Meal Planning for Dummies. Or for normal people. Whatever.
February 24, 2009 by Stephanie O'Dea
I’m a meal planner. I wish I wasn’t sometimes, because having a meal plan attached to the fridge kind of makes me look like an obsessive control freak.
Except. Having a meal plan saves us time and money, and the 10-12 minutes I spend once a week means I’m not obsessing over meals 5-6 times a day, every day.
Last year, I didn’t stick to my meal plan very well. The Crock-Pot slow cooking thing kind of took on a life of it’s own, and I fell behind on planning ahead for anything other than what I needed to slow-cook. Although I knew that this was a temporary problem in our family, I felt floundery (that’s a word, right?). I hated that the kids were climbing into the pantry looking for a snack. I hated that I was often grabbing a bent string cheese at 10am because I had forgotten to eat breakfast. And I hated that since I wasn’t planning out my snacks and meals, I was more susceptible to eating Chocolate Frito Candy and Pound Cake instead of some yogurt and fruit when the afternoon munchies hit.
So. I’m back to meal-planning, and it FEELS GOOD. I get it that it seems controlling and somewhat limiting. I know. I was terribly hesitant to write everything down at first, too. But it works. Kids like and need a routine, and their bodies function better when they have snacks and meals at set times. Guess what? Grown-up bodies seem to like routine, too, and scheduling 5-6 mini meals throughout the day is better than only eating once or twice. Go figure.
Here are some of the things we routinely have/eat in our house:
yogurt, frozen blueberries, granola
cold cereal with banana and milk
toast with cream cheese, or PB&J
salami and cheese in a tupperware
sandwiches of all varieties (tip: put mayo/mustard in-between the meat to keep the bread from becoming soggy. Also, when making PB&J, put a thin layer of peanut butter on both sides of the bread, and then the jelly in the middle)
carrots and ranch
chips and hummus
veggies and ranch
my kids will ALWAYS eat plain pasta with butter and parmesan cheese. That is the go-to meal in our house when I don’t think they will eat much of the main dish, or when we’re too busy to make a “real” meal.
I try hard to have a vegetable of some sort on the table. My kids like: string beans, artichokes, broccoli, sweet potatoes, brussel sprouts (I know. I have no idea how this happened.)
Use your slow cooker. Make food the lazy way. Make a big batch of stew, beans, or a pot roast and pick at the food for a few days. Repurpose leftovers. If I can help it, I try to only cook 3-4 times a week (other than last year. that wasn’t normal for anyone) and then re-use the leftovers in casseroles or as burrito filling.
We are a gluten-free family. Since we have food allergies, we need to plan a bit more ahead than other people need to. It’s not as easy for us (or anyone else monitoring food intake) to order delivery or swing by a fast-food joint. Because of this, we have been forced to think ahead when making food choices. I do feel that because of this we eat more healthy and are happier in our meals than we were when we just “grabbed something” at the last minute.
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