At some point towards the end of last year, G and I incorporated some much-needed tweaks to the way we were eating. We were buying a lot of groceries each week (at both the store and the farmers' market), which would have been fine if we were actually cooking it all at home. But that wasn't the case. Because we weren't doing a great job in the actual meal planning part, we still resorted to ordering in food far too frequently. Beyond the fact that it was financially irresponsible and occasionally wasteful, we were consuming way more calories than we needed. So we came up with a game plan of sorts to tackle our approach to food this year.
Meal planning. I think the most important part about meal planning is being honest with yourself about what you want to eat, how many times you're willing to have the leftovers, what your schedules look like, and when you'll actually be preparing the food. For a while, we were just stocking up on things that sounded good to make, but unless we nailed down times to go into the kitchen to prepare it all, it often fell by the wayside.
We now dedicate some time each Sunday to thinking about the upcoming week. If I have plans on Wednesday and Thursday nights, for example, we'll hold off on making a huge pot of chili on Tuesday that G will then be forced to finish off by himself. We also don't try to handle the entire week in one massive grocery store run. Instead, we tackle only a few days at a time and find recipes that offer servings for dinner that night and then perhaps for lunch the next day. Once G and I admitted that neither of us loved the idea of working on the same vat of stew for the entire week, we set ourselves up for more success.
There are also some meals that make for good dinners that don't always translate to appropriate lunches the next day at the office. Since lunch is a constant struggle for us (we never have the time to make it in the mornings), that means we have to be particularly strategic ahead of time. We always try to have at least two batches of grains in the fridge—of either quinoa, farro, or cous cous. We prepare them simply—with just a little olive oil, lemon zest/juice, and salt and pepper, so they can remain a neutral base for whatever else we'll be adding. We'll do the same with vegetables, and roast up a lot at one time, that we'll store in the fridge. Then, if we're making a protein for dinner, say grilled chicken or roasted fish, we'll make extra for both of us so that in the morning, we'll throw everything together in a tupperware and head out the door.
Having the right food in the house. G and I both have a terrible sweet tooth, so if there's sugar in the house, we'll eat it. This gets particularly tricky around the holidays when our shelves are stocked full of homemade treats that we absent-mindedly grab while passing by the kitchen. These days we're trying to be a lot more selective about what we keep in the house. Instead of things like pita chips for dipping in hummus, we now keep carrots on hand. We only buy ice cream and cookies when we're entertaining—not for go-to snacks after dinner. I used to feel rather deprived when I'd reach for an apple when there were chips or in the cupboard, but when those things aren't around, I find that I rarely miss them. By keeping our kitchen more or less stocked with nutritious options (that are still appealing), it's so much easier to maintain a healthier diet.
Know your shortcomings. In order to improve the way you eat, it's important to acknowledge your biggest challenges so you can find solutions that work best for you. I struggle most with snacking (particularly when I'm bored), dessert, and alcohol. Even though I only have one glass of wine—two at the most—if you do that most nights, it adds up. After G and I get home from work, I typically put Sloan to bed while he makes dinner. When I come back out from her room, there's nothing more appealing than easing into the evening with a glass of wine. But if we make it a pattern that gets repeated almost every night, that's when it becomes excessive (especially when paired with dessert after our meal). So G and I now try to avoid both alcohol and dessert during the week. While at first it seemed rather extreme, it eliminates the decision-making process knowing that alcohol and dessert aren't an option during the week. G and I are both all-or-nothing people, so it's easier for us to have nothing at all versus having just one piece of chocolate or half a glass of wine. Plus, it makes the weekends that much more festive and fun knowing that we have little indulgences to look forward to.
I'd love to hear if you have any approaches to food that you find particularly helpful!