Using planning to get more zen (and healthy) with meal planning
One thing that’s always sorta annoyed me is how – on one hand I am so prone to eat healthy, then on the other hand sometimes I come home from work – tired, late, stressed – and end up (some nights) ordering a pizza or fries from the snack bar. Eating this way is not only uhealthy, but its expensive, and if I’ve learned anything from my detoxing is that putting organic good-for-you food in your body makes you FEEL GOOD.
So I thought about why I do this. It’s not always that I’m craving that food (well ok sometimes I actually may be) but most of the time it’s simply done in terms of convenience.It’s easier to order something then to “craft” something from the cabinet or refrigerator.
There’s another byproduct of this behavior. I make grocery lists every week based on recipes I’d like to have or try, but in the end throw away a ton of food that I didn’t make. And that’s both a waste of money AND time. Both of which are in limited supply these days.
So, being the planner that I am (did I mention that sometimes I make list to remind me to make a second list? Yes I put “make a grocery list” on my daily list of things to do), I gave myself a quest.
Craft an organized, easy, and repeatable planning process to bring more zen and healthiness into meal planning.
- Eat healthier and organic
- Minimize processed foods
- Track what we’re putting in our bodies
- Save money
- Lessen stress
- Free up time during the week
I decided to tackle this in a few steps.
- First, create a really simple food recipe database
- Decide guidelines for how we want to eat healthier (meatless? organic? fish?)
- Monthly calendar of food planning in advance
Simple Food Recipe Database
I use Pinteret for bookmarking the recipes I find online I want to try and also the resources of where I do my research. This works great, so far. But, what I was missing is a simple overview of all the recipes that me and my honey have actually liked over the years. In thinking about how to tackle this, I remember trying cooking software more than a few times before and each time it took me more time than I ever wanted to actually make it work, add recipes, view reports, etc.
This time I wanted to pick a method that I’d actually use. Google Docs to the rescue. I created a simple spreadsheet (here’s my draft) of recipes. Colums include: Name, Type, Notes, Healthy notes.
I added a filter to the top so I can see the list even easier and BAM I have a super simple food recipe database that we can pick our meal planning from. Fast. Easy. Win.
Healthy Menu Guidelines
The next thing I wanted to do is set my guidelines for picking healthy meal plans for the week. After a quick discussion, food pyramid research, and glance over the meals at Weight Watchers, here is what I chose:
- Once per week: fish, chicken, meat, pasta.
- Three times per week: vegetarian.
- No white bread, if bread only wheat.
- Carbs no more than twice a week.
- Every meal should have a side of fresh steamed veggies or salad.
- Limit cheese.
- Substitute as much “healthy” or “organic” versions of the usual fat and carb laden foods (example use quinoa instead of rice, olive oil instead of butter, greek yogurt instead of sour cream)
- Limit alcohol consumption to weekend
A quick glance at the food pyramid and we’re on our way to healthier living!
Monthly Calendar of Food Planning + Weekly Menus
Now in order to tackle my love of planning combined with lack of menu plans that I can actually work with, I printed off an entire month empty calendar that I found online.
I used this one.
Seems too easy? It’s perfect! On Sunday, I added the full week of food planning, based on my above guidelines. Simply filling in what we will eat each day of the week. for dinner This helps round out my healthy plan plus grocery list(s). Here’s what this week looks like:
Sure, I can use Google Calendar to track the meal plans but printing and handwriting this calendar along with taping it up on our refrigerator means we are held accountable for the dinner plans. Next week we may even go out to eat for a “freebie” day 🙂
Don’t waste the food!
Now that I have a fully organized and simple time-saving plan for weekly menus, we can do our grocery shopping twice a week. This means our food won’t spoil on us, it will be fresher, and we shouldn’t be wasting money.
How do you plan your weekly meals on a busy schedule?