This blog entry has been a long time coming and I’m finally glad to say that I’m determined to carve out time to share my tips for efficiency when it comes to meal planning that I have experienced.
I began meal planning seven years ago, when I watched a short documentary/ attended a lecture in university called “The Story of Stuff” by Annie Leonard. It opened up my eyes to the systematic ways of our capitalist consumerism and one thing led to another and I watched Food Inc. on Netflix. This documentary changed my perspective on our large scale monopolized food system and how detrimental mass-farming for profit and volume and conventional ways of producing food is both harmful to ourselves and to the organisms we hurt in the process. I was so inspired by both these films that I decided to take a summer internship in 2009 at a local learning center whose curriculum focuses on educating inner-city communities about growing organic healthy food and demonstrated how to create adaptable recipes to please everybody’s palate. This place is also where I gained knowledge about the global impact coffee culture has presented within our society and why I love coffeeshops so damn much. Third wave obviously…
Before I go on, I want to preface that I’m not a nutrition expert or a health care individual, but I demonstrate living a sustainable healthy lifestyle to the best of my ability everyday since 2009. So I’d like to say that I’ve had enough experience eating sustainably & healthy.
There are a few tools/tips that you need in order to begin your meal planning process.
1. Start a Pinterest account
Pinterest is a powerful visual vehicle for recipes and DIY. I have separate boards for things I want to bake, things to make for next week, and festive holiday recipes to try out.
2. Purchase a blank notebook
This step may seem simple, but I have volumes of filled notebooks that play witness to the documenting of recipes that I will eat throughout the week. Here’s usually a breakdown of how I categorize my meals
- Breakfast (heaviest/heartiest meal of the day, most protein dense to help fuel you)
- Snack 1 (sweet)
- Lunch (something that’ll sustain me, but won’t make me fall asleep post eating)
- Snack 2 (savory)
- Dinner (I always aim to make a soup for the week, soup is filling but light and for me, is something I can eat everyday)
3. Compile a list of pantry/fridge essentials
Nothing frustrates me more than in the process of meal prepping and I noticed that I lack an ingredient. Having a continuous supply of necessary items in stock will ensure that you don’t run into this problem like I have. Over the years my essentials from week to week are:
- Herb of your choice (for me it’s cilantro and basil)
- Fresh lemon
- Rotisserie chicken
- Kerrygold unsalted butter
- A tomato sauce of some sort (like a bolognese, that I’ve made prior)
- Green onions
- Seasonal snack fruit of choice
- Cheese (parmigiano reggiano, shredded cheddar, and cotija)
- Some sort of carb to carry the protein and side veggies (such as cous cous, brown rice, polenta, and oatmeal)
- A “carrier” veggie, basically any vegetable that you like that can also be a vehicle for flavors (for me it’s sweet potato, spaghetti squash, zuchini, and cauliflower)
- Extra virgin olive oil (high quality)
- Coconut oil
- A tub of full fat Greek yogurt
*If this list seems daunting, note that this list is just MY personal preference of what I like to have on hand. The beauty of cooking is that you can customize everything to your liking.
4. Set a budget for yourself.
I’m typically not one to go into scrupulous detail regarding budgeting, but budgeting your money for things that you consume everyday is more essential and crucial to get a handle on as I step into a more frugal lifestyle.
For myself, since the farmers market that I frequent only accepts cash, the most I will spend for myself on produce is roughly 30 dollars. For anything else that I don’t purchase at the farmers market, I buy at Trader Joe’s, which results in a maximum budget of 40 dollars. If my calculations don’t deceive me the weekly total for my budget equates out to be $70 and if we were to break it down further, that means I spend roughly 10 dollars a day feeding myself three meals a day in addition to two snacks a day. If that’s not eating a healthy lifestyle on a budget, then I don’t know what is anymore.
5. Have designated containers for specific meals
Once you’ve tackled the daunting task of preparing your meals, it is imperative for these delicious meals you’ve made to have a home. For myself, I have four 2-cup volume glass pyrex cups for my breakfast and two large BPA free rectangular tupperware containers to hold my lunches and dinners. My snacks are usually batched in gallon Ziploc baggies and my crucial cold brew is in my usual 32 ounce glass bottle. The overall spatial footprint of all these items in the fridge amounts to half a shelf with strategical maneuvering.
The Last Note:
Get hands on
Basically, you can mentally plan and plan all you want but without proper execution and gratitude for the trial and error process, you won’t know what works for you and what doesn’t. My trial and error process has been extensive to say the least, but I’ve had a lot of enjoyment out of it. Throughout the work week, I dream of spending Saturday mornings perusing my local farmers market and talking to all the farmers about their recent growing season. This process has served as a new method of therapy for me on the weekends, I call it “My Sacred Saturdays” and I wouldn’t change them for a second.