I first read the word “winger” personality in Tracy Hogg’s book, Secrets of the Baby Whisperer. She was a genius in baby care, and I have imbibed a lot from her book over my parenting span of six years. However, it also put me into perspective about the type of personality I am. And tragically enough, I am a winger. A hard core winger.
So what the hell is a winger?
A winger is someone who procrastinates, whose house looks like it was the battleground for World War Nth. A winger is someone who does things at the very last minute. I am very much a winger, so much so that most of my work gets done at the very last minute. I have been doing well, despite this personality type, except in the realm of parenting. Parenting, is a different ball game altogether, and I have realized that planning plays a huge role in saving your sanity.
Now that I have two school-going kids, apart from everything else I have to think about creating satisfying yet nutritious meals for their lunch-boxes too. Sometimes, it gets overwhelming. Especially on those days that I am PMSing. Then it gets too overwhelming.
It was out of desperation that I finally sought answers to my meal problems. The meals were getting boring and predictable, often from my lack of understanding and planning.
How was I making meals before I began planning?
Disastrously! I would simply go to the market, pick out some veggies, and come back home. Then I would cook at the last minute, and often because I had done no planning whatsoever, I would cook whatever I could lay my hands on, and in the simplest way possible.
The result? All my meals had begun looking, and worse, tasting the same. You couldn’t tell the difference. The kids were not eating well either, for lack of variety.
What difference has planning made to my household eating habits?
1. Balanced meals – Most of our meals are now balanced and complete. There is a dedicated serving of each of the food types, be it carbs or sprouts, or fruit.
2. Variety – Having planned my meals beforehand means I can add a variety of recipes to my week. I can put all my cookbooks to good use.
3. Organized – I am definitely more organized. Having a ready reckoner for the day after means I can soak my grains for sprouts, or I can make bread a day in advance for a sandwich. I no longer have unpleasant surprises, like oopsie, we have run out of butter.
4. Targeted shopping – I can write down the list of ingredients I need for the whole week, and shop for them. I also plan in such a way that all the fast perishable items like leafy vegetables get used up first. Vegetables like okra, bottle gourd etc., can be used up later in the week.
5. Less wastage – Since I know that I have planned a whole meal the next day, I am more realistic about the quantity of food I need to prepare today. Hence, only small quantities of food are made at any given time, and they are all consumed, rather than reheating the next day, or meeting their fate in a waste can.
6. More time – This one is magical! I don’t know how or why, but I have more time on my hands everyday, for myself. Rather than fussing and worrying about my next meal, I now have time and space freed up in my brain.
HOW TO MAKE YOUR OWN MEAL PLAN:
1. Come up with a template – There are three ways to go about this. One is to have a whiteboard, and write your plan on it. Or you can find a printable online, there are so many wonderful templates available. (You can find links to some of my favorite menu planner templates at the end of this post.) Alternatively, you can maintain a diary. This is what I do. The advantage of having a diary is that you can always refer back to what you ate the previous week, or the week before that. You can put a star next to a particular recipe that your kid liked or one that you found easy and quick to make.
2. Pick a day for planning – Pick a day during the week when you are relaxed and creative. I prefer to do my planning on Sunday night. You may find that a Saturday night, or Sunday morning is better so that you can shop for groceries on Sunday. Most working women would prefer that.
3. Be completely relaxed – Better to do this when the kids are sleeping, so that you can think without disturbance. If it helps, have a cup of coffee next to you. Or a handy snack.
4. Cookbooks – You may want to have your cookbooks at hand so that you can try out new recipes. Things you always wanted to try and weren’t able to for lack of time. For those you have already tried, you can add a tick next to the title with your notes next to it. You may want to put elaborate recipes in a slot where you will have ample time for preparation, such as on weekends.
5. Be balanced – Pick ingredients from each food group, so that your weekly meal remains balanced and nutritious. You can make it interesting, such as using sprouts in a sprouts bhel or canapés for a nutritious mid-meal snack.
6. Be easy on yourself – While you may want to make elaborate meals everyday, it is best to stick to easy and small meals and save the elaborate meal plan for a single day. This way you are not too stressed out during the week. You can make your life easier by having special days like a Soup Saturday or a Parantha Thursday.
7. Write your shopping list – Once your menu is planned, list out the ingredients you will need to buy. Plan wisely, and incorporate any leftover ingredients from the previous week into your next week’s meal planning. Same ingredient, different recipes.
Links to my favorite templates