As I reflect on how I prepare, plan, shop, and consume food, it occurred to me that I ought to share that with you! Starting today, I’ll be adding on a new component to the blog where I talk about how I plan menus, food shop, store food, what I keep in my pantry, and so on. Today’s post is all about planning a weekly menu.
Before changing my diet to include less meat, fat, salt, and sugar, I planned a weekly menu – a blueprint of what I’d cook throughout the week, what I’d snack on, and then ultimately, the grocery list of food to buy for the week.
Since I’ve changed my diet to be more conscious of my heart health, menu planning has become even more important! Planning out a menu for the week helps you avoid the weeknight takeout or fast food pitfall – you don’t have to decide what to eat in the moment (which can often be half the battle when it comes to making dinner during the week). If you don’t normally plan out your weekly menu in advance, it might be a bit of a shift, but I promise you it’s well worth it.
Here are some MAJOR BENEFITS I’ve discovered and found helpful about menu planning…
- You buy less junk food – when you make a grocery list for the meals you’re cooking, you grocery shop with focus. There’s no need to wander down the cookie or potato chip aisle.
- You waste less food because you’re buying the food you need for the week.
- You save time – you already know what you’re eating.
- You have less stress more generally – What nights are you busy? Are you working late? Are you meeting a friend after work? The list goes on. When you plan for the entire week, you firstly get a sneak peek into the week ahead and you can decide what nights you’ll cook, what nights you might need a slow cooker meal or something made ahead, or if it’s a totally busy evening, perhaps you’ll get takeout or eat out.
- You go to the grocery store once. It is possible to get a week’s worth of food in one trip, and it’s possible to keep even herbs and greens fresh til the end of the week (there will be more on that later!). If you’re preparing a fresh fish, you know which day to make a pit stop on the way home from work.
- You create food diary without doing any extra work. Save the menu from each week, and you’ve created a log of what you’ve eaten that you can look back on every so often to see if you’re making good choices or things you might tweak.
How I plan my menus…
Below is a list of considerations I make each weekend when I plan the menu for the following week (in no particular order).
- Limit meat to once a week (this does not include fish)
- Choose 1 fish dish (you could do a couple more, but, umm, fish ain’t cheap!)
- At least 1 GREEN vegetable with every meal
- Beans, beans, beans – at least 2-3 times
- What’s in season right now? What local food can I buy?
- Variety – am I eating the same thing too often? (Check to make sure menu items in the same week aren’t too similar and check back to previous menus to make sure you’re not falling in a rut. I personally find that by eating a variety of things I don’t get bored)
- Limit starchy foods (like pasta, potatoes, and bread). Rice and other whole grains are better than processed starches.
- Limit high cholesterol foods like cheese and cream
- Choose dishes that value herbs and spices over fat and salt
- Scour my favorite cook books and Google for new recipes to keep me on my toes
- Pick out some snacks (fruits, veggies, nuts)
- Pick a breakfast for the week. For me, the answer is usually yogurt and a banana…yes I did just mention that falling into a rut is bad…breakfast is excluded. So there.
It’s not necessary, but I do find it helpful to bring yourself a little JOY. I highly suggest purchasing or making a menu planning template. Most stationary shops, book stores, etc. offer a few different ones to choose from. I also made a chalk board for my kitchen where I can spell out the menu in big letters for the week (though I haven’t been using it as much lately because I love my WHAT TO EAT notepad that conveniently sticks to the fridge).
Here’s this week’s menu to give you an idea of how I follow my own rules!
And how I occasionally break them – it’s unusual for me to eat out twice in a week.
Sunday: Grilled Salmon on a plank with green beans
Monday: Greek Salad (no feta, limited olives) with Grilled Chicken
Tuesday: Watermelon Habanero Gazpacho with Black Beans and Avocado
Wednesday: Going to a free concert at the park – stop at market for easy made ahead picnic staples (fruit, veggies, bread, cheese, olives)
Thursday: Grilled Pizza topped with asparagus, tomatoes, spinach, red onion
Friday: Garden Salad with chickpeas
Saturday: Eat out at TBD – visitor in town!
Breakfast: yogurt, kiwi, granola
Snacks: watermelon, cherries, cantaloupe, roasted seaweed (summer is the best – I can’t get enough melon and cherries!)
How do you plan your menus? Any tips to share?
PS: If you’re looking to get started right away, here’s a FREEBIE menu planning sheet. Enjoy!