Health

Meal Planning Saved My Life

I didn’t always like to cook, which I inherited from my parents. Neither parent liked the kitchen much. I remember lots of frozen meals and frozen food. Easy dishes that could be warmed in the microwave and didn’t take a lot of time. I also remember when my grandmother would come to visit from Puerto Rico. She would make huge, hearty Puerto Rican meals – chicken, rice and beans. So delicious. It wasn’t until my step-dad walked into our lives that I witnessed someone with a love to cook. What I remember most from him was his pasta dishes. I can’t even begin to tell you how wonderful his meat sauce was. I always slept so good on those nights, warm and full. He spoiled my brother and I and my mom with his cooking. 

The frozen food nonsense carried on through college. I ate so many frozen pizzas, hot pockets and peanut butter and jelly sandwiches. SO MANY. Granted, I wasn’t rich by any stretch of the imagination and couldn’t afford a lot, but I do wish I made more of a conscious effort to eat healthier in college. It’s not that hard or expensive. I just never wanted to put in the time or the effort.

It wasn’t until after law school really, that I realized I really liked to cook. I find it therapeutic. (I also find cleaning therapeutic. I know, I’m a weirdo). Once adulthood and a demanding full-time job entered the picture, thinking about what to have for dinner became stressful. I was so exhausted after a long day at work that the last thing I wanted to do was cook a meal or figure out what to eat. The refrigerator and pantry were intimidating. Enter: meal planning. Today, every Sunday afternoon, my husband and I sit down with a pad to write down needed groceries and a weekly pen-paper meal planner to plan out dinners and lunches for the week. Printable meal planners are easy to find online. Here’s one for instance. Or, you can use good old fashioned notebook paper and pen. I love the cute printable planners so that’s what we use. I just grab grocery list pads from TJ Maxx (they’re about $2-3). Breakfasts don’t need to be planned. I eat plain Greek yogurt with granola (and sometimes fruit) 5 days a week and then it’s usually pancakes or eggs and potatoes on the weekends. I utilize several recipe apps, like Handpick or Yummly, and go to town. We only buy enough items at the store for a week, which limits the need to buy crap food or anything off the shelf. Sticking to a grocery list and meal planning has not only reduced our spending on food but it has also helped us eat much healthier. We only eat out about 2-3 times a month. I’m learning how to play around with recipes to make them our own and one day I hope to be one of those cool chefs who can do anything in the kitchen. I’m no longer agonizing over dinners after a long day at work. It’s also brought me and Dan closer since we cook together. Dan is a fabulous chopper!

Until Next Time, Jen

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