Well, well, well, if it isn’t me writing about something I’m not a complete expert in!
Good way to start a blog post, right, buns? “Hey, come read about my meal planning that I’m not excellent at but am okay at, I guess!”
I’m just not sure anyone is an expert in meal planning. Not even people who have super restrictive meal plans who eat the same boiled chicken and broccoli every day… Sure, they might have everything prepped, but they haven’t made any room in their planning for after dinner ice-cream, so, you tell me, pals.
Meal planning when you’re in recovery from an eating disorder and you’re trying to eat intuitively can be a little bit daunting at first, I’m not going to lie! How will I know what I feel like? Will I get enough to satisfy and satiate my hunger and cravings?
That’s why my meal planning isn’t super strict. I really only properly plan our dinners for the week, because I don’t really like cooking at night and I hate the feeling of not knowing what to make and eat for dinner on weeknights. Especially because I’m still recovering from my breakdown earlier this year and I don’t have a whole lot of energy to waste on worrying about what to make for dinner, or spending a lot of time making it. Here’s my usual thought process:
- What’s the weather going to be like? If it’s too hot, I don’t want to make soups or stews
- What time will Alpal be home from work/uni? If it’s later, I’ll need to make something in one pot that can be heated up when he gets home (eg. pasta, curry)
- What can we afford this week? If I’ve worked more hours than usual, I’ll be able to contribute more to the weekly shop and maybe get some Meredith Dairy goats cheese (our FAVE but a little bit expensive!) if I haven’t worked as many hours, I’ll look for meals that have a base of dried pulses, or bigger batch meals like slow cooker meals
- How long will it take to make? I don’t have enough energy to be in the kitchen for a couple of hours like I used to. I need something that’s easy peasey, pleasey!
- How many serves will one dinner recipe make? Can we have it for lunch the next day? Or repurpose it for tomorrow’s dinner?
- And, most importantly, what have I been craving? (Alex is easy to please and only turns his nose up at potatoes and some pasta… So weird, I know!) So I go off what I’ve been feeling like, and it works out well!
Taking all of this into consideration takes a bit of time, so I set aside a couple of hours on Friday, Saturday or Sunday to sit down with an iced latte and a snack and look at different blogs and brainstorm what dinners we’ll have on each night. Sometimes I won’t even get around to it till Monday, which means we’ll usually have frozen pizzas and a salad kit on that night (which suits me PERFECTLY because it’s actually one of my favourite dinners to eat!)
We also do click and collect, which is where we order our groceries online and pick them up from woolies the next day. This is perfect for people who are super busy, want to save money or just don’t like going grocery shopping all the time. It’s a free service, too! (Well, apart from paying for the actual groceries!) We love it. The only downside has been that some of the fruit and veg has been a little bit off if I’ve planned to use it a few days after I’ve picked up the groceries, so I’ll probably have to change that and go to the shops every few days some weeks, which I don’t mind. I just love planning the meals and going through the woolies website, adding things to the cart so I don’t buy unnecessary things (wonderful things like Hershey’s caramel syrup, but not exactly necessary if you ask Alpal!)
So, without further ado, let me give you some points on how I meal plan and what works for us. It might not work for you, but hopefully it’ll give you some ideas!
- Start by making a list or mind-map of foods you’ve been craving. I include breakfast, lunch, dinner and snack things. It’s just a rough guide that can help inform your meals and grocery list!
- Write down some meals/dinners/snacks you already have in mind that you know you’ll want to eat and make. Every week we usually have some kind of Mexican inspired meal, some kind of pasta and frozen pizza with a kaleslaw kit. So that already knocks a few nights off!
- If you’re not sure what you feel like/want to make, go to your favourite blogs (I’ll link a few of mine at the end of the post!) and have a little browse through the recipe sections (most have them categorised into breakfast, dinner, etc). You can even go to pinterest and type in one ingredient that you feel like or a type of meal, and see what comes up. I do this with slow cooker meals and it’s great! (Just be careful of diet culture-y language on pinterest, it’s pretty shocking for that.)
- Think about your schedule for the week. Would it be helpful to make a big batch of something on Monday night that’ll last you till Wednesday? Maybe making slow cooker meals and chucking everything in there the morning of is a good idea? Do what suits you, boo!
