Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Meal Planning

I recently made a goal to simplify. One way I have chosen to simplify my weekly routine is to create a menu for our family's meals. Breakfast and lunch stay basically the same (and boring?), but I try to vary the dinners I serve. I started doing this to help me stay within my weekly grocery budget of $80. I post a weekly menu on the fridge. I spend about an hour on Monday or Tuesday planning the meals and my grocery list for Wednesday's shopping trip.

I have found several benefits of menu planning. These may be different for you, but these are what I have found:
  1. Stay within budget
  2. Ability to try new recipes
  3. Ability to eat healthier
  4. Saves time throughout the week, since I already know what's for dinner
  5. Ability to make dinner earlier in the day, rather than at the "crazy hour" of 5 o'clock
At my sister Aimee's recommendation, I have been reading (well, listening to) Michael Pollan's book In Defense of Food. I skimmed the book and didn't get much out of it, so I tried the audiobook, which has been much better for me. I also found a blog called "100 Days of Real Food," which was created by a family who read Pollan's book and was inspired to eat zero processed foods for one hundred days. As I plan my menu, I am inspired to use "the rules," as posted on the blog. The rules are based on Pollan's book and serve as a guideline when shopping for food.

Seth and I watched the documentary Food, Inc. and I thought it was fascinating how the food industry has changed in the past few decades. Foods that we think are normal are not "real foods," but food products. Pollan's book describes WHY it is so important to eat real/whole foods, not just food products. I am not going overboard with this thought process, but am trying to give my family real, whole, basic foods for their health. And yes, we still eat some processed foods :)

I have started making smoothies made with frozen fruit. I purchase whole wheat pasta and bread. I am probably going to switch to organic milk. I am reading more food labels at the store and noticing the ingredients. If there are more than 5 (roughly) ingredients or has lots of ingredients that I can't pronounce, I don't purchase it. One easy switch was peanut butter. The cheap PB has corn syrup, while Smucker's Natural PB has peanuts and salt. I am slowly changing the way I shop for food. Each week, I try a new, healthier way to eat (for example, we now do Meatless Mondays).

Thankfully, my family has always been good about eating fruits and vegetables, but I am trying to buy more from the produce section, rather than the canned or freezer sections. I am excited for the farmer's markets to open, since that is a great way to shop for real foods!


L said...

thanks for the info and all the links! my grocery budget is the same and i struggle with keeping in that range and we really don't buy much snack foods, etc. i'm working on it and trying to see if i can cut back anywhere.....I also meal plan for the week and try to plan around sale items....+coupons! ahhh! i'm interested to real more from these articles....I've thought of going organic milk to...but have you seen the price..! whew! but still considering it at least for the kids!

Seth Wilson said...

Great post! I think you are the next household management blogger.

Melissa said...

Great info, Renee! I love the idea of healthier buying and eating. Do you find it difficult to stay withing your budget by purchasing healthier foods?

Renee Wilson said...

I find it difficult to stay within my budget weekly, healthy food or unhealthy food :) After listing to "In Defense of Food," I have a better knowledge of 1) why I should not buy some foods and 2) why I should be okay with spending more for quality, local-grown foods. I have tried a CSA in the past, but didn't stick with it, b/c I didn't have this understanding. The key is small steps. Try ONE different purchase this week at the store and see how that works. Start with eggs, bread, milk, or a fruit/vegetable to help stay in the budget.