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Thrift Kitchen: The best laid plans

Food is always a battle. I love it. I hate it. I relish in it, yum yum yum, and feel guilty about it. After 5 months of not so great eating habits I’m finally getting back on track. I could talk about everything I’m doing wrong, but because I am a creature of habit, you can check out this post and it’s pretty much the same issues (it has a nice list of healthy snacks too). Eating out, not planning, eating too late–the usual.

This month I finally started cooking with real food and packing lunches again. Jason and I have gone back to our rule of eating out only once a week. And the funniest part is I’m getting back on track by taking my own advice. What advice is that? Meal plans! I knew I had posted about meal plans and snacks before, so I searched for it. I’ve just had my first successful week of cooking after using the generalist method I map out. The following was originally posted back in January earlier this year. I had such high hopes. Let’s see if I can stick with it this time around. Enjoy!

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There are so many reasons that meal plans are a great idea. The two I look to the most are that it helps to save money (if you are prepared to eat out less) and it helps to keep you on track with healthy eating (if you tend to eat out). Seeing a trend here? Yep.

When I eat out not only do I tend to over spend, but I over eat too. I have tried more meal plans than I can count. Well, okay, more than I can count on one hand. Point is that I’ve tried many solutions, from simple to complex.

The most complex was the “cook once, eat well for a week method.” Not only was the up front time and money investment huge, it was hard to translate into anything other than what the book stipulated– you know, to use it with recipes I actually like. And we ended up with way too much food, food we didn’t really care for in the first place.

Then the most simple was to just go to the grocery store whenever. Basically no plan, that was unhelpful.

And I tried some middle of the road methods with mapping it out day by day and buying to the groceries. That failed because it was too specific. And mapping out snacks and lunch? Meh. My tastes vary too much.

It was a hard balance between too much food, too little food, variety of fickle tastes, and a varying schedule.

For the past month, I’ve been listing it out on paper and the best way just sorted itself out.

mealplan-onpaper

After week 3 of successful meal planning, cooking said meal plan, and eating it, I’ve decided to make it official and a bit more fun.

mealplan

Here is how it works:

1. List all the things you want to have on hand for breakfast, snacks, and things to pack with your leftovers for lunches (that’s what the add on means).

2. List what you like to have for sides with your dinner (could be the same or different from the lunch add-ons).

3. Dig through all your favorite recipe books and list 2 or 3 new recipes to try out. Try however many you new recipes you feel comfortable with. It’s always a good idea to try at least one new recipe each week. It makes it fun and helps expand your skills. Then list all your oldies but goodies you know by heart to fill it out.

Now here is the thing, if you want to put a day with each meal, that’s your choice. Me, I like to just have everything I need for 4 home-cooked dinners. I come home and if I have time I’ll make one of the 4, whichever I feel in the mood for. I shoot for 3 easy and one more complex. Then lunches, snack, and breakfasts are all grab n’ go.

You can download the meal plan as a pdf here.

Do you use a meal plan? What works best for you?

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