Planning Meals Ahead of Time

Salad, apple, tomatoes, and blueberries

So I walked into the kitchen, saw the giant bag of chocolate chips on the counter, grabbed a very small bowl, and deposited a handful of the little morsels of goodness into it. Then I started thinking about what to make for supper. Nothing about this story is evidence of a healthy approach to eating. Yes, it could have been worse. I could have just sat down with the whole bag and eaten chocolate chips until I felt sick, which I didn’t.

The above is what happens when I A) don’t stop and think about whether I’m really hungry or just bored, procrastinating, etc. or B) wait too long to eat given what I had for my most recent meal and hunger is getting in the way of rational thinking. Neither is good and I know that I can prevent both.  The best way to do so is to plan ahead.

We’re not particularly good about meal planning in our house, which on rare occasions results in us “grazing” around the kitchen, and I never seem to make healthy choices at this point. There a several ways to use meal planning, some of which I’m doing, others I need to work on (it’s a journey, remember).

Plan Meals for the Week

Either I or my wife go grocery shopping on the weekend, with her usually picking up some additional things throughout the week because they’re at a particular shop. Ideally, we should plan out our meals for the week before we go shopping, but we end up just sort of thinking about what we’d like to eat through the week and assume we’ll figure out some order to that as the week goes along.

Lately, I’ve been making a point to buy certain things that I want to take for lunch, making some healthy decisions ahead of time (never, ever go grocery shopping hungry).  I go home and cook up whatever needs to be cooked and put it in containers. From these ingredients I  assemble my lunch the night before I need it. 

Salad, apple, tomatoes, and blueberries

Lately I’ve been baking chicken breasts in some lemon juice with dried oregano, a bit of salt, and some pepper, and roasting a sweet potato. For lunch I throw some of the chicken and sweet potato in a container with spinach, tomatoes, and some hemp hearts. Between the  flavour of the lemon juice from the chicken and the texture and sweetness of the potato, I don’t need any salad dressing.

Batch Cook

My wife is an amazing cook, plus she has a lot of kitchen gadgets including a slow cooker, heavy duty mixer, and seriously powerful blender. She’s a busy woman. She’s a professional, a wife, a mom, and still manages something of a social life, but she also loves to cook. Her full life means that she can’t cook every night and neither can I.

One way we deal with this is her masterful way of cooking in large batches. She doesn’t make stew for supper, she makes enough for at least four suppers. The same goes for when she makes chilli. She generally makes pesto once a year and we have enough to last us for several months. 

She makes big batches of things, puts them in Mason jars in a variety of sizes and we still them in the upright freezer in our garage. In the morning, we’ll take a jar out to thaw and that’s what we’ll build supper around. Sometimes one of us will come in from the garage and say, “good news, I found another container of the chicken I (always her) grilled.”

Preview the Menu

If I know that I’m going out for lunch or dinner I will check to see if the restaurant has a menu online. If they do, I skim it before I go out to the restaurant and try to find some healthier options. This works best if I do it soon after I’ve had another meal and I’m not making any decisions while hungry (just like going to the super market). When I get to the restaurant already know what I’m getting and I’ve made a thoughtful decision. 

Does this always work? No, of course not. I have a sweet tooth (remember the story about the chocolate chips?) and desserts tempt me or there’s bread on the table. Bread on the table! Why do restaurants do this? It serves nobody. It’s not good for the customer and if they fill up on bread they won’t order dessert. Okay, who am I kidding?

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