Amy Culver - The Queen of Lean
April 13, 2009    

Meal Planning

New Blog

Women's Exchange Meeting

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Amy Culver

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Meal Planning

Without a doubt, one of the best things I do for myself each week is to create a meal plan.  This has become such an integral part of my life that I feel terribly lost without it.

Yes, there is that ONE day every week during which I have the stress of having to figure out that week's meal plan.  But then it's done.  It takes me about half an hour to plan out the meals and everything else just flows from that plan.

I'm going to share with you how I do it, why it works and why it's worth is beyond measure.

One day each week, usually Friday, I write down my meal plan for the next week.  I take out my calendar and see what is scheduled.  For example, I may have a client one evening, so I know that that dinner needs to be earlier and on the lighter side so I'm not feeling weighed-down while I'm working.

There are some nights when my husband and I both have events scheduled.  On those nights, I will plan something very quick and simple, such as a Lean Cuisine and soup or salad.

I plan the dinners that take more effort for those days when I have the time.

Once you have done this for about a month (just four meal plans) you will have a nice basic database to work with.  Keep your menus and you can refer back to them for ideas.  In my last newsletter I gave you several sources for meal ideas.  And you can look on my website for a list of meal ideas that I personally use.

When you plan out your meals, you can plan ahead for leftover dinners for future days or weeks.  For example, I will cook a chicken dinner one night that is served with rice and vegetables, but I will cook enough chicken to make enchiladas later in the week – and enough rice to make Spanish rice to serve with them.

There are several dishes that can easily be made in larger batches and frozen for future use, such as: chili, mashed potatoes, rice and sloppy joes.  One dinner's worth of rice can be stretched to two dinners when you add canned tomatoes and Mexican spice to make Mexi-Rice.  Chili can stretch to two dinners if you put it on hot dogs with whole wheat buns and make chili dogs.  This goes good with oven-baked french fries.  And you can mix sloppy joe fixings with rice and make stuffed peppers – top with a little 2% cheese.  One of our favorites is my sloppy joes.  I take Oroweat 100% whole wheat burger buns, put a light spread of butter on them and then sprinkle a bit of 2% cheese on top.  I broil them in the oven and top the toasted cheesy buns with the sauce.  Any family would love this recipe.

So there you have a bit of information regarding how and what you can plan.  But why should you bother?

First of all, of course, there are the health reasons.  When you know what is planned for dinner, you can plan your calories for the rest of the day accordingly.  Some dinners are heavier in calories than others, so you may want to go easier on the snacks or lunch that day.  If you have your dinners planned, you are less likely to stop at a drive-thru on the way home or order pizza because you don't have anything to fix for dinner.

Meal planning saves you money.  Once you have your meal plan, you know what is needed to fix those dinners.  Check your supplies and make a list of what needs to be purchased at the grocery store.  This will save you last-minute trips to the store which will also save you money.  How often, if you make a store trip for just one thing, do you get only that one thing?  Also, having a list helps to avoid impulse shopping which saves both calories and money.  If you have a common list of meals you make, you can stock up on things when they are on sale.

Meal planning saves you soooooo much time.  As I mentioned above, you will eliminate additional store trips.  But in addition, think for just a bit on how much time you spend daily working on that "what's for dinner?" question.  Even if you only spend 15 minutes per day figuring it out, that's nearly two hours per week!  I spend ½ hour per week, all at one time, on my meal planning day.

Meal planning reduces stress.  How many people actually look forward to hearing that awful question: "What's for dinner?"  Yuck!  I know, I've lived it in the past.  There are many homes in which families are afraid to even ask that question because of the stressed reaction they get.  Food is a basic need.  We all want to know what's for dinner.  That's why those "Beef, It's What's for Dinner" commercials worked so well.  Most of us could identify with that sentiment.  But imagine the ability to be proactive on this.  I don't have to wait to be asked.  I tell my husband every day before he even asks – usually in an email.  He loves it.  He gets to spend the whole day whetting his appetite.  And you know what?  It makes the meal so much more enjoyable and satisfying.

There are so many reasons to incorporate this habit into your life.  It saves time, reduces stress on the whole family, saves money and is more healthful.  All of these points answer the question of why you should meal plan - is there any reason why you shouldn't?

New Blog

The Arizona Republic has added me to their group of featured bloggers.  My blog is in the "Plugged In" sections for Phoenix, Scottsdale, Southeast Valley and West Valley.  Be sure to check it out!

Women's Exchange Meeting

I've been invited to speak at the Women's Exhange meeting in Chandler, AZ.  If you're in the Phoenix area, come out and meet me!

I will talk about my experience, what I had to change and how it all happened.  I'll talk about weight myths such as "eat more salad" and explain how not all salads are your healthiest choice.  I will demonstrate how to make a healthful salad and toss up a few tips on how to get a lot of meal satisfaction without paying for it later on the scale.

A salad/potluck buffet will be served at 6:30 PM followed by the Women's Exchange meeting.  The group charges a fee to cover their meeting costs:  $10 per person or $5 with a salad or appetizer dish to share. 

Thursday, April 16, 2009 in The Village at Ocotillo's multipurpose room, 990 W. Ocotillo Road, Chandler.

For reservations or additional information, contact Sherrian Beagle at 480-895-1538 or E-mail to

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