We have talked about the why behind meal planning and last week I shared the basics for meal planning. This week I wanted to show you a slightly different version of meal planning. Some might call it a “non-plan”. Call it what you will. It’s slightly genius.
Maybe, like me, you have been eating less and less of processed foods. My family has been seeking out a whole foods, or real foods lifestyle. This way of eating is better for you because you are basically making everything from scratch and therefore you know exactly what is going into your body.
Planning for these types of meals can actually be a little easier when you get the basic understanding of “real foods” under your belt. Yes it is more time-consuming to cook all those things from scratch. And it can (but doesn’t need to be) more expensive.
With all that said here is a basic skeleton for making a menu plan with a whole foods mentality.
Whole foods dinner = Meat + Veggies + Starch
Because dinner for this type of menu planning follows the same principle you really could walk into the grocery store knowing you need enough meat for 7 dinners, 7 family sized vegetable servings and a few healthy starch options.
As long as you also keep an eye on the basic cooking ingredients and keep them on hand, you are all set to cook dinner each night.
Here is what this would look like for my family
- 1 pack frozen meat = 2 meals
- 2 packs fresh meat = 2 meals
- Salad= 1 meal
- Out to eat = 1 meal (we typically go out for dinner one night a week)
- Leftovers= 1 meal (we only have two small boys, so I plan for leftovers)
- 2 packs frozen vegetables (this would be about 3 dinner servings for my family)
- 3 fresh vegetable options (this also would be about 3 dinner servings)
- 3-4 starch options (enough for 6 meals)
All of this equals up to 7 dinners. I could do the same basic principle with lunch, rotating sandwiches, wraps, and salad. And with breakfast rotating cereal, cereal bars, oatmeal, and eggs.
When I go to the store I would get the meats that I need, and a variety of veggies and starch options. (Most of the time you will find starch options are relativity easy to keep on hand; like potatoes, rice, pasta and bread.)
Why this plan is nice:
- it gives you more freedom and flexibility
- easier in the “planning” stage
- needs less ingredients than casserole type meals
Some cons of this type of planning
- You may overspend if you aren’t keeping track of what is going into the cart.
- You still need to keep in mind what you are going to fix for the night in case you need to defrost something.
- You may find yourself forgetting what ingredients you have at home and buy double (that’s why I think it’s a good idea to keep an ongoing list of shopping needs)
How to transition:
Does this sound like something you would like to do, but are scratching your head wondering how you are going to make the switch?
You may “plan” a meat + veggie meal on your planning sheet a couple of times so that you remember to get what you need but also give yourself the flexibility of choosing the meat and veggies at the store.
Let yourself be flexible about when the meal happens. Its ok if you eat a Thursday meal on a Tuesday Its your house and your food. Switch it around if you need to.
Go ahead a do a little bit of both. Want to do this type of planning for some meals but also want to make that new casserole that your friend gave you a recipe for. Do it! Write down what ingredients you will need for the casserole, and how many meats, veggies and starches you will need for the week.
Things to remember:
Keep track of the prices. I write down an estimation of what I should spend on veggies and meats. This way I make sure that I save that amount in my grocery budget for those items.
Don’t forget about breakfast and lunch foods too! You will soon have good estimate of how long a carton of eggs, or a container of oatmeal will go so don’t stress over it, just keep it in mind when you go to the store.
How do you menu plan for a whole foods diet? Do you find it easier to plan for these types of meals? Do you have any tips for eating this type of diet?