Making Meal Planning Simple
My life is centered around food. Legitimately, centered around food. I schedule my day around meals for my son and myself (I am NOT that mom that misses meals and lives on coffee-I. Need. Food). And then there's my husband who could literally "forget" to eat for three days. Who does that? How do you "forget" to eat? As I'm eating breakfast I'm already thinking about what I'm going to eat for lunch.
Before we joined the parenthood adventure and we were swamped with the parenting and job hustle, the only way we could eat decent food during the week was to meal plan. On the weeks that I didn't make it to the store and plan what we were going to eat, I felt like we lived in chaos. I didn't know if I was coming or going. And instead of relaxing after a hards day work, I was scrambling to make something decent at the last minute.
When we had Noah this became even more important. Now, I'm not the only dictator of my time-I have this tiny bosses who demand my time during the day. We have to be on some sort of schedule. Like any military family we cannot schedule our life around my husband's job. The household is the schedule that we follow. What does this mean? The boys are in charge (of the schedule, at least)! Their schedule is the one that matters and their routine is the important one. And if I want our family to eat healthy, well-balanced meals then I have to plan them.
Tips on How to Effectively Meal-Plan
Keep track of the recipes that your family enjoy: We all know that kids have certain foods that they will always enjoy (hey, who doesn't want some mac n' cheese on a crummy day?). But having diversity in the food you feed your family is also important. However, if you're like me, you can't keep all of these recipes in your head! I enjoy scouring my favorite foodie blogs (and Pinterest) and creating my own recipes. But I have to have somewhere to store the recipes that give me a win at the dinner table. I use an app that works on all of my devices to store my recipes. I've had Paprika for over 5 years and it's by far the best app I've found for storing my recipes. Even better: it makes my grocery lists! I'm able to mark off the items that we already have in our pantry and then add what else I need. It's been my lifesaver on more than one occasion.
Take a look at your schedule: What do you have going on this week? Who is going to be around your dinner table? In this season of military life, Brett gets to be home more often for dinner. But he has occasionally has events in the evenings that keep him away. So, on those nights, I purposefully don't cook. Me and Noah eat leftovers. I also take a look at our social calendar. Do we have any lunch dates or events this week where we might eat a heavier lunch, leading to eating a lighter dinner? Knowing what we are doing during the week makes it SO much easier for me to plan what we're going to eat for dinner.
Make your menu DIVERSE: With young children it can be easy to cook to their palate. Depending on your child this could mean a lot of cheese or noodles, or plain foods that don't have a lot of flavor. This can also mean carbohydrates. And lots of them. And while carbohydrates are not the evil foods that they are currently made to be, eating a balanced meal is probably a better idea for you and your family. For my family, I tend to make one pasta dish a week. This could be Italian pasta or ramen (we are on a serious ramen kick lately). I also try and include meatless meals as well. I am currently not eating meat, so this is pretty simple. But I want to make sure that we are getting enough proteins, and I'm learning to be creative or think outside of the "meat box". I also throw in a recipe that is something I can make really fast. For me, this tends to be a frittata. I can take whatever produce I have leftover from the weekend mix them with eggs, a little cheese (or not), and bake it. I find that when I give myself a lot of options of 1.) flavor and 2.) ease of preparation I've set myself up for success and I don't feel like I'm forced to eat food that I don't want. There is nothing worse than being stuck to a meal plan and not want the food you are preparing.
The biggest benefit of meal planning can really be on your wallet. If you meal plan for the week, you should only need to go to the store once. When I began planning our meals, we were able to significantly cut our grocery budget. I wasn't making all the impulse purchases. If you practice Intuitive Eating there is still a place for meal planning. By creating a fluid and loose plan you can still have room for taking the time to recognize what your body needs and wants without being stuck to your plan. By providing different options of flavor, cooking style/method, preparation time, etc you can really make a decision daily on which meal you want or need to make.