Meal planning has always been an issue for me. I usually end up making a plan for the month, posting it on the fridge, and then browsing through the list and picking whichever meal I feel like making or eating at the time. This means I don’t always have the ingredients for what I decided to make, and I still don’t usually get started in time to get dinner on the table before I’m starving hungry. When I’m cooking AND hungry, I usually end up breaking into any baked goods I have around, or some other unhealthy snack to hold me over until the meal is ready.
This week I tried something new. Yay! Trying something new is one of my goals for this year. At the recommendation of a friend, I set out with a pre made meal plan for the week from Eating Clean | Cooking Dirty. She had it all organized with Trello Boards, one of my favorite new tools on the web, into grocery list, step by step prep day, steps to getting the food on the table, etc. So organized! I was impressed.
Grocery shopping with a list of ingredients that I knew I was going to use all of felt good! My usual grocery shopping consists of randomly buying whatever items I’m used to having around. This leaves me in a pickle trying to figure out how to combine these ingredients into meals. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve come home from the grocery store, fully stocked the fridge, pantry, and cupboards, and then said “There’s nothing to eat!” Now part of that is just because I need to cook. You can’t eat healthy and have “grab it and eat it now” types of food around. Unless you want to eat fresh fruit and veggies only, which some people do. That’s okay for me sometimes, but not for all my meals.
I’ve never come home with so much produce! This is a good thing as I’ve been trying to eat more veggies. My grocery bill was about the same as usual, but I could tell I had a lot more “real” food that had potential to create full and satisfying meals.
The meal plan was designed for a family of four, but assumed that you wouldn’t be eating all of your meals at home. Well, since we work from home, we do eat almost all of our meals at home so I figured maybe the portions would balance out. In the end it worked out fairly well, but we had enough food for two additional days. So next time I think I will pick and choose instead of making the entire plan for four people.
Prep day was exciting, and turned out to be a little overwhelming by the time I finished! I loved the idea of doing all of my cooking in one day. I’m an all or nothing kind of girl. When I do a project, it’s usually the focus for the entire day. Dirtying the majority of the dishes on the same day, and putting all my cooking behind me for the week was great. Goodbye to “what should we have for dinner this time?” and goodbye to more dishes than I can keep up with!
The first steps of food prep consisted of chopping veggies. Lots of veggies! As I chopped away I kept thinking, I wonder what this is for? I’d set that aside in one bowl, and move on to chop the next set of veggies for a different bowl. I filled my entire kitchen table with bowls of chopped veggies, mixed seasonings, etc. It seemed that the idea was to only be at the cutting board with a knife one time and then move on to a new work station. The recipes were all mixed together with clear directions to utilize your time efficiently. I liked that!
At one point I had meat balls baking in the oven, mashed potatoes going on the back burner, soup started on the front burner, a breakfast dish in the toaster oven, and a batch of muffins waiting their turn for the oven while I was mixing together a salad on the counter. With my teeny tiny kitchen, this was incredible! Jonathan came over at one point (always there to taste test!!) and said, “this is like Thanksgiving!” It felt like I was cooking Thanksgiving dinner, that’s for sure!
Prep day took me 5 hours from start to finish. Now, I am pretty slow in the kitchen…it’s just one of those things I have to accept about myself. It comes from being a little bit OCD; all my veggies have to be chopped perfectly, I can’t handle sticky fingers making my spoon handles grungy, any spills must be dealt with immediately, etc. But honestly, I’m used to spending close to 2 hours each day in the kitchen to prepare meals. That’s 14 hours a week! To have the vast majority of my cooking behind me in just 5 hours was great! And the new recipes were exciting too! We found two new favorite meals this week.
Throughout the week, I REALLY enjoyed the peace of mind of knowing what was for dinner that night and just how easy it was going to be to get it on the table. Lunch was at my fingertips whenever I had a break and needed to eat. Breakfast was fast, easy, and so simple yet super tasty! Dishes were minimal most days, but I was disappointed to still have quite a few dishes on the days that required some extra meal prep. My dream of not doing dishes wasn’t fulfilled yet. 😉
The stress of wondering what we should eat, wanting to eat healthy but being too tired and hungry to cook a full meal from scratch, wondering if we were going to run out of groceries before then end of the week…..all of that stress was gone. This freed my mind up to focus on other things and helped me feel like I was putting my home and role as a wife first this week.
This meal plan follows the Paleo diet so as an additional bonus, I also cut sugar, bread, and most processed foods out of my diet this week! Great win in my book!