My Troubles with Meal Planning

Meal Planning. I have a love-hate relationship with it. I know it is one of the best methods to not only keep your food budget under control, but also helps you eat healthier food and live a healthier life. But for some reason I have not been able to successfully conquer this skill. I must not be alone in this!

Here is my recent tweet, voicing my frustrations:   

 

 

 

 

 Here are some of my problems:

  1. I am a Pinterest addict. I know that this is a common downfall to many a stay-at-home mom. Most of my pins tend to be amazingly delicious and borderline sinful recipes… with a sprinkling of healthy recipes here and there. It is not that I don’t have access to enough great recipes, but that I am exposed to way too many. It is so hard to choose!
  2. I really enjoy cooking. This may not sound like a problem at first glance. The prospect of learning and tackling these advanced gourmet recipes sounds like a blast to me. But, here is a typical scenario… I start an advanced recipe with new techniques I have never tried before and end up greatly underestimating how long it will actually take me – not accounting for the learning curve. Or I am super ambitious and have too many dishes going at once and end up burning one of them. I guess I feel like I have to have a great main dish, with a couple sides, and a dessert for it to count. Crazy!
  3. I’m not sure if I would truly categorize this one as a problem, but it is certainly a challenge. I am a mom to an emotional toddler and wife to a husband that is gone 14-hours a day for his job making it difficult to pull of a lot of the dishes I would normal gravitate to. I get going into the thick of it and my toddler start pulling on me, “up-up” or the dog decides to throw up on the carpet, or my toddler is trying to get a toy open but it is stuck and she starts screaming like a mad woman. I tend to alternate between responding quickly or waiting and giving her a chance to figure it out on here own, but there comes a point when a mama just has to jump in. 
  4. I am really bad at coordinating recipes so that they share some of the major common ingredients. So what ends up happening is I try to plan 5 or so recipes in a week and have leftovers of some of the meat or produce that I don’t have anything to use it for and then it goes to waste. I hate that! I just have this bad habit of impulsively choosing any recipes that look good to me without doing any ingredient coordinating.

So as you can see, I can make quite the mess out of this whole meal planning thing. But I really want to get better! Why? Because I want to be able to be more in control of our food budget. I want to be able to buy quality and healthy foods and raise my family enjoying and benefiting from healthy and delicious, nutrient-dense foods.

I recently had a great conversation with Stephanie, blogger over at Keeper of the Home, and she had a ton of great tips. Here are a few…

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Stephanie has a great e-book resource out called Plan It, Don’t Panic, and its available for a pretty reasonable price of $4.99. She includes tons of tips to actually make meal planning work for me (or you), as well as printable planning pages and “4 weeks of real, whole food meal plans, complete with breakfast/lunch/dinner and recipe links.” That last part got me excited. I bought her e-book months ago before we every connected on twitter, but totally forgot about it until our conversation. I think I have a pretty decent game plan now with all of her tools. I recommend checking her page out at http://www.keeperofthehome.org

plan-it-3D-300px1 

 

So I’ve decided to give this whole meal planning thing another go. I feel like I have a better idea of what I was doing wrong, and hopefully is will go more smoothly for me now.

Do you have frustrations with Meal Planning, like me? Would you share any?

Or do you have other advice on what works for you and your family? I love to hear different ideas. 

Happy Meal-Planning!FITL signature handwritingMealPlanningPin

Join my Free FB Community
  • Ah, meal planning… we get an organic veg box delivered every week (oops, just remembered it’s sitting on the doorstep – quick break to bring it in – aaand back) and rarely know everything that will be in it which makes planning tricky.

    We make sure we always have enough staples in the house to allow us to decide what kind of base we want for the meal, “Do we feel like rice today? Something potatoey?” and then find everything in our kitchen that goes with it. We plan a little, but only very roughly.

    It helps that it’s only the two of us to worry about. I think if there were more we’d have to be more thorough!

    • I tried a local organic delivery service for a few months, and while I loved how fresh everything was I had trouble not knowing what to expect and plan ahead for. I’m not much of a planner by nature but I didn’t even know what to do with half the stuff. And then when it would be time to start cooking I would have to run to the store trying to buy produce that wasn’t in the box anyway, so it didn’t work for us. If I had a little extra money I would like to maybe keep a small snack box of fruit delivered once or twice a month but still keep my normal produce budget for the grocery store.

      • Yes, it can certainly be a challenge! My mum orders from the same company but only orders separate items instead of getting the basic box because it’s too much work for her to find recipes for whatever veg comes in that week.

        I think our lack of planning actually works in our favour because we don’t have anything in mind to need extra produce for. When we’re making recipes we work with what is in the house and have been known to make entire recipes with only one or two of the original ingredients. Of course it helps that my wife is incredible at coming up with a beautiful feast from what looks like nothing!

        It took us a while to get in the swing of things before this worked efficiently for us, and when we’ve had a busy week and haven’t cooked enough of it we do tend to spend the following week making as many bakes/soups/veg-pots as we can to use up the bordering on wrinkly veg we have left over.

        • Oh, and where possible dinners are always double size so as to be lunch again the next day! That’s the most important part of our planning and makes our weekdays much, much easier.

          • I’m a big soup gal, myself. I have a lot of favorites from my Romanian heritage, and by nature many of them are lower in carbs, which is nice! I’m a fan of potatoes, its one of those foods that gets a bad rap, but its very filling, has great vitamins in it, and is MUCH better for you than pasta or bread.
            I LOVE how when I meal plan I don’t have to experience that panic of “shoot what am I making for dinner, tonight” and just like you talked about you really only have to cook, maybe 1/2 the time because of leftovers!! 😀

  • Mary Bacon

    I wrote a blog post on meal planning fairly recently on my own blog. I use Cozi, which is available at http://www.cozi.com it’s completely free, they start you off with several recipes in the recipe box, and you can download a button to add recipes to the recipe box right from any website (click through from pinterest even) The cool thing is that both Mccormick’s website and allrecipes have everything already calculated by myfitnesspal for those watching calories. Then all you do is drag the recipe to the menu planner and one click adds the ingredients to your shopping list. It could not get easier than that.

    • Mary, I have a cozy account but had never tried using it for recipe clipping. I didn’t even know about that. I’ll have to check that out.

      I have been using http://www.yumprint.com for my meal planning and have been really loving it. It is also free and you can clip from anywhere on the web and save your recipes, and then click and drag to your week to schedule out the meals. It also makes a master grocery list for you that gets categorized by sections in the grocery store. I think allrecipes does the same thing but I like using Yumprint more… not sure if it just seems easier to use, or maybe I just like the cute design of the site and their mobile app.