I did a survey recently asking what people most want to hear about. So many women responded with meal planning and that grocery shopping and meal planning was such a burdensome area of their lives. And this was interesting to me, because I found myself having the same problem at various times over the years.
What is it about meal prep and feeding ourselves well each day that seems so overwhelming? Is it the fast pace of life? Is it all the activities? Or is it the convenience foods and the fast food restaurants that beckon and promise ease and speed, as if feeding ourselves with quality, wholesome food is not a worthwhile investment? Or is it the overwhelm of just having too many options?
Why the Overwhelm?
So let’s ask ourselves, what is it that makes this seem like such an overwhelming task? Is it too many steps? Are we thinking about all the pieces of it from start to finish, instead of just the next step?
Making your menu doesn’t need to be complicated. I know I have a tendency to overcomplicate things if I’m not thinking carefully about what I should and shouldn’t be focusing on. Maybe you do the same thing? So let’s see if we can break it down into more manageable pieces.
Where to Start
Let’s start with: what are our favorite, most enjoyable things to eat?
Eating should be two-fold: purpose and pleasure. We should eat for the purpose of fueling our body well and moving us toward greater health, but we should also take pleasure in eating… we do have taste buds after all. There is joy to be had in the pleasure of food, and that’s OK. The question becomes what are we taking joy in? Is it joy in the fact that we are feeding ourselves well and appreciating our bodies for what they handle for us each day? Or are we using the food to suppress and distract ourselves from what is really happening in our lives? First and foremost, ask yourself: What are my favorites and are they benefitting me?
If the answer is yes, they’re beneficial, make a list of all those favorites. And if they’re not beneficial, what might we swap out? Or can we replace just a meal or two for awhile as we work more high quality fuel into our rotation? You don’t have to replace everything all at once, so what could you replace starting this week?
Now that you have your list of favorites, the second question is, what does my family enjoy eating? Add those items to your list.
A third factor to consider, what can I make without a recipe? A straight meat and vegetable is easy to whip together without a recipe on hand. If you find yourself without the confidence to make anything without a recipe, are you open to broadening this area of your life and learning a few kitchen skills? You’ll be amazed at the world that opens up to you once you learn how to make a few things off-the-cuff without needing to resort to a website or a book. Having just a few techniques and favorite staples goes a long way to filling your food menu for the week.
In this post, I talk about making meal foundations. Finally understanding how to build meal foundations was huge for helping me get through unplanned days, and it still helps me get through those, “what am I going to make for dinner?” days.
And in this post, I talk about the gift that is roasted vegetables. If you don’t have veggie eaters in your family, roasting them could be a game changer–I know it was for us–and it’s an easy way to get color and quality on the plate without too much forethought.
So now you have your list of favorites, both yours and your family’s. Block those into your calendar. Additionally, as you come across meals you love, you can add those into your rotation. All we really need is 14-21 dinners we love, and you can get away with less if variety isn’t as big a concern for your family. But the bottom line is, if you want to change the trajectory of your health, you have to change what happens in your kitchen. There is no way around it.
Still Need More Ideas?
Need some inspiration or like to add variety in your life? Here are a few cookbooks I love and highly recommend (note: these are affiliate links–please see full disclosure–the cost is the same to you, but we receive a small stipend. Thank you!):
Against All Grain: Meals Made Simple
Against All Grain: Delectable Paleo Recipes to Eat Well and Feel Great
Danielle Walker’s Eat What You Love
The Cancer Fighting Kitchen –even if you’re not fighting cancer, these recipes are delicious and a great addition to any whole food based menu
The Essential Thyroid Cookbook–a must have for anyone dealing with thyroid issues, including but not limited to Hashimoto’s, but also a great all around resource for optimizing this critical organ.
Made Whole: More than 145 Anti-Inflammatory Keto-Paleo recipes to Nourish You From the Inside Out — Keto/Paleo or not, there are wonderful recipes in here that will nourish your body and please your palate. Not Keto/Paleo? No problem–adjust or add grain as needed. The great majority of these recipes will not disappoint.
I have tried the majority of recipes in these books and haven’t been disappointed. Additionally, these books focus on whole, nutrient dense foods that will contribute towards your body’s healing.
Is It Still Too Much?
Still overwhelmed? If you can do just one thing, simply record everything your family eats this week. Save it into your phone, into a planner, or whatever works for you. Just record it. At the end of this week, you now have a week’s worth of menu items from which to choose in the future. Repeat this process next week and you’re up to 14 days.
Your body is miraculously and brilliantly made and it needs to have the proper fuel.
Fuel it well. Make the investment. Do the work. You won’t regret it.
Do you have any menu planning tips or tricks? I’d love to hear them! Perhaps you’re still wrestling this menu-planning beast? I’d love to hear about that too. Drop me a line and let me know.