The first week into my meal planning pledge, we ordered pizza for dinner.
I had planned to roast meat and veggies for dinner, but Mother Nature decided to throw a massive snowstorm at us on the day that I was going to do our food shopping. We were looking forward to the meal, and nothing else in our fridge or freezer was appealing to us that evening. So, we decided to order a pizza from a local restaurant we have been wanting to try. And it was delicious. And I still consider it a meal planning success.
“Say what??” (I hear you exclaim!)
Let me explain…I purposely built some flexibility into my plan for just such occurrences. I realized that one of the things I find hard about keeping on track with meal plans is sometimes you just don’t *feel* like what you have planned, or what you had planned no longer works given the type of day you’ve had. Perhaps you had planned a hearty soup, but now the weather is hot and sunny. Or maybe you ended up working late, and your time to prepare dinner has shrunk from 45 minutes to 20 minutes. Instead of potentially throwing the entire week’s plan out because of one or two off days, why not build some flexibility into your meal plan to begin with? For us, that meant that ordering pizza when our day’s plans went a bit sideways still meant that we had meals planned for the rest of the week, which made it easy to get back on track.
This is how a flexible meal plan has worked for me:
- I plan to prepare a few new meals each week (dinners and lunches)
- the other meals when I’m not preparing foods are ‘open’ for:
- reinvented leftovers*;
- freezer meals, or other convenience meals that you keep stocked in the fridge or pantry (for those times when leftovers aren’t cutting it…); and
- eating out/delivery (though we do try to limit this for special occasions, and snowstorms 😉 ).
These ‘open’ meals give us the flexibility based on our energy levels, cravings, etc. to determine what we will eat. This way, instead of feeling forced into a meal plan that may not work for you that day, you can instead deviate slightly, and then let the meal plan guide you back on track the following days.
This also made me realize that I had framed my goal all wrong. Yes, I want us to stick with the meal plan. But, I don’t want to be constantly thinking about meal planning! The ‘open’ meals are also when we need to put the least amount of effort and thought into the meals. And right now for us, this is working really well.
We are just over half way through our month-long meal planning pledge, and I’m feeling like we are hitting our groove nicely! There are a few tips and tricks that I’ve learned so far, and I can’t wait to share them with you when I finish up the month.
And, fingers crossed, no more snowstorms please!
*Reinvented leftovers are exactly how they sound, and can be made as simple or as creative as you like! Ideas I’ve used so far include:
- Roast meat and/or vegetables for dinner one night. The next night, toss the roasted items in a soup, stew, sandwich or on top of a salad
- Make meatballs to be used in spaghetti one night, and the next night they can go in soup or be made into sandwiches with sauce on top
- Have chili one night, and chili nachos or chili-stuffed peppers the next night
- Prepare a big batch of couscous, rice or other grain for a dinner side, and add dressing and chopped veggies to turn it into a salad or wrap filling for lunch