Don’t you dread that feeling on Sunday nights?
The week is about to start, and it’s time for meal planning! Ugh!
If you have Googled meal planning, you know how great it’s touted.
“Save time! Save money! Eat better!”
Yeah, those are all great reasons, but I despise meal planning anyway.
Well, honestly, I can never seem to get it to work exactly right for us.
1. Why I Despise Meal Planning – The Pressure
I get overwhelmed when I start thinking about the weekly meal plan. So I stare at it for a long time wondering how to begin building this…beast.
It feels like it has to be perfect.
All of that leads me to analysis paralysis. A complete blank on meal ideas. Does this happen you too? (Please tell me this happens to you.)
If I choose a protein (or vegetable or starch) that one family member likes, another family member only eats it so-so. Then I feel like I’m wasting my time. And the money for the food.
Or, if I choose foods the kids like, well, we would eat pasta with Alfredo sauce every day.
Of course, I also try to mix it up a little. And that doesn’t always go too well for me either.
2. Why I Despise Meal Planning – Lost Recipes
Are you like me – you want a little variety once in a while?
We do. And to make that happen, I have to go through recipes. Which can be fun sometimes. Like on Pinterest! I love finding recipes on Pinterest. (I think time flies by when I am on Pinterest!)
Anyway, when I do the meal planning I look for a recipe, bookmark it in the book or online, write the name & page number on the meal planner, and put the ingredients on my grocery list. That way, when it is time to make the meal, I have everything I need.
Except, it doesn’t work out exactly right for me when it’s time to actually prepare and cook the meal.
I’m embarrassed to even tell you this, but I ‘lose’ the recipe. Sometimes, I’ve written down the wrong page number. Sometimes, the wrong COOKING LIGHT Magazine month (this is my favorite magazine to use to try to new healthy foods). Or, I grab the wrong cookbook (I collect them) and can’t remember which one it was in. I’ve even had pinned recipes disappear (?), or online recipes not open or download at the time I needed it.
This makes me feel like I’m not organized. However, I am – because I did a meal plan. Right??
Also, 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 – Lack of Flexibility
Being spontaneous is fun once in a while, right? (Or maybe a more truthful way to say it would be, we all have to change our plans for our family’s schedule sometimes, don’t we?)
Is it just me, but does it seem to come all at once? Like 3 or 4 days in a row?
That happens to us if I buy a weeks worth of salad or fruit, and then we don’t get to stay home for the meal for 3 or 4 days.
Guess what happens? Yep, it spoils.
And throwing food away? Throwing food away makes me feel guilty.
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 about a year without a meal plan.
And, then I realized how much meal planning had been working!
The reason I despise meal planning is that I was not doing THE PREP WORK.
Apparently, I have not been paying attention and had not learned about the prep work to make meal planning easier.
However, I do know that 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. Just because I did not want to plan for the meal, my family still expected a 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 good 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.
However, I did not jump right back into meal planning.
And, because I feel led by the Lord to take better care of myself, I felt I also had some spiritual preparation. I needed to focus on The Lord to put this into the right perspective.
“So whether you eat or drink or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God.” (1 Cor 10: 31 NIV)
This verse reminded me to do the task in a way that would make it less about making a perfect plan and more about bringing glory to God. When I focused on Christ during the meal planning, I slowly found that I was released from the anxiety I experienced trying to make it ‘perfect’. It helped me be more creative too.
Here’s what I learned:
First, remember the purpose of the meal planning. While it will save time and money, the goal is to ensure we eat healthier foods so we can take better care of ourselves.
Second, find a way that works best with our gifts and skill-set. The solution that worked for our family was a few steps of preparation before the meal planning. I wanted a simple-to-follow process. I also wanted to bring the rest of family members into the plan so buy-in would be more achievable.
Third, name it a ‘work in progress’ process. Change and pivot as needed to keep it working. That way, as needs changed, so can the meal planning.
In closing, this was a stressful way to realize how helpful meal planning was, but I am thankful I have the answers to make it work better for my family. When I remember why I am planning the meal, and think less of trying to make it perfect and focus more on Christ, I worry and stress less.
And, I think it will help you too!
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