This past fall was a hard semester for me. I constantly felt behind--like several weeks behind. While these feelings mostly came from work related things, they blended over into my home life as well. I especially felt them when it came time to make dinner each night. You see, I'm a planner and a strategist, even in the most basic things like dinner making. However, because I was feeling stressed, overwhelmed, and behind at work, I felt that I didn't have time to plan out meals for us to eat at home. The result of that, though, was me feeling directionless, uninspired, and last-minute. Now, some people thrive in the last-minute side of life (my husband and best friend being two of them), however, I am not one of those people. So, in the end, my lack of meal planning added to my feelings of being stressed, overwhelmed, and behind.
With all that in mind, I decided to be more intentional this spring about making time to really plan things out in the food department, which will hopefully leave us better fed, better nourished, and better satisfied in life. People plan meals out very differently and my way is in no way a science, it's just what works for me. I like to plan out a list of meals around the beginning of the month (when my grocery budget is full...ahem...) and shop for most of the ingredients at that time. I add in produce and dairy as needed throughout the rest of the month in my weekly co-op trips. This style of planning does two things for me. One, it provides me with flexibility. I usually pick out a few of the meals each week, depending on the time they take to make, the time we have at home in the evenings, and on the produce I have. Because I've already shopped for the main ingredients (meat, root veggies, and grains), it doesn't take long to pick up any additional ingredients I need. The second thing it does for me is it helps me to add variety our meals. When I'm flying by the seat of my pants I tend to make whatever is easy and convenient and not what is best for our bodies. Planning options out in advance helps me to be more mindful of the types of food I'm filling our bodies with. Are we getting enough dark greens? Are we getting enough good fats? Are we eating a variety of grains and not too much of them? Are we getting enough protein?
Sitting down to make the list can take awhile, but in the end I always feel excited to get cooking! Having good cookbooks, and not too many of them, is my key to success. I wrote a post awhile ago about the cookbooks that I keep in my kitchen for day-to-day cooking. This Christmas I added a new one to the list, The Nourished Kitchen, and I'm loving it! It focuses on traditional food styles and recipes, which is quickly becoming a great interest of mine. I also find that having a cookbook or two that is organized by season is very helpful for me both in inspiration and helping me to cook with more locally sourced ingredients.
I got back into my meal planning routine last week and my time in the kitchen this week has been so much more enjoyable! Hooray! I do so love the simple things that make our lives just a little easier and help them to run just a bit smoother.