A-minus Meal Planning

You may not think that meal planning has much to do with being a successful business owner, but if you don’t eat, you will die and you will have no more business.

On a slightly more evolved level, many business owners are also parents. As such, they are responsible for the care and feeding of multiple humans of varying sizes. So anything that can make said feeding a bit easier counts as a business improvement in my book! (Unfortunately, I don’t think you can write off your Instant Pot as a business expense, unless you happen to be a food blogger.)

Over the years, I’ve nurtured various short-lived aspirations of food and lifestyle blogging. Turns out, to be a food blogger you actually have to cook. A lot. So much for that. My interest in meal planning comes not from any specific dietary or budgetary regimen, but from the need to feed myself tasty, nourishing food with minimal time investment and trips to the grocery store.

Side note: One of my most distinct memories from the grocery store (yes, this is an actual category of memories in the silo of useless information known as my brain) is seeing a man berate a woman for planning “the exact same meals three times in a row.” The meals were sloppy joe, chili, and spaghetti. The woman had three small children (presumably his) falling out of her cart. I was really, really close to telling him to shut up and learn to cook himself if it bothered him that much, because she clearly had enough to worry about. Sometimes I still wish I had.

I tried HelloFresh and liked it well enough. But I couldn’t stomach the wasted food and packaging or the financial and environmental cost of shipping fresh food to my doorstep. In the last few months, I’ve tried to be better at sketching out meals a week in advance to make sure I actually have what I need from the store. But I still felt like I was in a hamster wheel of cooking and grocery shopping.

Side note: I used to really enjoy grocery shopping. When I lived alone. And didn’t have a bored toddler grabbing items off the shelf to deal with. I do not enjoy grocery shopping as much anymore. So I want to minimize the number of trips I have to make.

So as with all things, I implemented the A-minus Mama Rampage Method. I planned all of my meals out for a month (!). Then I made one large grocery expedition to stock up on staples. Subsequent runs for meat and produce are thus much shorter. Here’s my meal-planning method:

  1. Make a list of favorite recipes/meal ideas. Note how many servings they make. Optional: Categorize by amount of work involved and/or cooking method.
  2. Decide how often you want to cook. I am kind of lazy and would prefer not to cook every night.  I’ve learned to do my “active” cooking on weekends when Science Guy is around to manage the minion. On weeknights, I go for more push-button recipes that can be cooked in the crockpot or oven.
  3. Plot out meals on a month calendar. More experienced meal planners will be able to calculate clever ways to use leftovers in a subsequent meal but I’m not that advanced yet. Extra credit: double favorite recipes and freeze for those nights when all the good intentions come crashing down.
  4. Make grocery lists after checking what’s in the pantry and freezer already. Make one list of staple and stable ingredients to purchase during the big monthly grocery rampage. List perishables by the week in which they need to be purchased.

I should note that the A-minus Meal Planning Technique probably only works if you don’t mind any of the following:

  • Eating leftovers for several meals in a row
  • Cooking with frozen veggies or canned goods
  • Crockpot or pressure cooking
  • Eating thawed frozen meals

If you’ve been reading this blog for any length of time, you’ll know that my intention vs. execution ratio is not super impressive. So far this month I’ve managed not to get completely derailed by the 152nd round of cold virus, mostly by cheating and starting my April cooking in the last week of March. And occasionally grabbing a deli sandwich when I’m too tired to stand up. But I’ll take whatever victories I can get.

I made you a free meal planning worksheet. You can download it directly from the shop, no e-mail subscription necessary. (But feel free to sign up to get notified of new freebies!)

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