Alright, alright, alright …
It’s a new year which means everyone and their mother has been thinking about how THIS year they will get healthy, they will get out of debt, they will do all the amazing things that they have yet to achieve *I am no stranger to this phenomena*.
And with that, there will be an endless amount of searching … in the first three or so days anyway … of meal plans, budgets, shopping lists, best practices and workout routines that you can get yourself signed up for or printed off to help you succeed this time.
I’ll bet you think that THIS post will include some revolutionary plan that you can implement because obviously I am a mom that has it all together as I anticipate the birth of our fifth child in as many years and I continue to PILE on the pregnancy weight as though it was some competition to obliterate my first time gain of nearly 60 pounds (PS, I NEVER fully lost the weight after any ONE of my births and I continue to pack on the extra weight because my body just thinks that it’s fun to carry…)
Well, sorry to disappoint, there will be no secret sauce meal plan *with THIS post*.
This post is all about the reality of what I want you (and myself) to consider as we look over meal plans, as we promise that we will eat better, take out less, finally eat the spring mix we purchase each week as opposed to throwing it unopened into the green bin come garbage day.
Right now let me talk to all those mommas who like to go with the flow and cook up anything that they FEEL like in the moment … the moms like me, who feel stifled by a meal plan, who enjoy cooking as if they were going to be the next contestant on Master Chef but … ultimately, end up feeling frustrated and defeated 15 minutes before your husband arrives home because you’ve opened every cupboard, the pantry and the fridge about 15 times and instead of food you keep finding ingredients.
The mom’s who have an IDEA of what they want to prepare, but when the time comes … well you’re too darn tired at the end of the day and you’ve started wondering how many consecutive meals of chicken fingers and chopped veggies the kids can have before it’s considered the latest in jail food from home.
Meal plans are not the demise of your cooking career, they are meant to be a tool to remove one more of the every day decisions that is bogging you down and threatening your daily peace.
So *hard truth* you have to learn to suck it up. Be ok with removing some of the “spontaneity” in your life, and accept that there are easier ways of getting by if you just CONSIDER giving it a try.
Now, this isn’t to say that you have to meal plan every single meal, snack, alternative etc. if you don’t want to. I mean, some things are ok to be routine. BUT, if it would save you heart ache and stress, trying to decide if you have enough cheese strings to feed the tiny army you seem to be assembling … than plan away.
Now that you are starting to accept that a meal plan MIGHT not be such a bad idea and that you could probably use that metal energy to save yourself at least one instance of SCREAMING at your children as you ponder on how to assemble the ingredients you have on hand into a meal as if you were in some sort of Chopped challenge … let’s talk about some of the things to consider before sending you on your merry way to Google and Pinterest “family meal plans”, “meal plans for weight loss” etc.
First, consider what you are ACTUALLY willing to do with this meal plan and break it down into how much detail you want to build into it. These plans can get INTENSE as you look to work in a gluten free, sugar free, keto based meal plan that the children will actually eat …
You gotta know your audience and your gotta know yourself.
If crazy detail and new recipes every-other-day is going to stress you out and you are just about 100% certain that your children wouldn’t eat it anyway then PASS on the insanity and keep it simple.
Next, know your budget and what you can afford to build into your routine.
There are a LOT of options out there for things like, replacing sugar, but they don’t necessarily come cheap. Before you go and reorganize and totally eliminate all the “bad” stuff, carefully consider the investment you will need to make to bring your pantry, cupboards, LIFE up to the “clean” standard.
I *honestly* would recommend using what you’ve got until you are out of food and THEN purchase what you need as you go. It keeps the cost down, helps you and your family to transition into this new lifestyle, and prevents excess waste. I mean, you HAD been holding onto those marshmallows for a reason … time to mom-up and make some Rice Krispies before you boy-cot all processed and refined foods for eternity.
Last, start small with introducing new things but START.
Pick up a new fruit or veggie each week and determine to learn how to cook it. Give it an honest try.
If you have children, this is an excellent opportunity to include THEM in the process, to teach them about healthy choices, about expanding their pallet, and about grocery shopping and real lift lessons in the process (I mean basically, it’s a triple threat in mom-win olympics).
The more you start expanding your “usuals” when it comes to preparing your meal plan and your tool box of go-to foods, the easier this whole process will become and, before you know it, you will be back to that passion of cooking … instead THIS TIME you will have a plan in place to help you stick with your health and financial goals.
Oh, a couple last tips for making sure you get the best bang for you buck when it comes to finding, downloading, printing and personalizing your meal plan for success this year:
– fresh is best (load up in the produce isle, now that you have a plan to make salad four times before your next grocery trip, your spring mix won’t go to waste)
– shop the outside isles of the grocery store, they never keep the fresh stuff in the middle so unless you need a spice or a low sodium sauce, steer clear of all the extra processing that increases the shelf life of food such that it would withstand the apocalypse
– have fun with it. Seriously, don’t stress the small stuff (and it’s all small stuff). You are just starting this process, it will take time to refine it and create something that works for your family and your way of doing things. Let go of the need to be perfect, and accept that this is just another part of learning how to master this thing we call motherhood.