Is meal planning a hassle?
I'm here to help. I'll share a plan that has helped me through the years. After weight loss surgery this routine has helped keep my meals more stress free, my best food choices on hand and grocery shopping a breeze.
For more detailed menus, see "what can I eat-menu ideas" in the basic information section.
Years ago, I made seasonal menus for everyday of the year. I have found that menu planning has many more benefits as well as keeping organized.
On busy days, I need to be organized because of time issues but also the aroma of food cooking gives my husband hope that dinner will be served sometime during the evening.
Planning ahead saves time and arms me with a successful eating plan. Pre-planned menus take the guess work out of "what to eat". As a weight loss surgery patient it helps me have a better plan of attack when hunger strikes and keeps me reaching for healthier choices when time gets tight.
Making a grocery list from menus is so much easier and helps keep unwanted items out of my cart and better food choices in the cupboard.
Let's get started...
The first thing I do when planning menus is to make a list of the foods I like to eat as well as bariatric-friendly food items. I consider my family likes as well. (more about this later).
Divide items into categories—breakfast, lunch and dinner.
Next, I create a blank menu guide and print it off the computer.
Here are a few things on my menu, just to give you a few ideas.
Let's start with...
- eggs (poached, fried, hard boiled, scrambled)
- egg salad
- deviled eggs
- breakfast muffins
- cheese toast
- cottage cheese
- Canadian bacon
- steak (leftover)
- roast beef
- turkey bacon
- chicken or turkey sausage
- sweet potatoes
- bacon egg and cheese
- baked apples
After your food list is complied, the next step is putting together menus. This is one of my favorite things to do because it includes cookbooks and recipe inspiration.
Using your food list, start composing a menu, placing each food item from the list on to the menu sheet by meals—(breakfast, lunch and dinner) and for each day of the week, (Monday - Sunday) mixing and matching items for each meal. You can compose as many menu weeks as you like.
Use your recipe file for ideas.
Some of the food items lend themselves to seasons, making it easier to mix and match items for each menu.
Collect your favorite cookbooks and look for new recipes. Looking through cookbooks—especially ones with photos will remind you of food items you may not have considered. Your menus will start to develop in no time at all.
Write any NEW recipes you may want to try on the back of your menu sheet for easy reference or paper clip on the menu sheet for easy access.
Consider your time when pulling your menus together each day. Consider placing meals that take longer prep on days when more time is allowed or that can be planned or prepare ahead. Also consider slow cookers as an option or enlisting help from family members. Do as much prep ahead as possible to make mealtime preparation go more smoothly.
More ideas on how to make planning easier in the next post...
I know...you're probably thinking....when planning menus I can eat, what do I do for the rest of the family?
I consider that different folks prefer differnt menu items when writing out menus. I try to make meals that keep everyone smiling. That is why I simplify the menu from multiple items options to just a few.
At the Holloman home, our kids are not on their own, (although the grandskids may join us occassionally, usually breakfast is on your own. My husband is usually on the go and grabs a bowl of cereal, which he loves. Sometimes, however, I cook us both an egg and toast or an omlet.
Since lunch is usually solo as well, that means dinner is really the only meal that is centered around the family these days, which is usually just the two of us.
However, I understand the dilemma—family meals and a bariatric menu. In the beginning of the consideration of gastric bypass surgery, I had a heart to heart talk with my husband. He was supportive and we made the decision that the meals would be focused on what I could eat and he would adapt. With that said, he is a very picky eater, and also he has been a real trooper, although I have been known to fix him a different menu item. Actually, this happens less and less as the years go by...I think I'm winning him over.
The goal is eating healthy. My theory is to keep it simple and streamline. My dinner meal usually consist of fish, seafood, or chicken, with occasional pork or red meat. We both like baked chicken, so I bake one almost every week. Or we barbecue at least two chickens on the grill on the weekends. We cook them without the BBQ sauce so Richard can add his own (which I don't eat). We make chicken salad with the leftovers for lunches or a quick dinner option. (Dont' forget leftovers when planing your menu.)
I usually fix one veggie we both like, such as brocolli. If he requests another, I fix one aditional side for him. That way he has one he likes and I get one I like.
I roast a variety of veggies in the oven together. It's a great way to add to the mix without using too many pots and pans. And you can get the diversity with much additional effort. I can roast potatoes (which Richard prefers) with squash (which I prefer). I also roast beets, carrots, fennel, etc. Clean up is simple, we both get what we want without a lot of fuss and leftovers serve for an additional meal later in the week.
If I want a main dish menu item that he doesn't like, I use the same ingredients and prepare two different menu options. For instance, I like meatloaf, but Richard doesn't. So when I prepare meatloaf for myself, I usually fix him a hamburger patty for him. I wrap the patty in foil and place in the oven at the same time I cook the meatloaf. I cook the meat loaf in cupcake tins, so I have individual serving. I can freeze them for future meals. There is always an easy leftover option in the fridge or freezer for those times when someone wants something different.
On occassion, Richard plays Pickleball, which begins before mealtime. I cook fish and a veggie for me. This is his opportunity to fix himself a sandwich or a leftover he prefers when he returns home.
This is a way of life. I encourage you take some time to consider how to make mealtime, simple, creative and pleasant for the whole family. Planning menu's ahead and gathering recipes both new and old can be a time-saver both at mealtime and in the grocery store.
I'm consistently on the lookout for new, simple recipes that are healthy, bariatric friendly and family friendly. So get out those menu pages and let those creative juices flow.
Menus will help you create a grocery list for the week, so you don't over-purchase or forget what you need.
Don't worry though, if you have to make adjustments. These menus aren't fixed in stone. Make the menu work for you. Days or meals can be swapped, and shuffled by the day because your grocery list should have allowed you everything you need for each meal all week long.
For fresh inspiration and motivation, pull out a stack of your favorite cookbooks and look for new recipes. Think of ways to combine your eating requirements and your families needs.
Invite a few friends over for a "menu" sharing/planning brainstorming session get-together.
Keep on the lookout for new items you can add to your food list. Such as Arnold multigrain sandwich thins, they are great toasted for a new sandwich twist. Although I don't eat a lot of bread, sometimes it's great for something new.
Fresh Updates for the Tried and True
Continue to write down the foods that you like that are within the limits of your food phase plan. Keep your menu sheets in an on-going menu file for future meals and collect menus for each season. Before long you will have a great collection of menus to choose from. With a little tweaking, you can use them over and over each year.
Menus don't have to be a hassle, have a planning party and create your new life with menu planning. Yes, you can...you have many more miles to go!