Meals Plans, Grocery Shopping, and Other Adulty Things

Let’s talk about meal planning for a minute, shall we? I know, I know, super adulty, blah blah blah. Imma talk about it anyway because figuring out a system that works has been REVOLUTIONARY for my health, my wallet, my evening time management, and my sanity/anxiety about all three of those things.

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Once a week I make a meal plan and corresponding grocery list and then 100% stick to both. My super fancy format? I have a legal pad that is stuck to the side of the fridge with a couple of heavy duty magnets. I tried keeping notes on my phone/Google drive in various methods, but ultimately a legal pad with an attached pen has worked the best for me.The top page of my legal pad is a fairly detailed list of what is happening for meal time at my house for the next week. The second page of my meal planning notepad is always a running grocery list, so when I run out of sour cream or am getting low on quinoa or toilet paper I write it down and then pick it up on my next trip. When it’s time to go to the grocery store I have a list started and I never run out of toilet paper. Win-win. The third page is probably my best secret, honestly. It’s another meal plan for another week, Monday thru Sunday, which I fill out as I get inspired or as I have leftovers I know I need to use up, adding ingredients to the grocery list as I go.

Easy peasy. Well, kind of. It took me months to figure out my system and then train myself to stick to it. Lucky you, I’ve typed it all out here. I know. You didn’t realize Thursday could be so good, did you.

The first time you do this you’ll want to make a meal plan and grocery list at the same time so you know that you’ll have everything you need for dinner (and/or lunch and breakfast). On each week’s meal plan I make notes about what days we have Blue Eyes’ kids, and any commitments that may alter dinner plans. I also block out date night, and write down any work responsibilities or meetings that will preclude the need for leftover lunches. I also make little notes of day-before tasks like thawing meat or prepping something in advance; for example, if we are having taco salad on Tuesday there is a note on Monday to take the ground turkey out of the freezer to thaw overnight. When I get home from work and it’s time to make dinner I always know what I am making, I know the meat is ready to go, and I know that all the other ingredients are in the fridge/pantry. You’ve written out a meal plan and your grocery list, you take the list to the store and stick the meal plan to the fridge.

Viola! Adulty meal plan complete!

As the week goes on you start working on next week’s grocery list on page two; you are almost out of cumin, the bottle of salsa is running low, and the string cheese has been inhaled or abducted by mysterious fridge elves. You also decide you really want steak and asparagus next week, or you want to use up that ziploc in the freezer full of pesto you made last summer, or you are craving breakfast for dinner because omelets on Friday night is always a good idea. Write down these ideas as you get them throughout the week and page three starts shaping up nicely. The week goes on, your grocery list and next week’s meal plan are fleshed out. At the end of the week take a few minutes to finalize everything; rip off the first page (last week’s now complete plan) of your notepad, finish filling in next week’s meal plan and your grocery list, rip out the grocery list page and head to the store. And now, your new top page is your current meal plan and you can start all over again with grocery lists (page two) and next week’s plan (page three).

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Taaa-daaah! You did it! Not so hard, right!? The peace of mind that comes from knowing exactly what I need to do when I get home from work in order to get dinner on the table is glorious. Knowing I have everything I need to make that has been a game changer. And being able to plan out in advance for healthy meals made at home has really helped keep my grocery spending in check (another post for another day) and stick to my health goals (more veggies, less sugar, plenty of cheese).





P.S. I keep a list on the very last page of my legal pad with a bunch of our favorite meals that I can make without even thinking about it, so if I am struggling to finalize a meal plan I just flip to the back page and pick one or two of those to fill in any remaining gaps so I can finish my grocery list and just go to the store already.

P.P.S. A note on grocery lists: I write mine in the order I go through the grocery store; all the produce is together, all the meat is together, so are all non-food necessities like shampoo and soap and ziploc bags. When I go to the grocery I always follow the same route which conveniently mirrors my grocery list.

On ruts (and vacuums, apparently)

Lately I have been wrestling with a MAJOR desire to get rid of everything “extra” in my life. I’m not talking about relationships or commitments, I’m talking about stuff. In the last month or two I suddenly am feeling suffocated by stuff, piles and piles of stuff. The almost non-existent closets in my house seem to be bursting (although, they actually aren’t) and it seems that every corner is “temporarily” housing a half-finished project or stack of things (also, not true). I’m not entirely sure what is going on in my brain to make me believe that I am going to be buried alive by unnecessary stuff…although, truth be told, I legitimately feel that way a lot of the time.

