This is what happens when I plan to cook. I get all excited about making certain recipes and I think I'm doing a good job planning out how the cooking will impact my week. But then the squash starts attacking, the brussel sprouts get an attitude, and I realize I have ground ginger not grated ginger because I'm an animal (apparently). I do everything wrong when it comes to cooking and meal planning.
color organized closet?), but I've never been good at meal planning. Conceptually, I understand meal planning. I'm obsessed with the fact that there are over two million results when I Google "meal planning containers" - that's just for the containers to hold said meals. There are almost twenty million results when searching for "meal planning." Everyone, and I do mean everyone, has an opinion or method for getting your meal plan on. I've read so many articles on this, trying to get inspired. Friends, who do this well, have shared recipes and techniques they've found useful over the years. I've tried their techniques. I've made the recipes (some of them), but it never seems to stick. I could pretend like it's because I'm a terrible cook, but I'm not. While I prefer baking, but I'm a good cook. As my friend Emily would say, I would make my village proud where we still living in times when a woman was judged based on her cooking skills and ability to birth children. Oh wait...
Anyway, it's not my cooking skills. What I've come to realize is my aversion to being good at meal planning comes down to four things:
- I'm an incredibly indecisive person when it comes to deciding what I want to eat on a particular day.
- I don't like eating the same thing more than twice in a row.
- I get easily distracted by convenience.
- I'm only cooking for me.
After my mixed successes with breakfast, I decided to focus on lunch. When I started my new job back in June, I set a goal for myself to bring my lunch more frequently. We have very nice cafes within the office and full kitchens so there is no reason not to embrace lunch. No reason except I'm me. I was doing well for a while, bringing salads and leftovers, but it was so easy to walk downstairs and get something from the cafeteria. Before I started making work friends, I'd go out by myself to lunch to get off campus for a bit. Then I remembered my goal and decided to try some new things for lunch. Inspired by my friend Jessica's meal planning, I tried Thai Turkey Lettuce Wraps and some fancier salad ingredients (from a series of recipes Jessica sent me). I made my favorite crockpot recipe; Turkey Sloppy Joes. I roasted a chicken so I could use it in salads and throw it in cauliflower fried rice for an exciting change. I did fine for awhile, but then the business of work and the stresses of commuting reared their ugly heads and I got lazy again. Then I got annoyed with myself for being lazy.
Enter the butternut squash soup.
I sat down at my computer two weekends ago and began my search for an easy butternut squash soup recipe. I enjoy butternut squash and it's been getting colder so I figured making soup on the weekend for the week was a great idea. I also made a Santa Maria Tri-Tip roast from Trader Joe's on the same weekend so I could alternate between the soup and veggies and the roast (which I put in a salad and had with acorn squash that didn't burn me). The only day I caved and didn't bring lunch was food truck day. I felt that was justifiable for Korean fried chicken. Anyway, I felt accomplished. Despite my squash burn, I successfully made meals for the week and brought them to work and ate them. My breakfasts included the banana nut muffins. The week went smashingly.
Building on the success of the week, I went searching for more recipes. I found a bunch of options in a Buzzfeed post featuring one pan chicken dishes. I opted to make the Sheet Pan Chicken Stir Fry as my first recipe. Besides having to buy oyster sauce and sesame oil, I'm not sure this recipe made much of an impression. I ate it for dinner the day I made it and then brought it for lunch twice last week. It's not terrible; the sauce was good and it was easy to make. It just wasn't great. I was underwhelmed and ended up eating peanut butter and jelly one day and buying a quesadilla from the cafeteria on Friday. If I make this recipe again, I'll double the sauce, add some chili paste, and a few different vegetables (maybe carrots and cauliflower). I'm not giving up hope on this one, but it needs some work.
I have three new recipes to try; Chicken and Pumpkin Rice, Slow Cooker Beef Stroganoff, and Chicken with Sweet Potatoes and Apples (also a sheet pan recipe). These are all things I think I can eat for more than a few days. If none of them work out, one of my delightful co-workers gave me a coupon for a free Hello Fresh box. I'm contemplating the veggie plan for some variety. Even if I don't like it, I won't be out anything.
And that's the real result of this experiment. I've lost nothing. I've accomplished much, even if I don't think I have. I may still cave on occasion and get food truck food or go to the cafeteria rather than eat that salad I so beautifully prepared, but at least I'm trying. I'm trying new recipes. I'm trying to be better about bringing lunch. I'm trying to be healthier when I can be. I will never be these women, but I'm good with that.
- Butternut Squash Soup
- Copycat Chipotle Cilantro Lime Rice
- Thai Turkey Meal Plan Lettuce Wraps
- Sheet Pan Chicken Stir Fry
- Crockpot Turkey Sloppy Joe's
- Chicken Cauliflower Fried Rice
- Slow Cooker Creamy Beef Stroganoff
- One Pot Chicken and Pumpkin Rice
- Sheet Pan Chicken with Sweet Potatoes, Apples, and Brussel Sprouts