.
Listing the plan like I do allows me to see what I am missing (fruits, protein, etc.), what I’m getting too much of (maybe grains/starches this week), and gives me the chance to tweak. I’m a very visual person, so unless I lay everything out in front of me, I could easily end up eating nothing but pasta for an entire week without realizing there is no food in my food. (Name that movie!)
Below that, I make a preliminary shopping list based on my food plan. In the summer, this section is divided between the grocery store list and the farmer’s market list. The rest of the year, I remove the subtitles because they only remind me of how much I miss the Cherry Street Farmers Market. I don’t make my final list until right before I go to the store, just in case I need to add something. Also, I’m incredibly anal about my lists. I draw checkboxes by every item so I can keep track, and they MUST start with fresh produce, because that is where we start our shopping, and it comprises about half the list anyway. Even so, I always try to be flexible. If I intend to buy broccoli for a side, as is the case with next week, but cauliflower is on sale, I make substitutions. No biggie.
The rest of the document is any recipes I’m using for the week that I found online. Again, since I don’t have a printer at home, I find this is an easy way to make sure I don’t lose track of what I need. Next week, I am basing a soup recipe on something from the Happy Herbivore, so even though I plan to make substitutions, I included it. I also have two recipes from the Vegan Epicurean to try together. As a result, my plan is two pages long. Usually it’s only one, but it ain’t no big thang.
I always do weekly prep work on Sunday evenings, especially lately since I no longer have a concept of a free weeknight. This generally includes making nut milk, simmering soup for the week, making rice, or whatever else I can do in advance. Lunches are almost always reheated from whatever I make on Sundays. This weekly prep work saves me so much time and energy. Plus, I enjoy it. Cooking is fun and enjoyable, and often, Sundays are the only day of the week I really get to do it. I don’t think throwing a sweet potato into the microwave for five minutes really counts. Also, it’s a nice, exhausting way to end the weekend, allowing me to sleep a little sounder for the oh-so-early Monday alarm clock.
So that’s the basics of how I plan my meals. My method isn’t rigid, and God knows there are many weeks that I ignore it completely, but I find it very helpful in keeping myself on track.
Do you plan your meals? If so, what’s your method?