A Painless Plan for Kissing the Cafeteria and the Vending Machine ‘Goodbye’ For Good

French author and U.S. National Book Award victor Antoine de Saint-Exupéry once said, “A goal without a plan is just a wish.” Wishes are wonderful because they enable us to observe the distance between where we currently are and where we desire to be in the future. While our wishes signal our aspirations to create change, they don’t include our methods to enact change.

Our plans, however, do include our methods to enact change. Plans empower us to transform our intangible wishes to tangible goals. In celebration of 2017, last week’s post, “In the Name of Health…17 Food Intentions to Set in the New Year,” included 17 strategies (plans included!) to sustain health and wellness. Building off of that post’s theme of empowerment, this week’s post provides a step-by-step guide to instituting a meal plan in your household.

Implementing this guide will make the following wishes come true: I wish that I cooked more. I wish that I spent less on takeout. I wish that I reduced food waste. I wish that I didn’t hit the grocery store every day after class or work. I wish that I cut back on vending machine purchases.

A Painless Plan for Kissing the Cafeteria and the Vending Machine ‘Goodbye’ For Good:

1. Create a monthly shopping list for bulk items. This list only includes staple items for your pantry. These staple items are versatile in that they can be incorporated into diverse cuisines and recipes. In general, stick to baking items, cooking oils, seasonings, and spices when creating this monthly list. Remember that items on this list typically have longer expiration dates than most fruits and vegetables.

2. Overlap is the secret ingredient to meal planning. This next step involves selecting the recipes you’ll create over the next week. Blogs, family cookbooks, friends, social media, and/or television shows can serve as metaphorical reservoirs of recipes just waiting to be drawn upon. Rather than simply perusing recipe books or thumbing through your newsfeed, a keen eye and a sense of purpose are both requirements for this step.

Be on the lookout for recipes that require some of the same carbohydrates, dairy products, fruits, proteins, and vegetables. By selecting recipes that require some of the same ingredients, you’ll minimize food waste and maximize convenience. Here are some ideas to get the wheels in motion for this step:

Can the tomato sauce from Monday night’s spaghetti and meatballs be transformed into tomato soup for supper later in the week?

Can a portion of the roast chicken from Tuesday night’s dinner be set aside and subsequently shredded for chicken tacos a few days down the line?

Can the mashed potatoes from Wednesday night’s meal be repurposed for potato pancakes tomorrow?

3. Create a weekly shopping list for purchasing ingredients specific to the recipes you’ve selected for the next seven days. Gather the recipes that you’ve selected for the next week. Save them to a specific location on your laptop or tablet, or print them out and staple them together into a packet. Then, head to the grocery store or farmer’s market with your weekly list and shop away.

4. Prepare batches large enough to last the entire week. After you’ve finished shopping using your monthly and weekly lists, scan your weekly recipes to determine what  components can be made ahead. Below you’ll find food for thought for this step:

Can you prepare a bulk batch of beans, peas, or lentils for your chili and quesadilla recipes for this week?

Can you cook and portion out buckwheat or quinoa for the base of your salad and the side dish recipe you selected for this week?

Can you wash, peel, and dice squash for your vegetable recipe and soup recipe for this week?

Once you construct a particular meal plan for one week, challenge yourself to create meal plans for three additional weeks. This way, you’ll create a system of meal planning, complete with weekly shopping lists and a monthly shopping list, that spans 30 days.

I hope that this step-by-step guide to meal planning makes all of your culinary wishes come true!

Do you meal plan, or will you meal plan in 2017?

Until Next Week…Plan Well, Pack Well, Live Well,


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