Today we’re talking about meal planning and preparation. Does even the mention of these words fill you with an overwhelming feeling? Here’s the thing: if your idea of meal planning begins about an hour before you’re going to eat, it’s too late. By then you’ve resorted to foods that you didn’t start out wanting to choose and you’ve nabbed something quick, prepared, or processed. In case you missed this week’s live on Facebook, you can watch the replay here.
Ideally, planning should start before you head to the grocery store. Don’t panic, let’s break it down.
First, think of the week in two parts. The beginning of the week and the weekend. Based on this, you should shop, pandemic or not, twice weekly. The weeks do still have some basic rhythm to them. The first shop should be over the weekend or just at the start of the week, and the second one towards the coming weekend. For example, if you’re shopping on Sunday, you’d keep in mind meals for the coming week. The second shop on Thursday, for instance, considers weekend plans (sleeping in, brunch, etc).
Then, before you actually go shopping, take 5-10 minutes to take stock of what you have already in the refrigerator and pantry. Yes, this means some semblance of a list. What needs to be finished? What’s been sitting there, unopened, that you’ve meant to use but haven’t yet? While you’re there, is there anything that’s long past its expiration date and should be discarded?
Lastly, what should you do when you get to the store? Buy fresh for the evening and frozen for the next night that you’ll defrost in the refrigerator. When you get home, plan to cook that night, allowing for leftovers to freeze or to eat the following night. Then, when you go to cook that second entree, do the same thing: freeze leftovers or plan for them the next night. Repeat this process when you next go grocery shopping.
If you’ve been able to visualize this, you’d be cooking only three or four nights per week and the week is broken in half while allowing for flexibility as things change.
So, if you follow these three suggestions, you’ll be well on your way to a framework for meal planning!