In my mind, there are two types of meals: utilitarian and everything else. Utilitarian meals are weekday lunches and dinners when my top priority is supplying my body nutrients for survival. Everything else meals are dinner parties and meals prepared when I have leisurely Saturday afternoons to craft a gourmet plate.
The utilitarian meals, the ones that often begin with phrases such as “What’s for dinner?” and “I’m starving, let’s see what we have in the kitchen,” are where disorganization can work against you. If you don’t have an organized meal plan, it can be easier to head to a fast food joint than to create a nutritious meal at home.
To help with meal planning organization, I created a Meal Plan worksheet (links to the worksheet at the end of this article). To use it, I start most Saturday mornings with a cup of coffee, a stack of cookbooks, and a pad of post-it notes. I flip through my cookbooks, flagging all of the recipes I want to use for the week.
My next task is to put an “X” on the worksheet through any of the meals that I know will be eaten out of the house for friends’ birthdays or whatever is lined up on our calendar. Then, I match up recipes I’ve marked in the cookbooks with openings on the schedule. If any of the items need preparation hours or days beforehand, I’ll list those under the “Prep for Tomorrow” section to help with managing my time. (For example, dough for homemade pizza crusts needs to be made 24 hours in advance of use … so if I want pizza tomorrow, I have to make the dough today.) Also, having at least two snacks listed on the worksheet ensures that I’ve got healthy snack choices available.
When matching recipes with meals, I’ll review the recipe and write down any ingredients on the grocery list section of the worksheet. This helps me plan out what I need from the store and my local farmer’s market. Sometimes, I’ll make two grocery lists for a mini-run on Wednesday night to get fresh produce.
Creating a meal plan takes a little time when it is written, but ultimately saves time and stress during the week. You also may find that a meal plan helps you to eat better and completely eliminate fast food from your diet.
The Unclutterer Meal Plan: