The Cr8 Fitness Ultimate Guide to Meal Planning
Chapter 3: Building Your Portfolio
Have you ever looked through a photographers or artists portfolio? Dozens, if not hundreds of beautiful prints, displaying amazing creativity and artistry.
We all know instinctively this portfolio took time and effort to cultivate. Pictures get added and removed as experience and skill increases. The artist learns what appeals to her audience, and it gets easier to get in the creative flow.
You are the artist of your kitchen, and your "audience" is the people you are feeding. The first pages in your meal planning portfolio is the work you have already completed; building individual meals and then your first full weeks meal plan. You are building your meal planning skills, but you are also building momentum.
You see, once you get that first weeks plan under your belt, you can really get rolling. The second week builds off the first week, the third week build off the second, and so on.
Creating A Month of Meals
As noted, the second week of meal planning is easier than the first, because you are not starting from scratch.
Plan Week 2
The simplest strategy is to repeat last week's plan this week. But you will probably find there were a few meals that just didn’t work for your family. That's ok. Print out a new meal planning template and fill in the ones that did work. Then find another family favorite, add that one in its place and move on.
But, you may be thinking, what about variety? Won't I get bored? Maybe, but probably not. Studies show that most of us eat the same 20-30 foods nearly all of the time. But if you are worried about variety, switch the days you serve a certain meal or switch up the side dish. Don’t forget to make your grocery list now. Week two is done. Simple is Easiest, Simple is Best.
We are on a roll and just getting the hang of meal plans. The amount of time it takes this week will be shorter than the first two weeks. The process gets quicker and easier every week.
With weeks one and two meal plans in front of you, print out a new meal planning template and use them as the basis for week three. Keep the ones you like, replace the ones you don't. Just like our photographer, you are cultivating your portfolio. In general you should be repeating most of your meals on a week-to-week basis. Adjust one or two meals. Don’t go crazy and change up everything that is working. Keep the changes small and consistent. Mix up the side dishes you served with a different meal and move forward. Don’t forget to make your grocery list. Week three is done. Simple is Easiest, Simple is Best.
And if you are struggling to make it happen? Don’t give up. Anything new takes a bit longer until we have made the system our own. All this planning will save you time and loads of stress each day, and you are oh so close to making that happen.
When you sit down to plan this week, you have three weeks of your portfolio already created. This portfolio will be key to stress free kitchen time now and in the future. After this week you will have whole month of meal plans to mix and match.
Just like last week, we are going to review, and where necessary, replace. Circle the meals your family loved, and cross out the ones that got the "thumbs down". Even if you really want your kids to start eating spinach, don’t force one recipe at them. You’ll find a meal with spinach (or your wish list food item) that your family will eat.
Keep cultivating. How did the new recipe night work? Is there a certain mealtime that you want to mix up? Stick with one or two changes each week. Fill out your meal planner, and then make your grocery list. Remember Simple is Easiest, Simple is Best.
Once you have four weeks of meal plans that you like, use them like a revolving door (circular planning).
I have certain days of the week that I always fix the same thing, and my family likes that they have something to look forward to. Other days are crunch days where I need to remember to use a crockpot or have a quick fix meal. The days that I plan to have time to spend in the kitchen I use to prep other meals, make a new recipe, or make two meals at once.
Any time you feel stuck with your meal plans, come back to our basic principles.
- Plan Dinners First
- Plan Breakfast Second
- Leftovers for Lunch
- Shop with a List
- Build your Portfolio
One more note. While this might sound silly, it's crucial to your success. Have the food you need for your plan in the house. You can spend all the time in the world planning, but if the food on your plan isn't around when it's time to prep and eat, it's hard to succeed.
And remember, progress not perfection. Some planning is better than no planning. One meal at a time is all it takes to get started.
Let's go shopping!