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Tuesday, 18 March 2014

Meal planning (or how I keep my cheese consumption under control)

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I recently read and enjoyed this awesome post about meal planning on An Exacting Life, and Laura posts her meal plans on her blog every week, which often inspire me. I'll be honest and say I'm a sucker for reading other people's meal plans, because I love making up my own.

I always assumed that folk who meal-plan were a bit boring. Who could be bothered with going to the hassle of knowing exactly what they're going to eat in advance? What if you didn't feel like eating what you'd planned? For years, the closest I came to meal-planning, was planning to have pringles and dip for tea because I had nothing else in and couldn't be bothered shopping. But this attitude changed last year, when I was on my three month elimination diet.

I never posted much about my experiences on the diet, mainly because it was hell. I was constantly cranky and hungry, and dreaded shopping in a way I had never dreaded it before. Everything has either yeast, sugar, dairy or gluten in it, and trying to decide what to eat, there and then in the shop, was a nightmare. I had no option but to plan in advance to keep myself on the right track (and lessen the possibility of me bursting into tears and abandoning my half-full trolley in the middle of the gluten-free-but-has-all-sorts-of-other-crap-in-it aisle).

On the plus side, my rhinnitis was a lot better. Plus I was surprised at how much less stressed I felt when I knew exactly what I was eating each day. I pretty much had an idea from the start that my rhinnitis was worsened by dairy, and this has proven to be the case. Giving up dairy would help but there are other issues, so it wouldn't get rid of it altogether (dust can aggravate it, as can, bizarrely, my monthly cycle). And anyway, I can endure a chronic itch in my throat and ears as long as I get to eat cheese occasionally. And this is where meal planning has continued to be useful for me.

I try to only eat dairy at one meal per day, or at the very least only eat small volumes of it in each meal, and meal planning allows me to monitor this. Plus, our monthly food bill has reduced by nearly a quarter by planning what we eat. This is due to a number of reasons:

  1. I use up stuff I already have in, rather than buy more
  2. There are less mid-week trips to the supermarket for stuff I forgot to buy during our weekend shop, so less chance of me buying extra crap I don't need
  3. We buy less takeaways and pre-packed sandwiches 
  4. There's less waste; if I buy a certain type of veg or whatever, I incorporate it into various meals throughout the week so it gets used up
Some folk only plan evening meals, but to keep my dairy consumption under control, I plan breakfast, lunch and dinner. For breakfast and lunch I have 10 basic meals that I plan in rotation, making small changes so I don't get bored (e.g. one lunch meal is homemade soup, so I make different soups each week). 

Dinner was the most complicated meal for me because there are so many choices out there, so many recipes. So, after a discussion with my boyfriend, we narrowed our evening meals into seven different basic favourites which we work around each week. Our seven are:
  1. Steak mince
  2. Chicken
  3. Pasta
  4. Prawn
  5. Fish
  6. Meat-free
  7. Other
So, our steak mince night is usually lasagne, cottage pie, chilli, beefburgers or spaghetti bolognese. Prawn night is usually curry, prawn salad or enchiladas. We have a variety of choices for meat-free night and pasta night; pasta night is usually meat-free aswell, and more often than not is macaroni cheese, which is my favourite dinner ever. Other night is often meat-free too although sometimes I'll make something with sausages for a change. So far, it hasn't got boring and I love the freedom of knowing that all the meals for the week are planned. Plus it keeps both my bank balance and my rhinnitis under control.

I do need to be organised though; some items need to be bought during the week as they won't keep otherwise (fresh fish for instance), plus I occasionally need to make my lunch the night before. It's not a hassle but I'm pretty forgetful so need to have Post-Its stuck on the kitchen wall to remind me.

Do you meal plan? If so, is it just your evening meals or all meals?

5 comments:

  1. I roughly plan evening meals - no written list, but I think about it when I'm shopping. Lunch is more of a problem. I rarely think about that in advance so we nearly always up having something bread based. Planning meals in advance would be healthier and more interesting.

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    1. I've always struggled with lunch aswell. Planning it in advance definitely helps.

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  2. Meal planning isn't for me, or at least i only do it very loosely. Although i do tend to work out what food i am likely to want to eat that week and buy the food in. I try and encorporate the fruit and veg in to meals.

    It's great that the meal planning helped with your rhinitis and that you've found cutting dairy to help. It is meant to help with the pennies as well!xx

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  3. I plan all our meals, we tend to do it 3 weeks in advance and almost everything goes into the freezer, divided up into small boxes. I do feel very sad when I'm sat down planning it all but I also feel a smug sense of satifaction when our shopping bills are lower than everyone elses! :-) x

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  4. Thanks for the link! I really like your meal rotation. Being veggie folks, we try to make a rotation of rice, pasta, bean, lentil, egg and just-veg dishes like soups and stews.

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