For the past few weeks, my husband and I have become big fans of meal planning. Now, before I continue, I have to include the caveat that this meal planning would not work if I was not married to a man who actually likes to cook and is also good at it, too. I have never liked cooking, and meal planning was never something I desired to do because it just seemed like so much work and I would get overwhelmed with ingredients, preparation, cooking, and then cleaning. This is why I always incorporated a heavy amount of restaurants and Trader Joe’s pre-made frozen food into my diet. Not necessarily the healthiest thing, but since my Inner Chef is on permanent holiday, it worked for me.
But there is something to be said for eating too much Trader Joe’s, despite how wonderful the place is. When you eat the same dozen or so frozen vegetables, packaged meals and marinated meats, you can sometimes get sick of too much of a good thing. We decided (well, I decided) to put the kabosh on our rotating TJ’s cast of food.
Luckily, as I mentioned before, my husband was game to start cooking real meals because he likes it. And I thank my lucky stars every evening. But it’s not just as simple as having someone to cook the meals. You actually have to have a plan. Hence the “planning” in meal planning.
We start off the week on Sunday, which is grocery shopping day. Just before Erik heads out, we take out our collection of cookbooks that we’ve amassed over the last couple of years. (We have six.) Erik’s favorite is Jamie Oliver’s Food Revolution, because the recipes are fairly simple to make and we’ve liked almost everything we’ve tried so far. We also have a Crockpot cookbook, a cookbook I won at an NYC bridal event called The City Cook which is geared toward people who live in apartments, a vegetarian cookbook plus The Joy of Cooking and the set of Julia Child’s cookbooks. Whew!
I look at our schedule for the week to figure out how many nights we’ll be cooking at home. We usually eat out at least once during the week, and once on the weekend. Since Erik is the chef, he has first pick at the recipes because he’ll know what he can make. Then he shares with me his ideas, and I approve or veto them. If we need more recipes, then I take a look at the cookbooks to see if there’s anything I want to try.
This part is actually my favorite, because it’s like perusing through a giant menu! Although we obviously aren’t going to make some of the more complicated meals, I pretty much have the entire pick of the cookbook so it’s fun for a foodie like me.
Once we have our meals picked out, we start jotting down the ingredients. We cross-check with what we already have (and sometimes the meals we pick are influenced by any leftover meat or ingredients from the week before), and what’s left is our shopping list!
Then we add a handful of extra things for breakfast and lunches, but for the most part, I eat leftovers for lunch and Erik has his lunches covered if he works overtime (which he often does). Breakfast is fairly simple, usually some combination of eggs, fruit, granola bars, and string cheese. And coffee.
We still spend about the same amount of money grocery shopping, but the amount of nights we eat out has been cut down significantly. Of course, because I’m not working full-time, we had to do that anyway, but this has made it a lot easier. We always have exactly what we need, and we can swap meals throughout the week if we decide we’re in the mood for one thing versus another. It’s also nice because since I picked the meals ahead of time, I know what I can look forward to rather than being surprised the night of with something I don’t want.
The one thing we’re now working on figuring out is portion size. Not for eating, but for cooking! Most of the recipes call for ingredients for 4-6 people, but that usually ends up leaving us with way more food than we can handle, especially when you multiply that over several nights. We’ve had quite a bit of wasted food, so we’re working on dividing the recipes up better so that we don’t get overwhelmed with leftovers that go bad.
So far it’s been quite a success and I’m looking forward to trying more recipes, but also getting comfortable with some of the favorites we’re discovering. I’ll share some of those later!
Do you meal plan? What is your favorite way to discover new meals — cookbook, website, family member?
Weight: Personally, I think last week is a bit of a fluke, and I’m tempted not to count it. If you consider the weight I gained last week, I have lost 4 pounds this week. But if you judge by the previous week, then I lost 1.1 lbs for a total loss of 2 lbs. Not a huge loss, but I held steady at a 1 lb. loss for about three weeks! So overall this is an improvement.
Blood sugar: Also a success this week! My 30-day average has dropped by 5 mg/dl! I’m still 13 mg/dl above where I started, but again, I’m heading in the right direction. I’m feeling pretty good about where I might end up by my endocrinologist appointment at the end of November.