Planning ahead can be an act of mothering your future self which can become a way to practice self-care. You can also use meal planning as a way to discuss systemic racism and how it creates inequities in food security across Canada.
But I need to get back to the meal plan (perhaps not sneaking away). It will provide me an opportunity to mother my future self, so that the stress of figuring out “what to eat” is taken away, and I have more energy to actually mother my children, and keep doing the work needed to change the world, or at least my small part of it.
This term can either cause joy or strike fear in the heart of many a household leader. I oscillate between the two reactions, sometimes during a single meal planning session. Pinterest and social media can make the task look extremely daunting and intimidating. My meal planning never looked like that. So why bother? Well, I bother because it is so very helpful, especially when I customize the practice to what works for my family.
In the before times, meal planning was a saving grace between working, and kids activities, and the husband’s activities, and my own, a meal plan meant we didn’t have to think about what dinner looked like. Lunch was easy, predictable, and generally nutritious. And I could sneak out for a ‘take-away’ lunch.
Meal planning also helped my son with his anxiety because he knew what was going to be on the menu for the week. He didn’t worry about something unknown.
In the now times, along with everything else, this has changed. Everyone is home. All the time. I work from home, so sneaking away… is that much harder. But I need to get back to the meal plan (perhaps not sneaking away). It will provide me an opportunity to mother my future self, so that the stress of figuring out “what to eat” is taken away, and I have more energy to actually mother my children, and keep doing the work needed to change the world, or at least my small part of it.
Here are some of my own personal meal planning tips:
I only do one week at a time. I change my mind too many times about what I want to eat and I shop the sales. Do what works best for you.
I try to keep it as simple as possible. e.g: Pasta, Tacos, salmon, eggs and toast.
This may not work for you. You may need to write down all the sides or ingredients that go with the meal. AND THAT IS OK.
I don’t use my meal plan to make my grocery list. I have the privilege of having a well stocked pantry and the knowledge of how to cook different things. I know I am lucky that way. Challenge yourself to learn a new skill, or try a new food.
Bonus: often meal planning can help with the grocery budget, as you will purchase only what you consume. And that is revolutionary. Why? Because food security is a social justice issue.
My usual strategy is start with what the kids will eat. I will think of the limited number of meals my children eat without complaint, and pepper the week with those (but not use pepper cause my children think it is spicy) (eye roll).
I ask each family member what they want for one meal in the week. This helps keep things fresh and everyone has something to look forward to.
Engage the kids in the process! Kids as young as four or five can help plan, or shop for the food. Older kids can be tasked to do it on their own. This way, they can see how much work goes into keeping the household fed and fed well. Perhaps they will even start cooking! (LET THEM!)
Treats, take-out, and breaks are planned into the schedule. If I am working out of town, we know it is pizza from a take out place night. Payday might be sushi.
I try not to forget my own self in this. I will make my partner and myself something I love (curry), but I know the kids won’t eat. They get cheese nachos or KD instead. And I don't feel guilt over this. I build the easy wins in, and I build for myself into the schedule.
Use meal planning as a conversation starter to talk with your family about food security. What does that looks like to your family, and what it might look like to other families in the same city, in the same country and in other countries? It is a good opportunity to talk about food deserts (where fresh and healthy food are not easily or affordably bought or grown), why they exist, and the systemic impacts they create. Did you know in 2017-18, 1 in 8 households in Canada was food insecure, amounting to 4.4 million people, including more than 1.2 million children living in food-insecure households? Plant the seeds in their brains about food equity. Talk about race and food insecurity in Canada.
So, how do YOU meal-plan?
Share your meal planning tips, strategies. Are you a fly-by-the-seat of your pants kind of planner or do you know what your meals will be a month out?
And, bonus, by meal planning you might find perfectly good food in your pantry you won't ever use and you can donate it to your local food bank. Maybe even grab a couple extra items next time you're at the store specifically to give to the food bank. Here is a list of the items they need the most.
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