Wednesday, October 07, 2009

Meal Planning

Meal planning is so crucial for anyone trying to lose weight OR be on a budget. And imagine if you're trying to do both, how much you SHOULD meal plan.

I used to never meal plan. I would go to the grocery store, I would buy anything and everything I thought looked good and I would bring it home. Then when it was time for me to make lunch or dinner, I would almost always stick to the same things I was always eating and never really branch out. For that reason, I had a lot of food spoil and I amassed quite the collection of canned and frozen foods that always left me thinking, "What will I use this for?"

I briefly mentioned in a previous post that I now have an even larger can collection in my pantry since Matt brought a lot of his food over when he moved. Clearly, I need to work on reducing this food collection and save us some money in the coming weeks on our food budget.

Unfortunately, I'm not very good at this. This is where meal planning comes in. I successfully meal planned all of September, making time each week to sit down and decide what I would make the next week. I made rough sketches of how the week would look and sometimes even entered this food into my food tracker ahead of time. Sure, I occasionally changed my mind or ended up not wanting what I had planned - but this is all a manner of self discipline and I'm working on it. The thing that really helps is to sit down at the beginning of the month and make a list of all the foods I want to make over that month. Then each week I can go in and pick and choose out of my master list I've already made. That way I make sure I'm eating everything I wanted to eat, new recipes included, while also having a choice of what I'm eating. If I've been really craving something the previous week, I make sure to incorporate it in the next weeks' plan. I leave my snacks up to me to choose that day. Snack time is really when I allow myself to indulge my cravings, so I don't feel quite so tied down and it keeps me from binging. Also I eat mostly the same breakfast every day, so breakfast I don't plan. This method is SO successful for me and I love doing it!

The past two weeks I have completely thrown my meal planning to the way side and I find myself slipping back into my old ways - except this time, I'm not buying THAT much food. Everything I have can be multi-purposed, but I don't have a plan and therefore every night this week I've stood in my kitchen thinking.. HMMM trying to decide what to eat and make. I also am finding myself making quick trips to the store several times through the week for one or two items and that isn't okay! I need a plan, I need a list for shopping and I need to start getting this can collection down!

I started thinking of what I have in my house right now that I could use to make meals to last me until the weekend. I am slightly OCD about making my meal plan for the next week and buying everything over the weekend.. therefore, if I do it today, I'll just feel off balance and most of the food I already have won't get used. So I made a mini meal plan for the next few days and only need to buy a few things today when I hit up the store. Then this weekend I'll have a big list and master plan and go into next week as a success.

I don't have a very elaborate plan over the next few days but the one I have involves using the sweet potatoes, ground beef, cabbage, brussel sprouts, tomatoes and tortillas I have. I've already decided to make black bean tostadas tonight (instruction to come!) and hamburgers tomorrow night. I've been kind of craving chicken salad, so that might be on the menu for lunch tomorrow! 

But looking to next week, I currently have a few things in my pantry and freezer that I just don't know how I will use. Maybe some of you have some ideas? I have a ton of canned beans - black, pinto, etc. I'm imagining putting these into soups, pairing with rice or making beans and cornbread one night? I also have shelled edamame in my freezer. I bought a bunch after I first tried it because I thought I really liked it, and now, I don't. I've only made it a few ways though.. maybe there are better ways to make it? I find it's really dry when I sauté or roast it so I'm not that big of a fan. I sometimes put it in stir fry, but as I've said before - I'm really not a big stir fry eater. I also have some water chestnuts and canned pineapple. Not sure how to use those either unless I put them in stir fry - again, blah.
Throw me all your ideas and I'll start browsing recipes for ideas of my own. I'll be posting next week's meal plan this weekend so keep an eye out for it!


  1. I wish that I could sit down and menu plan like that. It never works for me. Maybe one day :)

    Why don't you try an edamame dip?

    That one sounds good.

    As for the canned pineapple, I have thrown that into loafs or muffins, like make a carrot, bran, pineapple type muffin. The pineapple really just gives it moisture. I can't remember what recipe I used, but I will try to find it.

  2. Beans go with a lot of things right? You could do chili?

    Pineapple... what about pork chops or chicken breast with pineapple? Is that too stir-fry-y? You could also do a homemade fruit salad type deal with it, buy some grapes, an apple, a banana...

    -Stephanie Bills