Meal Planning. When people hear this term, it can stir up various emotions. For some people, the term “meal planning” brings up anxious thoughts; for other people, it sparks joy in a Marie Kondo kind of way. Meal planning is something I’m generally neutral about. It’s a necessary part of life and something I have learned to adapt to. Everything I have learned about meal planning has been through failures. I have gone through phases of perfectly planning out meals for the week. I have gone through phases of going day by day and ordering pizza multiple days a week. During this phase, I have settled into a meal planning routine that works for us. However, this post isn’t about finding the perfect plan. There are lots of ideas on Pinterest about that. This post is about the successes and failures that I have had when planning meals. I hope that the readers who see this can relate to my journey.
When my husband and I first got married, I started with a strong resolve to meal plan. I would put the plan for the week on the refrigerator: Monday was spaghetti night, Tuesday was for stir fry, and so on. I would plan out five meals for Monday through Friday. Weekends were not planned. That seemed reasonable. The problem was, things would come up that would disrupt the plan. For example, something would come up when we were supposed to have crockpot roast beef, and I wouldn’t have time to put a meal in the crockpot. Dinner would come around, and I’d be scrambling. I soon learned that assigning specific days for specific meals didn’t work out well. The solution became to have a flexible schedule. I would list five meals for the week and buy ingredients for all of those meals. Then, I would choose what to make for dinner each day. For example, on Monday, I would look at my list of meals for the week and decide that that evening would be spaghetti night. This plan worked well for us at the time.
Then, a huge transition happened when I went back to work; our daughter was a year old. My new job was full-time. Because of my schedule, I was not home until late in the evening. There was no way I could cook dinner on those nights. For months, we were flying by the seat of our pants. I felt a lot of guilt as a mother like I should dedicate more time and energy to meal planning. But the fact of the matter was, I was exhausted on my days off. Eventually, we signed up for a meal kit delivery service. This service delivered a box of ingredients to our house every week. The box contained ingredients and instructions for two meals. This subscription has worked out great for us because my husband cooks on days that I work. The instructions are easy for him to follow. At first, it was difficult for me to let go of the idea of meal planning that I had in my head. Eventually, I learned to let go of the guilt and embrace the convenience.
My main goal is to keep the refrigerator and pantry stocked with all the basics. Then, I cook simple meals on the days I am off, ones I know by heart. That has been the plan that works well for us for this phase of our lives. We’re also very understanding of each other. We both know that we can say, “Hey, I am having a rough day. Can we order pizza?” We’re both okay with that. From my experience, having a strict plan is the best way to fail. I believe that meal planning didn’t go well for me as a new wife because I made a strict plan and was unprepared for interruptions throughout the week. That’s what meal planning has been: adjusting with each new phase, learning what works and what doesn’t work, and all along, learning to give myself grace. Having a family that is happy and fed is much more important that sticking to a rigid schedule of meal planning.