If you’re like our family, there are ebbs and flows of busy periods in your life. During the busiest periods it can be hard to keep up the basics of self care; namely eating well, exercising, and sleeping normal hours. Sometimes a few simple adjustments to the weekly routine has helped us to maintain our self care during these busy periods.
Our biggest success for continuing to eat well has been to set aside time to meal plan each week. This has also helped us stick to our monthly budget. At first, it felt like we didn’t have time to schedule yet another thing. After a couple weeks of practice, we found it freed up extra time during the week, since we were no longer debating what to cook that night, who had to go to the store for ingredients, nor did we fall back on getting take out.
Here’s what worked for us:
We typically go grocery shopping on Sundays. So either Saturday or Sunday morning, I’ll start with my morning coffee and a couple of my favorite cookbooks. I look for recipes that seem both fun and easy, and pick a longer recipe to do Sunday night before the work week starts.
For example, one week might look like this:
- If I found a really exciting pulled pork recipe, I might make pulled pork in a crockpot Sunday day, and make a more complicated Ottolenghi vegetarian dish for dinner that night. We can use the pulled pork to make tacos, fajitas, lettuce wraps, or a vegetable rice bowl medley later in the week.
- Monday night: pureed vegetable soup with a roasted vegetable salad (20-40 minutes start to finish)
- Tuesday: Zucchini noodles with marinara and sausage another night (15 minutes start to finish),
- Wednesday: Ottolenghi vegetarian dish leftovers from Sunday night
- Thursday: grilled or sauted vegetable-rice bowl with more of the leftover pulled pork.
- Friday:grilled polenta (premade), pesto, steamed greens and poached eggs (10-15 minutes start to finish).
We try to make all of our dinners have enough leftovers for lunch the next day.
From this cookbook perusal, I’ll write out dinner plans for the week, and what dinners would make leftover for our lunches. Once the meal plan Sunday through Friday is mapped out, then I’ll make our shopping list, while adding in our breakfast staples, and any other missing items on the shopping list. Shopping has become a much faster affair with a comprehensive list for the week.
We post the week’s meal plans for dinner by the stove. This makes it easy to remember which ingredients are used for what night of the week, no matter who’s cooking that night.
I love learning new recipes, so sitting with some cookbooks, a cup of coffee, and strategizing a well balanced meal plan is a very relaxing morning pastime. This practice ensures variety in our meals, and it also helps us strategize how to spend less money on groceries each week. We have avoided falling into food ruts of eating the same meals every week. It has also decreased some of the stress during busier moments in life by knowing that dinner is only going to take a few minutes to prep and cook at night.
Some of my current favorite cookbooks are:
- Plenty by Yotam Ottolenghi
- Plenty More by Yotam Ottolenghi
- Nom Nom Paleo by Henry Fong and Michelle Tam
- The Forest Feast by Erin Gleeson
- Nourishing Traditions by Sally Fallon
- I regularly search the internet to fill in the gaps
I know this routine won’t work for everyone, but hopefully, it might help give you some tools to create your own habit of meal planning that works for your family. Making meal planning a weekly practice, has truly saved us both time and money.
Lindsey Thompson is an East Asian Medicine Practitioner at the Thompson Family Acupuncture Clinic in Walla Walla, WA. She loves growing vegetables, raising chickens, and striving to get the most out of life. Practicing medicine and help people find ways to improve their health at home is one of the most fulfilling aspects of her career.