It is now approaching year end and some of us will feel all geared up to start new year with health and fitness goals. To achieve our goals, it helps to have proper planning….as failure to plan would means indirectly planning to fail.
However, you would be surprised, if you just spend a little time to plan out your schedule, you would face the day feeling prepared. You would no longer feel overwhelmed with all the tasks that are ‘in your head’.
Below is my experience and if it applies to you, hopefully it can also help you as well.
In this phrase of my life I am able to cook if I wish to. Often, because I never plan properly, I may end up buying food from outside just because I:
- did not have enough vegetables or meat to cook
- I overlook to take out the fish/meat from the freezer and they have not been marinated
- I just don’t know what to cook with what I have
After a few meals of eating food from outside, I do feel quite unwell as the food tend to be greasy, high in fat and sugar and sometimes not that hygienic. One lady in my neighborhood told me that she saw the worker just giving the vegetables a simple rinse without proper washing before proceeding to cook them…. and it was the store where I frequently bought my dishes from.
The reason why these episodes happen relatively often is because of lack of planning resulting that we tend to turn to quick solution like packing dishes or buying meals from outside.
How to do meal planning
Those having ADHD/ADD are more challenged when it comes to planning. We may buy tonnes of planners, diaries, notebooks, organizers, followed by coloured pens, stickers, washi tapes and fancy paper inserts. After the initial buzz of planning had sizzled to next to nothing, the expensive planners or diaries lie in a corner, gathering dust.
I used to be quite bad at prioritizing and scheduling stuff that I don’t really fancy…. for example cooking. However, I was forced to learn to prioritize and plan my day when I was holding my corporate job else I would not be able to cope because I held a lot of responsibilities and workload. It is something that I was thankful for what my stressful job had taught me.
For meal planning, the best is to plan out each week what you wish to cook for the following week. This will help you to manage your grocery shopping list.
1. You may use a diary, planner or even a simple notebook to plan.
Find a style, design and type that appeals to you. For me, I prefer a diary with daily pages because I would also use it to write down interesting pointers or blogging ideas. Hence I need a diary that contain calendar specific dates. For dates that are empty (perhaps when I decide to take a break and pack from outside)- I would fill it up with notes that I take from research or planning blog posts.
I find that if I were to use a planner, bullet journal or an ordinary notebook, it is not date specific so it is hard to put down something I am planning for the future.
I have written in another blog on the diary and planner that I would be using for next year.
2. Identify the dishes that you wish to cook
If you can already cook a dozen or more dishes, you would be able to plan around the dishes to be featured on each day. The ‘overall view’ can be either scribbled on a piece of rough paper or notebook and transferred to your diary once finalized. Or you can use a pencil and write in your diary.
To cook the dishes, you would need to identify if you have the ingredients required- if not you would need to do grocery shopping…. after you have laid out your plans.
From young, my mom used to cook dishes that are enough for both lunch and dinner due to shortage of time. If she is on morning shift, she will get up around 5am to pray, then cook the meals before going to work. All the food is prepared the night before. If she is going for afternoon or night shift, she would cook once for both lunch and dinner. Even though it was such a rush, she still insists to make homecook food to ensure we have good health, and also because we needed to save as we were not well off.
I tend to prefer her method of cooking simultaneously for 2 meals at once, even though I would usually for fresh stir fry vegetables I would cook separately for lunch and dinner.
If you are short of time, you may consider doing that as well. It is a huge relief when coming towards dinner you need not cook because you have already cooked in earlier when preparing for lunch.
For those who are relatively new to cooking, you can learn through YouTube…. they are so much of cooking channels… one of my favourite is the Nyonya cooking channel where delicious and often simple recipes are being taught. And I find it is easy to get the ingredients that she lists down. One example is learning how to make Chinese steamed fish….
3. Get to know the contents in your refrigerator and food cabinets
If you decided to embark into cooking, you need to be well acquainted with your refrigerator and areas where you store your food such as can food, spices and dry food stuff. You need to know what are the food stuffs found in those areas in your kitchen and perform periodical checks to throw out expired foodstuff.
Before I have taken up cooking, I never knew what was in my fridge or kitchen cabinets. That is why each time when I cleaned out the fridge or cabinets, I had to throw out bags and bags of rotted or expired stuff. It made me sad because I really do not like to waste food.
By now, I usually know what is in my fridge and also areas where I keep my can food and dry food stuff because I no longer just buy on impulse or just because I think I *might* cook a particular dish.
This practice helped me to save a lot of money and reduced food wastage drastically.
Also, when buying perishable items like fish, meat, poultry and even burgers and sausages, I would keep them in the freezer if I do not plan to cook them within 2 days. I would also try to clear off my freezer before buying more food.
Some tend to buy in bulk when there is a sale offer. Unless I know for sure I would use the stuff or finish it few months before the item expires, I would rather buy when I am half way through or about to finish the product. For example, I had thrown out a few bottles of expired oyster sauce along with lots of other expired stuff when cleaning my kitchen. Now, I would buy sauces when I see I am halfway through the bottle.
4. Planning your grocery list
Once you know what you wish to cook and the required ingredients, you can then plan your grocery list based on what items are not available in your kitchen.
Then allocate one day or two in a week (for working folks it is normally on weekends or after work) to do your grocery shopping. When returning from the supermarket or market, try to clear of the stuff as soon as possible. For example, I would wash and pack the fish, meat and poultry into individual containers and freeze those that I am not using within a day or two. For vegetables, I generally only soak, sieve and place in a container if I plan to consume them within a day or two.
I tend to go marketing during weekdays when they are less people and steer clear from markets on weekends. And I would tend to select a day where I know I am free to manage the items so everything gets cleared and stored away properly instead of being just thrown haphazardly into the fridge or on kitchen counters.
It would not be practical for you to carry your diary or planner to the market with you…. therefore I recommend that:
- you write down the grocery list on a separate piece of paper to take along, or
- you write down your grocery list in the diary page and then snap a photo of it when going out for shopping
In the past, I never considered myself to be a good planner. However, I’ve learnt from my working life that it is the only way to manage and keep on top of things.
A diary, planner or notebook becomes a brain dump- something that you can just unload the ideas and thoughts going through your mind. It is a relief and clears up all the burdens and worries because you would know that everything you need is already written down.
It is not only with meal planning but you can incorporate that to other aspects of your life. For example, this morning I actually had a few difficult tasks (calls) that I really don’t feel like doing but they have to be done. Last Saturday, I was beginning to feel overwhelmed till I took out my diary and list down and divide the tasks accordingly. Suddenly these tasks did not feel like such a burden anymore.
After a while of doing it, you may find that the planning becomes so automatic that you may not need to spend so much of time planning. From writing in sentences, maybe with just a short phrase you know what you want to prepare.
Lastly may you be able to plan towards better health and if you wish to lose some weight, then healthy eating would definitely lead you towards that.
All the best. Merry Christmas and Happy New Year.