Last week I talked about how to do some dinner planning for the whole week, this time, I want to focus on all the meals together. From breakfast to lunch to dinner and some snacks. If you all plan it out up front, you don’t need to worry about what to eat when and who will be eating what because you’ll know up front and can plan accordingly.
Think long and hard and realistically about what you eat on a day to day basis. It’s very likely you’ll be eating the same thing for breakfast every day, or at least variations on the same thing, and the same goes for lunch. Because you know what you like and you know what you’re interested in, you’ll keep grabbing for the same things. This is good, this means that it’s easy to figure out what you need per week and you can do your weekly shop in one go. For me, the odd thing out is often the dinners, which change every week.
I’ve been tracking my meals more closely since I’ve gone on a diet last year and I’m at a point where I’m comfortable with what I eat on a daily base. I have three main meals, plus two or three snacks and a dessert. Next up are my schedule and my boyfriend’s schedule, which are quite comparable, but are still quite different. I have more of a sweet tooth, which you can see…
|Overnight Oatmeal||Overnight Oatmeal||Overnight Oatmeal||Overnight Oatmeal||Overnight Oatmeal||Overnight Oatmeal||Overnight Oatmeal|
|Pasta Salad||Pasta Salad||Pasta Salad||Pasta Salad||Pasta Salad||Chicken sate||Chicken sate|
And my boyfriend’s list:
|Sandwich||Sandwich||Sandwich||Sandwich||Sandwich||Chicken sate||Chicken sate|
Of course, the time slots are a bit different during the weekend, as we do like to sleep in, but the idea is still the same.
I didn’t fill out all of the moments with specific meals simply because sometimes they change, even though the whole schedule stays the same. So, overnight oatmeal and pasta salad (though sometimes I have a tomato and chicken soup) are pretty much standard for me most of the days (recipes for both overnight oatmeal and the pasta salad will be shared in the not too far future, I’ve got the pictures ready, I just need to write the posts). I make overnight oatmeal every day the night before and I make the pasta salad in one go on a Sunday for the whole week. In the weekends, we both like to have a chicken sate for lunch, which we buy frozen and only have to put into the microwave. Chicken sate in the Netherlands are pieces of chicken (either on a skewer or not, I prefer not) in a peanut sauce. I totally love that stuff. Also, with the hot summer weather, we’ve been eating a lot of ice cream for dessert, though during other seasons we usually have yogurt or something like that.
One thing that we do do on purpose is buying things in portion packs, that way you don’t need to worry about how much food you’re getting. For example, in our cupboard right now are small bags of chips, small bags of peanut M&M’s (I adore them), a bag with mini sized chocolate bars (though technically, these are in the fridge with the warm weather), and small bags of gummies. All these are between 80 and 150 calories each (just to give an idea of how big these sizes are). We do the same with desserts. Yes, this is more expensive, but it also takes away a measure of fudging and we can just grab a bag or pack and we can’t gorge ourselves on them. If after one pack of chips I want another one, I’ll have to get up and get another one from the cupboard, 99% of the time, I’m too lazy or I can talk myself out of it.
Okay, so what are your plans to eat this week? If you know what you’ll normally have for breakfast and lunch, this is easy. If not, this is a good time to think about it. I normally have exactly the same for breakfast, overnight oatmeal, though sometimes I like to switch it up with some cereal. For the oatmeal, I also need to make sure I have enough frozen fruits, other fruits or other toppings in the house.
I don’t usually write my breakfasts down anymore, but it’s a good idea to plan your meals beforehand. Write down what you’ll eat per day so that you know what is coming up. So, breakfast, lunch, dinner, those three are the most important to write down.
I often have pasta salad for lunch, a modified recipe of the Hairy Dieters Tuna and Sweetcorn Pasta Salad (Hairy Dieters book 1), though lately I’ve also been making this Spicy Tomatoe & Turkey Soup. For me, this means that I need to figure out how many days worth of lunches I’ll have (5 for the pasta salad but 7 for the soup). I work from home, so I don’t need to worry about taking lunches with me. But in case you do have to, the pasta salad travels pretty well.
For dinners, we talked about that last time, but we plan for 6 dinners a week and then have one take-away or other “snack” night. So, this is, on average 3 recipes for the two of us.
Desserts. In the summer months, we’re liking icecream or other frozen desserts. Though in other seasons we also like to have single portion yoghurts or even small single portion cups of semolina pudding with redcurrant sauce (honestly, if you ever go to the Netherlands, try these! They’re called griesmeelpudding in Dutch). We eat our desserts later on in the evening about half an hour to an hour before bed so that we’ve still got something in our stomachs before we fall asleep. These are easy to plan out beforehand, one thing I do like to do is have different types of desserts available during the week.
