Want your week to go more smoothly? Make a meal plan! Want to save money on groceries? Make a meal plan! Want to reduce waste? Make a meal plan! I’m beginning to think that “meal plan” is another four letter word. At the very least it’s really weird if you say it often enough…
Here it is: I will likely never really “meal plan.” I’ve seen these done with daily blow by blows of everything everyone is going to eat hour by hour. It’s dizzying. And it produces a level of anxiety in me that is overwhelming. I’m a “planner” and yet the “meal plan” puts me over the edge. So what do I do?
Well, I know what I like to eat (steak with a side of steak). I know what my family likes to eat generally, although with 2 five year olds this can change nightly. I generally know my schedule and what I might have energy for in the evening on a particular day. I also have a rough idea of what we have in the freezer or fridge that needs to be eaten. I try to write out a list of dinners on a bamboo erase board on the fridge each week. Generally I check the fridge or freezer to make sure I haven’t forgotten about something that will go bad if we don’t consume it within a couple of days and if so, I incorporate that asap.
For instance, last week I never got to make the eggplant I bought because of being sick. So tonight I threw together the eggplant with some leftover ricotta, the remainder of the shredded mozzarella and some tomato sauce for a not-fried eggplant parm. Last night was the steak I didn’t make on Sunday with brussel sprouts I meant to make a few days ago too. On Sunday? Did I even cook? I can’t recall…
My list is pretty loose to say the least. If I get home and don’t feel like it, I make something else. If I have a really strong hankering and our budget can absorb it, I will veer off course and stop by the store to pick up something I don’t have on hand. I don’t make special meals for anyone though. My only rule is that everyone eats the same thing and if it’s new you at least have to try one bite.
This works fairly well for us. I do have a set amount for groceries each week but I also have a stock pile of food to choose from. I did note tonight that our home canned tomato sauce is dangerously low. That makes me sad. Tomato season is months away. 🙁
To have to make and stick to a plan for three meals per day, 7 days per week though? I would go insane! Maybe it’s because I know how to cook and am fairly good at throwing stuff together (although there are definitely flops) that this non-system system works for us. Maybe it’s because I don’t have the kind if husband who comes home form work and expects a meal on the table. Perhaps it’s because I could eat a few nachos and call it dinner. I don’t know but it just does.
I don’t think it’s a horrible idea to have a general game plan for the week, especially if you’re busy. Hopefully you eat at home most of the time regardless because that is where you will almost always get the best quality food for the cheapest price. Cooking is a great frugal exercise and one that I truly enjoy. It took years and years to learn but it was so worth it. Now I can fly by the seat of my pants and just enjoy the ride and it’s outcome. Maybe that’s why “meal planning” sounds so awful to me. It steal the joy from just creating an off-the-cuff, spontaneous yet delicious meal. Maybe I’m just a rebel. If you are like me though and think that “meal planning” is just another chore you’d rather avoid, then by all means, don’t do it. Just remember though: probably no one else is going to magically cook for you. Wait! What a great business idea. Forget online meal planning. Lets start a cooking genie business! Come home from work and I will cook whatever you want. Just rub this lantern 10 times and insert $50… 😉
I really hope you enjoy cooking. Or watching someone else cook. Or at least, eating.