Welcome to Menu Planning 101! A Paleo diet is an everyday part of my lifestyle. I am used to the amount of cooking and planning eating Paleo requires. However, if you are new to this type of lifestyle, getting burned out is a real concern. Today’s menu planning topic focuses on just that: avoid burnout and stay the course. Just how do you stick to it?
If you are just joining us, check out the first four parts of this series!
- Part 1 | The Dinners Only Menu Plan
- Part 2 | How to Make a Grocery List
- Part 3 | The EveryMeal Menu Plan
- Part 4 | How to Shop and Stay on Budget
If you’ve stuck with me for five weeks now, I wonder how you are feeling about this. Does it seem like too much? Do you think “I could never stick to something like that!”
I understand because I’ve felt like that too. Every time I’ve made a dietary change, I’ve done so dragging my feet. Trying harder to cook fresher meals was not my idea of fun. I didn’t want to spend more time in the kitchen, and I definitely didn’t want to spend more time doing dishes!
However, within a day or two of beginning the elimination diet, I realized that this food thing was the real deal. My body DID respond differently when I fed it different food. If I wanted to control my diabetes through diet and without additional insulin, fresher meals were the only way. There was no going back. I knew this was something I had to do.
I’m all in now.
The reality sinks in. It can take hours to make dinner, and that’s not including clean-up. I quickly realized I needed to optimize the contents of my menu plan so that I’m not working myself to death every day.
5 Ways to Avoid Burnout and Stay the Course
Don’t Cook a New Meal Every Night
Leftovers are your friend! If you’ve never been a leftovers person, then I suggest you try again!
Plan to have at least 1 meal extra from every meal you cook. That one meal could be lunch the next day or it could be dinner for the next evening.
For example, I made white chicken chili tonight for dinner. I doubled the recipe so I could have it again for dinner tomorrow night. I am planning on simple tuna patties so I don’t need to worry about lunch for tomorrow. With this simple bit of planning and cooking (making double a recipe barely takes longer), I’ve set myself up to not cook for dinner tomorrow night. This saves me hours the next day!
If you do struggle with eating leftovers, change them up when you serve them again.
For example, if I made tacos for dinner one night, then I will bake sweet potatoes and load them up with the taco meat and other toppings (avocado, salsa, onion, etc.) for dinner the next night.
If I have leftover root vegetable mash from dinner last night, I will add a little almond flour to them and fry it like pancakes for breakfast. Serve with eggs and sausage for a savory, delicious meal.
Don’t throw the scraps from dinner away! If you have one severing of broccoli leftover, mix it with scrambled eggs in the morning and serve with a side of sausage or bacon.
Try to re-purpose or just use up any and all leftovers. Think of a way you could use them in another meal. You will be surprised how little leftovers you need to create a whole new meal. While it might be hard for you to think of a way to re-create leftovers initially. Give it some practice. Your creative juices will flow easier and easier the more you try!
Plan Meals to Eat Out
If your budget allows it, plan in meals to eat at a restaurant. Everyone needs a break, and if you are carrying the burden of cooking all the meals, you do need a break. Schedule it in. Plan on it so it doesn’t break your budget.
When that meal comes, relish it! Don’t get lost in the chaos of eating out (if you have kids that is!). Notice your food. Appreciate the taste. Laugh at your kids antics. Be grateful for those who cooked it. Savor your bites. Eat slowly. Work to appreciate the meal and the break. You will be ready to hit the kitchen for the next meal because you have taken time to truly appreciate the break.
If your significant other is willing to cook, ask them to step in and take a meal. At the very least, ask them to help you cook or sit and chat with you while you do. That way you don’t feel like the family servant or missing out on the fun family times.
Not only let your kids help, but teach them cooking skills so they can help you tonight and in the future. The first thing I teach my kids is to stir. I let them stir while I add ingredients or work on another dish. The second thing I teach them is how to cut. We have these knives, and I can give my oldest strips of just about any vegetable for him to chop into bite-size pieces.
Yes, it is harder initially to cook with your kids, but what you are building in them and help for you are so worth it. I won’t go on. Cooking with your kids is a whole different topic that I’m passionate about! I’ll spare you until another day!
Here’s the truth, folks.
Even if you do cook every meal…Even if you never get to eat out (It’s rarely in our budget!)…Even if no one helps you…Even if no one says thank you…
You can choose to be joyful in planning, preparing, and cooking food for you and your family.
Yes, it will be hard some days, but the practice of choosing joy will get easier the more you practice it.
My joy stems from Jesus. Not only does He love me with an unfailing love and covered all my sin with His blood, He has provided food for my family! I have a warm house to cook in! This warm house is filled with knives and pots to prepare and cook nutritious food. Beyond the physical things in my life, He’s given me life, health and knowledge to live each day to the fullest. To top it off: He’s given me my family to care for.
With all those gifts, how can I not choose to be joyful?
In summary, you can do it! (That’s my mom’s motto. I hear you every time I say it, Mom!) Plan well enough that you can take nights off cooking whether from leftovers, a restaurant, or someone else cooking. Choose to enjoy the process of cooking for your family. These few tips will hold you over until your new diet truly becomes lifestyle for you, a habit.
This ends the five week series on menu planning! This is not a theoretical exercise, I do this every two weeks. I know how hard it is, and yet, I know that it can be done. Your health, energy, and life will be better for the effort you put into healthy meals.
Do share your thoughts! Are you inspired to change how you grocery shop or menu plan? Have you put any of the documents I shared to use? Any tips you have that I didn’t cover? Any questions you’d like me to answer? Comment below or email! Let’s talk!
Check out the rest of the Menu Planning 101 Series!