Sunday, October 20, 2013
Someone asked me how I do meal planning using the tracker, and my way of doing it is kind of quirky, so I thought I'd share it on my blog. I broke it down into steps, and I've numbered them, but I don't always do it in exactly this order; I hop around a lot until I have all 7 days done.
I do Saturday through Friday on the previous Friday night, because that's the night I sit around and figure out Saturday's grocery run, take a look at what's in the fridge, etc.
[NOTE: I have no problem with how you do your planning, and I'm not saying people should do it the way I do. It's just what works for me, and I have fun telling people what works for me, but I am not judging or advising you. Do what makes you happy, and don't hurt anyone, is pretty much my only advice in all life situations. Most people don't find menu planning as fun as I do, so it's so totally cool if you are saying "Wow, I would never ever do a 7-step meal-planning process." I get it.]
1) Breakfasts: I only really eat about 2 or 3 different things on workdays, so I have groupings for those. Just to give you examples, here they are. I copy them to workdays using the "copy these foods" after I've done them once:
* 1 cup cereal, 1/2 cup 1% milk, piece of fruit (I base which fruit on what's in season, or what I've been in the mood for lately)
* 1 serving muesli (which is 1 cup oats, 1/2 cup milk, some dried fruit, maybe some optional nuts, and a little honey, which gets stirred up and left in the fridge overnight)
* 2 slices toast spread with 1/4 c. low-fat hummus
On the weekends, I usually do one day with some kind of potatoes and some kind of protein (eggs or meat or vegetarian sausage or whatever). The other day, I usually do pancakes or something similar. I put those into my planner, and if it's more than 1/3 of the bottom of my range on calories, I scale back a bit.
(Of course, being The More Girl, if I eat (for example) 400 of my 1200 calories for breakfast and am hungry for more (rare, since I'm not a morning eater generally, but it happens), I just eat more. And wow, can I ever use parentheses!)
Frequently, James and I go to our favorite grocery store and share a breakfast burrito before shopping for the week's main groceries. If I know that's going to be the case, I use a grouping I made for my best estimate of what's in half a Berkeley Bowl burrito.
2) Lunches: I'm still figuring this one out. I just got a fridge at work, so I've been doing either leftovers or sandwiches, but I'm going to try starting this week to take a big salad to work every day. I think it will help with some of my challenges that push veggies, plus I really like salad.
For the weekends, I usually have some idea of what we have in the fridge already on Friday night, but if not, I go look, and I plan around using that stuff up. Again, if my lunch comes in at more than 1/3 of the bottom of my range (or lots less), I adjust it a bit.
3) Dinners: We have a weekly dinner plan (see below), so I fill in the days based on that. Usually, this part is really easy, because again, on weeknights, I usually fall back on simple stuff, and it repeats every week:
Saturdays: Fish (fresh or frozen; Saturday's a good day for this because it's market day)
Sundays: New SP recipe, usually, or something I've been meaning to cook
Mondays: Spaghetti or other pasta
Tuesdays: Tacos or other Mexican food
Wednesdays: Big salad
Thursdays: Sandwiches or burgers
4) Snacks: This is probably the weirdest thing I do. I made a new meal category in my tracker called "planned snacks" and I put in the stuff I'm likely to snack on this week, but I put in tiny quantities, so that it doesn't affect the basic calories/macros of that day until I actually decide to eat it. For example, if I know I'll be snacking on apples that week, because apples are in season, I put "Apple, 1 gram" into "planned snacks" so that later, when I'm looking for a snack, I can see what I'd planned to snack on, but I don't move it to the actual "snack" category (and fix the quantity) unless I end up actually eating it. Does that make sense? Just so you can see an example, here's what's on every day's snacks for this coming week, because this is what I've been in the mood to snack on lately:
Green Beans (snap), 1 gram
Roasted Chickpeas (Garbanzo Beans), 0.01 serving
Popcorn, air-popped, 0.1 cup
Costco Frozen Veggies (Normandy Mix) 0.1 serving
5) Fruits and veggies: The next step for me is to go through each day's meal plans and make sure I have at least 9 servings of fruits and veggies, with at least 5 of those being veggies. If not, I add them.
6) Calories: I go through each day and make sure I'm in the SP suggested calorie range. If not, I adjust it by adding or subtracting foods.
7) Nutrition: My last step is to go through each day and run the daily feedback report. I check all my nutrition numbers, and if anything is off by a lot (too much fat is a common one, or too little fiber), then I go through and fix my plan so that it's better. I don't worry hugely about getting it exact, because I'll be snacking, etc., but I make sure I'm in the ballpark.
Whew. If you're still reading, congrats. You are officially a SparkPeople Nerd! Nerds unite!