Charting Your Course
A Better Way To Navigate Meal Planning
My purpose and mission in life is to teach women how to simplify and fill their plates with what truly nourishes them. I do this by discovering their relationship with food, home, people, and their mindsets. Food flows over into all of these areas and we bring so many stories from our past. Meals should be ideas that we can build on for ourselves. Just as our bodies are bio-individual, so are the ways we organize our kitchen and our meals.
Meal plans that are given to us don’t often work or last. I often get asked about meal plans and if I can help create them for my clients. My response is always no. Instead, I can help clients navigate what works for them and find simple ways to execute them.
A meal plan is a guide on how to use the ingredients we buy. The meal plan needs to have some structure but with fluidity. Without a plan, we have good intentions but can forget about what we have in our wheelhouse, our kitchen, our refrigerator, and our pantry.
Our busyness can keep us stuck and without some structure we end up stressed, grabbing for convenience (which is just picking something up or maybe not eating at all). That structure looks different for everyone. Some need to know exactly what they are going to eat each day and buy those ingredients. For others, this never works. We need to figure out what works for us and be flexible.
Meal Planning: A Steadfast Compass
A meal plan simplifies life because once we have a plan in place, we no longer need to think about it! Sure, we need to prepare and cook (or whatever the plan may call for), but we don’t have to use our brains to figure out what to eat that day or what ingredients we need to have on hand. I like to utilize small steps along the way:
- Have ideas for the week
- Pull out things from the freezer for the week
- Prepare something small the night before or in the morning
This is a jumpstart for your meals. Psychologically it helps alleviate some of the overwhelm. The meal is already started even if that is 5-10 minutes of laying things out. It really can make a huge difference.
Following A Meal Map
Knowing Your Bearings
Gather your family together and ask, “What are your favorite foods/meals?” Based on all your family’s suggestions create a list of favorite meals. Write down each suggestion. I prefer to just have ideas instead of formal recipes. If you need recipes you can pull from them as well. You will probably have around 10 or so of meals you know your family likes and can be made easily. This is just a rough draft. Our goal is to have around 20-30 meals as ideas.
Charting Your Progress: “Favorite Meals” Lists
You can make your list a little more formal by writing down the recipe and where you can find it. I like to have my list on my Notes app. Use whatever form you are comfortable with to
organize these recipes. You want this list to fit your family’s lifestyle. I like to have another list that includes ‘Special Favorites’ which require more time and ‘Recipes To Try’.
How to Use a Favorite Meals List
Set aside a certain time each week to meal plan, and mark this time on your calendar. Keeping a schedule and having reminders on your phone or planner can help keep you accountable.
“X” Marks The Meal: Tips For Meal Mapping
- Toss Time – Take about 10 minutes to clean up your frig and evaluate what you have. Pick a day to clean out the old items and leftovers from the week (I like Friday). Juice any leftover vegetables or fruits that might be on the verge of going bad. Jot down a few items you need at the store.
- Pick the Proteins – Have plenty of protein in your freezer to pull from. While making your menu for the week use your on-hand proteins first. If you are planning a vegetarian meal write down what ingredients you will need.
- Prep Time – Keep in mind your menu for the week, then spend a little time each day to prep. It only takes a few minutes. Choose to do this in the morning while in the kitchen making breakfast and lunches for the day. Or, complete a few steps the night before. Mentally this is a huge help. The motivation from simply getting the process started will help fuel you to continue a new habit. Mornings are a great time to toss something in the crockpot… use that pot roast from the freezer with bone broth and vegetables on hand.
- Veggies are Essential – Keep several dark leafy greens like broccoli, asparagus, and a big bowl of salad greens. Have vegetables on hand to roast, sauté, or have raw. Great options are carrots, beets, cucumbers,
zucchini, or sweet potatoes. Also, keep organic frozen vegetables in the freezer just in case you don’t have fresh. Options are always the best way to keep us from take-out! I love getting my seasonal vegetables from my backyard and my CSA Urban Roots.
- Spice it up! – A few of my favorite herbs and spices are Garlic, Himalayan Sea Salt, Celtic Sea Salt, Parsley, Ceylon Cinnamon, Nutmeg, Vanilla, Ginger, Basil. My go-to is All Purpose/All Natural Seasoning from US Wellness Meats. Some great options for fats are Ghee, Coconut Oil, Extra-Virgin Olive Oil, Olive Oil, Avocado Oil, and Sesame Oil. Experiment with new flavors to add a little spice to your menu.
- Keep it Simple – Enjoy the process and be mindful. Try not to make your meals complicated. Don’t try too many new things. Maybe try a new recipe over the weekend and not try a bunch of new things during a busy week.
- Always have a Back-up Plan – Try and have a back-up plan that does not include going out. Something you can make easy when things get chaotic. Freezer meals, homemade soups, leftovers are all great choices.
- Have your family get involved – When time is tight, have your family all come together to help make and clean up the meal. Everyone that is capable should have a job. It can get finished a lot quicker and learning skills in the kitchen is always beneficial.