Our Experience With Meal Planning

A few months ago, we began weekly meal planning. I had heard raving stories about the whole concept, but it was always something that I never thought I would do, and I never fully realized its worth. Until this past winter...

Winter was a rough one here in New England. I’m all for cozy snow days with the wind howling outside your windows, but at some point in late February, I’d reached my breaking point. There was one week day afternoon I vividly remember. I was sitting at the desk in our home office, buried in work, still in my sweats, when I realized we had nothing for dinner. Zero. A trip to the grocery store was in order if we were going to eat anything other than ice cream and pancakes that night. But the last thing I wanted to do on a cold, blistery afternoon was break from work mode and get bundled up to brave the elements.

So, I messaged Hobson at work and told him something had to change. I couldn’t be tasked with the worry of dinner every single day. So he (yes, he’s a smart one and an absolute gem) came up with the idea of weekly Sunday morning meetings at the coffee shop in our neighborhood.

Here's how it goes. Every Sunday morning (or Saturday, if we have Sunday plans), we take stock of what we currently have in our pantry, then gather a notebook, iPad and some recipe pages I’ve pulled throughout the week, and head out. Sure, this is something that we could do from our kitchen counter, but it’s a nice treat to enjoy a slow Sunday morning latte and pastry with the person you love.

When it comes to the actual meal planning, we try to use what we have first. If we have chicken in the freezer, we’ll find a recipe that will use it. If we have ground turkey, we’ll schedule a taco night or pen in a turkey spinach meatloaf. On the days when we have plans, we figure out if our plans involve dinner, and if they don’t, we mark down a meal. Usually, we treat ourselves to one night a week with a dinner out or delivery in. We schedule meals for every night, including weekends. Then, if unexpected plans arise, that meal can be recycled into the following week.

After we've made a schedule of each meal for the week, we make an ingredients list. We add any necessities we need to that list (milk, eggs, bread, tissues, dog food, paper towels, etc.). Then, we head to the grocery store. If it’s done right, it can be the only trip to the grocery store we take all week long. And that, my friends, is music to my ears.

Sometimes we spend an hour or two at the coffee shop, catching up on our week and discussing ideas for our businesses. It's such a nice way to break from the rush of our daily routine, sit down, and plan.

Meal planning has also led us to eating healthier. Instead of scrambling to figure out dinner at 5 o'clock on a Tuesday night, a time when we're both tired from the workday and just want to sit down with a glass of wine, we have a plan. We can't fall back on an easy pasta dish or a frozen pizza because I've already defrosted what we need and the produce is already sitting in our fridge. Nowadays, cooking dinner together is something I look forward to.

This whole meal planning thing, a practice I always rolled my eyes at, has become a part of our routine and a part I cherish. Hobson and I will be turning 30 and 25 this summer, respectively. The older we get, the more we realize that we can't eat like college students forever. Ramen noodles and Chinese take-out, though completely delicious, leaves us feeling lazy the next morning. Our health has never been so important to me as it is now, and I hope this is a practice that we take with us for many years to come.

Have you ever tried meal planning? If so, I'd love to hear about your experience!