Meal planning

From last week
From last week. This crumpled little piece of paper made my life so much easier.

I don’t think it would be an exaggeration to say that meal planning was one of the most useful skills I’ve learned in college.

It wasn’t until this year that I think I’ve finally gotten it right. For a while, I tried to force myself into planning out every single meal I ate. By Tuesday, I would have given up and my meal plan quickly found its way into the recycling bin.

Then I tried not planning at all. I could be spontaneous with my meals! This would be so much fun! Also an epic failure. I realized I was grocery shopping four times a week and somehow still eating peanut butter bananas for dinner more often than I would like to admit.

Finally, I found my perfect middle ground. Now, every Friday I sit down and list out about 3 recipes to make each week. I usually don’t bother planning out breakfast, since I have have my breakfasts pretty well worked out by now. So not counting breakfast, I’ll eat 14 meals in a week plus assorted snacks. If each recipe makes 4 servings, I have 12 meals for the week. I leave 2 open for eating out or something quick and easy that I can throw together from whatever is in the fridge.

Then I take a look at my class schedule for the week, making sure to note any midterms or meetings I might have to account for. I plan to cook on nights when I’ll have enough time for the recipe I want to make and pencil in leftovers for busy nights when I just need something to scarf down so I can get back to studying.

Lastly, I look at all the ingredients and make a grocery list of the things I need for the week. Now, I go grocery shopping once a week, maybe twice if I’ve forgotten something or change my plan a little. This alone was a HUGE change for me and has freed up so much extra time.

The whole thing is very flexible. If I really don’t want to make or eat something that I planned, I don’t force it. I can always move things around or freeze leftovers if I have too much. My meal plan is there to give me some structure and make my life a little easier, not to dictate it.

Planning it all out allows me to make sure I’m getting in a variety of foods and not just eating rice and beans all week. Since I’m eating the same three meals throughout the week, I try to balance them so they are very different meals and I won’t get tired of them. I also try to make one recipe that I’ve never made before each week, usually on a night where I have some extra time to experiment. For busy nights, I like to make things I’m more familiar with.

I also plan some snacks and side dishes that I prepare on the weekend. Lately, I’ve been making various types of energy bars and a couple batches of veggies.    

I always thought meal planning was way too OCD to fit into my busy life but instead, it has made it much easier. Yes, it takes a good hour or so initially to figure out but it saves me so much time throughout the week and helps me to eat healthier, tastier food.

Advertisements

One thought on “Meal planning

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s