Feed Yourself a Week from Now
This week, I was talking with a group of friends about cooking at home vs. eating out and making wise food choices. It can seem down right impossible to eat food that is healthy, easily available, budget friendly, quick, and TASTES GOOD (for crying out loud!). One of the major factors that makes this task so impossible is that many people decide what they’re doing to eat about 5 minutes before they eat it. I recently read an article with tips on making the most of an entrepreneur/freelance lifestyle. One of those tips (#2) was to plan for your income 5 months ahead of time…not “I’ve got to make a sale, or I’m not going to get dinner on the table tonight.”
I think that same principle applies to meal planning. It’s Wednesday at 11:59 a.m., and your stomach is starting to growl. Do you think you’re going to make a better decision about what to eat if you decide with little to no forethought (probably a drive-through burger) or if you went to the store on Monday to purchase the ingredients for a healthy lunch and packed said lunch the night before? Yeah, that’s what I thought. You can do this! It’s not impossible!
Take baby steps.
- Check out my grocery planning post and the grocery list and plan template.
- Break up the tasks and schedule them. For example: Wednesday night – make your plan, Thursday – do your shopping, and Saturday – prep and cook for the following week.
- Always keep a running list of things you need the next time you go to the store. If something that you use all the time is running low, add it to the list immediately (there is an app for that).
- Plan for breakfast, lunch, dinner, and snacks. You will be hungry at all of these times…give yourself an easy choice when the time comes.
- The plan can help you be accountable, but it is not the end all, be all. You can be flexible with it. Just please, please, please be mindful of food waste. Plan your weekly menu to use fresh items right after you go to the store and make meals that require like ingredients. Got a whole bunch of an ingredient left that you need to use up? Try Google Recipe Search or Allrecipes to search by ingredient.
- We all know not to go to the grocery store hungry, right?
- Find pockets of time that work better for food preparation. There are no laws that say you have to cook dinner every night. Cook 3 meals on the weekend and divide them into meal-sized portions for later in the week or freeze prepared meals to cook later. Pack your lunch the night before, not when you’re rushing to get out the door.
- Prep your produce as soon as you walk in the door from the grocery store. Wash, chop, pre-portion, and anything else you can do ahead of time. You can’t do this with all fruits and veggies, but this will at least give you a head start and make it more likely for you to use fresh ingredients. Also, there is no shame in frozen veggies. I use them A LOT since I’m the only veggie eater in my household (see the note about food waste).
- Keep track of your family’s favorite meals/recipes. Not sure how? Flipping through them can help you decide on what to make.
- If you’re not sure about meal creativity, there’s no shame in planning meal cycles. Plan a week of meals; then, plan another week of meals. And another and another. And another. Every 5 weeks you’ll eat the same things, but I bet a lot of people do this anyway.
- In addition to your scheduled menu, learn a few “pantry meals” just in case you can’t make it to the store on your regular day or something. These are things that you kind of keep on hand to pull out at a moment’s notice without any fancy ingredients. You already know everyone likes it, and it’s easy.
- Arm yourself with knowledge. Don’t be afraid of new recipes. Try to learn new things. Watch a YouTube video on how to blanch or use a knife properly. Try out a new spice or ingredient. Broaden your food horizons and cooking abilities, and you’ll keep yourself entertained.
Don’t expect miracles. If you’re headed through the drive through for breakfast, lunch, and dinner every day, you’re probably not going to quit cold turkey. I call it grocery planning, but you should realize this is a lifestyle change. You have to think about your meals and make decisions. I think this is hard for some people. It takes preparation, patience, and practice!
Remember that eating out sometimes serves as something other than eating food to survive. If you like eating out with friends, invite them over for a potluck. If going to a restaurant provides you a break, get everyone involved, and share the responsibilities of meal preparation with your husband/wife and kids.
Do you have any tips to add to the list? Stay tuned for my tips on keeping a well-stocked pantry.