Does Meal Planning Scare You?

If so, you are not alone! In honor of the upcoming Halloween holiday that is celebrated in the US at the end of this month, I thought I’d write my thoughts about a topic that many find scary…..Meal Planning. Boo!

All joking aside, I often talk with clients who think that meal planning is a great idea, but when it comes time to actually put a plan into place, they freeze. It feels like work, and anything that feels like work tends to get shuffled down to the bottom of the priority list, right? Hey, I get it. I’ve certainly had that thought of, “Ug, if I have to spend all day Saturday in the kitchen I’ll scream!” a time or two. But here’s the thing — every time our family gets into the groove of meal planning, we are SOOO glad that we did it.

In my experience, the planning part is just half the battle. Maybe you can make a list of meals, but when the time comes to actually make the meals, the plan gets put to the side. Therefore, when I advise folks about meal planning, I suggest that part of that process involves not just making the menu and purchasing the foods, but actually doing some of the up-front work on making the food as well. With multiple family members running in different directions, meals sometimes get overlooked. Then we are walking around through our day being hungry/grouchy/<insert other not-fun quality of having low blood sugar here>. Or how about the times when we parents make meals for our kids but then “forget” to make ourselves something in the rush to take care of everyone else’s needs? This affects everyone though, not just families. Individuals living alone might be working many hours, or have lots of irons in the fire, and before they know it, they don’t remember the last meal they had that didn’t involve speaking into the clown’s mouth.

What if you started out slowly? As in, just one cooked meal per week, which would only take about an hour of your time to make. If you make multiple servings, you can refrigerate or freeze leftovers and utilize them throughout the week. Then add on. Each week, if all is going well, then add another recipe. By the way, let me be clear by saying that by recipe, I do NOT mean a 27-ingredient-recipe-that-takes-3-hours-to-cook-and-involves-more-chopping-dicing-and methods-of-cooking-than-you’ve-even-seen-on-the-food-channel-shows kind of recipe. Nope. Not even close. Unless you really enjoy spending time in the kitchen, make it easy on yourself. There are numerous websites out there with a ton of recipes, so you can do an Internet search for the kinds of food you like (vegetarian, paleo, meat, crockpot, 3-ingredients-only, etc.). Read through the instructions and ingredients and pick out recipes that you think you can do. Also, if you subscribe to my newsletter (look over there, just to the right of this blog post, for the sign-up box! ———-> ) you receive a new recipe each month to add to your stash.

Or make it even easier and simply prepare categories of foods. For instance, pick your favorite bean (black? pinto? navy?) and make a big pot of those. Then chop fresh veggies to be used for a salad. Pre-wash some lettuce to go along. If you’re a starch-eater, make a big pot of potatoes/rice/pasta, or if you aren’t make a pot of quinoa as a meal accompaniment. Lastly, if you are a meat eater, pick a meat and cook it in advance. You can combine these categories at-will and add some seasonings to have a well-rounded meal at any point in the week.

Your challenge, if you choose to accept it, is to pick one recipe to make this week. That’s it. Then you just need to carve out the time to do it. For many people, this is a weekend. For some, it could be an evening. It doesn’t really matter when you do it, because you might be eating some of it right then, but you might not. There are no rules here — if 9 p.m., when the kids are in bed, or after your lacrosse game, or when you’ve finished dinner and are watching your favorite show is the best time for you to cook a meal, then do it then. When it’s done, store it however appropriate, then reap the benefits later in the week!

If you have any tips for readers on meal planning, including what’s worked for you in the past and what hasn’t, please comment!

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