Meal Planning: What I WISH I Knew

Meal Planning. Before kids, meal planning wasn't even remotely on my radar. It wasn't until I had an itty bitty baby and eating habits more unpredictable than a Texas winter (am I right?!) that I started to consider the idea. I had heard other moms talking about their weekly (or gasp, DAILY) meal plans and had exactly three thoughts:

1. "that's for people who are counting calories and trying to lose weight"

2. "that sounds super time consuming"

3. "those moms seem totally put together and I am... totally not"

Since those newborn days, I've learned that meal planning is NOT about counting calories, but can help you make and stick to healthier habits, it is not time consuming if you do it right, and that nearly all of us are hot messes, despite how it looks on Instagram.

Over the next few weeks, we'll be covering the benefits of consistent meal planning, how to get started, and some quick and easy ways to maximize not only your time, but your budget. It has taken me a long time to get comfortable with meal planning, mainly because I thought that I needed to have it all figured out in order to start. It seems quite the daunting task in the beginning and it's just so. much. easier. to just wing it (and make lots of excuses). Finally, I realized that you can only say "I'll start next week" so many times. After a few months of flying blindly, I realized a few things that I wish I would've known from the start. Without further ado, here are 3 things I WISH someone would have told me about meal planning:

1. It isn't about being perfect every week.

I had this vision of sitting down with my planner, quickly jotting down our weekly meals that would be well-balanced, easy to make, and that my whole family would eat. I've since figured out that some weeks, my whole schedule gets switched around and my meal plan has more cross-outs and arrows than actual words. Some days, I realize that I accidentally already used up a key ingredient as I start to prep dinner. But, that's okay. It isn't about creating the "perfect" plan. It's about making the effort to make it the best I can and staying consistent. If I have a bunch of healthy ideas already mapped out, it's much easier to substitute one of those than to come up with something completely new.

2. Not every meal has to be an elaborate production.

My first meal plans consisted mostly of fancy, 30 ingredient recipes that have been on my Pinterest page for years. I didn't think about what I already had vs. what I would need to buy or whether or not I could reuse ingredients in multiple dishes throughout the week. This left me with TONS of random ingredients and even more waste. It also left me feeling overwhelmed on days that I had a crying baby or a toddler who just needed mama and I didn't have time to prep (and then actually cook) a fancy dinner. Some days, you just want baked chicken and veggies in one pan. And you know what, that's totally fine (and lately, preferred in my house)! Most nights, the simpler, the better. {Easy weeknight recipes will be part of this series!}

3. It's going to take some getting used to... and will power.

Hate to break it to you, but simply writing down a meal plan isn't going to solve all of your problems. Planning healthy meals wont make you lose weight. Reusing ingredients wont automatically save you money. It's going to take willpower to actually follow your plan. Some days, you'll really want a cheese quesadilla instead of a salad. Some weeks, you'll really want to plan meals that simply don't share ingredients well. It'll take practice and trial and error. I'm still learning. I'm not a meal planner or a master chef... yet. But I'm working on it.

...I'll keep ya posted ;)