Last week I released my first meal plan as a free download for anyone signing up for my mailing list. The meal plan has a page devoted to getting started with the plan but that is necessarily brief, so I wanted to share a few more thoughts with everyone on how best to work the plan.
In general, I’m not a big fan of meal plans. I have friends who have made business’s out of creating them, making software so you can create your own, or providing somewhat flexible plans for people eating real food. I think all this is a sizable improvement of traditional static plans. Still, meal plans, even when you customize your’s completely, are very rigid by design. The rigidity is the very structure that is meant to discipline you into buying food, cooking and eating in a way that is fully defined in advance. I’ve lived 50 years on this earth and I can tell you I’ve not known a soul who really actually eats in this disciplined pre-planned way. At least not for very long.
Meal plans are a lot like diet plans. Same structure, same discipline in shopping and eating, all planned out well in advance. No one can stick to this for very long.
If I feel this way then why did I write a meal plan?
Funny you should ask ;-). I do think meal plans have their place in the transitioning from one kind of diet to another. They are a kind of training wheels for the beginner.
With that in mind, I’d like to make a few points on the use of the meal plan.
It’s a Guide not a Rulebook
The meal plan is a very simple old-timey restaurant style menu. Everyone in the house has their choice for breakfast or lunch, more or less, though some breakfast items you might want to make for all. Generally, old fashioned restaurants served just one thing for dinner and guests ate just that. This menu is no different.
But you can mix those dinners up and serve on different days, or take one out and serve an old favorite if you’d like. Just keep in mind you’ll need to adjust the grocery list too.
As you see, the meal plan is a simple guide, not to be rigidly followed. If you like the structure and feel you’re benefitting then absolutely stick with it! You can repeat this menu as often as you like. But if it’s starting to chafe, well, that means you are outgrowing it and that’s a good thing 🙂 .
Developing a Sense of Proportion in Your Grocery Spending
The main thing the meal plan is designed to do is give you a sense of proportion in your food budget. The grocery list has three columns of prices, one labeled “Okay”, one for “Good”, and one for “Best”. These roughly match up with the quality ranking I use in my Wholesome Ingredients posts. While all ingredients aren’t covered here, I hope to cover everything on the meal plan with these guides in the very near future.
So, how to use these three columns to balance your food budget?
Basically, if you have the grocery budget for “Okay” then probably you can’t afford too much from the “Best” column right now. For example, if you have the “Okay” budget and buy pastured chicken at $21.00 each you will have to cut down on quality for something else, perhaps even below “Okay”. If that’s all you have to spend then maybe you should pass on the pastured chicken so you won’t have to lower quality below what is acceptable for something else.
This is really the 80/20 plan broken down into real world terms. 80/20 isn’t just about eating restaurant food sometimes, or eating something you know you should stay far from just every now and then, while eating well most of the time. Nope, it’s also about balancing quality. So maybe you have a “Good” budget but feel very strongly about having high quality raw local milk. If that’s the case you may need to lower your standards just a bit for something else. Possibly, you may need to lower even below “Okay” for a small number of items to get that raw milk. That’s the 80/20 rule in action.
I hope you find the grocery chart in the meal plan helpful in thinking thru what you must have at the highest quality, and what you feel you can compromise on.
Using “The Granny Plan” to Expand on the Meal Plan
In “The Granny Plan” one of the steps is about developing a pantry of food so that you are ready to make most anything at anytime. Granny would have had such a pantry along with a very rough plan for meals that she kept in her head mostly. She could vary it easily as situations demanded, like maybe an extra guest or two or ten 😉 . Or if something might go bad if it wasn’t cooked soon, she would bump her plans to make it closer. So, while there was a plan of sorts, it was pretty loosey-goosey.
Newcomers to real foods are inundated with tons of choices, so much so that I think many succumb to decision fatigue and give up of real food for the time being. I know I surely felt overwhelmed at the beginning by some many things I could learn to deciding about the quality of ingredients at the store. What could I afford? What worked into my budget?
If you’re following the meal plan here then many of these very early choices are made for you. None of these recipes require special skills like fermenting or keeping a starter for sourdough or anything tricky to learn at all. And none of the foods are unfamiliar to the average family. At first you should be about the business of learning good quality from bad and what that means to your budget. Next, learning very basic kitchen skills. The fun but tricky stuff can wait!
So in “The Granny Plan” continue to work on building up a pantry, babystep by babystep. Use the meal plan as a kind of pit stop on the way to your destination of mastery of Granny skills. Make it your first goal to have on hand everything on the grocery list and make all the meals listed there, in so far as your family likes them. Use “The Granny Plan” to babystep your way to this early goal. Easy-Peasy 🙂 .