Ever come home from a long day of work feeling tired and hungry, scan your cookbooks for something – anything – you can serve to your family for dinner, finally settle on a recipe, only to realize that you don’t have the needed ingredients in your house? Finding yourself back at square one, you reluctantly order pizza or other fast food, sabotaging your healthy diet efforts and feeling guilty for doing so.
This was a routine scenario in my household several years ago. My stomach growled louder and louder with each turn of the cookbook page; oftentimes, I gave up on the search effort before even choosing a recipe. I was just too fatigued and hungry to muster up the energy required to eat smartly. The idea of spending time selecting a recipe, gathering the ingredients, and cooking the meal was too much for my tired and food-deprived brain to handle.
All that has changed now that I plan a week’s worth of recipes at a time and grocery shop specifically for the necessary ingredients. This technique ensures my husband and I eat a variety of healthful foods, guarantees I have all ingredients on stock, and prevents desperate, last-minute hunts for dinner. I save money and avoid wasting food by not buying unnecessary ingredients, to boot.
My menu planning routine usually begins on Sunday, when I sit down for about 10 to 15 minutes with my cookbooks and other recipes I have collected, browsing them for appealing meals. I make certain the week’s dinners provide an assortment of nutrients and a variety of foods, including brown rice, whole wheat pasta, vegetables, and protein. Then I make an accompanying grocery list and head to the grocery store for the week’s foods.
Since this process can be a bit rigid, I try to inject flexibility wherever I can. If, for example, I am busy all Sunday, I allot another time to menu plan and grocery shop. If social plans arise mid-week, I save one of my planned recipes to cook at a later time. For just this purpose, I have learned to always include at least one recipe in the weekly list that does not require fresh ingredients, and I prepare the meals that do include fresh ingredients early in the week.
Now that I menu plan on a weekly basis, I am less stressed in the evenings – not to mention less hungry and, therefore, grouchy – which allows me to enjoy a healthful meal with my husband each night.