Firstly, let me start off by saying I NEVER thought I would be able to meal plan. To me, meal planning came with meal prepping, and I sucked at that part. I had bursts of energy and motivation to make batch breakfasts and lunches to take to work since I worked about 6:00/6:30 to 1:30 everyday. But truth be told, that only lasted a couple of weeks at most before I was back to my old tricks: Starbucks for breakfast and Motomaki/Chick-Fil-A/Chipotle for lunch. Since I was living at home, I usually had an option of my mom's cooking for dinner, but a lot of times I would have a big bowl of air popped popcorn or--worse yet--have one of the above that I hadn't had for lunch for dinner and eat out all 3 meals. Needless to say, it was costly both for my wallet and my caloric intake. Not to mention I had no discipline and was never looking at the big picture at what I ate. So it became "cheat day" after "cheat day" as I ignored what I had the day before or even the meal before and gave into whatever I wanted in the moment.
However, Luke and I have actually been great at meal planning! About 2 weeks after I moved to England, we started meal planning in my Bullet Journal and we haven't looked back since. I could tell you what we had for dinner on any given day since 26 June. We have a lot of favourites that come up a lot: Buddha Bowls, courgetti (zoodles, for you Americans), and a variety of soups that we batch make and freeze into 2 portions.
One of the benefits of meal planning that I've experienced is that deciding on Sunday night what we'll have for dinner on Friday night means on Friday night, I'm craving and looking forward to having the meal we planned, even if it's something healthy. We've deviated from it a few times, but knowing the two of us, we've saved ourselves a number of evenings when we would have otherwise picked up a frozen pizza or whipped up a quick pasta dish. It feels good to know my brain is telling my stomach what to eat instead of my stomach telling my brain what to eat because it would almost always be chocolate cake and pizza.
After 6 months of success, we decided to add another layer to it by planning a 2 week rotation of types of meals so we can just plug in recipes that fit. That way, we have a better control on how frequently we're having rice dishes, pasta, or otherwise carb-heavy meals. Here's what that looks like to us:
Monday: fish & vegetables
Saturday: grain bowl
Monday: meat & vegetables
Saturday: rice bowl
We started the first week of January and it's been going well. We tried to plan around what we have going on in the evenings so Tuesdays are salad because that's usually quick before we head out to our church group. Sundays are kind of a freebie, but we've been good at still making good choices. A week might look like: salmon & greens, chicken tandori salad, duck soup, "southwest" sweet potatoes, spaghetti, Buddha bowls, and maybe something that takes longer to cook that we can make before church, something quick for after church, or something a little more fun, like a recipe out of Chrissy Teigan's Cravings cookbook that I purchased last month, depending on what else we have on that Sunday.
For lunch, we sometimes have left overs. When I first moved, we were out.of.control with portions. We would make about 3 or 4 portions, splitting it down the middle, and end up over eating and groaning about how much we ate. No we're a lot better about it, often portioning out our left overs--whether it's 1 extra portion or 2--while we're serving up our dinner. It makes it easier to kind of eyeball equal portions and have a better idea that we're not overloading our plates at night. When we don't have left overs, Luke usually opts to skip lunch, while I make what I call my rainbow salad: avocado, red onions, carrots, corn, mushrooms, and sometimes raw cauliflower if we have it, on a bed of spinach. I just drizzle a bit of oil and balsamic vinegar on top. It's pretty good and super easy, but I've been pretty bored with it lately and wanting to have hotter lunches like chicken and veggies.
Another benefit of meal planning is grocery shopping in one or two trips. Honestly, we could do it in one trip, but we've been eating a lot more vegetables lately and food just doesn't have as long of a shelf life as it does in the States. We've kind of figured out how long everything will last at home, so we try to buy things like bean sprouts or courgettes the day before or the day of. Luckily, the grocery store is on our way home from work, but everyone could do with fewer trips to the store, I think. The other benefit of doing it all in one trip for us is that we meet the £40 minimum needed to get bonus points on our rewards card. That's probably the most shocking thing to me about life in England: how little we spend at the grocery store or how hard it is to spend £40 for the two of us for the week. I mean, we could easily buy veggies for two or three meals for under £10 and that just blows my mind!
I whole-heartedly believe that meal prepping doesn't work for everyone. I think it's such a great concept, but I don't want to devote a chunk of time on my weekend making lots of food for the week. However, I whole-heartedly believe that meal planning can work for everyone. Take it from me, someone who used to impulse eat, or would drive 15 minutes to a drive thru for "convenience" instead of just cooking something cheaper at home.
Meals from the Cover Photo
Buddha Bowls with quinoa, poached egg, roasted veggies, roasted chickpeas, sauteed spinach, avocado
Rosemary Chicken, Bacon, & Avocado Salad
Carnitas Street Tacos with avocado salsa
Salmon Superfood Salad
Pork Chops over Cous Cous Salad