Do you plan your daily meals? For me, breakfast is almost always the same (one less thing to think about in the morning!), lunch is often some combination of leftovers and a salad, and by dinner, I’m scrambling to come up with something interesting and tasty (kind of stressful after a long day). If I’m feeling brain dead, I can always resort to my usual stir-fry, but for my fiancé’s sake, I want to keep a little variety in the mix.
At present, I’m working out the kinks of my own meal planning strategy—I’m still in Meal Planning 101. (I’m doing well if I plan about 4 dinners/week). When I’m following my plan, I’m free to fully give myself to the meal-making process, which is a lovely feeling.
Here are a few more benefits of meal planning:
1. Stress less. At home. If you’re responsible for preparing the majority of meals in your home, you know one of the hardest parts about making dinner is often deciding what to put on the table. Sure, you’ve got a shelf of beautiful cookbooks and then there’s your mad culinary skillz (you could mince garlic in your sleep), but when you’re feeling tired (and hungry) it’s just harder to make “simple” decisions. Planning helps you skip the fridge-full-of-food-and-nothing-to-cook feeling. At the store. Unless you can afford to shop at Whole Foods (can I come live with you?), aimlessly wandering around the grocery store probably isn’t your idea of fun. If you’ve got a solid list (which you should make as you plan), you can get in and get out. (While you’re at it, write your list in sections: produce, non-dairy section of the dairy section, etc…).
Waste less (food and money). I’m guilty of it—you had the best intentions for that family size bag of fresh green beans, but then they wound up in the back of your fridge and started turning grey… If you know exactly what you need when you go shopping, you’re less likely to impulsively throw in too many perishables to eat before nature takes its course. I always hate to see food wasted—no matter what it cost. Meal planning helps you keep an orderly, fresh, economical fridge.
Ensure you’re getting a variety of vitamins, antioxidants, and minerals. We all have those food items we gravitate towards. Sometimes I think I could survive on steel-cut oats and avocados alone (my vegan comfort foods), but we should all eat a rainbow of produce, grains, nuts, and seeds. Use your meal plan to ensure you get a plethora of nutrients. Want to incorporate more raw foods in your diet? Plan fun salads to kick off each meal.
Tip: Make meal planning fun. If you live with other people, include them in the planning process! Discuss what kinds of flavors you’re craving. Come up with personalized recipes together. Make sure the weekly menu represents everyone’s voice. If you live alone, look online for interesting recipes. Challenge yourself to try one new ingredient a week—that’s how I came to love pearled barley, among other lovely foods 🙂 (Hint: For a little inspiration, check out our Pinterest profile!)
Also by Mary: Comforting No-Coffee Latte Drink!
Easy Weeknight Meal: Cumin Basil Soba Noodles
Photos: Mary Hood, Cleber Mori via Flickr, Natalie Maynor via Flickr