Weeknight Success Starts with Weekend Planning
They always get our attention don’t they? And for good reason, they are powerful forces in our life. But we can control them to a much greater degree than many of us actually do. Many people, myself included, have said that we wanted to eat better and healthier, but when the day’s end arrives, the fatigue sets in and myriad versions of convenience food beckon us far more strongly. Only the well prepared can resist such a siren song.
The Bad News: it takes thinking ahead.
The Good News: it really doesn’t take that long.
The Best News: it’s actually fun! Here’s how I do it.
- Figure out what is season at your local farmer’s market (you do shop at a farmer’s market on the weekends, don’t you?)
- Brainstorm dishes around those ingredients,and write out a workweek plan.
- Cook bulk foods over the weekend to be used later in the week.
Et voila! A plethora of things you don’t have to think about! Even if you forgo the farmer’s market, at the market those ingredients will be fresher and cheaper. These are all tricks I learned from my mother and I suspect that they were tricks she learned from her mother. The crux is the planning. It doesn’t take long at all, but with just a little foresight, you can make meals much faster and more economical. If you’re like me , then you already have a list of meals you want to prepare, either old favorites that you’re hungry for, or new ones that beg to be tried. So, combine your recipe list with what’s in season and simplify your planning.
- Post the recipe list on the fridge, or in electronic format somewhere you can check easily. As recipes get used, or no longer seem appealing, cross them off or delete them.
- Create an actual written plan from your recipe list. It can always be changed, but if you already have a plan you avoid temptation.
- Try to combine ingredients, so you can use the same effort for multiple meals. Cook up a big batch of beans for multiple uses.
- Learn to enjoy leftovers for lunch. That alone is the best thing you can do for eating healthy in my opinion. It’s much easier to scale UP a recipe and use the leftovers than it is to cook constantly.
- Recognize the rhythm of your weekly schedule. Where do you have time? Where are you crunched? Where do you have the least energy? Where are you most likely to succumb to temptation? Find those moments and plan accordingly.
- Use your freezer for more than ice cream and ice cubes. Freezing dishes in small containers makes healthy eating much more convenient.
- Crockpot, CROCKPOT, CROCKPOT! The slow cooker is your friend. It can cook big meals with very little effort on your part.
I like to front load my cooking for the week, doing most of it Sunday and Monday. As the week progresses, my motivation for cooking and healthy eating wanes. Here are a couple of things that I like to use my weekends for besides long rides, runs, and reading Analog and Ellery Queen magazines.
- I use the crockpot to either cook a big batch of beans for other dishes, or a stew for dinner that can easily be frozen for later.
- I also bake a batch of potatoes for later meals or snacks. Baked potatoes can be topped with all manner of soups, stews or other side dishes to make a great meal. From chili to a green salad, I’ve done it all.
- I try to cook different dishes Saturday night, Sunday lunch, Sunday dinner, and Monday dinner that will leave leftovers for weekday lunches.
For instance, this weekend I’m cooking batches of black beans and garbanzo beans for dishes later this week. Maybe I’ll make some hummus too. I’ll also bake some potatoes, and make a stew. This bounty will last me the week and keep me from coming in after a workout at dinner time, starved and fiending for some unhealthy food. After all, what’s more convenient than what is already in the fridge?