Don’t you dread that feeling on Sunday nights? The week is about to start, and it’s time for meal planning.
(This article is Part 1 of 3. Part 2 can be found here. Part 3 can be found here.)
If you have Googled meal planning, you know how great it’s touted.
“Save time! Save money! Eat better!”
And, those are all excellent reasons.
But I still despise meal planning.
Why? Well, honestly, I can never seem to get it right.
1. The Pressure – Why I Despise Meal Planning
I get overwhelmed as soon as I even start thinking about the weekly meal plan.
I know its supposed to help me, so I do it. But, I always end up staring at it for a long time wondering where to begin. Building. This. Beast.
I don’t know where to start. It seems monumental. And, I feel like it has to be perfect. And, all of that leads me to analysis paralysis. A complete blank on meal ideas.
Does this happen to you too? (Please tell me I’m not alone.)
You see when I choose a protein or vegetable, or starch that one family member likes, another family member will only eat it so-so (if at all).
Then I feel like I’m wasting my time. And the money for the food.
Or, if I choose foods that I know the kids like, well, we would eat pasta with Alfredo sauce every day. I wouldn’t say we’re wild or crazy, but I would like to mix it up a little.
But, that doesn’t go well for me either.
2. Losing Recipes is Another Reason Why I Despise Meal Planning
If you’re like me, you want a little variety once in a while.
Especially with healthy food. And for me, to make that happen, I have to go through recipes. Which can be fun sometimes. Like on Pinterest! I love finding recipes on Pinterest.
Anyway, when I work on something new for the meal plan I look for a recipe. After I find one I bookmark it in the book or online, write the name & page number on the meal planner, and put the ingredients on my grocery list for my next grocery trip. That way, when it is time to make the meal, I have everything I need.
Except, that’s not how it works out for me when it’s time to prepare and cook the meal.
I’m embarrassed to even to tell you this, but I ‘lose’ the recipe.
Sometimes, I’ve written down the wrong page number. Sometimes, the wrong month of a cooking magazine (my favorite thing to do is get a magazine to try to new healthy foods). Or, I grab the wrong cookbook (I collect them) and can’t remember which one listed it. I’ve even had pinned recipes disappear (not sure why), or online recipes not open or download at the time I needed it.
This makes me feel like I’m not organized. But, I am – because I did a meal plan! Right?
And, what about the ingredients for the said recipe that has gone MIA? Usually wasted.
So that leads me to my third reason.
3. Why I Despise Meal Planning – Because it Lacks Flexibility
Being spontaneous is fun once in a while. (Or maybe a more truthful way to say it would be, we all have to change our plans for our children’s schedule, don’t we?
Is it just me, or does it seem to come all at once? Like 3 or 4 days in a row?
I swear, it happens to us when I buy a weeks worth of salad or fruit. Guess what happens? Yep, it spoils.
And throwing food away? Throwing food away makes me feel super guilty. Lazy. And if I’m honest, I feel like a failure as a mom and wife.
So for the reasons above, I stopped meal planning because I thought it was a complete waste of time and a major flop.
We went over a year without a meal plan.
And, Then I Realized How Much Meal Planning Had Been Working!
The year I spent not meal planning did not reduce the overwhelming feeling.
In fact, it increased.
Instead of feeling that way on Sunday night, I felt that way many, if not every night at mealtime.
Guess what. Just because I did not want to plan for the meal, my family still expected the meal.
So because I didn’t have a plan I had to wing it.
Which worked fine if we did not have to go anywhere, I had the right ingredients, the meat was thawed, and we had the right product or pantry items. (Yeah, none of those things ever happened.)
We ate more junk and fast food. Lots more.
Ditching a meal plan was not a positive choice for our family. I made more trips to the store for that ONE missing meal item or ingredient. And, I sometimes sent my husband to the store for that ONE missing thing too.
I want to say it was just him, but both of us came home with extra food (junk) because we were hungry or just because we saw something we ‘might’ need at the store (I needed one item, who’s to say I did not need the other?).
Those extra ‘one item’ trips added up to a lot of extra calories (& money). And so did the extra fast food trips. All of this while we were starting to eat healthy.
So, yes, I had several reasons to make myself do it again. However, I did not want to jump right back into meal planning.
So I prayed about meal planning. And I learned that I had some preparation to do.
Doing Some Pre-work Would Eliminate the Reasons I Despise Meal Planning.
I needed to find the right goal, the right method, and the right flexibility to make this thing work.
1 First, because I feel led by the Lord to take better care of myself, I needed to do some spiritual preparation.
Focusing on The Lord would give me the right perspective and help me center on the right goal.
2 Second, because I was frustrated with so many issues in the process, I needed to find a method that worked best with my personality and our needs.
Building a process that utilized my gifts and skills would help prevent frustrations and irritations. And, meal planning needed to be something that not only put a meal on the table but worked with our family’s schedule. So, it needed to be a simple-to-follow process. So simple that I could bring the rest of my family members into the plan. And something ensuring everyone would eat the meals.
3 Third, because I struggled with imperfection and failing I had to learn to look at meal planning differently. I needed to view it as a ‘work in progress.’
That also meant that it was going to have to be something that allowed change to be built into the process to keep it working as different needs came up. Because the fact is, I can’t control any of that.
This experience was a stressful way to learn how much meal planning actually did help my family. But I am thankful I figured out the reasons I despised the whole meal planning process. Knowing the causes of the stress helped me find the answers to make it work better in the future.
I spent some time reflecting in prayer, testing and redoing.
It turns out that a few simple steps of preparation before the meal planning ever begins is the key to make everything work right. And, a project as important (and as big) as meal planning requires some preparation work to make it pleasant to do on an ongoing basis.
I am so happy that I came up with a better solution. The most important being when I remember the real reason why I am planning the meal and focus more on Christ, I worry and stress less.
This solution worked for our family and I think it will help you too! Due to the size of the post, I broke it into 3 articles. I hope you keep reading because I think this solution will truly help you and your family eat healthier meals and possibly save money too!
(Part 2 of this series can be found here.) (Part 3 can be found here.)
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Lisa Kimrey is a 30-year veteran registered nurse, speaker, and author of the Bible study, The Self-care Impact: Motivation and Inspiration for Wellness. At Mylifenurse, Lisa writes about simple ways to care for yourself to stay happy, healthy, and rejuvenated while you serve and care for others. Combining her years of nursing expertise with Scripture-based encouragement, Lisa shows readers easy ways to begin and maintain their self-care journey – without feeling guilty. Be sure to grab your FREE Self-care Starter Guide!