Save Yourself with Meal Planning
Many people believe that pigs are messy animals that eat too much. In reality, pigs do not overeat or they would have the same health problems as obese humans. Wild boars actually clean their food before they eat it! They also prefer to be clean, as they learn not to soil the areas where they sleep or eat. If you didn't know this before, it's OK - allow your impressions to change.
So what's with the Weir Organized logo? My surname's Scottish crest features the wild boar and the motto Vero Nihil Verius (Nothing Truer Than Truth). The wild boar is a symbol to be honest in all we do and have the courage to face the problems in our life that seem dreadful or uncomfortable. Weir Organized can coach you through the planning, execution, evaluation, and maintenance cycle of organizing your stuff or other parts of your life. We are all born disorganized, but we can learn to organize and have fun doing it - I learned. Pigs learn too. Live like a pig.
There is a lot we can learn from pigs. This week, the Weir Organized Boar wants you to save some
bacon and coach you on your meal planning. What meal planning? Exactly. Eating fast food for lunch or heating up packaged foods for dinner saves time and might save money, but it's not healthy. Many recent studies have shown links between eating processed foods and type 2 diabetes, heart disease, high blood pressure, Alzheimer's disease, dementia and cancer. Google it. Knowing this, many opt to go to the store to buy natural ingredients needed for making dinner on a daily basis. This takes too much time and costs a lot of money. There is a solution. You can learn to save time, money, and your health by following these five steps to meal planning.
1. Always have the staples in your diet on hand. A small selection of ingredients make up a large percentage of our meals. There's the 80/20 Principle again! Are there foods in your diet that end up in a majority of the meals that you make? For us this includes eggs, milk, cheese, no nitrite lunch meats, garlic, onions, avocado oil, olive oil, dark chocolate, limes/lemons, nuts, wine, beer, fermented foods, beans, coffee, herbs and spices...to name a few. I do most of my staples shopping once a month at Costco (weeknights between 3-5pm or 7-8:30pm is the best time to go) and Amazon.com, which is especially convenient.
2. Develop a weekly grocery shopping routine. Grocery store ads are your key to saving money and eating healthy. It only takes about 5 minutes to sit down with a sharpy and plan your shopping by reviewing the ads from your favorite stores. I generally do a lot of our grocery shopping at Sprouts and Albertsons. With some experience you'll learn good deals. It's usually the items that are in season. Fruits and vegetables that are $1 per pound or less are a good deal. Double for berries. However, I often pay a little more than this for organic foods. Generally, foods where you don't eat the skin or outer shell have less exposure to pesticides. For proteins, good deals are chicken $1 per lb., pork $2 per lb., beef $3 per lb.. However, for premium cuts of steak, shrimp, and other seafoods, you could pay $8+ per lb.. You will get better deals when the bone is included in the meat that you buy. Don't be afraid of bones. Meat with bones has more flavor. Bones add collagen to your diet, which is vital for mental health when used in bone broth soups such as posole and pho - two of my family's favorite soups.
I also go to Trader Joe's for staples - they usually have quality items at reasonable set prices, no ads needed. You can sometimes find some great deals on produce, even organic, at the 99 Cents Only Stores. For Asian groceries, we like Asian 101 Market, which also sells convenient meal kits. I have a list on my iPhone for each store and the items I usually get at each, which makes grocery shopping easy.
3. Have a set weekday breakfast schedule. The morning rush can leave little time for the most important meal of the day. My family developed a schedule that repeats every Monday-Friday which takes all the guesswork out. If it's Thursday, everyone knows it's eggs and toast day. Other days in the weekly rotation include: oatmeal, fish, fruit muffins, and waffles. The last two are leftover from the weekend, when there is time to make them, kept fresh in a freezer bag. I eat fish (salmon and sardines) for breakfast three times a week. It's the most heart healthy breakfast you could have, plus the boost of protein and healthy fats will keep you in shape and jumpstart your brain. Avoid cereals as all the sugar and refined carbs they contain will cause you to crash right when you need your brain to work. Over time, excess consumption of cereals can increase the risk of type 2 diabetes, heart disease and cancer.
4. Pack lunches the night before. Bring your lunch to work or school and your family could save $50-$150 per person each month. For a family of 4, that could add up to $5000 a year! It's easy to pack leftovers. Or you can do a variation of what I did when I worked at Sony PlayStation - pack a salad with a rotating protein of choice and a separate container of homemade Caesar dressing for mixing in at lunch time. Bringing a healthy lunch to work will enable you to lose weight and get more work done with a shorter lunch break, so you can go home earlier! Since they were in 1st grade, our kids prepare and pack their own school lunches at the conclusion of dinner as routine the night before. They have learned to cut their own fruit and vegetables and include a good source of protein everyday.
5. Schedule your weekly dinner meal plan. Based on what I bought at the grocery store and a reference list of our family's favorite meals, planning a week's worth of meals only takes 5 minutes! All you have to do is put the name of the dish right in your calendar for each evening in the week ahead. This will also help you foresee dinners that may require extra prep, which can be done the night before. Dinner meal planning will prevent costly trips to the grocery store to buy items that are not necessarily on sale. Planning will also help ensure you don't throw away food. According to Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, Americans waste 230 lbs of food per person on average each year! That can easily add up to a thousands of dollars wasted. Save your money, plan your dinners.
A big time saver is the Instant Pot. With this amazing appliance, there are so many healthy meals that can be made with little effort. It really is as easy as placing ingredients into the pot, sealing the lid and waiting for your meal. The cooking time is up to 70% faster than conventional methods and while it's cooking, you can ignore it and get the table set or read a book! I could write an entire blog on all the ways cooking dinner with the Instant Pot will save you time and why you should get one. I probably will someday. For now, read more about what the Instant Pot can do here or check out the Facebook Instant Pot Community.
The key to following your new personalized meal plan is routine. Just as with anything new, it takes time and commitment to learn. You'll need to follow a new routine 10-15 times until it becomes a habit or catch yourself doing it 3 times without thinking about it. Every time you repeat an action, you are adding to a network of neurons that eventually make that action second nature to you. If you have the courage to face the problems in our life, like bad food habits, you can accomplish so much more and save money.
With Summer around the corner, it's going to heat up. For most, this means a high air conditioning bill. But the Weir Organized Boar has a solution! We stay cool only using our air conditioners a handful of times each summer and save a lot of money. How? Check out next week's blog to find out!