I recently opened up about the ongoing struggles my husband Rob and I face with meal planning and how it’s something we’re actively working on. That conversation sparked my curiosity, leading me to seek advice from an expert in the field! I was thrilled to chat with Courtney Genereux, who is passionate about meal planning and how it transformed the way her family approaches meals.
Courtney is a registered nurse with 17 years of experience in emergency departments in Western Canada. After getting married, having two children, and enduring years of shift work, Courtney found herself neglecting her own health and wellness. Her journey led her to prioritize meal planning, and today, I’m sharing the positive impact meal planning can have, as well as the tips and tricks that might just help you look at meal planning in a whole new light!
Getting Started with Meal Planning
Courtney emphasizes the need to start small and be honest about your pain points. Whether it’s a time-crunch in the morning, chaotic dinners after a long day at work, or the challenge of budgeting, identifying these pain points is the first step.
You do not have to dedicate an entire day each week to meal planning! Start by setting realistic goals and considering your budget constraints.
To address her own family’s pain points, Courtney and her family share the responsibility of meal planning. Each family member picks a meal, which shares the workload and ensures that no one person feels burdened. This collaborative approach not only eases the process but also encourages a sense of shared responsibility and enjoyment.
Having a list of staples that are easy to make is also key. If you know a certain night of the week is crazy and you need something fast, you might plan ahead to do a slow cooker meal that night so it’s just ready to go.
Importance of Realism in Meal Planning
When Rob and I started meal planning, we initially fell into the trap of spending hours on elaborate recipes every night, leading to burnout. But we now have a list of (winter and summer!) staple meals that are quick and easy to prepare, saving us time and reducing decision fatigue. At least three quarters of our meals come from those lists. It has really changed everything for us and we have stopped feeling like we have to be making fancy meals all of the time.
One of the reasons why we were wasting so much food when we first started is because we’d have these grand plans that would take way too long and when it came to it, we’d realize it’s just not possible and end up ordering something in. That’s why it’s so important to be realistic with your schedule, look at who does what and when, and divvy things out in a way that can realistically be accomplished inside your family.
Meal Planning Hacks
To make meal planning more manageable, Courtney suggested some small hacks, including:
– Bulking tasks together such as prepping veggies or preparing meat. If you’re chopping carrots for one meal, why not chop all the ones you need for the week at the same time?
– Embracing leftovers – make double batches of meals that freeze well to have quick options on busy days.
– Have some go-to options for breakfast and lunch. Initially, it might feel like you’re lacking variety, but it really does lighten the mental load and reduces decision fatigue.
Overcoming the “I Don’t Have Time” Mindset
One of the common excuses I hear for not engaging in meal planning is the perception that it “takes too much time”. But in reality, it actually buys you so much more time to just plan ahead.
When I think back to the amount of time Rob and I would spend arguing about what we were going to eat, and then realizing that we needed to go grocery shopping to get the food for it, it was FAR more than the 10 minutes a week we spend on it now.
Every time you catch yourself saying, “I don’t have time for that”, I encourage you to do a little test and switch it to, “that’s not a priority for me”. And if that rings true, that isn’t a priority, then you don’t have time for that. Ask yourself: Is fueling and feeding your body in a way that cares for it a priority? Reframing the mindset around meal planning as a priority for self-care makes it a lot easier to allocate time for it.
Planning Around Events
Holidays can feel hard when it comes to planning. But remember that one or two days that are a bit different is not going to “ruin” anything. When you’re feeling good again, you just get back to your habits and get back to your routine.
So many of us were raised with the idea that perfect is the goal. Especially as women, we tend to hold ourselves to these standards that are just impossible. But you’ll just kill yourself trying to hit that. It’s just about making the best decision you can for yourself over and over again. And if you eat a load of chocolate and don’t feel great, you just make a different decision the next day. Your worth is 100% not tied to it.
Conclusion: Take it Back to Basics
If you’re new to meal planning or find it frustrating, take it right back to basics. Identify your pain points, plan realistically, and allow some flexibility. Remember that meals don’t have to be fancy, and tools like meal delivery services or grocery delivery can be useful as well. By reframing the mindset and understanding that planning buys you more time, you can make choices that align with your health and wellness goals.