It's the 'healthy' part that really gets me. Especially when I'm short on time or just not 'feeling' the meal-planning vibe. I'm diabetic, gluten free, and I'd dearly like to cut out all fillers, unpronounceable ingredients, and Monsanto / GMO foods. That is the goal I am for every week.
I have a basic meal 'outline' I follow when trying to put the meal plans together. It goes like this (still a work in progress):
chips and salsa / nachos
meat + two veggies
meat + veggie + starch
GF pasta or casserole
ice cream cups
chips and salsa
apple and pb
laughing cow and rice crackers
It's a good layout. Snacks are easy. Breakfast is ok. Oatmeal is easy but I miss cereal... but with my "no fillers, no GMO" plan I haven't found a good cereal that really works. I still buy cereals because my kids eat it and it's not a meal I've really managed to sway them over to the 'health' side yet. (I try to pick relatively healthy ones at least.) Lunch I struggle with mightily - I never want to eat it anyway, and nothing ever sounds good. I don't want to put a lot of work into lunch.
Dinner is... easy in concept, not as easy in theory. The 'meat plus two sides' method is easy but I'd like to start eating less meat. It gets expensive. I'd like to find good vegetarian options that we will all enjoy and that will still be filling.
That's where the plan usually falls apart for me. I'm not sure why. I often end up with a half-assed plan and I go out, buy a lot of stuff on sale, and overbuy on snacks and things (making sure we're stocked each week with practically everything on the list above, when we don't NEED that many snacks each week). A lot of food ends up going to waste that way, and it also leads to overspending. Another goal is to eat on a budget because we really don't HAVE a lot of money to spend on food each month... and with us eating a lot of meat, fresher produce, and gluten-free foods (PLUS the other goals), we don't get to take advantage of most of the SUPER CHEAP foods on sale each week. I take comfort by reminding myself that we are increasing our health and it's worth the extra cost, but when money is tight you still feel the pinch and sometimes that 10 cent ramen (no matter how unhealthy) is awfully tempting.
I think I need a better database of recipes and meal plans that fit our health goals, for one. I went through a lot of recipe testing last summer when I was doing The Blood Sugar Solution. I found some foods to add to my staples list but overall I didn't find a lot of 'winner' recipes - quick, easy, delicious and SATISFYING. It's a lot of work to test new recipes, and it's a lot of work to even make a 'potential recipes' database, and it's very disheartening to be out of your element and not have a lot of 'staple' recipes to fall back on when you just need to throw a quick and easy dinner together.
The other thing that holds me back is I'm still fighting a lifetime of bad eating habits. Every time I go to my mom's house I'm reminded of how truly awful my nutritional meals background is. A veritable SEA of white everything. White breads, white pastas, sweets, frozen meals (Stouffers, Hot Pockets). I pretty much can't eat anything at my mom's house anymore. I miss those foods sometimes. My 'easy' meals, even with my own family, were things like: spaghetti with garlic bread. Hot dogs and beans. Macaroni and Cheese (yes, blue box mac and cheese, and I still love that chemically-laden slop). Hot dogs and chips. Sloppy joes.
I can't eat any of that now, and while most of the time I don't really miss those specific foods... I still feel lost a lot of the time. It's hard to explain. Mostly it's a feeling like I don't really know what I'm doing, and I'm not terribly happy with it. It feels HARD. It still feels like a challenge. I was taught to cook as I grew up, and I've always loved cooking... but there's a part of me now that feels like I never learned how to cook, and I'm trying to learn a new skill while at the same time being limited to incredibly strict parameters. With these food restrictions, you go into the grocery store, and you pretty much have 5-6 aisles / sections in which you can shop. It feels very LIMITING to be surrounded by all that food and not be able to do anything with it, especially when it's food you've spent 30+ years eating. To have it suddenly taken away - as I said in an earlier post, I've mourned the loss and I don't really feel like I'm still having grief over the foods I CAN'T eat, but I guess maybe I haven't come to terms with the foods I CAN eat. I am still trying new foods periodically... but I don't know what is EASY for me any more in terms of meals. I guess I haven't found my new normal.
What I find most of the time is that trying to do an entire week of meal plans makes me lose my mind. I still have to take it one or two days at a time. I hate this because I'm pretty sure I'm spending more money than I need to be (every time you go into the store you're tempted), and I know I'm spending way more time than I need to by hitting the grocery store multiple times a day.
My health is worth it. My family's health is worth it. I just wish I had figured it out more by now. 30+ years of eating habits being changed won't happen overnight. Just like weight loss won't happen overnight. Sometimes that's not terribly consoling
This post was brought to you by my frustration and anxiety as I try to put together a weekly meal plan yet again. :/