I’m a meal planner. I have a whiteboard on the side of my refrigerator that lists more or less the food we have on hand at all times, inside and in our chest freezer in the garage. I also have all of the meals for the week listed there, in addition to what we have available for lunches. I do a lot of cooking ahead, so when I make a batch of baked ziti we eat one 8X8 pan of it then, and I freeze the other 8X8 pan to grab some night in the future. This allows us to eat homemade meals on nights when time is tight, and allows us to eat some of the vegetables that were local and plentifully in season several months ago. On the weekends, I often chop up all of the vegetables that will be needed for various meals throughout the week and portion them in containers.
The meals that I plan come from what I have in the pantry, in the fridge, and in the freezer at the time. I grocery shop once every 4-6 weeks, and make sure to keep a lot of staples on hand, mostly frozen, shelf-stable, or sturdy items like carrots, potatoes, and onions. I like figuring out the puzzle every week of what meals we will have, trying to inject as much variety and interest into the plan while balancing time constraints for weeknight meals. I also try to factor in the number of dishes that the meal prep will create, since my husband does the dishes and I prefer to have his company in the evenings after dinner rather than have him standing at the sink.
We feel better when we eat this way, and we look better. We get a variety of proteins, grains, and vegetables in our diet and a minimum of excess sodium and other unidentifiable ingredients. Our food dollars go a lot further. We never have to make the decision at starving’o’clock on a Wednesday about what we will have for dinner. I never even have to answer the question, “What’s for dinner?” because it’s right there on the board.
And on a night like tonight, a night where I got stuck at work due to an incident involving a stolen cell phone that is a crucial part in my agency’s ability to provide on-call support to families, a night where my husband got stuck in traffic because some person of questionable intelligence scheduled roadwork in the downtown area at rush hour, it was so freaking fabulous to come home and order takeout. Oh, delicious tomato, broccoli and spinach calzone, how I love you. Cheese fries – you were the cure for what ailed me. Meal planning and home-cooking are wonderful, and it makes the times when takeout is in order even more of a treat.
So, Fabulous Thing #35: Knowing when it’s time to deviate from the plan and give ourselves a special treat.