It all started two January’s ago, when I decided to make meal planning my New Year’s resolution. I was tired of the nightly scramble for dinner, the constant grocery shopping and way too much money spent on last minute takeout. Not to mention, it made for some pretty unbalanced meals.
I wanted to succeed at this resolution, so I first started by doing some research and talking about it with my husband, and then my friends and family. A friend recommended a great lifestyle blog, Live Simply, which includes a whole guide to menu planning, along with monthly ideas and recipes. I read through the materials, feeling more knowledgeable about what it takes to make meal planning a success.
I also sat down and made a list of all the meals my family likes to eat (and that I know how to cook). This gave me a base of meals to use for my weekly planning. I focused mainly on Sunday – Thursday, since the weekend was usually pretty unpredictable and figuring out two meals on the fly would not be that much of an issue.
My grocery shopping was to take place just once per week, on Sunday’s, so that I would not have to worry about squeezing in a trip to the store on the way home from school and work.
After approximately 2 years of weekly meal planning, here is what I have learned:
- Overall, it is great – not having to figure out dinner every night is a huge stress relief. Not to mention, the less grocery stops the better.
- Wine helps – I feel more inspired when I plan meals around a bottle of wine I have been wanting to try.
- When I don’t do it, it really sucks – there are weeks when sitting down and doing meal planning is off the table, and those weeks suck. I am usually thankful for a break from the weekly planning session, but am pretty sad mid-week when we are out of food and spinning our wheels on what to make for dinner.
- It takes time – a chunk of my Sunday morning is spent thinking of a menu, making a shopping list, looking through store ads, etc. I have found it is something that if I don’t do it Sunday morning, it doesn’t get done at all.
- I do not like grocery shopping – it takes at least 1 hour, if not more, of grocery shopping to get ready for the week. And it’s not just the time, it’s the overall experience I do not like: the amount of money I spend; watching as the grocery clerk tosses my expensive groceries into bags (peaches and canned foods should never go together, come on people!); lugging the heavy bags from the store to the car and from the car to the house; unloading the groceries and putting everything away.
Not to mention, I usually find I forgot to buy one or two things. I keep telling myself I should try online grocery shopping, but I am not really home enough to be present when they arrive (or maybe I am?).
- It is really easy to get thrown off the meal planning game – a long holiday weekend, guests, a trip, illness, being plum worn out, all can throw me off the meal planning game. Then it usually takes a week or so to get back on track.
- Ruts happen – It is so easy to cook the same meals week after week. Enter food boredom. I keep meaning to force myself to try one new recipe per week, but so far that hasn’t happened.
- I tend to be too hard on myself – All my meal planning attempts and following of all these healthy-eating mom blogs make it really easy to be down on myself for not buying all organic and not making everything from scratch. From time to time, I have to remind myself that everyone’s situation is different and that I am doing the best I can.
Despite the challenges and setbacks, the weekly meal planning is definitely here to stay. Which means every Sunday, I will have this internal battle about sitting down to plan meals even though I would rather do something (anything!) else. Now, knowing that I can hardly handle the weekly planning, monthly planning (like some of the experts do) will never happen for me. And I am OK with that. Even though it can be a huge pain to plan out a menu and shop on Sundays, the pay-off throughout the week is huge and makes life run that much smoother.