When Planning Meals Is Difficult

Hello! Welcome to Beyond Soy!

As our lives changed when we discovered Ashley’s soy intolerance, we established some structures and strategies around food to help us eat soy-free. One of the strategies that Ashley and I developed is to plan our meals ahead of time (we use a shared Google calendar). We’ve previously written about our strategy for planning meals (mainly to do it one week at a time to balance flexibility with advanced planning), but there are some other things to consider when meal planning. Below we discuss both the benefits and drawbacks of planning meals:

 IMAGE VIA PIXABAY

IMAGE VIA PIXABAY

Benefits:

  • It is easier to eat soy-free when we plan meals ahead of time. Planning meals helps us ensure we are eating soy-free, rather than reacting to soy as it comes up in the moment. We check ingredients ahead of time and are able to adjust our plan if something is likely to contain soy or we can’t find a work-around. It also gets us looking at our calendar early in the week. We can identify events where it might be difficult to avoid soy and develop a plan to bring a backup snack or eat food before attending if necessary.
  • Planning meals only requires one trip to the grocery store per week. We are busy people and often there isn’t time in the week to fit in multiple trips to the grocery store. Planning our meals one week at a time allows us to buy all the food we need for the week in one trip. We also don’t often forget to buy food that we need for a particular meal or dish because we look up the recipes before we go to the grocery store.
  • We eat a variety of foods because we plan our meals. I feel like we often say things like “we should make pizza again” or “we should eat chili more often” but previously there wasn’t any follow though; we didn’t remember to make those meals and often ended up making the same thing again and again. Since we started planning our meals, we write these meal ideas down (e.g., put them on our calendar) and then actually follow through with them. This adds some variety in our food and keeps us from eating the same thing every week.
 IMAGE VIA PIXABAY

IMAGE VIA PIXABAY

Drawbacks:

  • Planning meals in advance inherently removes flexibility from your week. It means you already have plans for dinner every night, even though it is likely that things come up that may interfere with your schedule. If a friend invites you to dinner, or a work meeting gets scheduled late into the evening, your meal plan might be thrown off and it can be difficult to recover. To mitigate this, we try to retain some flexibility in our plans. We’ll move meals around when something comes up so that we can still cook the food we planned without impacting the event we want to attend.
  • Planning meals and shopping once a week means that food can get old before you use it. This isn’t too much of an issue but, since we usually grocery shop on Sunday afternoon, we tend to eat more fresh fruits and vegetables early in the week. We try to buy a variety of fruits and vegetables each week (some that keep better than others) to ensure we eat fresh food later in the week as well.
  • When meal plans go awry or something comes up that necessitates a meal change, it is easy for food to go unused and eventually spoil. For us, this happens on both sides of the meal. Sometimes we buy food to make a particular meal and then for whatever reason we just keep pushing that meal off. Eventually the ingredients that we purchased spoil and we have to throw them away. Leftovers spoil too: sometimes we cook too many things back to back without time to eat the leftover food in between. Leftovers pile up in our fridge and they can go bad before we can eat all of them. To limit the amount of wasted food, we often plan in a meal or two of leftovers during the week to help us clean out our refrigerator. We also often take leftover dinner food for lunch the next day.

Overall, planning our meals on a week-by-week basis helps us continue to eat soy-free. It has become second nature to us to think about meals in advance, but it isn’t without its challenges as we still struggle with being flexible without wasting food.