We’re “starting fresh” this January, completing 22 mini-challenges in 22 days for a cleaner, fresher and healthier kitchen and grocery budget. Just joining us? Read about the what’s and why’s on the mini-challenges, as well as the previous days tasks, and jump right on in!
This month marks the one-year anniversary from when I did not go insane.
(This month can also be your not-going-insane anniversary too. Don’t miss the giveaway at the end of the post!)
Just before each year starts, the majority of society schemes up some resolution for 2012 that will ultimately change their lives for the better. In reality, those type of plans put me in overdrive and stress me out for three straight days. The fourth day is then filled with disappointment because I had given up on the original “totally great” yet far-fetched idea.
Since disappointment isn’t something I try to aim for, last year’s strategy was different. I created one realistic goal that I was fairly certain I could see through to the end. The goal was to plan meals for one month.
Little did I know that one month would COMPLETELY change how I viewed the money in my grocery budget and in turn, the food in my kitchen. That one month taught me how to manage my food, how to stretch my dollars and how to enjoy making dinner again. It also made the 4pm rush hour disappear, thus saving my sanity.
Day 9 – Plan Your Meals
Today’s challenge is to plan your meals for the remainder of the week. Go back to your freezer and take note of what you have. Plan your meals around that, supplementing with your fridge and pantry. It’s ok if you need to pick up produce to make a well-rounded meal, but try to keep your spending at a minimum.
Wondering why meal planning has an impact on eating well? Most people think there’s only budget and time benefits involved – but there’s so much more! I’m posting at Kitchen Stewardship today explaining what that “more” is.
I began reading this post proudly, thinking “Oh yeah, I’ve got this down. No last minute trips to the store, no stress before dinner, cooking nearly never meal at home… I’m golden!”
And then the bullets turned to paragraphs and I did what many of us have done at one time or another, I stopped reading. My “all that and a bag of chips” self moved on to another topic.
If I had kept reading, I would have seen that there was a two week meal plan listed, complete with preparation tips and even links to tried-and-true recipes. But here’s the kicker: that plan was JAM-PACKED with nutrition. Could I say the same about my own meal plans?
Nope. All this time I had been planning for the sake of simply having a plan. Never once did I think that meal planning could actually improve the nutrition of my family.
So that’s where my personal baby step lies – to plan meals that are packed with as much nutrition as I can possibly get into seven days, or two weeks, or one month… however long it is that I plan. Whether you’re a meal planning novice or self-proclaimed expert, this should be your goal too.
How exactly do we put this goal into action? What would a nutritionally solid meal plan look like? Hop over to Kitchen Stewardship to read the full post!
Meanwhile, have you tried meal planning before but somehow get derailed before you’re able to reap the rewards? If you haven’t already, read the how-to meal plan series (although my methods have changed a bit since then) and review past monthly meal plans and/or weekly meal plans too. Shoot, copy them exactly if you need to! There’s no shame in using the same plan as someone else. Why reinvent the wheel if the original still works?!
And if after all this you’re STILL stuck (or even if you’re not stuck, lol), there’s another option too!
Mystie Winckler, a busy mom of five(!), has put together an e-book for those who get overwhelmed with recipes, traditional cookbooks and having to keep up with lots of different ingredients. She’s also graciously offered to giveaway one copy of “Simplified Dinners” to a lucky Crumbs reader (valued at $12.99).
What makes this book different from other cookbooks? There’s no recipes.
Yep, you read that right. Using most cookbooks goes something like this:
- find recipe that sounds good.
- make sure you have all ingredients listed
- decide whether recipe would still taste good without two or three of listed ingredients
- decide it won’t
- search for another recipe that sounds good
- take stock of what we have on hand
- create dinners based on available meat, vegetables, starches and seasonings
That’s it! “Simplified Dinners” makes it easy to create dinner plans that don’t require your pantry to be filled with a bunch of tiny little bottles. Mystie has taken the minimalist approach with her book and while there could easily be many more ingredients listed for each meal, she lists only the bare minimum needed. This way you can really see all the options that are available without running to the store.
Personally I’m a recipe-girl. I like trying new flavors with new exotic ingredients. But admittedly I almost always get stuck in one category: beans. As a family, we want to eat more beans. As the head chef, I have no clue how to make them interesting and delicious without repeating two recipes over and over again. Imagine my delight when I found not one, but TWO bean sections in “Simplified Dinners!”
There’s also two soup sections and two salad sections – perfect for breaking out of winter soup ruts and ditching the ordinary hum-ho summer salad.
As if that weren’t enough, there’s a master pantry list to help you with shopping. Uncertain what you need at the store for certain meals? Every meal in the book is based off the master pantry list. Shop the list and you can’t go wrong!
“Simplified Dinners” can be an incredibly valuable tool for those who struggle with meal planning, regardless of where you are in your real food journey. Every recipe can be made with ingredients that can be found at your local grocery store, but there are many opportunities to increase the nutrition (like choosing nutrient-dense vegetables and peanut butter without hydrogenated oil) and make something from scratch (like yogurt and jam).
Day 8 Update
Friday’s challenge of making bread fit in well with our favorite family tradition of homemade pizza on Friday nights because yes, we make our own fresh pizza dough. We also had a fellowship meal at church Sunday so Saturday afternoon the kitchen was filled with the aroma of a double batch of rosemary olive oil bread. One batch was for us at home (yielding two beautiful, delicious loaves) and one batch was rolled out and cut into squares before baking. I’m not sure I’d do that particular method again though since they didn’t fluff up as much as I was hoping. Next time I’ll make dinner rolls with the rosemary option instead.
Disclaimer: Mystie provided me with a complimentary copy of her ebook to review, but this didn’t influence my decision to offer the giveaway. Considering meal planning is tough yet extremely rewarding, I’m an advocate for using any and all tools that can help us!