Menu Planning Saves Lives (Or At Least Your Budget/Waistline/Relationship)

Posted by Friday, January 30, 2015 0 2

Well grown-ups, I am happy to report that I am in love with my new job.


Yup. And that isn’t going anywhere, because my job and I plan to honeymoon forever.

However, just like with any committed relationship, sacrifices must be made. And in this case that has been adjusting to a vastly different work schedule than I had before; then trying to sync that schedule up with that of the actual human I’m in a relationship with.

Did I forget to mention I didn’t leave Ethan for my job? Oh, silly me.

I can give you a rough idea of the level of out-of-syncness we are experiencing pretty quickly:

  • I am in the office from 11 a.m.–7 p.m. everyday.
  • Ethan (the law student), has class from roughly 8 a.m.–3:30 p.m. everyday.
  • I get home around 8:00 p.m. (LA traffic).
  • Ethan’s return time varies, but he is home well before me.
  • When I get home he is usually studying, and usually will not be done until after I am asleep (Did you know there is a lot of reading in law school?).

Where does that situation leave us…? With about two waking hours in the same vicinity as each other on weekdays. Unless, you count the days when, out of the goodness of my heart, I get up early to drive him to the metro, then we get to talk sleepily for an extra 15 minutes.

This makes it almost impossible to find time to have any kind of extended conversations, let alone share a meal.

Enter the concept of planning ahead for dinner. Or, “menu planning,” as we grown-ups call it.

You see, when you don’t utilize menu planning, you end up ordering delivery (because it is easy), making Kraft Mac and Cheese (because it is quick/delicious), or bringing home Five Guys and a pint of Ben and Jerry’s (because it was the series finale of Parenthood, you were alone for the night, and everything hurt and life didn’t matter).

But, if you have menu-planned-ahead, meaning you have a fridge and freezer stocked with groceries and fast (but healthy) meal options, all of those money sucking, nutrient lacking decisions are harder to justify. Except that last one. #ParenthoodForever

How We Do Menu Planning

So, because we don’t want to blow money, don’t (always) want to eat crap, and don’t want to forget what each other’s faces look like, we have begun menu planning.

We force ourselves to make a real grown-up grocery list full of meals we can eat alone and some we can make quickly to eat together. We force ourselves to not stray from it once inside the store (Oh, Oreo’s display). We buy a lot of frozen meals, but round them out with tons of fruits and veggies (Ethan likes carrots and apples). We also pick up lots of healthy snacks and desserts.

And through all of this we use coupons, buy things on sale, use our store loyalty card, and utilize the 5% cash back on groceries Ethan gets with his Chase Freedom card (#NotAnEndorsement).

This menu planning thing stretches our food budget further, obviously. But, because we have planned our together meals already, it also allows us to throw them together quickly on nights we know we will be able to eat together.

And the healthy snacks we bought help tide us over so we can wait to get to our dinner. I mean each other.

I should also note that we use menu planning for lunch too, as both Ethan and I brown bag it to avoid the enticement of the expensive/fast food lunch.

Now, a sidebar before I wrap up my PSA for why we should all try and eat better/together/cheaper, even when we have very little time to do so. Ethan wanted me to tell you what a grocery store “rain check” is. Like, really, really wanted me to tell you.

It’s a piece of paper you can ask the store’s customer service desk for when an advertised sale item is out of stock and you wanted that item. You bring it back later, when the item is back in stock, so you can purchase that item for the sale price, even if it’s no longer on sale.

Happy honey?

In closing, menu planning = healthier/more affordable meals. And the chance to see more of your version of Ethan. You can’t have mine.


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