I've always managed our household menu planning and grocery shopping. There were plenty of years when we were both working and one or the other of us was in grad school and "menu planning" literally was picking a restaurant and then trying to bribe, beg, or otherwise persuade the other spouse to be the one to call in and pick up the order. I don't miss those years. I was surprised though, at how difficult it was for me to get any kind of good planning, shopping, prep, cleanup rhythm going. I quickly got frustrated with how much food I would buy and then end up wasting because I didn't have a plan. I got tired of trying to think of something new and exciting to have (I went through a whole month where all I could ever think of was soup - just the word "soup.") Overall, the whole task just seems really boring and I didn't want to put work into it.
Just when I started to feel like I could set a budget, and make waffles, potatoes and meat, rice and stir-fry for dinner every night and at least we would get by, we made some changes in habits as a family and we decided to cut back on carbs. We have a carb-filled - no, a carb-stuffed, diet in this country - and Tim and I started to see signs that we should rethink that track. We are now looking for less overall carbs, and trying to pull in the complex, veggie and bean based, helpful building blocks kind of carbs, instead of the cheetos and white bread carbs, which were not helping our bodies towards their ideal performance capability.
It's been tough. Very tough. I have never looked into nutrition in depth before, and I still don't really have the patience to make a science out of it. I'm at the stage now where I'm cutting out the obvious factors. When I make stir-fry now, I rarely serve it over rice. The bowl holds it just fine and we don't miss that filler. Instead of having a chicken sausage on a stadium bun, we are just eating the grilled sausage with a fork and knife. I'm surprised at how much I miss conventional munching formats (sandwiches are brilliant!! It's been hard to give them up) but I'm also amazed at how much more flavor I get when things aren't drowning in bread. Hamburger patty with feta and pickles and maybe some mustard has way more taste going on without the onion roll and I am enjoying the chance to explore those flavors.
We are by no means perfect at this - or even committed to letting it run our lives. At this point we are looking at our options and putting ourselves through some change to see how it feels. As I write this, just a tiny portion of a ginormous Costco pumpkin pie is sitting in our fridge. We've munched the rest of it. Not perfect; not claiming to be perfect. But working on it.
Food planning has helped. I have a lot more energy and attention now to the foods around me. I'm learning about heartier veggies (kale instead of corn) that help us to feel more full and satisfied and less likely to just keep munching. This blog will help as I get the chance to think through things on paper (which is definitely how I learn best) and get some feedback from other people who are noticing the same things, or already have great recipes to share, or want to talk through ideas together. I'm also looking forward to being able to look back at meals over the course of a year and see where we've changed, where we've stayed the same. I think evidence of personal growth is one of the best motivators for a big project like this.
Oh, one more thing about the planning. Baby Sophie is 6 months old and I am excited about the opportunity we have to raise her with a different level of food awareness than I had growing up. I've had some food struggles (yep: addictions) that I would love to see her avoid if possible. She'll find her own path (don't they always?) but I will do my best to set her on a good course. Which may just include the occasional pumpkin pie.
Happy meal planning.