Thursday, August 29, 2013

MEAL PLANNING 101

I have had a few readers ask me how I meal plan. I hope you are ready for a novel, b/c I wrote one. :)

While I was pregnant with Ellis, I would always find myself trying to imagine what life would be like when she got here. I was curious how I would feel once she made her arrival, subsequently making me a 'Mom'. Would I be tired all of the time? Would I care about my career anymore? Would Logan and I ever 'go out' again? Well, now that she is here (and 17 months in) I can answer all of these questions.

No, I am not tired all the time. Yes, I still care about my career. Yes, Logan and I get time away, if we make it.

Having a clild has taught me many things. It has taught me how to love (& worry) more than I ever thought possible. It has taught me patience and how to function on little to no sleep. It has also taught me a whole new level of multitasking. Having a child, especially as a working mom, creates a whole new kind of crazy in your life. Crazy isn't staying out too late or waking up with a hangover and barely making it to your studio class on time. Crazy is trying to figure out how to get a child ready for daycare, make it to work on time, get everyone fed dinner by 7pm, keep a clean house, and have enough energy to talk to your spouse at the end of the night. (This goes for Logan and myself - we are a team.) You figure it out as you go. You learn what you have to let go of and what you keep. It's all about making room for what you love and care about and cutting the things you can do without. We might not stay out late with friends as much anymore, but I wake up at 5am every morning to either prep food for that night's dinner or get in my morning run because those are the things that are important to me.

And now, after that long (and probably way too serious) intro, I land on the subject of meal planning. Just because life is busier than ever, doesn't mean I have to sacrifice taking care of myself and cooking heathy meals for my family. I refuse to be the person who swings through the McDonalds drive thru after work and pick up dinner to go. So, I guess I just had to figure it out, right? Well I think I have a pretty good system. At least it is a system that works for me. Whether you already have a system, are in dire need on one, want to save money, or cut nightly trips to the grocery store for last minute meals, you might find this post useful. So here it is, my bible of meal planning to get healthy meals on the table, snacks in lunch boxes and reserve meals in the freezer. This is my routine every other week. So yes, I feel it is totally doable two times a month. Trust me, it will save you time and money.

#1 – Create two Pinterest boards:



Start pinning. I am a huge fan of cooking healthy, so I follow certain people who I know also appreciate a veggie packed dinner. Skinny taste is one of my favorites. Really, the girl never lets me down.  Pin your recipes to your "Recipes to Try" board.

#2 – Review your "Recipes to Try" Pinterest board and pick the following to place on your menu board. (adjust to number of people in your family)

2 snacks
5 meals
1 freezable meal

For example:
Baked Oatmeal Cups (snack)
Energy Bites (snack)
Greek Yogurt and Honey Dijon Chicken Salad (meal)
Thai Quinoa Salad (meal)
Homemade Pizza (meal)
Falafel with Avocado Spread (meal)
Chicken, Broccoli and Quinoa Casserole (meal)
Southwestern Egg Rolls (meal – freezable)

#3 – Review all of the ingredients in the recipes and put whatever items you need on your shopping list. 
Rewrite the list in order according to your route through your grocery store. (this will save you so much time in the grocery store!)



#4 – Write all of the meals you have picked on a menu board that is visible in your kitchen. Mine is a large chalkboard that hangs on a wall in our kitchen. Yours might just be a notebook that is always on your kitchen island – whatever works for you.  Write your list in this order:

Snacks
Freezer Meal
All of your other meals in order according to what ingredients will spoil first.


Note: This picture doesn't really show the meals in the correct order. Hey, I live on the wild side, sometimes breaking the rules. ;)

I usually meal plan the night before I plan on going to the grocery store. It takes me a total of 45 minutes to an hour to find all the recipes I want, write down the ingredients I need, and re-write them in the correct order for my shopping trip. I usually do it while watching TV and winding down for the night.

#5. Grocery Shop. Every two weeks I make an early morning (and I mean EARLY…. like before anyone in the house is awake kind of early) trip to Woodmans for most of my items. I, also, sometimes make a trip later in the week to Trader Joe's for a few organic options. I am sure you have your favorite grocery store. Do whatever works for you.

#6. Set aside a chunk of time and cook up a storm. Make both snacks, the freezer meal, and the dinner for that night. You will make the rest of the meal options throughout the next two weeks. This many meals last us two weeks b/c there are only two of us and a toddler and we live on leftovers. What we don't finish of that night's dinner, goes straight into glass containers to be packed in our lunches for work.  We, also, are not home every night for dinner. Sometimes we are at a friend's house or my parent's for dinner. We do not need a fresh cooked dinner every single night. That just isn't realistic for our family. There are some nights we might just have leftovers for dinner (as well as lunch) or make something simple like 'breakfast for dinner' or chicken on the grill. Plus, that is what the freezer options are for. They are for the nights when you really cannot get anything made. I love always having a stocked freezer. Making one freezer meal a week usually keeps it pretty packed.

Throughout the two weeks, make the meals on the list from top to bottom, making sure to make the ones that require the freshest ingredients first. You want to avoid wasting your money on spoiled ingredients. This system will also nix all those last minute grocery store trips b/c you have planned out every meal.

#7. Wrap up and evaluateWhen all the meals on the board are crossed off, it is time to decide what recipes you would make again and what ones you wouldn't. Go back to your Pinterest boards and transfer all of the ones you liked to your "Tried & True" board and delete the ones you wouldn't make again. Let's face it, not all Pinterest recipes are a win. When meal planning, I now pull from both boards. I have a good mix of 'tried & true' recipes and new ones. I always try at least two new ones every two weeks. It keeps it exciting! ;)

This system might sound a little over the top, but it really works for us. I hope some of you might be able to take some of these tips and integrate them into your own routine. Let me know what you think.

Do any of you have any other good meal planning tips?


5 comments:

  1. Ok, now I really want you to be my chef! You are such a great wife, mom and friend. Logan and Ellis are lucky to have you. <3 you

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  2. Katie!

    Nikki told me about your blog and its recipes, meal planning, etc. Of course, I had to read and I just love it! As a momma-to-be, this was really inspiring so thanks for sharing all of this. Whether I can be as motivated to actually DO it is another story but either way, thanks for the inspiration :)

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  3. ah! I needed this so bad! I've been wanting to meal plan but had no idea where to even start, besides get food. :) Thanks for sharing!

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  4. This is so awesome! This is one of the things I teach people in the challenge groups I run! I think it's 90%of the battle of losing weight and staying healthy! Thank you for posting, very well said 😄

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