Monday, February 25, 2008

Learning Curve

I'm a fairly recent convert to weekly meal planning. It was something I was pretty resistant to doing fearing it would take away some of my kitchen creativity. And I guess in someways it has. Before meal planning we rarely ate the same meal twice... now we eat the same things on a fairly regular basis. But I've learned that what I may lack in exotic meal combos we more than make up for in consistently good food that is on the table with little to no stress.

It has taken me awhile to figure out that meal planning is a little more complex then just assigning seven meals to seven days. It took a bit of trial and error for me to realize that in order for meal planning to pay off I needed to be really thoughtful about exactly what days I made which meals. My life is different every day. Kid only goes to school 3 afternoons and we've got play dates and dance classes to work around. It has taken me several months to really nail down what I can and can't get on the table. Before meal planning I'd just make the decision that day and more often then not a fair amount of food was thrown out due to mismanagement.

But meal planning has a lot going for it....I'm no longer wasting food or money... I'm no longer stressed at 5:45 wondering what I could throw together. When I look at my meal plan at 5 o'clock and see what I'm making I have such a sense of relief sweep over me. And the feeling I get when I've really nailed it and gotten the exact right meal on the right day?.... Well it is pretty close to euphoric!


Sherry/Shay said...

I can't say the euphoria happens at my house, but dinner is SO much easier if I have something planned. I had my husband thaw ground turkey earlier today so I can make turkey burgers with veggies. Had he not done that, we would be eating tuna, broccoli, and peaches or something nuts like that. I can pull things off at the last minute, but I think life is much easier if I plan my meals.

Anonymous said...

Don't you sometimes just not want to eat whatever it is you've planned for? What do you do then? That is my major problem with planning my meals in advance - I get to "chicken stir fry" day and realize I just don't want that.

Do you have any days like that?

-marie (former anon. reader)
ps - really love the blog

Mrs. Furious said...

Hi Marie :)
Yes I do have days like that but not as many as I did in the beginning. At first I kind of had an irrational desire to have it not work out. I have flexibility and only plan 5 meals and switch the takeout days around if I need to. I typically have one meal I don't make and it moves forward to Monday. And I'll sub in Tomato & Meatball Soup or something that I have on hand.
But overall it works out. I think the convenience of not having to *think* during the week makes up for the "I'm not in the mood for it" feelings.

Mrs. Furious said...

"I can't say the euphoria happens at my house"
LOL... well I am a bit of a nerd ;)

Sherry/Shay said...

Hey, I AM a self proclaimed nerd. In fact. I have the necklace to prove it. Seriously. I have a NERD rhinestone necklace.

Mrs. Furious said...

That is freaking hilarious!

Nutmeg said...

I go through periods where I meal plan for a couple weeks.

Those weeks are better and more pleasant etc. I always take in to consideration what I can and can't do that day, seeing as how every day is different because of different classes I'm taking and mark getting home at VERY different times on different nights in different months.

But I am having a hard time staying with it because I just can NOT find the same time every week to go shopping. So, I plan one week, but then no matter whether I've planned the next week I can't get to the store until tuesday whatever, even though I planned something else and each week is so different. Definitely driving me insane.

So THAT is currently the problem here.

update: Setting the table every day is helping keep the piles to a minimum, but I have to say... I can still TOTALLY put stuff on my table AROUND the dishes.

emmyjw said...

That is my struggle too, finding the right meal for the right night.I'm still trying to figure that one out, but you are right,when I get it right it is so awesome. Today was easy because it is a day we don't run all over so I can make a dinner that takes time and it still works. Tuesday however I am on the go from 1pm to 6:30 or so. UGH.

Mrs. Furious said...

Yes that is troublesome. I always shop on Tuesdays and when I can't the whole week usually goes out the window so I can see that as being a major hurdle.

I kind of feared I'd find a way to pile around a set table myself ;)

sounds like Tuesday would be a good Tomato & Meatball Soup day ;)

Kelly O said...

Mrs. F (and Sherry) you guys inspire me to meal plan. Just today, I was thinking how much my eating SUCKED because I had nothing different made and I am so sick of soup, tuna salad or egg salad. I'm glad at least that I'm not tempted to eat bad stuff but I find myself not wanting anything. Today I had protein oatmeal 2X! Jay shook his finger at me on that one. Ok, you guys inspired me to start meal planning ~ every weekend now for the following week.

