Since I’ve gone to part time and my whole meal planning routine has gone out the window, I’ve been working on easing into a new system that will work for us. I used to plan breakfast for my husband, breakfast for me, and 3 dinners that I’d double so I could have the leftovers for lunch. Everything but my husbands sandwich and snack stuff would get prepacked into tuppeerware containers in the fridge at the beginning of the week. I’d spend about 4-5 hours one night (Sunday or Monday) and make everything all at once with my husband’s help. It was seriously efficient, rigidly structured, and a huge time saver throughout the rest of the week.
I thought that when I went to part time, I’d figured I’d be so excited to have more time to make these meals. I wouldn’t be up doing dishes at midnight on a Sunday night after making 4 meals. I’d be able to make even better food cause I’d be able to try out new recipes and make more from scratch. Now that I’m actually working part time, I’m enjoying a slower pace of life. I don’t want to stress myself out cooking extravagant meals. I don’t want to spend my mornings washing dishes. I’d rather be reading a book, writing a blog post, working out, spending time with family. So I’ve adopted a new mantra when it comes to my eating/cooking/dieting:
Simple, Balanced, and Delicious
There are tons of benefits to eating this way.
- It’s cheaper! Eating simply made meals require far less ingredients. For example, this past week I made a turkey breast in the Crockpot with roasted red potatoes and a side salad. Total number of ingredients – 9 (plus seasonings). Total cost = about $12 (for six meals!) I’ve been spending about $65 a week on groceries at Aldi instead of my normal $85-100 at Meijer. And we have plenty of food stocked up. In a couple weeks, we’ll probably just need to buy some cereal and milk and lunch meat. We could probably cut our grocery budget by 30%!
- Less clean up! By having cereal, milk, and a banana for breakfast I only have one bowl and one spoon to wash. When we’d make more complicated breakfasts, there’d be extra pans, knifes and cutting boards, skillets, pans and even appliances to clean up. An easy egg bake which we probably would make every other week would require me to wash a knife, a cutting board, a skillet, a casserole dish, and then a plate and fork for each serving. That’s a whole lot more than a daily bowl and spoon!
- It satisfies cravings! Back when I would meal plan for an entire week, I’d have three options for all of my lunches and dinners all week. If I got sick of a meal, I’d have to eat it anyway. If something didn’t taste as great as I’d hoped, I’d choke it down. Now, if I want Italian (like I did last night), I throw some turkey sausages in the Crockpot with sliced peppers and marinara, along with a small scoop of whole wheat pasta, dinner’s made, craving’s satisfied, and I’m less likely to binge later.
- It’s fresher! Almost all food will last in the fridge for a week, easily, cooked or uncooked. Not that our tupperware food ever tasted bad because it sat in the fridge for a few days, but fruits and veggies have a much better texture when you eat them right after they’ve been cooked or chopped. This week, we made tacos and I threw together a zucchini/corn saute to top them with. There’s no way the soft and crunchy texture would have been the same after sitting in it’s own juices in a tupperware for 4 days. Edible, yes, delicious, not really.
- It saves time! Meal planning, grocery shopping, and managing the food in the cabinets/fridge (putting groceries away, clearing out stuff that had gone bad in the fridge, etc.) used to take me 3-4 hours a week. And that wasn’t even cooking anything or cleaning up! Now, I grab a quarter and my reusable grocery bags, shop without a list (the horror!) at Aldi, take a few minutes to clear out the old stuff from the fridge, put the groceries away, and I’m done for the week. It takes me at most and hour and a half. Even if I need to stop at another store for a few things, it takes me maybe another 45 minutes. Still way less time than it used to take me.
- Less Waste! Since there’s no meal plan, I use what I have. When I grocery shop, I just get the basics. No fussy ingredients. I’ve found that everything fresh gets used up quicker and we throw out a lot less!
Sure, there are a few downsides to eating this way too:
- Tracking calories may be harder. I haven’t been tracking my calories lately, just watching my portions. But if/when I do start to track them, I won’t just be measuring and weighing out 3 meals a week, it’ll be potentially 4-5 dinners a week plus breakfast and lunch. I’m hoping to lose a little more weight before I begin training for my marathon which will mean some serious calorie counting for a few weeks. Things could get a little dicey.
- Forgetting to plan ahead. Sometimes my husband works a day shift at one job and then an evening shift at another. If I’m not careful, he won’t be home for dinner and there won’t be any leftovers for him to take to work for dinner. Not a huge deal breaker, but something I need to work on for his sake.
- More processed food. I was on track to eating almost exclusively all non-processed food. I still stick with foods that have fewer ingredients, but I am buying more premade foods. Mostly sauces, pastas, and some snack foods. I’m always careful to watch for high sodium and added sugars.
All in all, the pros outweigh the cons. And it fits for my current lifestyle. I imagine this is actually how most people “meal plan” and eat. What about you? Are you more of a strict planner/shopper/cooker? Or a fly by the seat of your pants/shop without a list/eat what you crave in moderation kind of person? How does it work for you? Anything you’d like to do differently?