Project: Monthly Meal Planning

16 Feb


As I begin to live out some of my intentions for this year, one of the things I decided to try was a monthly meal plan. In the past I have been skeptical about my ability to meal plan, as I’m intuitive by nature and have a tendency to develop very specific cravings that coincide with my emotional state. While there is no guarantee that I will have on hand the ingredients necessary to fulfill those cravings, nor the time or energy in which to make whatever it is my heart desires, I will nevertheless head to the kitchen and stumble and stress until some form of dinner is on the table.

Sadly, however, this emotion-driven, disorganized approach to eating takes place not only at dinner, but for each and every meal; as I feel my way through whether I want oatmeal or a homemade muffin (never mind whether I have any muffins made) and then feel my way through lunch options. All the while combatting not only the emotional cravings, but genuine hunger spikes. It’s a battle I usually lost, resulting in a lot of bad food choices, unbalanced meals, or underwhelming food acquired via a drive-thru.

So, I decided to experiment  the month of February and devise a month-long meal plan inspired by two of the strategies in this Simple Mom post.

Why a monthly plan instead of weekly?

Because planning gives me anxiety, but having plan makes me feel empowered. Though it takes longer to devise a plan for 30-days worry of meals, versus seven, there is only one day a month I have to think about devising a plan, versus four. This is the best of approach for my temperament, but it’s far from the only way to meet a meal planning goal.

Themed Days Approach

I’m a home cook, not a chef. Trying to plan thirty meals at once is daunting, even if it means less stress than planning seven meals every week. Simple Mom does a weekly meal plan based on nightly themes. I decided to do the same with a couple of nights that alternate, based on the week.

Here’s what that looks like

Week 1 and 3

  • Sunday: Chicken
  • Monday: Soup or Slow Cooker
  • Tuesday: MexicanWednesday: Fish or Steak
  • Thursday: Leftovers or Freezer
  • Friday: Pizza
  • Saturday: Free Night

Week 2 and 4

  • Sunday: Chicken
  • Monday: Soup or Slow Cooker
  • Tuesday: Noodles
  • Wednesday: Fish or Steak
  • Thursday: Leftovers or Freezer
  • Friday: Pizza
  • Saturday: Free Night

And here’s the actual menu I’ve planned for the month


How it’s working

At this point, we are half way through the month, and I am actually looking forward to making my plan for March. The pre-planned meals are allowing me to get dinner on the table an average of an hour earlier than I was routinely able to do when I had no plan. An unexpectedly busy weekend did not result in my having no meal plan for the week, which would normally be the case when I tried to do weekly meal plans in the past, and failed.

Also, Sunday and Monday’s dinners become the center of our lunches for the rest of the week. The soup is a no-brainer for lunch and having it readily available makes more expensive and less-healthy fast food alternatives, unappealing. The chicken is added to salads or made into sandwiches. It can also be shredded, frozen and used for future meals.

Because we are a small family, having a leftover night is important. It keeps us from wasting too much food. My husband is on call for his job on this night and meal time is often interrupted with phone calls. It’s helpful to have something that can be quickly reheated and eaten when each of us are ready to eat on this night. Also, it’s been a struggle to get fish into our diets, so it’s been good to have a day with fish as the centerpiece. While my plan allows me to pick a steak meal instead, I tried to pick fish recipes for each Wednesday, which I wouldn’t normally do.

Finally, planning our dinners has unexpectedly resulted in better planned eating, overall. Our lunches are dinner leftovers: chicken sandwiches, soup and salad.  Our breakfast rotates between fruit smoothies and reheated muffins that I baked and froze. A large fruit salad is put together on the weekends and feeds us most of the week. The minor amount of planning makes it easier to make good choices. And making good food choices is a major part of my journey for this year (a story I hope to cover in more depth, soon).


One Response to “Project: Monthly Meal Planning”

  1. Ava Kai February 16, 2010 at 7:28 pm #

    Yolanda, so nice to meet you. I’m loving I Heart Faces! You seem so full of insight, and your blog is simple and fresh — just how I like it! Hope you have a great week :) Cece

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