Meal time looks different for everyone. For me it involves feeding myself, my husband, and our picky 2 yr old. We love food; growing it, preparing it, trying new recipes, and making the rounds to our favorite local restaurants.
Lately I’ve been working to do all of these things in a smarter way. I want eating and cooking to be something that I continue to enjoy, not something that feels like a chore. Here’s what’s been working for me…
- Shop Mindfully – I’ve been trying to cut out as many processed foods from our diet as is practical for our life. I’ve also been trying to reduce our household waste by buying from the bulk bins and using reusable bags. I try to buy responsibly and choose organic when it makes sense to me.
- Grow What I Can – Gardening is actually a hobby for me so this one is easy. We don’t grow all of the fruits and vegetables we eat but the garden brings in quite a bit. I preserve some of what we grow when I have the time. A small patio garden is easy enough to care for and can really make a difference.
- Cook from Scratch – It’s very rare for me to buy things like spaghetti sauce, cans of soup, packages of cookies, gravy mixes, etc. Unless I’m really short on time, I try to make all of these things from scratch. The one thing I’m working on this year getting over my intimidation of making things like bread, tortilla shells, and rolls. The more you practice your cooking skills the easier and more enjoyable it will become.
- Meal Plan – I know those can be two ugly words for some people, but for us, it keeps me sane and saves us money when I stick to a loose plan. I make my plan on a weekly basis and I’ve been doing it for so many years that it usually doesn’t take me too long. I try to keep our schedule for that week in mind and don’t plan something too involved for nights that we are busy. I typically make a list of 2-3 snacks and breakfasts as well so that when I’m hungry I know what I’m going to grab for. It keeps me from randomly eating crap all day long.
- Prep Ahead – I save myself some time by cooking my rice/quinoa/etc and chopping veggies ahead. I try to find 30 minutes each week for meal prep and do as much as I can for the week. For example, if we’re having stir fry that week I’ll chop all the veggies and mix together so that I can just grab it from the fridge and throw it in the skillet on meal night.
- Be Flexible – This is the key to any plan. I meal plan so that we don’t end up with takeout every night. But I also know that things come up. I have a loose plan of what we’re eating each night but I can always juggle things around if we decide to go out or something. I also plan a couple of ‘no brainer’ meals into our schedule each week. These are meals that I can make from what we always have on hand. If we don’t make these meals we don’t end up wasting groceries that I bought especially for that recipes. These are things like pancakes for dinner or eggs or grilled cheese or quesadillas.
This is what is working for us. I try to eat as healthy as I can, keep our grocery budget down, and still indulge on dinners out once in awhile. It’s taken me a few years to work out a system and I’m always tweaking it. Like anything, it takes a couple of months to get in a groove but I’ve found it to be totally worth it.
What’s your meal plan system? How do you make sure you eat well without having to work too hard at it?