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:
- I use up stuff I already have in, rather than buy more
- 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
- We buy less takeaways and pre-packed sandwiches
- 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:
- Steak mince
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?