One of the best ways to make sure you don’t overindulge or order takeout everyday is to plan meals in advance. I’ve had varying degrees of success with this process in the past, but it’s something I always want to come back to. So many nights, D and I will have this ever popular conversation:
Me: What do you want for dinner tonight?
D: I don’t know, what do you want?
Me: There’s really nothing in particular you want?
D: Well, I didn’t take any of my food out of the freezer so I can’t have any of that
Me: (Sighing) Maybe we should just get takeout
Takeout always seems like the easy and “fun” solution to these nightly debates. We really only indulge maybe 1-2 times during the work week, but the lure of not having to cook and of eating something that we both really enjoy sometimes get the best of us. After all, when we’re done eating, I almost always regret it. It’s MUCH higher in calories/salt/fat than anything I would ever cook myself, not to mention the money we’re shelling out that could be put toward anything else in the world.
To make matters just a teensy bit more complicated, I’m a vegetarian and D is not; not to mention the fact that D can’t eat anything spicy (which is my bread and butter) and also just plain doesn’t like some of other things I do. We almost always make two different meals, or at least 2 variations on the same meal when we’re eating together.
All of these factors make it all the more important for us to plan our dinners ahead of time so we’re not scrambling at 6PM after a long day of work.
The first thing I want to talk about when it comes to meal planning is the logistics – HOW and WHERE to do it. Over the past few months, I’ve tried a bunch of different methods:
1.) Writing it out with a pen and paper – This was our first attempt to get organized with our meals. D and I would sit down every Sunday with a blank page and write down what we would have every day of the upcoming week. I would then put the list on the fridge and we would reference it every day.
2.)Tracking it through a spreadsheet – Excel is always a good option for this.
3.)Tracking through Google Calendar – I created a separate calendar called “Meal Planning” and whenever I feel like it, I can go in and ad in any information regarding meals that I want on any particular day.
Strangely, I kind of miss being able to just write it all out with pen and paper so I might try and go back to that sometime soon.
No matter which method I was using, I always had 3 categories for each meal:
- A main dish for me
- A main dish for D
- A side dish (if we were feeling ambitious that day)
And also, I would make a note on each day anything I would need to do as prep for the next day’s meal (for example: taking some meat out of the freezer to defrost for D).
Of course everything has to be flexible as things come up during the week. For example, if we suddenly make plans after work, we can move things around and put a quicker meal on that day. This is where the Google Calendar approach is especially useful since you can just drag and drop your items.
What do you think? Any methods you’ve used that work great for you?