Thursday, March 13, 2014

Meal Planning

As I said on Sunday, meal planning this week was tough!

I felt much like I did when I first started Farrell's, taking upwards of three hours to plan my menu and grocery list for the week.

Maybe it took me so long this week because prior to starting my own meal plan, I talked to my sister-in-law who was having trouble coming up with her plan. Maybe I just transferred her difficulties and frustrations to my own task at hand.

Yeah, that's totally what happened. Let's blame her. :)

I generally have a step-by-step process I take when planning my weekly menu.

  1. Create a template. Yes, I'm a little OCD, but I need to have a clear picture of what I'm eating and when. When I followed the Farrell's plan, it helped to have this electronically in a six-row table: breakfast, snack, lunch, snack, dinner, snack. With Whole30, I found it was easier to print out a paper for each day, labeling the protein, vegetables, fats, and fruit that I was going to eat for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. (The back side of each sheet has my pre- and post-workout meal plan.)
  2. Check my calendar to see if I have evening obligations that will make cooking difficult. This week, for example, I had parent-teacher conferences on Wednesday and an appointment on Thursday, so I had to plan accordingly.
  3. Peruse the contents of my freezer and fridge to see what meat and produce I already have. This week, for example, I had frozen ground beef and chicken breasts as well as some Brussels sprouts hanging out in the fridge.
  4. Research recipes to make. The first place I generally look is Pinterest: I created a Whole30 Pinterest board so that all Whole30-approved recipes are in one place and therefore easier to peruse. If I am not inspired by the bazillion recipes I have pinned, I do quick Google searches: "Whole30 recipes," "Paleo recipes," etc. Or, I search for something very specific if I have an ingredient that I need to use: "Whole30 recipe, ground beef." If I am still not finding something, I turn to tried-and-true sources: Nom Nom Paleo, The Clothes Make the Girl, Stupid Easy Paleo, etc.
  5. Fill out the meal-plan template, ensuring that the dinners I plan to make will leave me with enough leftovers for lunch -- or, if they won't, that I have alternate options for lunch.
After I have the template filled out, I make my grocery list.

I write down the groceries that I need day-by-day (according to what I filled out on the template). And, I make my list according to section of the grocery store. For instance, the left column above is all of my produce (and that is a shit-ton of produce, friends); the middle column is the refrigerated stuff (i.e. meat, eggs, etc.); and the right column is pantry items (i.e. coconut aminos, spices, olives, etc.). If I need a lot of stuff from the frozen section, I'll create a fourth column, but in the above list, I just added "frozen shrimp" to the refrigerated column.

Now that I have 17 days of Whole30 under my belt, I am not freaking out as much about meal planning as I was at first. And, I don't necessarily stick to the pre-determined meal plan throughout the week. For example, if I wrote down that I was going to have Brussels sprouts on Tuesday but then I was really craving asparagus on Tuesday, I'm not going to not eat asparagus just because it wasn't on the meal plan. As long as I substitute it for another veggie, I'll be good.

And, if there's a day that I forget to thaw meat (like today, for example), I'm not going to throw in the towel. Instead, I'll think of something that I can pick up at the store and go from there. Because I forgot to thaw the shrimp tonight but still need something relatively fast and easy, I'll likely stop at Whole Foods before my appointment, grab a steak, and cook it up when I get home.

I am by no means an expert on meal-planning or grocery-shopping, but I feel like I have been doing it for such a long time (albeit in a variety of ways) and that my anal-retentive qualities make me kind of good at it. And, I have definitely realized that if I don't plan something, things will not go well. That being said, if you have any questions about meal-planning or grocery-shopping, please feel free to send them my way!

What do you do to ensure healthy eating throughout the week?

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