Haley said...

Since it's just little ol' me, I don't do any meal planning and thus eat random combos of food that couldn't really be described as "meals" (Shay -- I wouldn't blink an eye at eating tuna, broccoli and peaches).

I'm filing these lessons away, though, for when I have a family to keep alive.

Kiki said...

I used to try and plan what I was going to wear to work the night before...I'd iron, which I hate, wake up and shower and while in the shower start to mentally review my wardrobe...and then I'd look at what I had picked the night before and realize I wanted something else.

That's what I think will happen if I menu plan, I won't feel like eating what I plan and we'll end up going out as much as we ever do! Its a vicious cycle!!!

Mrs. Furious said...

I hear what you are saying and I will say it did take a certain amount of just sucking it up to stick to it. I'll bail on maybe one of the days but over all I feel pretty guilty knowing I have everything on hand and just don't "want" to make it which can often just be enough of a nudge to follow through.

Mrs. Furious said...

Kelly O,
You can do it!
In fact I was just griping to a friend that I should really try to meal plan my lunches too just to be sure I get the protein/veggies in.

I will be your guinea pig ;)

Cara said...

You inspired me to start doing it and I have been doing it (sort of) for the past month or two. It does make everything MUCH cheaper, and it actually makes me be more creative.

I not only plan my dinners now for the most part, but also the lunches. Most the time my lunches are just leftovers too, which makes life EVEN easier.

I do have some go-to items though that make cooking easier, such as trader joe's turkey meatballs because you can add it to much for easy protein. Mmm.

Oh another thing I do is just create something like a crockpot of chile verde pork, and use that to make several types of meal.

Ok I am rambling. bye now. haha.

katieo said...

1) Meal Planning. Yes, yes, yes, and yes. I do it. I love it. It makes our lives easier, and healthier and is DEFINITELY cheaper. (And me being the world's biggest cheapskate, am obviously a fan) The amount of time it takes to put together a week is SO worth the lack of frustration and angst during that 5 o'clock hour.

2) You astound me with your never-ending supply of turtleneck sweaters.

3) We have the same stock pot.

4) Baby is (as always) very cute.

Mrs. Furious said...

This would be technically a shirt.
I don't really have that many (okay 3 sweater and this shirt) I just only wear the same things OVER & OVER.
I do seem to like the security of the turtleneck though ;)

Yes... I need to start planning my lunches. That is where I usually start to slip up in my day.

katieo said...

shirt? what is the fabric?
I would venture to say it IS actually a light sweater.

Nutmeg said...

I was so organized last week. Meal planned all dinners and took lunch with me every day to work and made my breakfast and coffee here and took it with me and managed to bring the travel mug back into the house and clean it every day. I felt like a different and organized person.

This week? I just can't do it. I'm up at 12 am just getting the minimum required done.


katieo said...

And NO WAY you only have 3!!

shelley said...

I just started my meal planning ventures, but I don't really pick which night I will make what. I just plan out 3 to 4 meals for the week. All have to be fairly quick to make - 30 to 45 minutes since all of my days are hectic.

This has helped us eat healthier, I feel more organized, and I don't stress over what I am fixing. The key for me is the shopping trip - I hate having to make those last minute trip to pick up something. So the meal plan allows me to shop for the week. Unfortunately, Sunday shopping is horrible - so I try and do my trips on Tuesdays.

I was actually considering just copying your meal plan Mrs. F - that would be cheating though right?

I actually like trying out a new recipe though I pick up off of food network, usually they are pretty good (but not always).

Amy said...

i know you don't want to hear this but i meal plan 30 days in advance. i have a fairly consistent schedule so it's easy for me to know what days of the week are hardest. i also do a freezer-meal swap with some friends so i have lots of pre-made meals ready to thaw & bake. i throw in a few "nights out", and left-over meals. i also feel fairly flexible if I want to swap out a meal for another night since i know i already have the ingredients. i tape that sucker to the inside of a cabinet for easy reference, and my month is cake! so yes, meal planning is the. only. way to go for a busy mom! good tips!

Tam-e said...

