Thursday, January 8, 2009

Break the Takeout Habit

Janet Koch, hopeful novelist, is also a budding website designer and book trailer producer. Visit Janet at or contact her at for her Deepwater Design services.

A number of years ago, I moved from a high-paying stressful job to a zero-stress job that wasn't nearly as lucrative. Making dollars stretch was the name of the game and we ended up changing our eating habits in a profound - and permanent - way.

How? Meal plans!

Yes, boring old meal plans. I'm guessing the average family eats pretty much the same meals month after month. Sure, you add a new one every so often, and there are seasonal meals, but it's still a repetitive litany. Chicken breasts. Tacos. Spaghetti. Tuna casserole. Pea soup. Chuck roast. Whatever. Repeat ad infinitum.

With meal plans you use this repetition to your advantage. Simply decide in advance what meals you're going to have. Do your grocery shopping accordingly. Post the week's meal plan on the refrigerator.

Here's the secret weapon: on Sunday night, take Monday night's meat out of the freezer and put it in the fridge. See how powerful this is? Once that meat is thawing, you're committed. No stopping at McDonald's on the way home from work. No ordering out pizza because someone has a hankering. Nope, you can say. The meat's already thawed. We have to eat it tonight.

To make meal planning as painless as possible, I keep a master list of all the meals we typically eat in a month. (I also note what kind of meat, or if it's a meatless dish what the main ingredient is, and if it's something that takes a long time to prepare, but I tend to go a
little overboard.)

With a meal plan, eating out is a scheduled event, not a quick stop because there's nothing to eat at home. With a meal plan, you don't have to stand in front of the fridge, door open, wondering what on earth you're going to make for dinner. With a meal plan, you bring home the right ingredients from the grocery store. With a meal plan, you waste less food.

But make your plans in pencil; a meal plan isn't a straightjacket. Cooking and eating can be one of the great joys of life. Meal plans are just a way to make that life easier.


Anonymous said...

Since I lost my day job, I'm now the one who does the grocery shopping. Hubby would drive to the store almost every day to get something for supper. Now we're saving money at the grocery store--and saving gas. I'm not organized enough to actually make a meal plan, but I buy enough entrees for at least five meals a week, and freeze them. No more last-minute trips to the store for us! The only problem: I'm now responsible for supper. Grrrr. (He cooks better than I do.)

Darlene Ryan said...

I do this and it not only makes meal time easier it also makes grocery shopping easier. I have a small white board on the front of the refrigerator and it lists lunch and dinner for the week. No more "What's for lunch?" followed by big sighs.

Peg said...

I do this, too, but I do have weeks where I don't plan because I'm feeling lazy, and I always regret it. It means a trip to the grocery store every night whereas when I go on the weekend and do a big shop, I can come straight home from work and use that time for my wip!

Hank Phillippi Ryan said...

I do this, too! Althogh it's in my head, not written down. But if you ask me what's for dinner a certain night, I can tell you.

It's so much fun. YOu don't buy too much. You don't throw things away. And yes yes yes--taking meat out to thaw makes a commitment. That's worked for me many times!

Another very successful meal-planning tip: I assigned Thursdays to my husband. "I don't care what you prepare or buy or carryout," I told him. "In fact, don't even tell me about it. Just tell me when to arrive at the table."

I love it.

template by