Meal planning is one of the most difficult aspects to running a household.
This can be a shocking aspect to running a household as a new wife. It can remain a difficult task that you fumble through for years, even a lifetime without maintaining a system that works.
Just take a glimpse at the enormity of the task:
You have to stock your kitchen and keep it stocked. You have to buy ingredients on a rotation for the meals you need to cook for the next few weeks. But you also have to maintain a food stock aside from just the things you need for the next few weeks. It needs to be a fully functioning rotating pantry. You have to use items within the time frame that they are still good while continuing to add to the stock which will be used in rotation. This means organizing a pantry to maintain this rotation. This means knowing how many items to buy each time you shop. You have to budget for every item purchased and choose meals that are meals you actually want to eat, but are smart financial decisions as well. You have to purchase the best quality ingredients for health. You have to choose meals based on your time allowance and energy levels to cook and clean up day after day. You have to consider eating locally and seasonally. You have to consider what you can produce from your own property and what you need to source from others. But most importantly, you have to consider the food preferences of your household and cook things they actually like and want to eat! Including your own preferences! There are so many aspects to this.
How is this something we do not teach or practice until marriage? This is one of the most basic necessities to life and yet we typically have zero training in it until we are thrown into the vortex of responsibility as new wives. Oh ladies, you may have never been warned or prepared but managing a household is a JOB.
Kitchen management is a skillset that takes years to master. It took me years to formulate the meal planning tactic and kitchen management that worked best for me. And the thing is, everyone has to tweak meal planning to their particular life. Not one template will work for everyone. Not one template works for me! I have two strategies that I weave together along with my other tricks of the trade for it to all work out well. The goal is to have some kind of a system. It doesn’t have to be just one tactic; it can be several tactics that help you keep this from being something you are always doing haphazardly and at the last minute and without the things you need.
We live way out in the country and we grocery shop once per month.
What makes our situation unique is that my husband and I are two distinctly different types of picky eaters.
I get severe food fatigue. I go through food phases. I literally cannot eat food that doesn’t currently sound good to me. My body goes into fasting mode. I just cannot eat unless I want that item. I have a hard time eating anything most days because nothing sounds good to me. I won’t touch a fish for a year. Then I want fish for a month straight. I won’t be able to stomach the thought of an egg for months and then one day I will have to have egg salad sandwiches. I will eat almost anything as long as it currently sounds good to me. Food phases is the type of pickiness I have.
My husband is the exact opposite, he is an extremely picky eater who only likes the same five meals. He does not branch out. Nothing other than his five meals ever sound good to him. He won’t eat seafood. He doesn’t eat chicken. He eats beef and pork, and he only likes them cooked a certain way in his certain favorite meals.
I cannot eat the same meals week after week. I think I would actually starve if I had to do that. But he has to eat the same meals every day to not starve. It is quite the dilemma. The more people you have in your household the more complicated this gets but….you can only juggle so many preferences. Our preferences just happen to be, that one of us is going to starve if we don’t do the exact opposite of how the other one needs to eat to live. WELCOME TO MEAL PLANNING.
At any given meal, one of us is dutifully horking down something we don’t want to eat for the sake of the other. Every once in a while, a total eclipse of the meal happens, and we both happily enjoy something together at the same time.
It’s seriously never going to be easy. You just have to do something, ANYTHING to make something work.
So these are the two main strategies that I employ:
1) I meal plan based on what sounds good for that month which could be very different from what I ate last month.
2) But I always keep certain staples in the house that I can make meals from, aside from my food phases.
These staples are the ingredients to my husband’s small number of meals he will eat.
Here is how I execute strategy 1:
I base my grocery list on the meals that sound good for that month. I have to assess what sounds good to me for that grocery shopping and base the list off those meals. Then I list out what sounds good like:
bagels and cream cheese
beef tips & a veggie dinner
I write a lot out. I write breakfasts, lunches, and dinners that sound good. I do all categories. Mind you, it’s a lot of meal ideas because a month is four weeks of eating. Then I just go down the list of foods and list out the ingredients for every single meal I wrote down. Many of the meals have overlapping ingredients. Strategy one is step one of the grocery list.
Here is how I execute strategy 2:
I keep certain staples in the kitchen stocks at all times. These staples are the ingredients to my husband’s meals but also things I end up using for mine as well. We never run out of these items. I buy them as much as I use them to keep them stocked. I organize these items by date so that the nearest expiration dates are at the front or the top where I grab the next one. When I go to make my list, after I list out all the things that sound good for that next month, I also assess the stocks of my staple items and then add those to the list if I did not already add them. Strategy two is the last step to my grocery list.
For instance, ground beef is a part of our staple food stocks. If I did list some meals that sound good to me for the next month that include ground beef, then I already have it on the list. But if none of my preferred meals that next month include ground beef, I still put it on the list.
It is not just important to know WHAT to put on your list but how much of that item to buy! This is a whole other aspect to grocery shopping. Check out the next article in the meal planning series for that information!
Happy working at home ladies, it is a job!