Now, my house is not a maze of piles, it’s fairly tidy, no one would assume that I am a budding hoarder. Nor do I particularly believe I am a budding hoarder…except, well, I might have something like 20 empty glass pickle jars in the garage….no reason, I just think they are a nice size, and they are glass, not plastic, and I think they might be useful someday…? Ok, so maybe a *little* bit of a budding hoarder. Don’t judge too harshly.

Here’s what I think: I think that I have been in a rut for a long time and I’m finally coming out of it. Without an actual medical diagnosis, I’m gonna call it: for months and probably years I have been noticeably depressed and unhappy and that has affected every other aspect of my life in large and small ways. I can finally see a faint pathway leading out to the rest of the bright, shiny world and I am desperate to get rid of everything that has been holding me back from that glorious sunshiney version of my life. Where constancy and sameness feels comforting and cozy while a big nasty Depression has its foot on my neck, now that I’m trying to shake all that dust off those “comforting constants” are suddenly oppressive. I have a palpable and tangible urge to run as far and as fast as I can. This is a new feeling, it’s strange and kind of unnerving. And exciting. And scary.

For most of my life I have been completely content with “good enough for now” and have sacrificed what I really wanted for something that was close, but not quite. Now, I’m a logical realist, my hopes and dreams have never been out of the realm of possibility, but they do require some long-term planning and a lot of patience, both of which I excel at but haven’t exercised in my personal life very well.

I bought a vacuum this week, not a $1,000 top-of-the-line machine that will steam your curtains and make you a smoothie, just a well-rated, not-on-sale model and I paid an extra $20 dollars for the automatic retractable cord because that is one of my favorite features of my no-longer-will-turn-on vacuum (RIP). Now, I vacuum several times a week, it’s an easy way for me to feel like my house is more put together and keeps the dust allergens at bay and my FitBit thinks I’m taking a walk and awards me activity points. Are you bored to tears yet about my home cleaning appliances!? It’s cool, part of being an adult is getting excited about a retractable cord on your vacuum. As I was comparing features and prices I had this very sudden and kind of sad realization: this is the FIRST vacuum I have ever purchased and the first new vacuum I have ever owned. For the last 16 years I have had a hand-me-down vacuum (from my grandmother, my aunt, my brother, my Dad, a friend). AND I’VE NEVER ACTUALLY COMPARED VACUUM FEATURES BEFORE. I’ve just accepted—gratefully—whatever reject was on its way to the donation bin and called it good enough. So, while most people would consider spending $100 on a vacuum a low-point in their week I am THRILLED TO DEATH about it. A vacuum! I just bought my own vacuum! One I got to pick from a zillion different models and options and with the exact features I want. I feel a little like a depressed 50’s housewife swooning over the latest nifty gadget, but also a lot like a liberated adult woman who picks out her own damn household appliances and pays for them too, thankyouverymuch.

I’ve been losing weight, and the clothes that currently fit me are YEARS old but mostly in great shape, I bought quality pieces back then and they have been worth the investment. I’ve held on to them, hoping they would fit again sometime. And they do, and I hate them. I’ve been putting shirts and pants in the Goodwill pile in the garage for weeks, I’m thisclose to giving up on some darling dresses that just don’t fit me the way I want them to, maybe they never did and I didn’t care? The point is, I care now; what used to “good enough” is no longer acceptable, I only want “great” and “wonderful” and “irreplaceable.”

(Sidenote: have you been clothes shopping lately? Why does every store seem to think that the height of spring fashion is athleisure or tacky fringed RTW circa 1992!? I have seen more broomstick skirts and janky denim jumper-dresses than were in my 5th grade class picture. It’s abhorrent. All the dress pants are cropped (huack) and the blouses have a distinct hippie vibe. I am not impressed.)

So. This is what coming out of a depression looks like? I rhapsodize about buying a vacuum cleaner while simultaneously berating “fashion” designers; I want to chop off all my hair and get rid of everything I own. Frankly, I sound a little bit like I’m in the midst of a nervous breakdown, which is maybe a necessary part of resurfacing after years of living in gloom?

Who knows. After years of sitting quietly (but miserably) in my deepening rut I’m just happy to be moving again; and I like to think that I’m climbing out, not digging in.