Monday, December 8, 2008

Meal Planning- Mo' Betta'

I have never, and I mean NEVER been one to eat healthy. I eat once a day, usually way later than is probably good for me, and it's typically in conjunction with snacking on sweets and pastries as well as flooded with cups of coffee. The problem I came across when trying to eat better is that I myself couldn't make a decision about what vegetables I was willing to eat. Who goes from eating like I do to just suddenly eating curried parsnips and spinach soup? No one does because it's crazy and ultimately takes way, way too much effort to think about and more so, to cook. So when you are responsible for not only your health, but that of your family's, what do you do? How do you stay on top of cooking so there's always good food? This has been my greatest struggle as a wife and mother. Luckily, another more experienced wife and mother of 4, that's right, 4, taught me a few things about meal planning.

Meal planning is one of those things that's easier said than done; however, the initial investment and commitment is well worth the rewards you will gain. There was a time (a brief time) when I was keeping up on meal planning: every Monday I would drive a giant lap around Seattle going from Trader Joe's to Costco to Ballard Market, gathering up the items I had put on my list which would inevetibly make all my meals for the coming week. It worked, it really did, until some small insignificant thing threw me off and here I am almost 3 years later starting again. As I said, it does work, which is why I am even willing to venture down that path again. If you do it well, you can truly benefit:

  • More thought about the meals means better food choices and healthier habits.

  • If you stick to what's on your list, and only shop once a week, you will save money.

  • You only buy as much as you need at the moment, avoiding storing up cash in you cupboard (especially if take a little time to go through it, to know what you already have).

  • Less trips to the store means less time and gas spent.

  • Planning allows you to make sure you are eating enough and not too much either.

The biggest reward is that you and your family will be eating healthier, more consistently and there is money to be saved as well.

For starters, we'll keep it simple, and I'll tell you what I am currently doing. We'll get to extra steps at another point.

Through a couple of friends, I have discovered New Roots Organics which is a locally owned and operated organic vegetable delivery company. It took me all of 5 minutes to sign up online, I later received a phone call to confirm details and receive instructions. Seeing as you know my eating habits now, you may wonder why I would ever make such an extreme decision. My son is eating solids and as I think about what kind of eating habits I am passing onto him, I realized it had to start with me. So, that's the reason I made the decision to change, but the method by which I would implement it is the best part. I hate making decisions about what to eat, I don't like healthy vegetables but at the same time, don't like the health problems associated with eating meat, so something needs to be reconciled here. I need to be able to cook lots of vegetables in order to replace the meat we don't eat at our house. By choosing a vegetable delivery service, I don't make any choices as to what vegetables to buy, I just get them, and then get recipes based on that!

I recieve one bin of vegetables every other Tuesday, for $35.00. NRO posts on their website what comes in that bin each weekend beforehand. The Monday before my delivery, like today, I look online and write down each vegetable and fruit I will be getting. I take my list, go to my favorite cookbooks, open it up to the index and look up each vegetable. For example, parsnips. I have never cooked with parsnips before so I didn't know anything about them. I did find a recipe in my 1,000 Vegetarian Recipes book for curried parsnips with lentils. I check out the recipe, it looks good and so I write down the ingredients I don't have. You'll find that some of the recipes will call for other vegetables that you already have in your bin, so you're really using up the whole thing! I like to cross off each vegetable as I find my recipes so that I know it's already been "used". Then I take my list, go to the store and am ready for cooking the next day when my veggies arrive. The only down side is that you get through the fruit pretty quick, so you may want to buy extra at the store or local farmer's market.

That's all there is to it. It provides me with the veggies They provide a wide variety of locally grown organic products that are delivered to your front door and