After our incident, I have became a fan of your blog. I check it on a daily basis.
I too meal plan. I have been doing it for years! It truely has worked for me. I have a really tight budget when it comes to grocery shopping.(I even take my calculator! I hate that, but I do it!) So in order to stick within the budget I have to plan and always make a list before going to the store and I stick with the list.
I also have a planner, the Mom's Plan-it. I love it. It has a preforated side with a grocery list and the other side has meal planning list. Within my planner I make a page that has nothing on it but meals that my family likes to eat. I have them divided up into categories: Mexican, Italian, Chicken, Beef, Sandwiches, Soups, and breakfast foods. Each week I try and pick something from each category for that week. Of course I take into consideration what we might have going on that week and how much time I need to make a particular meal. If I don't feel like having what is on the list for a particular night, I simply just switch them around. It is nice having the list of dinners to choose from and if I find a new recipe I will make it once and if we like it, I add it to the list of food choices.
Hopefully your meal planning will become like second nature.

Mrs. Furious said...

this is making me laugh so hard...
The red shirt is a tissue weight shirt (believe it).
then I have a grey longish ribbed turtleneck sweater,
a camel colored cashmere one, a shorter moss green one... and then my mauve wool coat has a stand up color (might seem like a turtleneck). But that is it! I really just wear them all the time!

some weeks just aren't meant to be...

Mrs. Furious said...

Copy my meal plan! I'd be flattered :)

I also shop Tuesdays. Mondays I usually make what ever meal carried over from the week before... and it is pretty bare bones style for lunch... but I just hate to do it on the weekends. Plus if I do we eat more of the week's food (I guess since it is *new*) over the weekend and I run out of stuff faster.

30 days!? Do you have an extra freezer?
I was thinking next year I could just look up my old plans and copy them.. they would line up with the seasons and I'd have it all planned out.

Mrs. Furious said...

Oh I'm really glad that you are still reading :)

I'll have to look for the Mom's Plan-it... that sounds exactly like what I need! I'm going to order it right NOW.

I like your idea of having all the meals that you make/your family eats in one spot. On Mondays when I sit down to meal plan my mind often becomes a vacuum!

shelley said...

Can you post your shopping list too so I don't have to think at all? (Ha, Ha).

I only plan 3 - 4 days a week for three reasons: 1) my husband is actually a great cook and he usually takes over the kitchen a few nights a week, 2) we usually have tons of leftovers 3) occasionally we eat out/take out.

Mrs. Furious said...

Mr F is not allowed to make dinner due to his time management issues. But he is the official take out orderer... I have a weird issue with not wanting to place phone orders (I don't have any idea what that is about)
And leftovers?! No one will eat them here. I try to just cook what we'll serve since inevitably any leftover is thrown out 2 months later when it more closely resembles an elementary school science experiment than it's original form.

Deb said...

What if you're not in the mood for whatever you planned? That's not so much my problem, but it's Hubby's problem. He's never in the mood for whatever I planned.

Deb said...

Crap... sorry... Marie beat me to that question. I'll return to reading the comments before commenting from now on. *hangs head in shame*

Mrs. Furious said...

That one is easy... Mr F does not get a choice. Period. It is not up to him.

Nutmeg said...

I have the same phone problem.

I don't know what it's about either, but Mark calls and picks up all food.

I also have a list of meals I make... I LOVE cooking, but I hate deciding what we eat. So Mark sometimes has to go to the list and pick something to eat.

Mrs. Furious said...

isn't that weird. I'm a total control freak in pretty much every area but I can't call for take-out. I think it is a strange reflection on my social anxiety....

Sherry/Shay said...

I just wanted to leave a comment for those that ask "What if you don't want to eat XX". I plan on eating 7 specific meals for the week and I buy everything I need to make them. Sometimes I will cook several meals on Sunday so I don't have to come home from work to cook. If meatloaf was planned for Monday (and cooked) but I decided to eat turkey burgers (that were cooked) and have the meatloaf another night, it's not that big of a deal. I'm flexible. Or sometimes I'll have the turkey ready to make meatloaf but I'll make burgers instead. I swap up nights sometimes. I'm not SO rigid that I HAVE to eat this on this day and that on that day, but I do try to follow it as closely as possible and ultimately end up eating everything as planned for the week. And I can't just come home and decide "Okay, let's I want to have turkey or fish?" then throw a meal together. I have to at least know I'm going to make some fish meal that was on the menu or some turkey meal that was planned. Does that make sense?

Mrs. Furious said...

good points. I actually switched Tuesday with Wednesday this week and will do that periodically but I'm working with less frozen and don't have tons of flexibility with when things might go bad and need to be used up.

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