When I was at home and my kids were little, I would dutifully get out my binder of recipes and a calendar, then plan the meals for the week and make the grocery list. This meal planning effort worked because my time was more mine to fill, not the kids’, and I liked being what I thought of as a good homemaker. But the truth is, I hate meal planning! And now that the kids are older and time revolves around their schedules, I have to fit in planning (and meals!) when I can. Add trying to eat healthy and maintain a weight loss program, and it feels almost impossible to do. But, planning and preparing helps you stick to your diet program by taking away the possibility of eating whatever’s in front of you because you’re too hungry. The reward for planning is staying on track with your diet, no guilty feelings, and weight loss success! Here’s how a busy mom can manage your diet, balance your needs with your family’s needs, and prepare for the week ahead.
I think about my meal planning as filling 4 buckets: breakfast, lunch, dinner and snacks. At a very basic level, simply spend a few minutes each weekend thinking about what’s already available in each bucket for the coming week, and what you might need to purchase. Do you have enough healthy breakfast items on hand? What kinds of snacks do you have in the house, and are they healthy and easy to grab on the go? Do you have enough protein for dinners for the week?
When I can take a little more time with my planning, I look more closely at what you and your family will eat from each ”bucket.” I like Tim Ferriss’ The 4-Hr Body philosophy about eating the same things every day, especially for breakfast. As we’ve posted before, oatmeal is one of our family’s standard breakfasts. This philosophy can really help streamline your planning because all you’re doing when you plan your week is checking to see if you need to restock any ingredients from your standard breakfast. If one breakfast all the time is too boring, rotate between two or three!
I treat lunch in the same way – it’s one of four lunches for me: salad, sandwich, soup, or leftover dinner (protein and vegetable). Knowing it’s one of these choices reduces the amount of thinking I have to do to prepare for the week. If I have sandwich and salad items on hand, a few soup choices in the pantry, then I can just pick one and go.
Dinner at our house is a meat protein and a green vegetable, and sometimes rice or potatoes. Again, knowing that these categories need to be in the dinner “bucket” makes it easy to plan. Do I have enough proteins (chicken, pork chops/tenderloin, beef) in the house for the upcoming week? Do I have green veggies? In addition, I always try to have a larger meat item that we can pick on for snacks or a quick dinner during the week, such as a roasted chicken or ham. It’s like a security meal!
I have found that thinking of our meals in broad categories first, only having a few choices for breakfast and lunch, and focusing on the meat and the vegetable for dinner, is a way of planning our week that I can stick to. And, even better, by doing some thinking about and preparing for the week ahead, I can provide healthy meals and snacks for me and my family. How will you fill your buckets? – Suzie