- Write down your menu: the days of the week and what dinner you’ll be having underneath
- Then, on another page/piece of paper write down each meal you’ll be making and write down the ingredients you’ll need for it underneath, so you can make your shopping list easier. Or you can just go through them and cross them out once you’ve added them to the cart online like I do! So much fun!
After I’ve got my dinners all planned out, I’ll think about breakfasts, lunches and snacks. This is when I’ll go back to the mindmap I’ve made and have a little look at what I’ve been craving. Breakfasts are usually easy for me to plan for because I almost always either feel like toast with nut butter and fruit, some kind of baked good and eggs, overnight oats or smoothies. Lunches are easy too, because I’ll usually have leftovers from the previous night’s dinner, or some kind of salad or wrap with lentils/chickpeas/beans and cheese. So we usually always have these ingredients in the cupboard or fridge, and just restock when needed.
Snacks are a little bit tougher for me because my ED voice is always trying to butt in and be all “the only acceptable snacks are 100 cals/fruit or veg/1 bliss ball”. So rude and so wrong! Plus, because of my PCOS, my snacks usually need to be a mini meal, or at least something that includes protein + carbs + fat so that my blood sugar and cravings don’t go nuts. So I’m still working on that and usually just write down things I think sound good and have them in the fridge/pantry, too.
Now, the other part of meal planning is the actual practical side of it. A lot of people find it helpful to prep meals on Sundays so that they’re ready for the start of their busy week, but that doesn’t work for me! Weekends are my time with Alpal and I don’t like sacrificing that time. I’m very lucky because I have a super flexible work schedule and most of the time I choose to work from super early in the morning till midday/1, or I can work from home, so I can prep my meals and snacks the day of. Sometimes, I’ll make a couple of things on the one day (like some kind of baked good and some roast veggies to pop into lunches), but because my energy isn’t where it used to be, I usually take it as it comes. And that’s what works for me! It may be totally different for you, so a little trial and error may be needed.
So, my little loves, that’s how I meal plan. I know that process is a bit all over the place, but right now it really works for me! I’ll probably write a few more of these posts in the future, because I suspect my meal planning method is going to change a LOT in the future. Also, I feel like I need to point out that there are definitely some weeks where we don’t stick to our weekly planned dinners, but it’s still super helpful to plan them out. And I really do hope that this has helped you at least a little bit and I would love to hear how you guys meal plan in the comments!
Here are some of my favourite blogs for meal planning:
- Apples Under My Bed Oh, golly. If you haven’t heard of Heidi’s beautiful blog, you must visit it, now! She is just gorgeous and every word she writes and photo she posts makes me feel so warm and fuzzy and calm. Heidi is a dietitian and has amazing meal prepping tips, too!
- ImmaEatThat: Kylie is amazing and has SO many great recipes on her blog! She has a lot of weekly meal blog posts, too. I love looking at those because usually I’ll see something and be like, “Oooh! I haven’t had pancakes for ages! Yes, honey, yes!”
- The Sweet and Simple Kitchen: This is one of my favourite baking blogs; a go-to for when you’re craving making something sweet! For the weeks that I know I’ll want to have eggs with a baked good for breakfast or have some kind of baked good for a snack, I love going to Kristie’s blog for inspiration. This week I’m making her Brown Sugar and Spiced Apple Scones with Salted Maple Glaze! Drooling just typing the name! (Oh, and there are a lot of great oat-based breakfast recipes on this blog, too!)
- The Real Life RD: Robyn is an RD who has a similar food philosophy and practice to Kylie of ImmaEatThat. I love her blog and weekly meal posts, too. You can never have too many of those posts to pull inspiration from!
- Hummasapien: I love the dinner recipes on Alexis’ blog! Alpal and I eat a mostly vegetarian diet and she has a lot of different plant-based recipes that are delish. Her Salted Chocolate & Peanut Butter Oatmeal Balls are a SUPERB snack, too.
- Pinch Of Yum: Oh, so many good recipes! You do have to be careful when reading this blog because sometimes there’s a bit of diet-y language in it (she did sugar-free january once and there’s a few posts about it) but the recipes are amazing. So many good, quick, easy meal ideas! And I love Lindsay’s style of writing. She just seems so lovely!