What I Have Learned: Meal Planning and Expectations

Before beginning any task or job you have to know what is expected of you. How is this task supposed to be done? What should be the end result?

Once, I took a job as an assistant to a real estate agent. I wanted to learn the ins and outs of what it meant to be a real estate agent and eventually be all on my own. I loved the idea of working with people to help them find their home. But, after I started working with this agent I realized that I really didn’t know what I was supposed to be doing. I felt like I was doing an awful job. And this was difficult for me to understand, at first, because I have always been a good employee. Finally, I recognized that this working relationship was lacking expectations. He didn’t tell me what or how he wanted things done and I didn’t ask (which was naivety on my part).

Earlier I talked about how I refuse to fail at my job as mom and wife, particularly when it comes to meal planning. As of late, planning and preparing meals has been super stressful for me. We go through phases of eating healthy and purposefully to eating whatever makes it to the table. I lose my oomph and fail to come up with something creative. When I try something new and it doesn’t come out so great then I become discouraged. Then, I am so hard on myself (as a lot of moms are) that I tend to not do anything at all, I don’t even know where to begin.

meal planning expectations

So, the first step is to know what is expected of me. What is the goal of meal planning and how should this be done? For our family, in this household, the goal of planning meals is to ensure that there are healthy foods available and that a nutritious dinner is ready in the evening. (And of course to maximize our budget.) Easy enough? Sure. But, what is “healthy?” And when exactly is dinner?

The dinner time question usually irons itself out depending on the season of life we are in. Early in our relationship it was when we got hungry. After our daughter was born my husband worked during the day and I worked at night. Dinner was whenever he made it or heated up leftovers and I ate whenever I got a break at work. When I stopped working after our son was born, dinner was twice a night. Once with me feeding my daughter and myself (baby boy was nursing) and once when my husband was due home from work at eight o’clock at night.

Now that I am a SAHM and my husband is working for himself, dinner is between 4:30 and 5 o’clock, a reasonable and consistent time (yay). And of course your reasonable dinner time can be different from ours. Maybe the time you eat isn’t that important in your family. But that is what spelling out your expectations is all about.

Now to address the “healthy” question: we all have our answer to this and all of our answers can be quite different. Even my definition of healthy and my husband’s are slightly different. We are committed to educating ourselves and sharing with each other our thoughts so that we can be better aligned when it comes to labeling a meal healthy or not so healthy.

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We know when we want dinner prepared and we are working towards a unified definition of healthy. It’s time to figure out what we expect to be eating for each meal. I have created a list of foods that work for us. I will be using this list as a guide when planning out the week. For breakfast I have listed things like steel cut oatmeal, eggs, raw juice, and guacamole. Lunch: I have salad and leftovers. For snacks, we need to get away from the prepackaged things like granola bars and such (too much sugar). I want to offer more whole fruits with nuts or nut butters, veggies and hummus, guacamole or salsa with chips, and homemade trail mix. The dinner meals I have listed are Thai and Indian curries, soup, and chicken with veggies.

We also have agreed that what we eat should follow this food pyramid guide by Dr. Joel Fuhrman. Veggies are at the bottom consisting of half our intake, then fruits, beans/legumes, and seeds nuts and avocados: leaving whole grains, potatoes, eggs, fish, and dairy towards the top. The very top, the ones to eat sparingly, is beef, sweets, cheese, and of course processed foods. We want to strive for a plant based diet as our staple: as a guide to healthy eating.

Now that expectations have been laid out, it is easier to know what I should be buying at the stores and what I am serving at the dinner table. Understanding what is expected keeps the stress level down and I don’t have to wonder if I am doing a good job.