Our lives have rearranged a bit this year. With a dramatic shift in schedules and work hours, I wanted our food prep to be more simplified; still creative. Along with a new budget, I’ve developed a new meal planning system that will hopefully eliminate the anxiousness that comes when confronted with a blank page or no dish idea for the evening. During these fretful moments, I have a difficult time thinking up tasty and creative meals. We often resort to the same one or two dishes when a ‘plan’ isn’t in place. In our diets, that’s an incredible amount of rice, roasted vegetables and cheesy tortillas.
Rather than working up the emotions, I’ve been diligent about planning our meals ahead of time, or at least thinking up recipes and delightful food combinations on my bike ride home from work. If I have a plan, I prep the day before or morning of – cutting vegetables, prepping sauces, and setting dry ingredients out as a reminder. If not, we usually scramble to throw a healthy dish together, eat around 9pm or so and put off dish duty until morning coffee has been served. Most of the time, this method works out just fine; not as smooth as it could be, but nonetheless, it works.
The upside to meal planning is that we save a bit more time and money (which Mr. Dave Ramsey would applaud us for). Quite a bit more money, actually. With a grocery list, I get what I need, purchase the goodies and am leaving the store in no time. Sans list, I love to grocery shop. I make a point to stroll down each aisle, gawking at all of the products and deliberating, for several minutes, over which kind of cheese I want. An hour and a $100 later, I’ve left the store with a mixture of foods that I don’t have any idea what to pair with. This makes meal planning a bit more challenging and time consuming each week. Plus, I’ve spent more money on unnecessary food items than I wanted or needed to.
Since implementing this plan, little time is spent questioning and concocting new ideas for dinner. I’ve taken to some of my favorite cookbooks, jotting notes here and there, adding items to the grocery list and penciling new meals each week into our calendar. This allows us to experiment with new dishes and also gives us some wiggle room to enjoy some of our ‘old’ favorites, like rice-bean burritos or spinach salads.
Although it has only been a week or two since really implementing said plan, I’ve enjoyed it and the process. Once everything is in place (which may take an hour or two to find recipes, document which day of the week and how many servings you’ll make, and craft a grocery list), the payoff is huge; barely spending any time meal planning on a weekly basis. Imagine enjoying a zesty new dish and all of that extra free time each evening?