Ever suffer from meal planning failure? Me too. Many times. More than I’d like to admit and my failures usually resulted in doing the very OPPOSITE of my new green goals! The good news is that although some of my meal plans were less than wonderful, I’ve learned a few things about myself, my choices and how important meal planning really is to live a more simple, eco-friendly life. I hope you’ve already learned these lessons, but if not, I’m sharing my story in hopes that it might save at least one family from another pizza or grilled cheese “panic-dinner” in the future!
My Dinner Failures
I’ve had many dinner and meal planning failures over the years, but recently I took the time to not only make a meal plan, but I printed out a colorful, full-sheet meal plan template where I made great effort to not only plan our meals for the week, but I also tried to make it pretty. (Or at least, legible, which is a huge success in itself!)
With pretty meal plan and grocery shopping completed, I prominently hung my plan on the refrigerator where I stored each and every precious ingredient needed to make the delicious, nutritious meals I had planned for my family. Salads, vegetables, meats, the whole deal.
But, the bad news is, the refrigerator was exactly where most of those awesome ingredients STAYED until they shriveled up, rotted and stunk- it-up.
Yep, I made I two of the recipes and the rest went to waste. WASTE! Here I am writing about “going green” and I failed to the point of wasting food! Unopened salad, in the trash. Squishy avocados, in the trash. A whole package of organic (and expensive) chicken, stinky, stinky, in the trash! (Officially the salad and avocados went in the compost pile, but still not in our bellies, so pretty darned closed to trash!)
Why Did My Meal Plan Go So Wrong?
That is the question I asked myself as I realized how much food went in the trash and compost pile. How did this awesome plan go so wrong? The answer is simple: I didn’t plan well. I planned beautiful meals, but I didn’t really plan for LIFE. What? I failed to think about the reality of my life, my family’s lives, and how it might impact dinner time.
Meal Planning That Fits Your Life
Meal planning is very important, but it’s not only about choosing recipes and buying the ingredients. Meal planning has to consider your life, your family, and your schedule. Wow, did I learn this lesson!
When making my wonderful meal plan, I didn’t plan for my son’s ortho appointment that put me behind, his practices that end exactly when I would need to start dinner, my meeting at church or any of the other things that would be happening during our meal or dinner prep times!
To Here are the top 5 things I learned from my meal planning FAIL:
- Make Your Meal Plan with Calendar in Hand
While looking at your family’s schedule, choose meals for specific dates. Wednesday, home by 6? Choose a meal that can be made in 30 minutes or less, prep foods ahead of time, or make it a slow-cooker meal night!
- Know Yourself and What You CAN Do
Unless you are an exceptional cook who experiments with recipes easily, choose only 1 or 2 new recipes per week and schedule them on days when you have extra time to make them. This will take down your frustration and save you from panic.
- Know Yourself and What You WILL Do
Throwing salad out breaks my heart. I now know myself and know that if I plan a big salad as our main course, I need to either plan the salad early in the week, soon after buying the greens or buy the greens just before I plan to make the salad. The point is, if you know yourself and your habits, you can adjust your meal plan and shopping, so it doesn’t lead to meal failure.
- Avoid Over Planning Burn-Out
This one goes along with knowing yourself and what you can do. Sometimes planning a carry-out, left-over or pizza night into your meal plan during a busy week can be a saving-grace!
- Have a Plan B
Sometimes things pop-up and change your schedule. So when making your meal plan, include a plan B meal (quick, frozen, or leftovers) that you can throw together quickly or put in the slow-cooker ahead of time when your more time-intensive planned meal doesn’t work out.
Meal Planning for Life is Worth It!
I’ve always believed in meal planning, but meal planning for life with your family schedule in hand is one great way to make dinner time greener, healthier, less stressful and hopefully more rewarding.
By knowing yourself, what you can and will do, as well as having a plan B, hopefully the little extra planning in your meal planning will guarantee dinner success, so we are always able to answer the question, “What’s for dinner” without stress or starvation!