Menu planning

We’re on week two of dinner planning and I’m tentatively heralding it as a success. We take a bit of time on the weekend and sort out what will be for dinner each day, Monday to Sunday, who will cook what, and what we need to buy.

There are two main reasons why this is working for us.

Left to our own devices, we don’t plan ahead and we get very hungry post-work, which means we go to the grocery store, I get cranky, and we buy something more convenient than healthy. We both gained back some weight over the winter months and we’re trying to reverse that, so we had to stop our consumption of heavily processed foods. Now, we know well in advance what will be on our plates every evening, which helps stave off those “Let’s just eat pizza!” moments.

Reason #2? Matt shops for groceries like I shop for clothes. He’s a browser. Me, I love taking my time shopping… except when it comes to buying food. While he wanders and debates and determines, I get frustrated with the sheer amount of people at the store and feel the overwhelming urge to get out quickly. Now we have a set list, of which I print two copies for shopping. We each claim dibs on some sections (dairy, produce, meat, etc.) and all of a sudden, shopping is no longer a frustration. We get exactly what we need, no more, no less, which also helps reduce costly impulse buys.

Because we’re planning in advance, we’re taking on some more interesting recipes rather than our default BBQ, pizza, pasta or meat n’ potatoes meals. This week’s menu includes chicken and whole wheat noodles in curry broth, Italian wraps, espresso black bean chili, and Greek salad. Last week we enjoyed the quinoa primavera I mentioned earlier, stuffed peppers, and crazy hot slow-cooked salsa chicken (awesome with low-fat Greek yogurt, if you’re interested).

Because we also factor in our weekly events and obligations, our menu works in our favour. When I know I have to cover something in the evening, we choose an easy to prepare or Crockpot meal. Fridays call for light dinners because we spend the rest of the evening at our friends’ house drinking beer and eating goodies and we don’t want to go nuts on calories just because it’s the start of the weekend.

Greek salad with crazy awesome goat cheese

Peanut butter cup bars — ridiculously tasty! (recipe here)

Finally, it has allowed us to share an equal amount of responsibility in the kitchen. Prior to this endeavour we’d often each go on cooking sprees — Matt would cook dinner every day for a month, then tire of it, and I’d take over. I know both of us have felt resentment in the past about the weird division of duties. Now, we generally alternate days back and forth. If he grills, I’ll man the stove for side dishes. If I do the prep dishes, he’ll do the plates and utensils from the meal itself. It feels more like a choreographed dance, now.

I don’t know how long this will last, how long it will work, but it’s working quite well for now!

I should note that I’m experiencing the same unexplained stomach pain that I did last year, so some of the foods we eat and plan to eat may have to change in the coming days, which should make menu planning nice and complicated. I’m going to start with cutting out dairy again to see if that fixes things, but I’m sort of at a loss right now other than that.

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