This week has been INSANE. My husband started a new job where he leaves an hour early and gets home an hour later so we’ve spent all week finding our new groove. It didn’t help that I hadn’t done any meal planning this week. Between my mom visiting last weekend and me truly taking a break on Mother’s Day, Sunday night rolled around and I hadn’t prepped one meal for the week. Instead of freaking out and spending hours in the kitchen, I decided to try an experiment: a week without meal planning.
I’m a planner by nature so a week doesn’t go by where I don’t have at least a few meals in the week prepped or planned. However, what began as a necessity quickly transformed into a challenge to see what a week without meal planning would look like and if there truly are perks. I’m competitive by nature, so this was especially fun for me. Here’s what I found.
Creativity: Dinner’s were the most difficult for me but I found myself getting really creative in the kitchen and having an awesome time doing it! It was fun trying to think of delicious and seasonal meals that we all would enjoy and switching it up every night of the week.
Resourceful: Being creative with my meals meant opening up the fridge and using my dad’s patented “little bit of this and little bit of that” method to creating meals. I was able to use all the veggies I had on hand to stuff into the mini meatloaves and found different and creative ways to use the ingredients I had on hand.
Enlisting the babe: Cooking at 5 p.m. meant getting Julian involved in the process. From helping me decide what to make to helping me prep the food, Julian was super eager to help. Best of all, there was no issue getting him to try all of the food because he’d helped to make it. I actually found his eating habits to be stress free this week- I know it could be a coincidence but still something to note.
Dad was excited to have dinner every night: This is a bit misleading- dad is always excited to come home and eat, even if he’s having leftovers. He’ll call to say he’s off work and say “I can’t wait to have that Beef Stew again”, but this week was different. He’d get home every night with a spark in his eye asking “What’d you make tonight” and when I would tell him he always looked like a kid on Christmas morning. It was so cute! This sausage and sweet potato skillet meal had me hearing Mmmmms for the longest!
More weekend fun: I usually spend some of Saturday and a good portion of Sunday prepping meals for the week. Last weekend I truly chilled, spending Saturday morning with my mom and Sunday with my guys. It was sweet! I could definitely do that every weekend!
With all those perks, why would I ever go back to meal planning?? Well, there were a lot of issues that came up this week as well:
Stressful: Figuring out what to make every night was actually really stressful. Like, really really stressful. Between trying to create something delicious that was also nutritious, there were a few nights where Julian was saying he was hungry and I was desperately trying to get food made to feed the beast. Even on the days where I’d decided that morning what I’d make that evening, once it came time to cook it was never a relaxing experience. By the end of the week, balancing the babe + cooking every night was wearing on me and wasn’t fun like my normal impromptu weeknight meals are. I can see how a few weeks of this would turn anyone off from weeknight cooking.
Costly: Because I didn’t meal prep on Sunday my husband had no lunch on Monday. Or Tuesday. Which meant he had to buy lunch in the city for $8. A few times. I also found myself running out more than usual to pick up little things here and there to make our meals “full” because I hadn’t planned beforehand. It definitely adds up. By weeks end between the both of us we’d spent about $50+, not including our normal pizza night which we didn’t have because my husband gets home so late. It all adds up and we really can’t afford to do that every week. There’s a big difference in treating yourself to an $8 lunch and having one out of necessity.
Time Consuming + Exhausting: “Do people do this every day???” This is what I said to myself every night when I would be cooking a full meal for the family. No wonder dinner is such a stressful time! The time to be in the kitchen is not when Julian is at his most energetic. Normally, I would take Julian for a walk or do some energy releasing indoor activitiy if the weather forced us indoors. Instead, trying to balance an active toddler and a hot stove left me feeling wiped by the time my husband got home. On more than one occasion I found myself falling asleep on the couch by 9. That’s no good. It also took time away from my other endeavors like prepping activities for Julian the next day, catching up on my reading, or just blogging. Duh (!!!) This is my only post this week for a reason (insert eye-roll emoji).
Late Eating: If you watch us on snap you would have seen that I ate dinner 2 times this week between 7:30-8p.m. and my husband ate around 9 p.m. This is crazy late for me and my guy. I usually like to eat dinner at the same time as Julian around 6-6:30. What this also meant is that I was still cooking or finishing a few things while I ate and not enjoying my meal with my babe. This was a big downside for me and something I definitely don’t want to repeat in the future. That time is sacred for us and important in helping us wind down from the long day. After that our afternoon’s felt rushed and by bedtime I crashed.
Poor Decisions: If you hadn’t noticed already, my meals this week weren’t as “clean” as I normally like. I’d wanted to make some cauliflower tots or a clean stir fry with the riced cauliflower I’d bought from TJ’s the week before. Instead, I made cauliflower mac + cheese. Oops! And that wasn’t the only decision I’d made that I wasn’t thrilled about. Using the leftover sausage from the weekend before to make a skillet meal seemed like a good idea and sure did look delicious but at the end of the day, I made more poor choices than positive ones. Just like spending money on the fly, there’s a difference between choosing to treat yourself once or twice a week and cooking an unhealthy meal because I’m Hangry. It also forced me to make two meals for the family since I wasn’t about to give Julian pork sausage for dinner. Besides being time consuming, it went against my desire to enjoy the same meals with our son so as to set a healthy example for him. Big fail and disappointment all around.
Overall, although there were a lot of great things that came out of not meal planning this week, there was also a lot of frustration, stress, and poor choices that came with it. More than anything, it’s taught me that balance is important. I’m definitely going back to meal planning next week but I’m also going to encourage myself to be even more creative a few nights a week to “shake it up”.
What’s your take? Are you a big meal planner or do you fly by the seat of your pants??