Meal Planning for Losers
What makes a meal planning loser?
So how many times do you start the week out with the intention to prep for the week, make super healthy meals so your kids grow up to be on Wheaties boxes, and have amazing leftovers for lunches and snacks? How many times have you followed through on this plan? If your answer is anywhere between zero to 3 weeks, you are a meal planning loser like me. It's too hard! Too much is going on, too many changes from day to day, and I am busy! I usually don't start planning meals until I'm starving and ready to eat and then of course it is too late for level headed planning. I have to just inhale the loaf of french bread sitting on the counter or have emergency tacos delivered. I have tried apps and calendars and blogs. I have actually purchased special notepads and planners that help you organize your weekly meals and have several lines for a tidy grocery list. The problem is my life isn't tidy (and scribbling in a $15.00 floral planner is just sacrilege). As you will see in a minute my plans change about every 3 hours. A family meal comes up, birthday dinner out, someone needs to bring snacks for school, half the kids are going to their moms tomorrow, oh wait now the day they were going to be gone they will be back, you get the idea. So I decided I needed to get super basic. Like (excuse my language but....)basic-bitch kinda basic.
So let's get basic!
So here is what you need to start. (I will give you a few other optional things that have also helped me out later.)
-you will need a 69 cent spiral notebook from Walmart. If your feeling boujee get one of the thick ones with a built-in folder for the coupons you will never use.
-The Pinterest app on your phone.
-Hunger. (Just trust the process)
-A pen (I prefer a cool colored one because it just makes me feel like I have my life more together.)
That's it!! About as basic as it gets!
Now, you need to pick a start day. For me, that day is Sunday because that is usually when I get my groceries. It can be any day of the week, that will be your day 1 or the day you are going to get your groceries. If Sunday is my day 1 than Friday is usually my planning day but due to a lack of motivation most times, it happens Saturday mornings. Here is a sample of what a week looks like for me.
This is where the hunger really helps out. Hunger and Pinterest are the dynamic duo of meal planning I tell ya! Trying to meal plan when your full or when nothing sounds good is pretty much impossible for me. But when I'm hungry I am like a creative genius full of Top Chef-inspired ideas! Add in drool-worthy pictures on Pinterest and I can usually have a week's worth of meals on paper in less than ten minutes. Pinterest really does have a ton of ideas. I one main food board and then I have it separated into sections. Regular everyday recipes, baking and treats, healthy eating (every few months I decide 'this diet' is for me) and drinks. I pick one meal for each day. At the very top of the page, I write any extra meal planny type stuff I think of. Things for lunches or snacks. Every so often I decide homemade oatmeal is superior to instant (feel free to insert an eye roll here.), or I know we aren't going to have any good leftovers so I make some chicken salad or something. Just anything extra for the week really. Then at the bottom of the page and onto the back, I make a grocery list. I go through each day and list anything I will need for that meal and then move on to the next day. That's it. Meals planned. Now is when the drama usually starts! plans change, schedules get messed up, life just happens. You can see I changed my mind several times on most of the days. That is why it really does help to start planning in the middle of your week so you have a few days to figure out the kinks of life. Both adults in our house work shift work, so there are days that I go into work at midnight and have zero intentions of being awake the next day at 6 pm so hotdogs it is! Or if I know the kids have a lot going on I might pick something easy like breakfast for dinner so it's no pressure. I leave my notebook on the counter and each night after I clean up and do the dishes I look at the meal for the next night. Then I can pull out anything that needs to be thawed for the next day. Don't get me wrong! There is nothing quite like some forgotten and frozen chicken breasts to get me a night off of cooking and a pizza in my face, but since this article is supposed to be helping us all be less like a loser we will just skip over that. It also helps give me a rundown of anything important I have going on the next day. Here is a picture of my Pinterest board and a few more samples of my meal planning pages.
Don't judge, remember, I too am a loser
First, please don't judge my writing capabilities based on the spelling in any of these photos. Truth be told, the pictures I am posting are the cleanest looking ones I have. Half the time I need a magnifying glass and a key to decode what the heck I was trying to say. Loser remember? But I am the only one who uses them and they are meant to be a way to make things easier, not prettier. I would love to say meal planning has made me this amazingly healthy cook, that my family eats a well balanced and wholesome dinner each nigh and that thanks to Pinterest and a notebook I have my life together. But alas, we still eat hotdogs and spaghetti quite often and the majority of my day is still a trainwreck. However thanks to these tips I at least have food that I can cook for every day of the week. I don't have to run by the store every day because we are out of everything or I forgot a staple ingredient. It also helps save me money because I think the last time I ran into a store and grabbed 'that one thing' without straying to a million other things was in 1998. It has also really helped us avoid eating out and with a family of 6 that is huge! So it is that simple. BUT!! I am such a loser I found ways to make it even easier!!
Here are a few more things that have really helped me out and have made a big difference but they certainly aren't necessary.
-A deep freezer. So right now my extra freezer is FULL. A lot of it is just weird nonsense if I'm being real. I have about 10 tubs of halo top ice cream from diet days, enough popsicles to ensure if everyone in my house gets their tonsils out at the same time we will be golden, and a bunch of steamable veggies no one wants, but hey, it's there! If I ever absolutely have to, I can chop up a frozen pizza, toss it with a bag of edamame and serve it on a bed of french fries. (meal plan idea for next Tuesday??) But seriously, I like the extra freezer because there are those nights where I plan a meal but we end up going out or for some other reasons don't eat it and then I can just freeze it and it's like built-in back up for an unexpected meal emergency.
-The Walmart grocery app-YES YES YES! The Walmart app has two sections now. The regular online shopping, and the grocery pickup or a delivery section. You can order all your groceries on here and schedule to either pick it up for free (you park and someone brings all your groceries out and loads them in your car for you.) or have them delivered for a small fee. I use this so much I ended up paying $99 for a year of delivery. I can have groceries delivered every single day if I want to and there is no charge with the year I signed up for. Also included is a 2-hour option for an additional $10, which seems like a lot, but if you have ever had a house full of sickies and no food you understand the struggle. Need cough drops, tea, clean underwear, and trash bags? BOOM! On your doorstep in 2 hours. Also, my husband and I both have the app and are logged in to the same account, so as we see are out of milk or whatever we can add it right to the Walmart app for the next order.
-TO DO app-This is not a specific grocery or food app. It is, at its core, a list-making app and oooooo do I love me some lists! 2 of the lists I have made is a grocery list and a dinner idea list. I can add things as I think of them to the grocery list, although since I signed up for the Walmart app I don't use it very much, but occasionally I need something Walmart doesn't have (is there such a thing?) and so I add it to this list. We have a Sams Club membership but I hate going, so usually about once a month my honey goes and so anything we might need there I will add to this list as well. The meal idea list I use for those times when I am meal planning and lack any insperation. It's a big old list of those sure-fire meals or recipes that will for sure be a hit. It's a fallback for when I can't think of anything.
In closing, my argument for meal planning really is kind of a selfish one. It saves me from multiple trips to the stores, crappy fast food dinners, and quite a bit of money. Life is messy, dinner doesn't have to be. Eating should be fun and bring people together, not be stressful and chaotic. During these uncertain times, dinner can be the highlight in an otherwise very bland, very lonely day. I hope this helps to get you on track and make at least this one thing a little bit easier!