Content by Kelly Jones MS, RD, CSSD, LDN on her blog.
Often, ingredient prep is my go-to so that I feel ready for the week ahead. Lately though, we’ve been so busy with travel and work that either we haven’t been home or I just don’t feel like spending time on Sundays prepping since there’s been a lot to catch up on. So, something that’s worked for us a few times this year is collaborative meal planning.
I’ve shared some of the details on my Instagram stories and have gotten a handful of responses asking to share more. I decided it would be easy to put up a blog post on weeks we have joint prepped showing what we planned and how it actually played out! Plus, I’ll share next week’s plan if we’ve made one.
Collaborative Meal Planning
This means I’m not figuring it all out on my own. Women/wives/moms often get frustrated that all of the food responsibilities seem to fall on their lap (or it feels that way), but really shouldn’t get upset when they aren’t asking their significant other or other family members for help. Sorry, but everyone has things on their plate and everyone else isn’t reading your mind!
In our household, collaborative meal planning meals Tim picks 2 meals (minimum) and I pick 2 meals for dinner the week ahead. If you have kids old enough to help with decisions in your house, get them involved, too! Even if it just means they’re choosing the vegetable that goes with a meal.
We tend to either go out or pick food up on a Friday, and Saturdays are unpredictable, so we plan for Sunday through Thursday. We can easily prep extra eggs or pancakes on Sunday morning’s for the first part of the week and oats are easy so we don’t include breakfast in our plan, but if that’s a meal you’re working on improving, that may be what you’re planning out rather than dinner! Another helpful tip: I plan the easiest meals for later in the week when I know we will have the least desire to cook.
Why Plan Vs. Prep?
As I mentioned above, sometimes I just don’t feel like prepping! Often I’d rather spend my time outside with my family or maybe I need to catch up on something like laundry. Other times I may not be home on a Sunday, and that shouldn’t mean takeout and frozen meals all week (though some frozen meals are a good fall-back when you need them).
Another reason is to improve focus at the grocery store and reduce food waste. I always have a list when I go food shopping, but having a list doesn’t mean the items make sense! I’m a big advocate for reducing food waste, but it’s easy for me to get overly excited about seasonal produce or new products and then over-buy. Then I wind up having to cook or freeze a bunch of things I didn’t need before they spoil and don’t have ingredients I actually need to make meals.
Finally, the food might not be made when you get home from work, but for me and many others, not having to decide what you’re eating just means less stress at the end of the day!
What if I don’t feel like that meal on the day I planned it for?
This should be common sense, but our culture makes us feel eating should be strict and you have to do exactly what you planned. Don’t want tacos on Tuesday? Swap that meal with what you had planned for Wednesday. Wind up with an unexpected social activity or appointment? Remove the meal from your plan that you can move to next week without it spoiling (more on that below).
If you force yourself to eat things you don’t want, you won’t be satisfied and you’ll be searching for other things after the meal which can lead to overeating. Make the adjustments you need within reason! And keep plenty of extra sauces and shelf stable toppings (like seeds and chopped nuts) around to change flavor and texture if necessary.
When I was heading to Whole Foods, I texted Tim and said to send me 2 meals for the following week. That darling sent me this back:
I decided when those meals would be and added the rigatoni and broccoli rabe meal you see (recipe coming soon). Then while shopping, the KiteHill ravioli was on sale and I decided that would be a good addition since I hadn’t thought of anything else yet.
What We Actually Ate
Sunday night after dinner we had to head to the ER cause Cooper’s cold was in his chest and he was wheezing pretty badly. We had to follow up with the ped Monday night, so cooking wasn’t happening. Tim made nachos and I honestly can’t even remember what meal I pulled together at this point! I think it was more of a “snack dinner” (see my friend Mary Ellen’s Instagram for more ideas on snack meals).
Anyway, we moved Monday’s planned meal to Thursday. Broccoli rabe holds up pretty well so it wouldn’t spoil by then, and we had the lentils for tacos already prepped for Tuesday. The packages ravioli could easily be moved to the following week so that was an easy swap!
So there you have it. A collaborative plan with flexibility and no food waste. Huge win! Hope it’s helped give you ideas for our own plan, or motivated you to work with others to build a plan better for your lifestyle and preferences.
Here’s next week’s plan that I’ll follow up on with you, too!
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