October 13, 2016

Meal Planning for Dummies, Foodies & Busy People.

Photo by Sarajane http://sarajaneblog.com

Let me be clear: the dummy mentioned in the title is me.

Ask my father, any of my professors, or anyone who’s ever lived with me, and they will tell you I am not an innately efficient human being. I am a contemplative collector who enjoys the small moments—and the not-so-small moments. I rarely move with the speed and efficiency so common in my generation.

In my natural state, I would spend more than 40 minutes making each meal and never grab a quick salad to eat at my desk while working. I work from home, so I do actually have the privilege of spending 40 minutes making each meal if I want to. I’ve even caught myself procrastinating by cooking! Scary deadline coming up? What a great time to make beef bourguignon and spend three hours in the kitchen.

I have survived thus far because I am good at making rules for myself and sticking to my routine. All we can do is do our best, at least that’s what I tell myself. Any trace of productivity that you witness in me is merely a result of being a good rule-follower—as long as I’m the one who’s making the rules in the first place.

I work for myself, and no one is relying on me, except for all of the people relying on me to show up and say something interesting and insightful… well, never mind. Turns out it is important for me to be efficient with my time, so I have made myself a new rule: I only cook one meal from scratch each day.

This means that although I just spent 35 minutes making my favorite breakfast, I have two different kinds of soup in the fridge to eat for lunch and dinner all week. I can heat up a serving, add some chopped greens, and in about 10 minutes I’ll have a home-cooked, nutrient-dense, satisfying meal.

In the summertime, my fridge is more likely to be full of pre-chopped salad ingredients, cooked beans, and little bits of delicious meat so that I can throw together an amazing salad in less than 10 minutes.

If I can stick to a routine that keeps me well-fed and productive, so can you. I’ll share my tips and tricks with you, with this disclaimer: this is what works for me. Try out my ideas, but more importantly, try out other ideas and find out what really works for you.

Step one: I consider the circumstances.

Call me a woo-woo hedge witch, but I check the weather before I make a meal plan. If it’s going to be 35 degrees when I wake up on Thursday, I am not having a smoothie for breakfast that day. (Hello, bacon!) The forecast gives me an idea of whether I will be craving fresh vegetables or a hearty casserole.

Step two: I look over my calendar, and make a note of which days will be more rushed or spacious.

I’m done at four on Tuesday, so that might be a night when I could make a huge batch of something delicious for dinner. Maybe I only have a short break between clients on Wednesday, so that’s a day that I definitely need a pre-made lunch. I also note when I know I will be eating out. Here’s what my meal plan looks like so far:

Monday breakfast: at Noah’s
Monday lunch: (quick)
Monday dinner: (make lentils)

Tuesday breakfast: /
Tuesday lunch: (quick)
Tuesday dinner: (make beef stew)

Wednesday breakfast: /
Wednesday lunch: out with Franzi
Wednesday dinner: (to go)

Thursday breakfast: (brr)
Thursday lunch: (brr)
Thursday dinner: (brr)

Friday breakfast: /
Friday lunch: (to go)
Friday dinner: out in Fort Collins

Step three: I pencil in which meal I want to cook.

Looks like I’ll make dinner on Monday, breakfast on Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday and Friday. As you can see, I’ll make a big batch of lentil soup on Monday night and beef stew on Tuesday night. I take into account that these both might not be ready to eat for dinner that night.

I’ll pencil in some of my favorite breakfasts: sausage or bacon with greens and veggies, omelet with broccoli, tomatoes, and kale. I know I’ll have leftovers to eat for every other meal, but I also know that I won’t get sick of leftovers because A) I choose bomb recipes and B) I make two pretty different meals. My batch-cooking recipes are almost always based on a protein that I can easily add chopped greens to.

Now my meal plan looks like this:

Monday breakfast: smoothie at Noah’s
Monday lunch: (quick)
Monday dinner: (make lentils)

Tuesday breakfast: veggie omelet
Tuesday lunch: (quick) leftover lentils with salad
Tuesday dinner: (make beef stew) leftover lentils with kale

Wednesday breakfast: breakfast sausage with zucchini and kale
Wednsesday lunch: out with Franzi
Wednesday dinner: (to go) lentils with kale

Thursday breakfast: (brr) bacon and veggies
Thursday lunch: (brr) beef stew with kale
Thursday dinner: (brr) beef stew with roasted squash

Friday breakfast: scramble with veggies and black beans
Friday lunch: (to go) lentils with kale
Friday dinner: out in Fort Collins

From this plan, it’s easy to sketch out a simple grocery list.

My meals are all interchangeable, so I can also swap ideas around and have them on different days. All this adds up to a more efficient Lily, who also happens to be culinarily and emotionally satisfied.

Okay, I can hear you saying to yourself: “What about snacks?” Truth: I don’t really snack. Not saying that you shouldn’t, I just usually don’t need to. I eat enough at each meal to get me through to the next. I also don’t eat a lot of/any processed carbs, so I don’t have the blood sugar crashes that create “hanger.” If you need snacks, you can just add them to your weekly sketch. Try to snack on things like apples or carrots with almond butter, a green smoothie, or chia seed pudding. (My weakness is sweet potato chips, if we’re being completely truthful about snacking habits.)

I hope this answers some questions about meal planning, healthy cooking, and how to do it all without losing your job or your mind.

If you have specific questions, shoot me an email to set up a time to chat over the phone. I’d love to hear from you.


Author: Lily Calfee

Image: Sarajane / ecofolks on Instagram

Editor: Katarina Tavčar


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