If you eat dessert later than your dinner, you’re cutting down on late-night snacking because you’ve already planned out an extra “food” moment. One, you get to actually enjoy your dessert, instead of already being full. Two, this is often something to look forward to, so it’s easier to not try and snack beforehand.
Only one thing left, snacks. As I said above, I like to keep portion sized foods around so that it’s easier to choose them. I don’t usually eat fruits or veggies as a snack, I get those enough in my breakfast, lunch and dinner, but this is of course totally fine. I like to keep both sweet and savory foods on hand, I often want something sweet in the morning and savory in the afternoon. Single portion foods are easy for this (and I mean small single portion foods, a whole large bag of chips does not count as just one portion…). Personally, I like to keep these light, they’re a snack, not a meal. So I try to stay under 150 calories per snack. These I don’t plan out upfront, but instead I’ll check the cupboard to see if I’m running low on any of my favourite snacks.
The shopping list
Last week, I showed you the shopping lists of our dinners, so I’m not going to go into that too much. What we will focus on is figuring out what you’ll need for each meal and plan accordingly.
Basically, you’ll want to try to get as many of your grocery shopping done in one go (if you can comfortably fit that in your fridge, freezer and other storage). This cuts down on the number of time you’re tempted to buy some quick food, this cuts down on costs as you can’t be tempted by extra food at all and this also makes it easier to see what you’re actually eating.
After you’ve made your list of meals, you’re going to have to figure out what you’ll need for them. For dinners, this was easy. The recipes gave the ingredients and the amounts. For your other meals, this may be more fiddly.
A good way to know what you’ll need is to check what you have. How much coffee do you still have? Do you have enough cereal? Enough milk? Enough fruit? Enough bread? Basically, inventarise what you’ll need, and everything you don’t have enough of goes on the list.
Same thing as above. Check what you have and plan for the rest. I make lunches on Sunday to last me the whole week, so I simply add another recipe to the list. My boyfriend on the other hand has sandwiches for lunch, which he makes every morning, so he needs to make sure there is enough bread, ham and cheese in the house.
If you’re the only one eating bread, or there are just two people, it helps if you freeze the bread. This way it doesn’t go bad before you eat all of it. When I lived on my own, I used to buy whole loafs of bread and put them in freezer bags per two (which was also handy when I took them to university with me, as I had a bag ready to take it with me). With my boyfriend and I living together we buy half-loafs. We put three in the freezer and one in the cupboard.
As per the shopping list from the recipes. Also, make sure you check if you’ve got enough of the spices you’ll be needing, there is nothing as annoying as not having a spice you need for one of your recipes.
Dessert and Snacks
Buy what you need and be sensible. Don’t buy things you don’t actually like to eat, because you won’t eat it otherwise, and know your limit. I don’t buy loose fruit because I know that I won’t eat them that way. One thing about buying fresh berries, eat them within a day or two, don’t let them sit for a week. If I want berries, I’ll usually buy them and eat them immediately.
Make sure you also check if you have enough toilet paper, washing up liquid, washing powder and other things like that and put them on the list if needed.
Your list may be quite long at this point. That’s okay. Buying everything in one go means that you’ll be set for the whole week. And that’s going to be a big shop. That’s reality. The thing is, you’ll get used to it, don’t worry. After doing a big shop during the weekend, my boyfriend or I will usually do one or two more shops.
I know I’ve been talking about buying everything in one go. But reality is, we often do one or two top-up shops during the week. Though the things we buy aren’t whole meals, or things like that, it’s just to restock on things that we ran low on. These are usually:
- Frozen fruits (for my breakfast)
And in some cases:
- Bread (if we didn’t pick some up during the weekend)
- Muesli and rolled oats (these come from a different store, so unless we’re running low, we don’t usually drop by there)
But, basically 80 to 90% of our weekly spending on food is done during the main shop. These two shops really are to top up on products that we either go to a different store for or things that just run out on a base that doesn’t match up with our shopping.
Other than that, we really do try to buy everything in one go, both because it’s easier (we do the main shop together) and because it means less time at the store during the week.
A quick recap of what I talked about:
- Make an overview of what you’re planning to eat during the week, focus on both meals and snacks
- Make a shopping list based on the meals you planned out
- Try to buy everything in one trip
Do you have any tips or tricks? Or things you’d like me to talk about in a next post? Leave a comment below.