How (and Why) I Meal Plan

meal-planning-menu.jpg

If you follow me over on the Instagrams, you've probably noticed that I post yummy foods. A lot. I'm pretty proud of the foods that I make for Mr. T and me to eat every night so why not show them off a little, am I right? Anyway, (and not that I want to brag or anything. Ok, maybe I do), but it probably looks like a lot of effort goes into those meals too. And it's true, some of them take a whole lot of something. But a lot of them are the result of a really good meal plan. So I thought I should share some tips about why and I how I meal plan. Especially because it took me a really ( I mean R-E-A-L-L-Y) long time to figure out a system that works pretty well for me/us. And I don't know if that's normal, but I'm crossing my fingers that I'm not the only weirdo who finds perfecting a meal planning system is a challenge.

Why I meal plan

Well, we've already established that I do it so I can have pretty pictures of food to post on Instagram.

Ok, not really.

I do it because I found that if I didn't meal plan I'd end up with meals like chips and cheese with a side of mashed potatoes and pepperoni. And, I mean that totally sounds delicious and I might make that for lunch, but that's not really a balanced meal. One of my goals is to be healthier. Mr. T and I both gained some weight after that whole shindig in September 2014 (our wedding). And, well, we weren't too happy about it.

Neither one of us is into fad diets. We legitimately want to make better lifestyle choices so we're both around for a while. We also both feel so much better when we eat well. After all, we aren't in our 20s anymore, you guys.

We downloaded and app called Fooducate and it's been eye opening. All of the crap that's in something as simple as coffee creamer. Seriously.

So planning out our meals makes it so much easier to eat healthy because I don't base my dinner choices on how I feel about the day or life or what I feel like making. And I don't have to think about it so I don't fall into the trap of just throwing something on the plate.

How I meal plan

This was a job. I am not kidding you when I tell you it took over a year for me to figure out a system that works. (Seriously, that's normal, right?)

I started planning every single meal (snacks too!). And that just didn't work because we ended up wasting food. I mean, how in the world do I know what I will want to eat for the entire day next Thursday?

So then I just decided to do dinners. I would spend hours before I went to the grocery store planning and planning. I bought apps, cute little menus off of Etsy, you name it. But it was all overwhelming and I spent too much money and half the time we never ate the meals I planned.

After months of tweaking I finally did it! We don't always stick to it 100% - sometimes there are pizza or taco nights. But for the most part we do. And we eat at the table almost every night. So many grown up achievements unlocked, you guys.

Here's my system:

1.We buy our meat from a local meat place, not the grocery store. We do this because we think the meat is better quality and I find it's so much cheaper in the long run. We get a bundle that's for a month for two people (it actually lasts us like three months). It includes a variety of pork, chicken, beef (it even includes BACON!).  So we have way more of a variety than I would ever buy at the store. Which means we don't get tired of things as fast. And I get to experiment with lots of new things.

Pork chops in a lovely herb sauce, garlic pasta with fresh herbs, and sauteed Brussels sprouts, squash, and carrots
Pork chops in a lovely herb sauce, garlic pasta with fresh herbs, and sauteed Brussels sprouts, squash, and carrots

2.I use a staples/inventory list to do our grocery shopping. I used to get all these recipes with fancy ingredients. And that's just not realistic. I know what we like so I keep it on hand. Then, before I go to the grocery store, I check to see what we're out of, low on, and so on and that's how I make my grocery list. It also helps at the store because if something's on sale or I have a coupon or rebate I can stock up (Gosh I sound so domestic). P.S. I'll share how to make a staples list in a later post.

Meatloaf with a brown sugar BBQ bourbon glaze, sauteed asparagus, and cheddar creamed corn
Meatloaf with a brown sugar BBQ bourbon glaze, sauteed asparagus, and cheddar creamed corn

3.I plan meals on Sundays using the ingredients we have on hand. Sometimes I just use recipes that I know. Sometimes I consult with Pinterest to see what I can make with what we have on hand. And sometimes I just make shit up. I love this method because it allows me to be creative in the kitchen which is good for me (and the blog). And I find that my cooking skills have improved so much. Often times I don't even follow a recipe, I'll just find one for inspiration and then do my own thing.

meal planning - menu
meal planning - menu

4.I write all of the meals out. I write them in my planner so I know what to take out the night before and I also write them on our cute lil' menu so Mr. T doesn't have to ask me 994 times. And I just think the menu is super cute. I actually "made" it by just using a chalkboard we had on hand. I originally just wrote the days, but decided to get a little fancier the other day

So there you have it. Some simple lil' meal planning for the soul.