If I hear one thing consistently from clients it is the woes of meal planning. It’s a necessary evil in the minds of most parents trying to feed their families well and stay within the inevitable food budget.
A professor I had in graduate school often talked about how our palaces can become our prisons. In other words, rich gifts that offer us so much potential can turn into trappings, stress, and drag us down when our perspective is off. Along these lines, I think meal planning is a palace that because of our perspective becomes a prison.
Whether we like it or not, oftentimes structure = freedom. Think on that for a moment. Example: when I stick to the structure of getting all the dishes put away, sink emptied and counters wiped down before bed, the morning routine is more spacious, enjoyable and free. When I don’t, I wake up feeling like I’m playing catch up. In this regard, the structure of a couple tasks before going to bed offers me freedom in the morning.
Meal planning is not a “necessary evil.”
It is an opportunity for structure that offers your family freedom, connection and less stress.
If you are one of those who dreads meal planning, take a moment to consider this being a good part of your life that opens up other more important aspects of your world (like more time to connect with kids and spouse or have time to yourself).
I am going to give you some basic dos and don’ts then some resources for you to try out.
- plan at least 1 crock pot meal a week for your busiest evening
- make next day’s prep (chopping, thawing, etc) part of your meal plan (example: write down with Monday’s meal plan what you can prep for Tuesday)
- use technology (apps, downloads, subscriptions, etc) only if it’s helpful and make a change when it’s not
- take inventory of our fridge, freezer, and pantry BEFORE you start planning
- start your meal planning with what you already have on hand so you are not always buying new ingredients for every meal
- use the sales flyer for your preferred store while you are planning (often online)
- plan to use leftovers for meals or as parts of new meals
- consider doubling favorite recipes to put in the freezer
- share meal plans with friends to save you time and creative energy
- be too hard on yourself
- think you’ve failed if a week of meals falls apart due to schedule changes
- decide you stink at meal planning or can’t do it if your desire decreases after a few weeks- get back on the horse
- hesitate to change your system if it’s not working
Before I go crazy with links to meal planning templates, resources, services, etc, you may be wondering what I do for meal planning. It’s actually very simple.
I have a different colored calendar within our family Google calendar titled “meals” where I just type in what we’re having that day. If there is a recipe link, recipe page # from a book or something to do for the next day, I put it in the “description” section of the calendar event. This is what I do most often, but some weeks, I just look at the calendar and make a quick list for the fridge. The key is to plan around the calendar so I can pick meals that fit how much time we have to prep/eat that night. I have seen time and time again that when I don’t plan, I spend too much at the grocery store, our meals are not as good, and sometimes I don’t even have enough food for a meal or the week. IT’S WORTH IT!
Meal Planning Resources/Sources:
The Nourishing Home – my “go to” site for new ideas, support,and the reminder that this is worth it! I LOVE the simplicity of the templates!
Nourished Kitchen Meal Plans (all real food- many gluten free or easily adapted gluten free options)
Free “real food” Meal Plans from 100 Days of Real Food blog
eMeals.com– can choose specific types of diet including gluten free or Paleo (paleo will be gluten free, casein and soy free)
GetPaleoFit– local Paleo meal delivery service. $7 for delivery and all meals are gluten, soy and dairy free. Great option for back up meals or nights you’re not around to cook
I know there are 100’s if not 1,000’s of other templates, services and resources out there. These are just a few of my favorites.
Your turn! Share your meal planning tips, tricks and resources in the comments section!
And remember if your family is struggling with food sensitivities, wondering if diet is contributing to development behavior, or if you just think you could be feeling better than you do- I am available for individual consultation at Marian Hope Center or a convenient location for you! Contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org