Thursday, April 21, 2016

The Power of The Menu

Photo Credit: j.labrado via Compfight cc

Lots of people - some obese, some in the weight range BMI refers to as "normal" - have asked me variations on the same question: "How are you two doing this?" This is usually followed by anecdotes on how much that person hates counting calories/logging meals/following a diet/etc. In each case, I smile and tell them we have a secret weapon - one that doesn't require any of those components.

The secret? Meal planning.

When we first started this process, Lor immediately recognized a glaring weakness in our household diet. Any time the two of us were too tired or stressed out, we would not cook - we would instead head for a fast food joint rather than have to think about what to prepare for a meal. This did a huge amount of damage to our weights, not to mention our bank account. One day when we were not suffering from low energy, we took action. We inventoried every single food item we had in the house - pantries, fridge, freezer - and then Lor wrote down a series of meals we could make using the items at hand. We had a lot more than we thought we did - almost 10 days worth of meal materials. She downloaded a blank "Weekly Menu" from the 'Net, and assigned a meal to every day for the next 7 days. Done.

And, amazingly, it worked like a charm. We had to make one stop at a local Farmer's Market to pick up about $20 worth of veggies to flesh out these meals, but other than that we did not spend a dime on food that week. No frustration with trying to decide what to cook when we were both tired and cranky - the thinking had already been done. No realization that we had forgotten to thaw something out - every morning when I got up, I checked the daily menu and pulled out whatever we needed for the day. Best of all, at the end of the week we had emptied our fridge and most of our freezer - without having to throw any food away because we had failed to use it! (Something that always pisses me off since we are on such a low fixed income.)

At the end of the week, we called the experiment a success, and Lor designed a new menu for the following week. We went to the store and bought the materials we would need. This cut our usual grocery bill almost in half, by the way, because we were no longer making "off the cuff" purchases. We already knew how we would use every single thing we were buying.

Once Lor hit her first dietary meeting and the Carbohydrate restrictions began, we started using another tool. We added a little Android app called "Lose It" to our arsenal, and began to use it during once-a-week meal planning. It enabled us to figure out what the carb load was on meals that we weren't sure about. We also started substituting in fresh vegetables for things like pasta and rice, which tended to drop the carbohydrate count WAY down.

We really got to see the power of meal planning last week, after our car accident last Monday. The chaos surrounding the accident and the resulting insurance claim, the running around from body shop to doctor's office to dealerships, the exhaustion of concussions and whiplash all meant that we never got around to creating a meal plan. And we paid for it. We must have hit fast food places 5 times in the last week, all at a time when we had no money to do so. Neither one of us lost an ounce over the week. (Neither of us gained, somehow!) But we just couldn't bear the thought of going home after these activity-filled days and designing then cooking a meal. We probably need to have an "emergency" meal plan - a couple days worth of meals that we have on hand to deal with situations like these. Something worth adding to the arsenal.

Total time to prep our meal plan for the week every week? About 15 minutes. It saves you time, money, and the hassle of logging and calorie counting - you already know what your diet will be, and already know what the nutritional info is on the food you will be using. It can be a powerful tool to add to the arsenal for those of us who are fighting obesity. And it can be a time and money saver for everyone else. Give it a try for a week, and tell me what you think!

Considering My Food "Requests" For Next Week,

- Hawkwind

No comments:

Post a Comment