Alright kids take a seat, grab your number 2 pencil & let's talk anatomy. Womp, womp. What, no one likes anatomy? Hmm...well do you like food? Good! Because this lesson is all about the anatomy of your grub! Oh sh*t! Am I losing you again? I promise this isn't going to be some super educational post where I break down a nutrient comparison between kale and swiss chard. I'm not that smart okay, but if I was I'd totally geek out about it right now.
So quick question for you, do you love meal planning?
Heck no, of course you don't! Almost no one does. It seems so complicated, half the plans don't work out because you forgot to buy an ingredient, or the spinach went bad before you could use it, blah blah blah, I know! The reason meal planning is such a pain is because we either mimic other plans which don't suit us well, over complicate the process, or try to half ass it and expect it to pay off.
Look, I can't promise you'll love meal planning after this but I know I can make it super easy for you every time. You don't need a huge budget, just a little time & a good understanding of what your meal style is. If you can put in the time, I'll help you solve the other parts. I'll show the basic anatomy of a meal & help you figure out your signature meal style by understanding the meal components. Get this down and I swear, meal planning will be half as painful...hey maybe you'll even enjoy it. Okay, enough crazy talk! Let's get to the info already!
It's time to give a damn
So I've got some bad news. The bad news is even if you don't like cooking, you still have to eat AND OFTEN. Think about the time you spend eating, now think about the time you spend cooking, prepping, shopping for the food you're eating. Add that all up over a lifetime and you are looking at YEARS OF YOUR TIME! It makes sense then to have a little strategy for all that time right? Let's get real here, when we don't have a plan we dodge the task of cooking our own meal. Yep, busted! I do it too. When I'm in the "I hate cooking mood" you're guaranteed to find me spending money to let someone else cook my meal for me. This hurts me right in the wallet and my waistline too. Can you relate?
I find it interesting how when someone wants to cook on the daily as a profession, they go to culinary school or find another way to devote themselves into learning how to create enjoyable meals BUT when someone wants to cook on the daily i dunno...because YOU NEED TO EAT TO LIVE, then suddenly we're expected to settle for whatever crappy/okayish meal we can come up with based off some basic flavorless Pinterest recipe. No, no, no, no, no, just no! I'm here to tell you that you deserve better! Stop playing with your food! It's time to get serious! Meal planning isn't just for the chefs and type A moms. Meal planning is for anyone with a stomach who also happens to know the difference between a really 'enjoyable meal' and a 'just edible meal'.
FOOD STYLE vs FOOD PRIORITIES
Let's take a quick moment to intentionally choose a cooking style which makes sense. I'm a hardcore foodie; I love trying new foods and cooking fancy meals & trying out exotic ingredients and new cooking techniques BUT that is NOT my cooking style. Why?Because I am an entrepreneur and a homeschooling mom and I have two small children and an itty bitty kitchen. Keeping things simple is a MUST. I can't afford the time spent on complicated meals nor do I have space to store those exotic ingredients in my tiny minimalist kitchen. Fancy foodie cooking is INTENTIONALLY NOT my cooking style. I'm not a gluten for punishment though. I still like to have fun in the kitchen. Food should be an experience. Not just a means to survive. I still try new cooking techniques here and there & exotic ingredients too, I just don't make it a regular part of each meal. I took my priorities and cook style and fused them into one and cooking is regularly a wonderful experience for me.
Too often we plan meals and cook the way we are used to cooking and this regularly leaves us dissatisfied. We get burned out or bored with cooking and then, yep you guessed it! We dine out, order food, or worse buy these instant meals in a box and convince ourselves this is cooking. Hey, no judgement, I've leaned on these a time or two but as your friend I have to say it. Instant meals are NOT cooking. Avoid the ever tempting food in a box/bag, they're the devil. They are expensive and unhealthy and literally addicting. F-M. Let's get on with this meal planning thing so we can eat REAL FOOD. Think about the foods you love to eat and fuze them with your relevant life priorities. To make it fun I'll give you a freebie, don't forget to download the worksheet ****HERE****
EXAMPLES: Budget friendly-gluten free-45 mins or less. Vegan-One pot-Flavorful. Simple Ingredients-Nutrient dense-Bulk Cooking.
First remember there are meals, and there are foods. I am talking specifically about the anatomy of a meal, not just individual food recipes. Meal planning should be flexible and easy. When you understand the different types and parts that make up a meal you can then easily take on the task of making the most of what you have on hand or utilizing those fast store deals. Again, knowing how much time we spend on meals over a lifetime and also knowing how much meal planning will give you a lean budget and waistline means that there is MUCH VALUE from learning how to do it right.
ALL IN ONE
Examples: Soup, Stew, Casseroles, Pizzas
In these meals, the ingredients are combined into one dish, hence, all in one! These are my favorite because they are usually so easy to put together. Many of these meals can be cooked in a crock pot or instant pot pressure cooker & then you can passively cook your meal while you carry on with the rest of your day. You can also through everything into a big soup pot. Soups are a regular part of meal time in our house. Don't take pity on my family. My soups are freakin awesome, far from the Campbells cans. Not only is a broth base super nutritious but soups are some of the most flexible recipes & it's a great way to take on leftover ingredients you have from other meals. I call this a flexipe (flexible recipe). One my other favorite things about All-in-Ones is they're pretty fool proof.
ENTREE AND SIDE(S)
As the name states, these meals are comprised of separate entrees and sides. This could also include tapas. These meals are rarely my go to because for me it takes a little more time to prepare, and there is usually one more pan, pot, etc to clean. They aren't my usual go to but maybe for you these meals make even more sense for bulk meal prep! You can cook a large amount of one side & have it for several separate meals throughout the week. Entree and Side Meals are totally a doable part of meal planning. They aren't my cooking staple but they can be for you!